Rick Reilly Discusses Whether It's Game Over for Sports Illustrated

Photo: AFP

By Monday morning, the weekend’s four NFL playoff games had been dissected on countless TV shows, blogs and podcasts several thousand times over. But, if you were a football fan in, say, 1971, there was probably only one place you could or would go for the breakdown of the action: Sports Illustrated. From its debut in 1954, the magazine’s in-depth writing and breath-taking photography immersed its readers in the sports scene and became the undisputed resource for aficionados of sporting events big and small. That’s why the news that broke Friday afternoon about the layoff of nearly every member of the Sports Illustrated staff caused many nostalgic fans and former readers to sadly ponder about the fate of the venerable institution.

Rick Reilly was a Sports Illustrated writer for 23 years, including a ten-year stint writing the Back Page column. The news hit Reilly hard, as he was one of the millions of American kids who grew up following their heroes in the magazine’s heyday.

“I can remember being nine years old and seeing my cousin’s room, and it was plastered with Sports Illustrated pictures,” Reilly wistfully recalled for Berman and Riedel. “I finally convinced my dad to subscribe, and I would just wait for the mailman on Friday to see what the cover was. And I remember hating the swimsuit issue, like, what is this? Get rid of this thing; where are my Broncos? And then, when I was thirteen, I was like, oh, wait a minute, what is this?”

But a wistful Reilly alluded to perhaps the magazine’s most unavoidable problem, the march of time. “Back then- it’s not that long ago, but- you had your local paper, you had, maybe, USA Today, and you had Sports Illustrated. You didn’t have 9,000 networks, a million podcasts, ten million people tweeting. It was just so powerful… There’s not many things now where everybody goes to it, like back in the day when everybody watched Walter Cronkite. Everybody read SI, and it looks like it's done.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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