Why Hate Rick?

Searching the Internet for an interview of Rick Reilly, my favorite sports writer, has exposed me to the controversy surrounding his name. I found websites dedicated to stealing his credibility, the most dominant being FireRickReilly.com. Their mission is to “expose Rick Reilly as a hack” and to “call out the nations most hated sports writer.” I didn’t even know Rick Reilly was so famous. Up until a few years ago, he was the author of a column, The Life of Reilly, on the back page of Sports Illustrated. His short, one-page column was different than other sports articles. He didn’t glorify statistics, or write about the finer sports moments. He related sports to real-life. That’s why I loved his articles.

So is this the Rick we all love?

After getting a chance to look over an interview of Rick, I learned that he left Sports Illustrated to work for their longtime rival ESPN. It’s definitely surprising that Rick left Sports Illustrated for the strong media presence and mainsteam-ness of ESPN. It takes away from my feeling that he is a writer and not just another sports analyst.

Even so, I’ll tell you what I gained from all of this. Rick states it perfectly in his interview. The question was:

Q: ESPN has been after you before. Why make the jump now?

A: “They pretty much let me create my own job. They said, ‘think of us like a Chinese menu. Take what you want from column A, column B and column C.’ So I’m getting to do what I really want, which is to bring well-written essays to TV. And to do, hopefully, a high-quality interview show. Plus, the money is ridonkolous. At first, I was sure they meant Pat Riley.”

Rick is just like any other writer. First, who wouldn’t take the money? And second, what writer wouldn’t want their dream job? Sports Illustrated’s, The Life of Reilly, was my dream sports article. That doesn’t mean its what Rick wanted. Besides, he provided us with twenty-plus years of Sports Illustrated columns.

Or is Rick really a “man who makes $10 million to spew crap”

And that got me thinking. How often are writers stuck in a job that they don’t want to have? Or, just this idea that writers for various publications may not actually want to be there. It may not be their ideal atmosphere, or their dream job. They’re writing for the reader. That’s why they have the job in the first place.

On that note, I understand why Rick left Sports Illustrated: Screw the haters. At least he can finally do what he wants. In school we are always writing for a prompt. Then we get a grade. Just like Rick gets money. I would love to write about a topic of my choosing and still receive that same grade. Rick has a dream come true, and  judging by his choice of his personal favorite Life of Reilly column, he’s not so evil afterall.

Q: You’ve had 20+ years as an SI columnist. Fondest memory?

A: “Wow. That’s like asking Kirstie Alley about her favorite donut. I guess I’d say the time the magazine took us all down to Orlando for a three-day meeting and I finally got to really know Gary Smith and Steve Rushin and laugh so damn hard I thought I was gonna break a rib. My favorite column has to be “Nothing but Nets” – a column about malaria in Africa … which started the Nothing but Nets campaign through the United Nations foundation, which is now up to $13 million. How cool is that?”


One thought to “Why Hate Rick?”

  1. Joe, what do you like about Rick’s pieces of writing? I don’t think I’ve ever read any of his stuff–any articles you would recommend I check out? How does Rick inspire you as a writer? Do you ever try to use elements from his columns and incorporate them into your own papers?

    Does Reilly tend to support your teams and opinions about sports? I’m sure it makes it much easier to like him as a sports writer if he too roots for Michigan. 🙂

    You may find this article to be interesting: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/162381/how-bob-woodward-discouraged-john-feinstein-from-sports-writing/. Many people continue to look down on sports writing. I’m beginning to understand that solid sports journalism excels in the same way as any good piece of journalism: tell compelling stories in a way that gives the reader a better understanding of the world.

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