From Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes, 1968:
It was on one of these trips back when I was punishing the Mercedes, that she asked me a question which led to my making a strange reply. Only a woman would have been capable of asking it. Another man would have simply thought him my favorite athlete.
"What is this thing with you and Gifford---or whatever his name is?" she asked.
The question took me unawares, and I did not answer her for a long time. I had never before tried to articulate what the thing was, and I was fairly sure that whatever I said would come out badly and be taken all wrong. But I thought I would say something. The heavy hum of the wheels was beneath us, the darkness of the cab enshrouded us, the atmosphere seemed conducive to talk.
I told her about my first year in New York, how I had had this awful dream of fame, but that, unlike Gifford---who had possessed the legs and the hands and the agility, the tools of his art---I had come to New York with none of the tools of mine, writing. I told her how I had tried to content myself with reverie, envisioning myself emblazoned across the back of dust jackets. I told her how I had gone each lonely Sunday to the Polo Grounds where Gifford, when I heard the city cheer him, came after a time to represent to me the possible, had sustained for me the illusion that I could escape the bleak anonymity of life.
At the time of my "confession" Gifford was reaping the benefits of the Jim Thorpe Trophy, and, I told her, as a kind of ironic comment on the extent of my own failure, it seemed that every time I picked up a magazine in the hospital I was confronted with his picture. There was, I said, a particularly distressing advertisement that continued to appear in the pages of The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated. A tartan cap tilted rakishly to one side of his head, a football tucked under his arm, a how-the-hell-did-I-get-here? expression on his face (exactly the kind of thing I might once have imagined for myself), he was showing the reader how splendidly handsome and virile he might look were he to wear a V-necked Jantzen pullover. That sweater, I said, seemed to make my state-issue cotton plaid shirt burn hot on my flesh, the hot humiliation of having hoped for too much.
She was silent for a very long time when I had finished. Then she said something which elicited a singular reply from me, a reply that kept us both in silence for the rest of the trip. Whether she ever grasped my meaning, I can't say. I know I never completely did, though I suppose that in the act of revealing so much of myself to her I had begun to have this thing for her.
"I should think you'd despise him," she said. "Oh, maybe not despise him. Envy him to the point of disliking him immensely."
"Despise him?" I said. I'm certain my voice reflected my great incredulity. "But you don't understand at all. Not at all! He may be the only fame I'll ever have!"