Tag Archives: Sports Illustrated

A post I hate writing: The sad, slow decline of Sports Illustrated. A powerful new ad about texting and driving. And a Red Sox outfielder makes the catch of the year.

Most of the posts I write on here, I think about for a day or two, then write them. If it’s a political rant, sometimes there’s not as much thought that goes into it because I’m mad about something. But rarely do I let a post marinate in my head for weeks at a time like this one.

I’ve really, really not wanted to write about the decline of my favorite magazine of all time, Sports Illustrated. I’ve been in complete denial about it for years, but thanks to a few recent events which I’ll get to in a minute, I have to stop lying to myself.
SI is dying. It was dying slowly, and now it seems to be happening more quickly. And it makes me so, so sad. If you’ll indulge me, a short love story to one of my first-ever loves.

The first issue of Sports Illustrated I ever received was the Dec. 24-31, 1984 Sportsman of the Year issue, with Mary Lou Retton and Edwin Moses on the cover. I turned 9 in 1984, and my grandpa Don, knowing how much I loved sports, got me a gift subscription.

I’ve been a subscriber ever since. For 33 years now. When my grandfather died in 1995, I took over paying for the subscription, and never once have I let it lapse. I grew up worshiping, studying, memorizing SI. I saved every issue for years, can still recite some stories from the 1987 “One Day in Baseball” issue, and a 1996 profile of troubled basketball star Richie Parker by Gary Smith is still the best magazine piece I’ve ever read.

I looked up and tried to pattern myself after so many SI writers; people like Rick Reilly, Smith, Leigh Montville, Steve Rushin, Jack McCallum… these men were my idols. Once I wrote a letter to the editor and it got published; I didn’t stop smiling for days. One day early in my journalism career I submitted a “They Said It” for the Scorecard section, it got published, and I got a check for $75. No payment I’ve ever received has meant more to me.

So, yeah… I was obsessed with Sports Illustrated. My dream, always, was to work there one day, but I never was quite able to summit that personal Everest.
Still, even though I didn’t make it there, I still enjoyed and devoured every issue. It was the Bible for this Jewish kid from New York.

In recent years, though, the magazine has fallen. First, they made tons of layoffs, getting rid of super-talented writers. Then, the quality began to drop; major articles weren’t written by established, seasoned scribes, but by young writers not quite as good. There was, and still is, some tremendous talent at SI; writers like Lee Jenkins and Chris Ballard are as good as any writers SI has ever had.

But the issues are fewer every year, the magazine gets thinner and thinner, and they’re clearly searching for the magic again. I’m writing this post now, finally, because of three things:

This article says that after publishing only 38 issues in 2017, it’s possible there’ll be a reduction to 24 issues in 2018. SI used to publish 52 issues a year.

— Lately the magazine has been getting into bed with a lot of corporate sponsors, doing “branded content” and partnering with sponsors. This led to this week’s cover (above), which was completely done for Gatorade, as SI put Gatorade’s High School Athletes of the Year on the cover.

I absolutely understand it’s an economic reality forced upon Sports Illustrated by other market forces. I do. But this bastion of journalistic integrity, a home of independent journalism for 60 years, now takes money from sponsors, and in return, puts two high school kids on the cover. It makes me sad.

— And finally, most painful of all, the errors in stories, once almost impossible to find, now show up in every issue. Not trying to embarrass anyone, but in the most recent issue, a coach whose last name is “Harwood” is called “Hammond.” Twice.

That never, never used to happen. It’s happening now because SI has far fewer copy-editors and fact checkers looking at what goes into the magazine. There are legendary stories of bleary-eyed young SI reporters having to call football coaches to verify that they drove a 1987 blue Chevy Nova, not a brown one.

Now, not so much.

I know SI will limp along for a few more years, and I still read many of their writers on its website. But seeing SI struggle this much, and change, is like losing a little beloved piece of my life.

I know it’ll never go back to its glory days. But it’s a damn shame what my Bible has become.

**Next up today, every once in a while you see an ad so powerful that it leaves your mouth agape. Almost all of us are guilty of texting while driving, or walking. I try very hard not to do it anymore, but occasionally at a red light, I’m guilty.

Watch this short ad, produced by South Africa’s Western Cape government, all the way until the end, and you’ll think twice before reaching for the phone when behind the wheel.

**And finally today, posting a positive highlight of a Boston Red Sox player goes against everything I believe in, normally, but sometimes, greatness must be acknowledged.

Check out this ridiculous catch by Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr., robbing the Yankees’ Aaron Judge on Sunday. Bradley knew he had it like five steps before making the leap. Pretty amazing.

Still, for my money, this is the greatest catch I’ve ever seen. Ken Griffey Jr., man, was he amazing.

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The Forever Lazy, my new favorite infomercial product. Jimmy Kimmel has parents torture their kids. And the best sports photos of the year


Admit it: You’re stuck on a holiday gift for someone you love. We’ve all been there.
But my friends (that’s my John McCain voice there, it always creeped me out the way he said it), I’m here with the answer. Although the answer leaves me with so many more questions.

You don’t want to get someone a Snuggie. That’s so 2009. No, what you need is the “Forever Lazy” jumpsuit! Watch along with me at this remarkable infomercial, and marvel at the following:

— At 0:06: Who really fights their blanket that much when they’re sleeping alone?
At :24: Yet another person wearing their “Forever Lazy” while reading. Do you know anyone who reads as much as the people in this video?
— At :29: I wanna know who are all these people who are having so much trouble talking on the phone wearing sweatshirts. Are these special ed people? People from another planet?
— At :39: I’m sorry, I’m calling total B.S. on this one. Three guys watching sports on a couch all wearing one-piece jumpsuits? This doesn’t set off alarm bells in anyone else’s head? And the guy in the middle jumps up so fast I’m worried he’ll get chafing from the “Forever Lazy” in his crotch area.
— at :58: Man I hope all that food the guy’s grabbing isn’t for him. Otherwise he’s going to need a much larger jumpsuit pretty soon.
— at 1:08: OK, if you’re wearing one of these bad boys at a tailgate, A, you’re not getting to talk to pretty girls like these guys are, and B, you are getting your butt kicked, guaranteed.
–at 1:19: “Hatches in the front and back, for great escapes when duty calls!” God I love a good double entendre.

I could go on and on; this thing is two minutes of non-stop goodness. Truly, I so desperately want to be in these meetings where these commercials are planned out. I would love to know what kind of drugs these marketing “geniuses” are on.

**Sports Illustrated, which always has some of the best sports photography in the world, has put out a collection of its best images of 2011. I love so many of these that it was hard to choose which one to put on this blog.
Check them out here; if you don’t have time to look at them all, check out 2, 10, 16 and 19 especially.

**Finally, the evil genius that is Jimmy Kimmel strikes again. He asked his viewers to “fake” videotape themselves giving their kids really awful Christmas presents. The kids’ reactions are awesome, especially the girl with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich about halfway through:

The incredible story of Dick Hoyt and his son. And the greatest school project on pregnancy, ever



What do you say we start the week with some inspiration?

Dick Hoyt and his son Rick have gone on an incredible journey for the past three decades. Rick has been confined to a wheelchair virtually since birth, struck down with cerebral palsy.
Wanting to show his son that he could still lead an active lifestyle, and refusing to allow Rick’s handicap to define the family, Dick started running road races.
While pushing Rick the whole time. They started with 5Ks, and moved on to half-marathons, and then marathons.
And because that wasn’t challenging enough (Dick and Rick actually ran several sub-3 hour marathon times in the 1980s; remember this is a man running while pushing another person in a chair) they started doing triathlons. Yes, Dick actually swam and biked with Rick strapped to his side, or in a boat nearby.

Through heart attacks and illness, through financial problems and divorce, Dick and Rick Hoyt, bonded together through their love and through running, have just kept on going. They have each other and little else, except for the love and admiration of millions who are so glad that from the start of the Hoyts’ crazy odyssey to now, the plight of disabled people has stopped being shoved in a dark closet and has been brought out into the brilliant sunlight.

There is so much we can accomplish with hope, and love, and a good pair of running shoes.
I can’t express how impressive these two are.

Next time you want to complain or worry about your problems, think of a father pushing his son in a chair, showing love the greatest way he can.

Here’s the Sports Illustrated story from last week’s issue by the great Gary Smith about the Hoyt’s, and below is the HBO Real Sports piece in which I first heard of them. If you’re not crying by the end, well, maybe your tear ducts are empty.

**I’ve heard about going above and beyond for a school project before, but this girl takes the cake.
Gaby Rodriguez is a 17-year-old student at Toppenish High School in Washington state.  She was a straight A student, and decided during her senior year that for her senior project, it’d be fun to pretend to be pregnant, to see how her school and the community would react.
And so she did it, for 6 1/2 months she pulled it off. Until last week, when she shocked her school by pulling her “baby bump” out from under her shirt.

All throughout, she wrote down what people were saying about her, and most of it wasn’t positive, as you’ll read.

I think this is beyond fantastic. That a kid would take on such a project to show how stereotypes foster terrible treatment of pregnant teens is WAY more interesting than any crap they show about it on MTV.

Good for you, Gaby.

Thirty-four

MichaelAge5

So I turned 34 on Monday.

Not really a big birthday, landmark-wise. Not close enough to 30 to feel that I’m in my early 30’s, but not close enough to 40 to start freaking out about that big number.

The biggest things that hit me about 34 were this: I’m now twice as old as the typical high school senior, and I’m in the last year of that coveted advertising demographic of 18-34. I know, thrilling.

I always used to get pretty depressed a few days before my birthday; I’d go into a little bit of a funk as I thought about another year gone down the drain.

I’m as optimistic a person as you will ever find (well OK, maybe Richard Simmons and Dick Vitale are cheerier than me), but around August 12 of every year I would get sad. “I haven’t done this yet,” or “I’m only this far along in my career,” all that stuff would bounce around my cranium like a ping-pong ball.

I’ve gotten better about that over the years, starting with my birthday in 2004  (I had a girlfriend then, so that probably was the big difference), but I still get a little bit melancholy.

I look back and ask myself: Is this where I thought I would be by now? Shouldn’t I have done X, Y, and Z by this point in my life? And am I ever going to achieve my dream of working for Sports Illustrated?

It’s not a good way to think, to always be browbeating yourself about what you have and haven’t accomplished, and I do my best to knock those thoughts out of my head when they come in.

I keep telling myself it’s not a race, that there’s no finish line, and that no one who really matters is keeping score of what I have and haven’t done. A long time ago I realized that I have what many others don’t, and that there will always be others with more than me.

Looking around inside my brain today (I like to browse from time to time), I saw a loving wife who will be my true companion until we’re old and gray. I heard from my wonderful parents, who despite their divorce 20 years ago (geez, has it been 20 years?) remain close friends. I heard from the best in-laws a person could ever hope to have.

I glimpsed fantastic and trustworthy friends, some who I’ve known literally since birth, and who now have kids of their own (I’m still having trouble processing that Marc, Tracie and Andrew, three people who knew me when I looked like I did up in that picture, have kids of their own now).

I have a job doing what I love to do, in an industry filled with people determined to keep raging against the dying of the ink.

I get to tell stories of great heroism and courage, and expose shameless liars and crooks, and make a small difference in people’s lives. That’s a damn special thing to get to do every day.

When I’m no longer able to or allowed to do that, it’ll be a hell of a sad time.

The roadmap of my life has brought me here, to this point, and I have to admit: It’s a wonderful view.

Thirty-four will be wonderful, because I’m truly blessed.

Now 40? That scares the hell out of me.

P.S. I think I still have that belt in that picture up there. Boy did I love that belt. And you notice how the socks match the sneakers? In the words of Kevin Spacey from “American Beauty,” that was not an accident.