I always wanted to work at Sports Illustrated.
As a young man full of bravado I knew I was going to work at Sports Illustrated. I was convinced, and still am by the way because I’m an old man full of bravado, that I was the best sportswriter anyone had ever read. My name would be among the magazine’s greatest – Frank DeFord, Dan Jenkins, Tex Maule, and Curry Kirkpatrick.
My backup plan was to replace Anson Mount in writing the college and pro football previews for Playboy, but my wife of the time said, uh, no. Emphatically.
Of course, I never made it to SI. I did make it to New York, where I worked at the New York Daily News with some of the country’s best writers and editors. I also worked with Jack McCallum (at the Allentown Morning Call) and Gary Smith (at the Daily News), both of whom went on to noted careers at SI.
But I never made it to SI on my own.
Not that I haven’t held out hope. Just a few weeks ago, when my cellphone buzzed with an unfamiliar New York number I thought, “Hmm, could it be someone from SI recruiting me for a senior, senior, senior, very senior writer position?”
Alas, it was one of those extended car warranty robo calls.
I don’t think I was alone as a young sportswriter in wanting to work at SI. It was the preeminent sports magazine ever since Time magazine’s Henry Luce started it in 1954. For 65 years, it stood atop Mt. Everest as the country’s best and most popular repository of sports writing.
Then it got sold. And sold again. Magazines, like newspapers, have fallen on hard times, as advertisers fled to the Internet for marketing rates that are a fraction of print media’s, no matter that those advertisements also draw a fraction of reader attention. Print revenue at SI fell. Bean counters decided that its future was online.
So when the new owners, a startup named theMaven, took control, they promptly laid off 40 employees, about half of the SI staff still standing. theMaven’s game plan going forward is to replace those 40 fulltime employees, whose salaries were most likely commensurate with their enormous talent, with 200 contractors. many of whom will no doubt be thrilled to work for 3 cents a word and whose work quality will no doubt be worth 3 cents a word. If that.
About 70 percent of startups fail and an executive, Ross Levinshon, with a somewhat checkered history, is helming this particular one.
All of which is to say I don’t have great hopes for the magazine’s long-term survival. I won’t be surprised if, in a year or so, Sports Illustrated vanishes like morning dew. Sad, yes, but not surprised.
Which means I won’t be getting a call to work for them.
But maybe Playboy is still in play, though. The woman who says she loves me now thinks I’m too old for anything other than … she thinks I’m too old.
I know you know, but I’m going to remind you anyway. I write mystery novels, the latest of which is “My Grave Is Deep,” which is the sequel to “Tears of God,” which is a sequel to “Tears in the Rain.” I am currently working on the sequel to the sequel to the sequel. The fabulous Fran Allred and Michael Johnson of We Edit Books edited my latest book, which in case you’ve forgotten, is “My Grave Is Deep.”