I have been a subscriber to Sports Illustrated since November 2007, and have read the magazine faithfully since June of that year. In that span, I had saved almost every single issue that came into my possession. In those four years, I accumulated 200 issues of the great magazine, 200 issues that were hidden in every corner of my room. I knew that I needed to get rid of some of the copies at some point, but accomplishing the task always seemed so daunting. 200 issues, over 4 years. Some issues I would clearly want to save, due to historical significance. But what about the ones in between? How long would it take to determine which ones stayed in my room, and which ones hit the recycling bin?
About three hours, I learned today.
Once all 200 issues were piled onto the floor, I immediately set some ground rules as to which issues had to stay with me. Any issue commemorating a World Series, Super Bowl, NBA championship, or college football or basketball championship was safe. Ditto for any issues that featured the Winter and Summer Olympics. Covers displaying any member of the White Sox or Yankees were to be salvaged, as were the issues that displayed the images of Giants’ pitcher Tim Lincecum (my favorite non-White Sox player, and admitted “baseball crush”) or former college basketball star Tyler Hansbrough. After I found those issues and put them aside, then the real work began.
In total, I saved 111 full issues. I put 25 of those aside and designated them as “gems”, and of those 25, I put 7 in plastic Ziplocs, indicating that they were of the utmost value to me. I also ripped out 19 features stories from issues that otherwise weren’t worth saving. While sorting through these stacks of magazines, I really gave myself a refresher of the sports world in the last 4 years. It was wild to read about college coaches that were being hailed as saviors, who are now disgraced due to recruiting violations. It was amusing to read preview issues, and discover that the team the writers picked to win the World Series didn’t even make the playoffs that year. Below are some of the highlights of my tour:
May 23, 2011- What the Tornado Took: One of the things I love about Sports Illustrated is how it tells stories that transcend sports. This issue, whose cover story explored the damage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama after devastating tornadoes, personified that ability. Though the story focused on student athletes competing for the University of Alabama and how their lives were affected, I didn’t feel like I was reading about athletes. I felt like I was reading about victims and survivors, and this story gave me more insight into the devastation than any news report had.
December 10, 2007- Sportsman of the Year: Brett Favre: When this issue was published, former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre was beloved by almost every sports fan. This issue gushed about his accomplishments and told countless anecdotes about what a great guy Favre was. Six months after this story ran, Favre retired–and then soon un-retired. The saga that followed made Favre reviled by the same people that once praised him. Two years after this, sick of yet another “un-retirement” episode, SI put four words in the corner of one of its covers: “100% Favre-Free Zone”.
June 8, 2009- Baseball’s Chosen One: I thought this was, and still is, one of the most disgusting covers I have ever seen. Bryce Harper was 16 years old when this cover ran. To give a kid this level of hype at such a young age I felt was outrageous. I keep this as a symbol of state of journalism today. Even respectable publications such as SI can’t help but fall victim to the appeal of sensationalism.
June 14, 2010- John Wooden 1910-2010: Most times, SI runs a headline on its cover, and then adds at least two subheadlines to attract you to other stories within the magazine. While good marketing strategy, I often feel that these subheads take away from the emphasis of the main story. But when former UCLA college basketball coach John Wooden, the greatest college coach of all time, passed away, SI knew to devote the cover entirely to his memory. This lack of distractions shows a great level of respect for one of the greatest men in sports, and I was very impressed by the magazine’s tact here.
Top row, first- December 26, 2006- My first issue: This started it all. It was my first issue, and I liked it. Four years later, I’m stuck with 200 of them in my bedroom.
Top row, second- August 13, 2007- History: Barry Bonds Hits Home Run No. 755: Love him or hate him, this was one of the most historic sports events in my lifetime thus far. I view this issue as an artifact.
Top row, third- March 10, 2008- March Madman: My dad not only made into a baseball fan, he also passed on a sizeable love for college basketball. Former North Carolina player Tyler Hansbrough was my favorite college player, and I was ecstatic to see him get his due in the form of a four-page feature. I read the article so many times the issue began to fall apart and is held together by a paper clip.
Top row, fourth, and bottom row, last- July 7, 2008 and December 27, 2010- The Tim Lincecum issues: I. Love. Tim. Lincecum. So. So. Much. (But not as quite as much as I love Mark Buehrle.)
Bottom row, first- August 25, 2008- The Alltime Olympian Michael Phelps: Like the Barry Bonds issue, I consider this to be an artifact of what was two of the most exciting weeks for me as a sports fan. Just a fantastic cover.
Bottom row, second- August 3, 2009- Perfect: If I could save only one issue, this would be it. As I have mentioned before, Mark Buehrle’s perfect game happened on my birthday, and this issue brings back memories of a thrilling day. What else would you expect from a Girlie Who Loves Buehrle?
It’s weird to say that a magazine has changed your life, but I believe that in some ways, Sports Illustrated has changed mine. With each issue collected, I became more of a sports fan, enveloping myself in the prose of victory and defeat, of joy and loss. Being a sports fan is a large part of my identity, and the wonderful writing of SI‘s reporters taught me more about the topic than simple highlights on TV ever can. Maybe the art of the written word is dying, but to me, the beauty of it is just starting to flourish.
Good evening, folks, and welcome to tonight’s edition of ChiSox Nightly. We have a very entertaining show planned for you tonight, but first, let’s start with a little trivia question, shall we?
Who is very nervous about Jake Peavy’s season debut tonight?
a) Jake Peavy
b) Catherine, the esteemed author of the fine blog The Wizard of Ozzie
c) That random fan in the stands with mustard on his shirt
If you selected choice “b”, then you are correct! Thank you for playing, and please, stay tuned for more exciting news!
Yep, so tonight is the big night. Peavy steps on the mound for the first time in 10 months, facing the Angels. (Note: Peavy’s injury came against the Angels. Coincidence much?) As exciting as it is to have the guy who is supposedly our “ace” back on the squad, I must admit that I am more nervous than anything else. Peavy hasn’t exactly been a master of control since arriving in Chicago, and coming off of major surgery, I’m afraid of the same old same old. We don’t need our star failing miserably in his debut. That would just rub more salt in the wound. And anyways, I’m liking this Philip Humber kid and his 2.97 ERA. Can’t he stick around for just a little while longer?
For my English class, I have to give a persuasive speech about any topic I want. My teacher suggested that we choose a topic that we are passionate about, and of course, the two things that popped into my head were art and baseball. Not really sure what I could say about art (besides persuading everyone to like it), I turned to baseball. And so, inspired by recent columns by Bill Madden of the New York Daily News and Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated, I chose to talk about why the Oakland A’s should be dissolved. Believe it or not, I found many valid reasons, and I am looking forward to crafting this speech. When it is done, I will post it on here. I’m looking forward to reading other people’s thoughts and opinions on my idea.
My English teacher, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a Steelers fanatic. Today, needless to say, he was less than happy. After class, I couldn’t resist taking a jab at him.
“So, pretty great fourth quarter, huh?”
He smirked at me. “Yeah, great.”
“I especially liked the last two minutes. That incomplete pass was a work of art.”
He looked up. “You talked Jets two weeks ago. You actually watched the game last night. And on jersey day, you came in here with a Mark Buehrle shirt. You seriously like pro sports?”
“I never would’ve thought.”
He’s not the first to tell me that, and he certainly won’t be the last. I’m not an athlete, in fact, I’ve never played on any sort of organized sports team (unless you count my brief stint on my school’s debate team). My extracurriculars include school newspaper, drama, and painting classes. I enjoy jewelry, makeup, and wear lots of skirts in the summer. I am horrible at every sport we play in gym class, and finished in last when we had to run the mile for fitness testing. People aren’t surprised when I say I like to draw and read poetry in my spare time, but baseball? This skirt-wearing, paint-in-her-hair, uncoordinated shortie is in love with baseball? And she not only spits out baseball stats, but can talk about college basketball and the NHL and the NFL too? And she has a subscription to Sports Illustrated? What? Or more importantly, why?
It’s hard for me to say. I love the camaraderie I have with fellow fans, the excitement rises inside me as the count moves to 3-0 with a runner on third in the bottom of the ninth. But does that make sense? To a lot of people, no. “Why not just play a sport to experience camaraderie?” Or, “Your life is so sad that you need nine men you’ll never meet to give you excitement?” (Actual things people have said to me). Maybe I can’t explain it. But this column, written by Rick Reilly, says it better than I ever could. It ran in the Nov. 27, 2007 issue of Sports Illustrated and its been on my bedside table ever since. One of my favorite pieces of writing, I think it rings true for every sports fan. Enjoy. (Excuse the red highlights. I copied and pasted this from SI Vault.)
WHEN I was a sophomore in college, working on the town newspaper, a professor took me aside and said, “You need to get out of sports. You’re better than sports.”
I still get that crap. “So when are you going to graduate from sports and go write for TIME?” strangers will say. “You know, do something important?”
I stamp my feet and hold my breath and insist that sports is important and worthy of my devotion. And they go, “Why?” And that’s when I look at them like a poodle at a card trick. But now I’m ready with my answer.
I love sports because…
It’s about loyalty and passion and family. We love the Vikings because Grandma loved the Vikings, and nothing and nobody is going to make us switch. Sports isn’t an escape from life–it’s woven into the fabric of it.
It leads to instant parades. How cool is that? Name anything else in life that galvanizes a city to pull off a parade involving 500,000 people with two days’ planning? And then the guys in the parades do jigs in kilts!
It’s the best kind of reality TV. That’s real blood. Those are real tears. There’s no director hollering, “Cut! Effects!” I was covering the NBA once when Seattle‘s 7’ 2″ Tom Burleson fell hard under the hoop. No foul. As he was running downcourt, hand to bleeding mouth, he suddenly whipped something that hit me in the chest and plopped onto my notepad. It was his tooth.
It gives us a sense of place. Even if there isn’t a single Indianapolis Colt from Indianapolis, the players live there, they eat there, they take out their trash there. They carry the flag for our town and our friends. And in this era of one- Starbucks-per-parking-meter cities, sports gives us Wrigley, Fenway and Lambeau. Remember that the next time they want to tear your stadium down and put up a damn Invesco Field.
There’s no back door in. If you’re Aaron Spelling’s daughter and you want to act, you get to act. If you’re a Trump, you get to build. But nobody in sports makes it onto the field because he caught a lucky sperm. Jose and Ozzie Canseco were identical twins. Jose played 1,887 major league games. Ozzie played 24.
And sports doesn’t care how you did last month, either. If you’re Derek Jeter and you stop hitting, it doesn’t matter how many Visa commercials you’ve done, you’re toast. And yet Flavor Flav still puts out CDs.
It turns hardened people to mush. Truck drivers weep over it. Nurses are overcome. Tell me the last time the ballet did that.
The No Way That Just Happened moment seems to happen every 20 minutes. Fifteen laterals to win at 00:00; 41-point ‘dog whips No. 1; kid overcomes cancer to clinch World Series. The notion that anybody can become president is pretty much dead–the last three all went to Yale–but in sports, anybody can still grow up to beat Michigan.
It encourages good, healthy hating. If I’m an Auburn fan, I can hate you, an Alabama fan, from the bottom of my hater, and it’s all right. I can seethe about it and write blogs about it and boo about it without getting arrested or hit with a restraining order. Who knows where all that hate would go without sports?
It’s cheap. With HD, who needs tickets? We’ve all been the guy who spent a week’s salary to go to the game and ended up wishing he was back on the couch eating queso dip with his buddies. (That’s another thing: Without sports, would there even be queso dip?)
It’s black and white, there’s no gray area. Every night there’s a winner and there’s a loser and nothing in between. There’s no waiting to see the third-quarter fiscal report. It’s open to zero interpretation. I’ve never been to a game yet where, at the end, the ref announced, “O.K., Cleveland won 14–13, but the Cleveland coach was blocking his deep-seated childhood need for validation. So, actually, Buffalo is the winner.” There’s a score and it’s fair and clean and easy to understand. Except for figure skating, of course.
It’s new, all the time. A Rolling Stones concert is the same 80 nights in a row, but an Avalanche–Red Wings game is a new, epic novel every time.
It gives us something safe to talk about at Thanksgiving without upsetting Aunt Harriet or causing Grandpa to storm off in a huff. It’s not religion, politics, war or money. Sports is a way in. One of the best e-mails I ever got was from a 25-year-old:
“Thanks for writing what you did about the Red Sox. It’s the first time I’ve been able to talk to my dad in five years.”
So bite me, professor. Thirty years later, I still don’t think I’m better than sports.
In fact it’s been the other way around the whole time.