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The Fall of Sports Illustrated

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: The Atlantic
December 3, 2023 at 22:35
Matteo Giuseppe Pani
Matteo Giuseppe Pani

A recent AI controversy is just the latest example of its decline.

The week I started working at Sports Illustrated, in April 1984, the issue on newsstands featured a glowering Georgetown power forward named Michael Graham dunking on two flat-footed Houston Cougars in the NCAA championship, won by the Hoyas. Filing the gamer that night was Curry Kirkpatrick, a gonzo genius whose pyrotechnical run-on sentences left one winded and smiling. But the story that stuck with me from that issue was shorter and angrier. Frank Deford needed only 587 words to eviscerate Robert Irsay, the then-owner of the Baltimore Colts, who’d hired 15 Mayflower trucks the previous week and moved the team to Indianapolis.

“It’s really quite amazing,” Deford wrote. “A man who could screw up professional football in Baltimore would foul the water at Lourdes or flatten the beer in Munich.”

When it comes to that kind of cartoon villainy, the late Irsay had nothing on the soulless executives running the Authentic Brands Group and the Arena Group, the organizations most responsible for hollowing out Sports Illustrated, a once-grand publication.

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