Rob Fleder, our newest senior editor and the man who directed our coverage of the Kentucky Derby (page 18), came to SI in March by a circuitous route. His previous stops, after graduation from Brown University, included an all-news radio station and a weekly newspaper in Providence, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Esquire and, most recently, five years at Playboy as an editor.
Apart from an interesting résumé, Fleder (FLAY-der) also brings to SI a passion for sports. He was an original member of the Rotisserie League, a group of baseball lunatics who "draft" major league players onto teams of their own devising, then let the players' real statistics determine the Rotisserie standings. The Fleder Mice finished seventh last year. In fact, it was Fleder's association with another member of the league, senior editor Steve Wulf, that led him to SI. "Year after year, Rob actually thinks he has a chance to win the pennant," says Wulf. "I figured if he showed half as much imagination as an editor as he does as an owner, he would be a natural for the magazine."
Fleder is also an avid follower of horse racing and pro basketball, two of the sports he's now responsible for at SI. "My dream was to play in the NBA," he says. "Unfortunately, I was given the body of a jockey." Fleder grew up in Stamford, Conn. and followed the exploits of Calvin Murphy, a big little man who played for nearby Norwalk High. "Calvin was an inspiration to short guys everywhere. But inspiration is no substitute for a 45-inch vertical leap." So the 5'8" Fleder concentrated on soccer and golf.
In 1981 Fleder moved to Chicago and Playboy, where he edited nonfiction articles and worked with such SI alumni as Dan Jenkins and Roy Blount Jr. He had nothing, repeat nothing, to do with bunnies.
Fleder did discover thoroughbreds, though, while at Playboy. Several years ago, he and his wife, free-lance writer Marilyn Johnson, met Steven Crist, the horse racing writer for The New York Times, and Crist in turn introduced them to Saratoga. "It was such a beautiful place," says Fleder. "Unlike any track I'd seen before. The horses working out in the morning, the gentility of the paddock and the violence out on the track. Of course, it helped that I did O.K. at the windows."
Fleder also found Churchill Downs to his liking last week, although he, like our racing writer, William Nack, thought Badger Land would win rather than Ferdinand. Still and all, we're happy to have him in our stable.
FLEDER, ON THE RAIL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS, MISSED THE WINNER BUT VERY LITTLE ELSE