Rick Reilly: A Tribute To The Great One
“Of all the people I’d like to throw through a plate-glass window, Rick wouldn’t be one of them.
This is how the foreword in Rick Reilly’s ‘The Life of Reilly’ ends. Charles Barkley was right. Who would want to throw Rick through a window. I’ll tell you who:
For his SI article in July 2002, Reilly was interviewing Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa and muttered three fateful words: “Well, why wait?”
“It was a simple straightforward question for…Sammy Sosa. ‘You’ve said if baseball tests for steroids, you want to be first in line, right?’ I asked him last Thursday at his Wrigley Field locker.
“Yes,” Sosa replied.
The rest is history. Reilly handed Sosa a business card for a steroid-testing lab. Sosa freaked out. “This interview is over, motherf-----!”
For over 23 years, Rick Reilly amused the readers of Sports Illustrated as the “back-page writer.” Ever since I could read, I would get the new issue of SI in the mail, read the “funny guy in the back”, and then ditch the magazine. Even back before I knew who Sammy Sosa was, I enjoyed Reilly’s colorful style.
As I became further interested in pursuing journalism, I became further interested in Rick Reilly. During my first year of Community College, the college library cleaned out their back rooms full of magazines and had a first come-first served basis on taking the magazines home.
I took a few Sports Illustrated magazines home with me that I thought
would generate value someday. As I paged through the articles that night, I re-stumbled upon Rick, and soon read the four “Life of Reilly” articles in the back.
I needed more. I went back to school the next day with an empty box, and left with over three years worth of Sports Illustrated issues. My room was soon littered with Sports Illustrated magazines sorted into piles based on how well I enjoyed the Reilly articles.
There were two piles: Great, and breath-taking.
For the next two years, I anticipated the day that the new Reilly column came out. I saved his articles in a scrapbook to eliminate the bulk of keeping the whole magazine.
But, alas, all good things must come to an end. In November of 2007, after 23 years of writing for SI, Reilly retired. I teared up as I read the final SI article, Giving Up The Life.
I then began a frantic search of Reilly articles. I found the SI Vault on the Internet, but it wasn’t the same. Opening up a fresh magazine with a fresh Reilly column was all I wanted.
I bought all seven of Reilly’s books: Slo Mo!, Missing Links, Shanks for Nothing, The Life of Reilly, Hate Mail from Cheerleaders, and Who’s Your Caddy. Even after reading these articles countless of times, I still can’t get enough of the sarcastic humor and the way he pokes fun at people like Latrell Sprewell, Ben Roethlisberger, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, New York Yankees batboys, or places like Seattle and Canada.
But Reilly not only has the ability to make people laugh, but also has the ability to make people cry. Reilly hunts the world for stories of compassion and tragedy: the stories of Dick Hoyt, Cory Lemke, Kenny Wilcoxen, Butch Varno, the NYFD Fire Dept football team, Petra Nemcova, Bobby Martin, or the Ehrut High Basketball Team probably wouldn't have been told.
He also started the Nothing But Nets foundation after writing an article about a trip to Tanzania.
Rick has won the national Sportswriter of the Year award 11 times.
I know! Only 11 times in 23 years! Who beat him?!?
Rick Reilly now writes as the “back cover writer” for ESPN the Magazine, as well as ESPN.COM.
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