Rick Reilly, the sportswriter, is one of my biggest sporting icons. Unless you've read the back of a Sports Illustrated - or lately the back of an ESPN The Magazine - you probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about. He's the guy that writes the back page.
A year or two ago he decided to make the big money move to ESPN Towers, where he was showered with gifts, loot, the back of the ESPN Mag (his strong point) and ESPN.com. Unfortunately, he also did some TV work.
The problem with Rick Reilly, who decided to tell us all in his last ESPN page that he's not going to bother writing the back page anymore.
"This is also my last column for The Mag. I'm going to try my hand at a weekly 90-second essay on "SportsCenter" beginning this spring. I'll still write longer pieces for The Mag, write my ESPN.com column, host "Homecoming," cover golf for ESPN and ABC and anchor "SportsCenter" once in a while."
Rick Reilly's punchy, end-of-magazine pieces were brilliant for Sports Illustrated. "What Would Jesus Do?" - now over 10 years old - still convicts me about my religious fanaticism for sports, and makes me realize why smaller schools can be better than bigger schools at something - see his article on Middlebury College's "Picking up Butch".
And while his articles for ESPN The Mag and the website certainly weren't as brilliant as his ones for SI (he almost became a cliche of himself, his rules for 'Storming the Court' for ESPN (not the mag, mind) definitely have got me told!
But as we said earlier, it was better at SI. I thought I'd seen the piece he wrote on why he loves his job before. He'd written pretty much the same damned article in 2007.
And his last comment piece -panning a high school sports coach for running up the score on his opposition - was vaguely similar to a bunch of articles chastising prep coaches for doing exactly the same team. Why not do an article on what it was like to be on the end of that beating, Rick? Why not do an article on what it was like to be one of the families watching their son get fed to the lions? Why not make it an open letter to high school associations who allow this thing to happen across 50 states? This article - an attack on Yates High School's Greg Wise, could have been aimed at a ton of other coaches, too, you know.
Oh, and now to the TV. If you've ever heard Rick Reilly on TV, he's not a natural. When he commentates for ESPN/ABC, he's still not going to be nearly as good as the likes of Johnny Miller. His voice is kinda annoying, too. When I got the chance to meet him, I asked him about his move to ESPN. He said: "Ah, it still won't pay for my alimony". Made me giggle, anyway. It's like he's the guy you'll want to be funny or punch in the face. And if the ESPN/ABC guys hate him, it could end up being horrible for Reilly's career. And last time we look, Hollywood wasn't looking to pretty for brilliant screenwriters, either.
As for Rick Reilly's best future, we'll leave it to the nice people at Deadspin. You know why? Because I can't probably say anything better myself.