After the news was reported last week, ESPN made the announcement official on Monday. Rick Reilly will be sticking around Bristol for the foreseeable future. And he'll basically be fulfilling the same role he's had for the last few years skipping around ESPN's various online and television properties. The central roles will be his weekly column and his television essays, which according to ESPN "ran the gamut from poignant to humorous." I kid you not. Details from ESPN's glowing release…
"ESPN has reached an agreement with popular columnist and television contributor Rick Reilly on a multi-year contract extension. Reilly, who joined ESPN in 2008 after 23 years at Sports Illustrated, will continue to write his weekly “Life of Reilly” columns for ESPN.com and contribute television essays through his on-site coverage of ESPN’s Monday Night Football and other major events.
Reilly will travel to the site of each week’s MNF game, appearing on both the Monday Night Countdown pre-game (6:30 p.m. ET) and the post-game SportsCenter alongside Stuart Scott, Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis and Steve Young. Each week, he will prepare a MNF-themed segment for Countdown. In 2012, his thoughtful television features ran the gamut from poignant to humorous.
The 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year and successful author will also be part of ESPN’s coverage of golf majors and the Ryder Cup, NBA Finals, NCAA Final Four, FIFA World Cup, Super Bowl and BCS Championship events."
Even though it sounds impressive for Rick Reilly, Bristol is downsizing from the initial investment made in the SI stalwart when he had a much larger presence doing television specials and the like. This is where ESPN's size and power over the industry becomes a factor. ESPN is a big enough place to find room for even the highest profile flops. Reilly could go somewhere else and try to restart his career, but at this point it makes sense for him to maintain his niche in the ESPN universe, however decreasing in size that may be. Reilly can appear and disappear from the majors and Monday Night Countdown, deliver a column or two, hilariously attempt to break news on Twitter, and then fade back into the ether. There's not really a place like ESPN where Reilly can do that at the moment, except for maybe Fox, but that doesn't seem like a good fit at all. And, since he still has some name recognition in spite of criticism from Twitter and blogs, he has value to ESPN. (See: Berman, Chris.) Were he to go somewhere else, much more would be expected of him and he'd have to reinvent himself after a less than stellar tenure at ESPN.
The network has been very willing to let people walk in the past year, but in this case it seems to be better for both parties to go through the motions for another few years and not change the status quo.