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Sports—no longer Illustrated?

Another one (probably) bites the dust

Joe DiMaggio Original Sports Illustrated Cover 1949

Not long after janitorial crews finished sweeping up Times Square confetti, Authentic Brand Groups (parent company of Sports Illustrated) announced layoffs of the entire SI staff.

We really should have seen this coming.

After Best Buy axed its physical media holdings, tangibility seems to continue going the way of the complete game or sacrifice bunt. Clearly, sports journalism cannot escape this trend. Long ago seems the time where a newspaper exclusively devoted to Major League Baseball could be sold at every gas station newsstand in America.

I discovered Sports Illustrated at a northern MN public library (oddly enough) near my grandparents’ lake home. Their periodical section had years of back-issue SIs that I borrowed and paged through to catch up on early-1990s baseball history.

Magazines available for reading at public library
Public libraries are awesome!
Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

From the late-90s to present, I’ve been a paying customer of the glossy mag. Sure, I play the wait-it-out game for a better deal when my subscription lapses, but I enjoy the quality of the writing. The annual Baseball Preview has long been a harbinger of Opening Day.

Do I inherently realize that all the information SI provides is easily located elsewhere? Yes I do. But there’s something about the experience of sitting down with a magazine apart from the same device on which I scroll social media, manage my banking, play fantasy sports, check emails, and other various and sundry activities.

Speaking of various and sundry activities, SI provided the adolescent thrill of the annual late-February run-to-the-mailbox-before-your-parents (why isn’t this an Olympic sport?!) to nab that extra-glossy Swimsuit Edition. Take that, e-debauchery!

Club SI Swimsuit Hosted By PURE Nightclub At Caesars Palace
Kate Upton is now married to Justin Verlander, so this is all sort of coming full circle
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

Like everyone else this day and age, I have a complicated relationship to digital versus physical media. On one hand, I’ve never read a book that I couldn’t use for kindling if money got tight and winter got cold. On the other hand, I don’t own a DVD or Blu-Ray player and watch all my TV/film content through an Apple TV device. Snip-snap, snip-snap, to quote Michael Scott.

If the physical Sports Illustrated magazine ceases publication, it’s not as if I’ll be bereft of sports information opportunities. Months could pass and see me not notice a substantive change in any life avenue. But if the day comes when March goes out like a lion and does not bring with it that coveted MLB preview, SI will be conspicuous by its absence.

Atltanta Braves v Minnesota Twins
Perhaps the greatest SI cover photo of all time
Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images