You could sum up the year in sports with a roll call of
champions, a listing of those who climbed the highest peaks. But
that would leave the year's cliffs and valleys unexplored, an
approach that would be especially inappropriate this year, says
executive editor Charlie Leerhsen, who directed SI's look back at
2003. "Think about the Cubs, the Red Sox, the Lakers and Funny
Cide," he says. "It's really been a year defined as much by who
lost as who won." So for this issue SI asked its writers to
follow their story instincts instead of the victory parades. In
his piece on the year in the NBA, for instance, senior writer
Jack McCallum describes the peculiar lot of Kevin Garnett, a
superrich superstar who, as his doubters remind him, has yet to
taste postseason success.
The year's end is also a time to take stock of one's life.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist and former SI senior writer Rick
Telander uses sports as a vehicle for reflecting on how he has
grown from a college football standout (he was a second-team
All-Big Ten defensive back at Northwestern in 1970) to a
middle-aged adult with a noticeably aging body, a house in
constant need of repair and four children running off to games of
their own. His goal, he says, was to write about sports as most
people experience them. He talks about his and his children's
athletic adventures but not about his job of covering the pros.
"When you get right down to it, my profession is basically
irrelevant to my kids' and my sports endeavors," Telander says.
"I could be a shoe salesman or a dentist or a truck driver. In
this context, it really doesn't matter."
Trowling for the low and laughable is familiar duty for senior
writer Steve Rushin, who returns with his annual year-end review
of strange-but-true occurrences. Among the lowlights of 2003, he
says, was Pittsburgh Pirate Randall Simon's taking a bat to one
of the sausage mascots in the bratwurst race at Milwaukee's
Miller Park. Rushin could have made 49 jokes about that one, he
says, but limits himself to two. Illustrating the hilarity is
artist Zohar Lazar, who is a natural match for this year's
material: He paints in the style of old pulp-fiction covers, and
he broke into the business illustrating sex columns. Lazar says
his portrait of the world's most famous facially tattooed
heavyweight fulfilled a dream: "I always wanted to paint Mike
Rushin says the sheer quantity of misguided behavior provides him
with a surfeit of material. "I'd like to thank all the little
people who vomited on footballs and urinated on mascot uniforms,"
he says. "Those are the people who made this possible."
COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (LEERHSEN) PEAKS AND VALLEYS Leerhsen saw merit in losers and winners.
COLOR PHOTO: TODD ROSENBERG (TELANDER) Telander
COLOR PHOTO: PETER GREGOIRE (RUSHIN) Rushin and Lazar
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY ZOHAR LAZAR [See caption above]