Younger readers probably won’t comprehend how important magazines like Sports Illustrated were in pre-internet culture. Most sports news was found in local papers and in short segments at 10 p.m. on the nightly news. Sports Illustrated was often—though, periodically, competition would pop up—the sole venue in which a sports fan could find deeply reported, well-crafted features and profiles, not to mention often-remarkable photography (the swimsuit issues, naturally, sold best). The magazine’s circulation hit around 3.5 million in the mid-1980s, with another million copies being bought on newsstands.
In my late 20s, I briefly worked for the company (well, the website, which was then called CNN/SI.com—perhaps a portend of terrible things to come), where I occasionally interacted with one of my writing heroes, Frank Deford. What a dream it