Although Rick Reilly initially refused comment when we emailed him Friday inquiring about his move from SI to its rival, ESPN, now that the move has formally been announced, he felt more comfortable talking to us. We asked him a few questions about his industry-shaking move, and “America’s Best Loved Sports Writer” answered them. (You can find the rest of our interviews with prominent sports journalists right here.)
Q: You’ve had 20+ years as an SI columnist. Fondest memory?
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?
Q: What will you miss most about SI?
Well, since i was seven, my whole goal in life was to work for SI, so I guess I’ll miss saying, ‘hey, this is Rick Reilly from Sports Illustrated calling and …’ then again, ESPN is stronger than a garlic milkshake, too.
Q: ESPN has been after you before. Why make the jump now?
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 ridonkulous. At first, I was sure they meant Pat Riley.
No. The U.S. Open, British Open and Ryder Cup ain’t exactly the Walla Walla Men’s Scramble, you know.
Q: If you could host a 30-minute TV show, who do you want as your first guest and why?
Dead – Damon Runyon. Alive – Mike Tyson.