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In March we dispatched reporter David Sabino to the NFL owners'
meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., to gather story material for the
second annual SI Presents Pro Football preview issue. But when
he encountered owner Jerry Jones and coach Barry Switzer in a
lounge at The Breakers Hotel, the Cowboys' honchos turned the
tables and wanted to know Sabino's story. "They thought I should
have been a football player," the 6'4", 260-pound Sabino says.
"But I went to the Bronx High School of Science in New York. We
didn't have a football team."

The gridiron's loss has been our gain. Though Sabino has never
lined up in the trenches, his encyclopedic knowledge of
football, and every other sport in the free world, has quickly
become the stuff of staff legend since we hired him in May 1995
from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED FOR KIDS. (One example: A cofounder of
Rotisserie League Baseball recently came to Sabino seeking trade
advice.) For this issue of SI PRESENTS--a sister publication of
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED that each year produces five newsstand-only
preview issues--Sabino researched The Calendar (page 9), the
emerging-players chart (page 60), The Moves Chart (page 72), all
30 projected starting lineups for our scouting reports and The
Free Agency Report Card (page 124).

"Whenever there is a question about some sports stat or factoid,
a cry of 'Where's Sabino?' goes through the office," says senior
editor Larry Burke. "The amazing thing is, he always has an
answer. And it's always right."

Sabino began absorbing the minutiae of sports as a kid in the
Bronx. "David had notebooks--too many notebooks to count, in
fact--full of statistics where he compared players, divisions
and teams," says his sister, Donna, who is the research director
of SI FOR KIDS. "My friends would come over and see his
notebooks and ask me, 'What's wrong with your brother?'"

One of the few things deeper than Sabino's fascination with
numbers is his affinity for basketball. While earning a degree
in business and communications at Syracuse, he had one memorable
run-in during a pickup game with Derrick Coleman, then an
Orangeman star. "I was guarding Coleman close, a little too
close, I guess, because he whacked me with an elbow right in the
temple," says Sabino. "Needless to say, I stopped playing
defense after that, and he dunked on me repeatedly."

After Syracuse, Sabino received an M.B.A. from Miami (Fla.) in
1994, and the statistics courses he took there have proved
eminently valuable to us. For our 1995-96 Pro Basketball
preview, Sabino devised the mathematical scheme that we used to
rate the NBA's front offices. And for our 1996 Baseball preview,
he came up with an intricate formula for rating the game's
middle relievers.

As Burke puts it, "Sabino truly is the Pythagoras of SI PRESENTS."

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Sabino has made an art of the chart. [David Sabino]