Bad Gifts, Good Guys, and Decent Articles

Justin August 27, 2010 0

Its about that time again.

My SI subscription is set to run out next month. Obviously, I’m going to renew. But, as is the case with everything else in my life, I’m being lazy  about it.

Sports Illustrated doesn’t know that. They’re probably worried that I may be on the verge of cutting our relationship off after two decades. After all, I can read it for free online.

As a result, the good people at Time, Inc are trying to entice me to stay into the fold with the offer of free gifts. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into before, but it’s not a mistake I plan on making again.

When I was a kid, Sports Illustrated offered cool stuff like football phones and sneaker phones and posters. That is no longer the case. Here’s a list of free gifts I’ve recieved in the past:

1. Long Sleeve T-Shirt: I’m by no means a small person. But I’m not unusually large either. I’m around 6’1″ or 6’2″ and I weigh around 240 lbs. I don’t shop at big and tall shops nor do I struggle to fit into clothes from namebrand stores. Yet, for some reason, a size XL Sports Illustrated long sleeve t-shirt makes me look like I’m trying to squeeze into a child size shirt. The sleeves barely reach my wrists and he neck is so tight I feel like I’m being choked. If the shirt arrived on a Tuesday, it had been relegated to the pajama draw by Wednesday.

2. Sports Illustrated Fleece Jacket: Again, there are issues with the sleeves being too short. Luckily, the sleeves have elastic in them so I can stretch them out a little bit. I like the fact that the heather grey fleece jacket has a full zipper, which eliminates a lot of the tightness issues. At least I did like that until I tried to unzip it one day. And the pully-y part of the zipper snapped off in my hand. I WAS A PRISONER IN COMFY FLEECE.  I nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to slip it off over my head.

3. Sports Illustrated Gym Bag: The picture makes this look like a very nice bag, suitable for trips to the gym or overnight travel. In reality, this bag is barely large enough to hold a pair of sneakers. It’s a glorified toiletry bag. Unless there’s an entire community of Sports Illustrated readers who exercise barefoot in nothing but tiny shorts, this is not a useful item

4. The Football Book: It’s a coffee table book full of pictures of Jim Brown. I’ve never really understood the point of coffee table books anyway. After you look at the pictures once, what’s the point of looking again? It’s not going to change. But at least pictures of art or foreign lands or exotic animals show people you have some level of sophistication. What does a picture of Dick Butkus shooting snot rockets tell visitors about you?

5. Sports Illustrated Travel Alarm Clock: It’s small and fragile so if you actually decide to travel with it, the clock will break in your bag before you reach your destination. It’s not backlit, so you can’t see it with the lights off.

So, this time, Sports Illustrated, I will pass on the bonus items. A lack of clutter in my closets and garbage can is gift enough.

Sports Illustrated: August 30th, 2010

Joey  Votto, Baseball, Cincinnati Reds


What’s the quickest way to get me to skip a Sports Illustrated column? Write about steroids. What else can be said at this point? And yet, for a fleeting moment, I actually thought this would be different. Here’s how David Epstein starts his piece:

Are you one of Radomski’s people?” the man screamed at me. Minutes earlier I had been knocking on his door. That was just before he chased me away and followed me in his car and then ran me off the road. Now he was at the window of my rental, the front tires of which were up on the sidewalk. “Are you here for Radomski?”

It’s like an action movie! I was sucked in.

That feeling didn’t last. It quickly devolved into yet another profile of the latest in a myriad list of pathetic losers who got involved with steroids as a way to ingratiate themselves to professional athletes, who invariably use and them forget about them.

Moving on, we come to Dan Patrick’s weekly athlete kiss up and bad joke hour. This week’s subject, Perennial Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ray Lewis.  On Wednesday, I got an email from John (go read 200 Miles from The Citi.)

Did you read any of SI yet?  Ray Lewis with Dan Patrick, criticizing Rex Ryan for cursing???  Whoa, Ray.  Whoa.  It’s quotes like that where I anxiously anticipate Sh*t Justin Says.

Sh*t Justin Says is a game John plays while reading the magazine every week. He likes to predict what I will react to and then compare his impressions with what I actually write. This one was a slam dunk. Let’s read the exchange.

DP: Did you have a problem with Rex Ryan’s language when he was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator?

RL: With his language?

DP: Yeah, f bombs.

RL: Man, Rex is Rex. His personality is wide open.

DP: Tony Dungy took issue with it. I asked him if he’d hire someone who swore like Rex, and he said no.

RL: Rex is who he is, and Tony definitely has his opinion about things, with the life he lives. I’m kind of the same way: If a man is cursing at another man, then I truly look at that as a problem, no matter what your job title.

You know what I look at as a problem? A man stabbing at another man. Or a man stabbing at two other men. Or a fourth man helping the man hide his bloody clothes after stabbing at two other men.
Ray Lewis is a murderer. I don’t think we can ever highlight that enough.

Fantastic Finish by Tom Verducci
Tom Verducci lives in Montgomery, New Jersey. It’s very obvious that he stayed there to write this article about the San Diego Padres.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly good article. But it seems like it was composed solely through statistical google searches and one phone call to Padres GM Jed Hoyer. This team deserves better. They’re the surprise of baseball. The Padres are a first place club led by a hometown star who entered the season with the near certainty that he would be traded. They have a pitching staff made up of young no names and retreads who are having great years. They have the Hairston brothers, playing as teammates for the first time since Little League. They have not one, but two, players who attended Princeton (Chris Young and Will Venable) and would, no doubt, be very thoughtful and interesting interview subjects. Instead, we get stats and a cell phone call.

All the Right Moves by L. Jon Wertheim
Last year, when Joey Votto went on the DL with his depression issues, there were a number of rumors swirling that Votto was gay and was preparing to come out of the closet as the first openly gay professional athlete in America. At the time, I hoped it was true.  I was curious how it would be handled by the press, the fans and the players. But more importantly, I wanted it to happen because it’s just time. It’s the last taboo. Let’s just get it over with.
It turned out that Votto was actually struggling to deal with the sudden death of his father. But, after reading this excellent profile, I’m convinced that, if in fact it had been the other thing, Votto is exactly the type of person who would be able to handle it.

The Kid Can Handle It by Andrew Perloff
I know it’s pronounced Cobb, but it shouldn’t be. Kevin Colb”s name should be pronounced Coalb.  He hunts, he fishes, he plays football. Just like 90% of the rest of the NFL. The story of Kevin Colb inheriting the starting job from Donovan McNabb is an interesting one. But that doesn’t translate into him being an interesting subject.
Move Over, Michael by Kelli Anderson
Swimming was very popular during the 2008 Olympics. Two years later, it is not.  There are two famous swimmers in the world, Michael Phelps and Dara Torres. Neither of them are the focus of this article.
Anything But Big and Easy by Luke Winn
The swimming article was an especially bad idea when you consider the fact that the editors could have dropped it and allowed this piece to be two pages longer. It’s the 5th anniversary of Katrina. An article about a program in New Orleans struggling to find its footing amidst numerous problems is exactly the type of thing that begs for a more in depth study. Also, Pasternack. That’s just fun to say.
Five Year Old Slugger by Thomas Lake
I was prepared to hate this family. I was ready to paint the parents as creepy Marinovich style slaved drivers. Instead, they come off as a loving, if slightly misguided, familial unit. The 5 year old kid seems like an ordinary five year old. Thomas Lake’s choice to quote his subject as he talks about “empires” and “curb” balls made them all the more endearing.  The only creep in this story is the sports anchor in Chicago who wasted his time mocking a five year old by creating his own You Tube video.
POINT AFTER by Phil Taylor
Taylor calls for instant replay in baseball. He makes cogent arguments for it, while not disrespecting those who disagree. For once, I have nothing bad to say.

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