There is an old
and inside joke about Time Inc. and its magazines, including Sports
Illustrated. The joke starts with a question: How many people does it take to
change a lightbulb at Time Inc.?
Punch line: One
hundred; one to replace the actual bulb and ninety-nine to stand around and
talk about how great the old bulb was.
That's the way it
is at all institutions, really, but sports heighten everything, so this was
always considered a pretty good joke around SI. The problem, of course, is that
all such institutional jokes suggest perilous self-congratulation and the kind
of if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it thinking that can leave you with gloomy
in 1960, described as "Events & Discoveries of the Week" and
overflowing with short, inevitably arch tidbits and asides concerning the
culture behind sport with no "s." Over the years it was edited by some
of SI's best talent, picking up harder-edged observation and opinion. But what
it didn't reflect was the voice and perspective of athletes themselves. That
arrived three years ago with a run of aggressively graphic pages following
Scorecard that were pioneered by senior editor Kostya Kennedy. The idea was to
bring readers not just inside the game but inside the heads and lives of those
who played. Hence Players and regular features such as How It Feels ... (to hit
a walk-off home run or make a three-pointer), My Workout, The Players Poll and
Tale of My Tattoo. Kennedy also began writing the incisive Hot-Not column, a
destination point that now scores higher among readers than anything in the
history of the front of the book.
Players was also a hit with athletes as varied as David Ortiz, Danica Patrick
and Chad Johnson, who were all particularly taken with the First Person
interviews and unconventional photo shoots. "Everyone thinks football
players are one-dimensional, but this section lets guys show different sides of
themselves," says Saints Pro Bowl end Will Smith, who was featured cooking
with Emeril Lagasse in the Feb. 5 SI.
Scorecard section, meanwhile, was undergoing a relentless tune-up by senior
editors Mark Bechtel and Stephen Cannella, who made the section both newsier
and funnier and drove it to an alltime high in reader satisfaction. Time to
connect the dots.
this issue, the Players section is expanding to include the most popular
elements of the old Scorecard--For the Record, Sign of the Apocalypse and They
Said It. The rubric Scorecard is now the heading of a reported essay bringing
together various themes and ironies of a given week and setting the tone for
assorted new takes, angles and elements that all begin on page 18.
came after three months of meetings and memos, with numerous writers and
editors contributing ideas and wisecracks. So now another lightbulb at SI has
been changed. Actually more than one. Let us know what you think at