It’s a shame there’s a whole generation of sports fans who only know ESPN Rick Reilly. Before he gave up his ESPN.com column in 2014 and was relegated to the occasional TV appearance, Reilly’s stint with The Worldwide Leader was considered a major disappointment. Between the multiple instances of self-plagerizing, shoddy fact-checking, awkward columns that missed the mark, and petty feuds that revealed him to be the cranky old white guy we feared he’d become, Reilly’s sportswriting legacy was tainted.
Sports Illustrated Rick Reilly, however, was a different animal. While there between 1985 and 2007, Reilly was considered the preeminent American sportswriter. Back when magazines held sway in the sports world, his columns were must-reads and his stories were the kind you ripped out and saved to re-read over and over again.
Reilly is returning “home” next month for a special freelance feature that will run in the March issue. A Sports Illustrated spokesman refused to elaborate on the topic but did tell Sports Business Daily that the story will be written in Reilly’s “fun and irreverent” style.
It’s tough these days to get readers excited about a Rick Reilly piece but if there’s anyone who is going to welcome the thought, it’s longtime Sports Illustrated readers. Fingers crossed that the old Reilly can be resurrected and at least move somewhat beyond his disappointing ESPN tenure. Given the outcome and the response to Reilly’s SI return, who knows, maybe a door might open for more down the line.