There is an oldand inside joke about Time Inc. and its magazines, including SportsIllustrated. The joke starts with a question: How many people does it take tochange a lightbulb at Time Inc.?
Punch line: Onehundred; one to replace the actual bulb and ninety-nine to stand around andtalk about how great the old bulb was.
That's the way itis at all institutions, really, but sports heighten everything, so this wasalways considered a pretty good joke around SI. The problem, of course, is thatall such institutional jokes suggest perilous self-congratulation and the kindof if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it thinking that can leave you with gloomysouvenirs.
Scorecard beganin 1960, described as "Events & Discoveries of the Week" andoverflowing with short, inevitably arch tidbits and asides concerning theculture behind sport with no "s." Over the years it was edited by someof SI's best talent, picking up harder-edged observation and opinion. But whatit didn't reflect was the voice and perspective of athletes themselves. Thatarrived three years ago with a run of aggressively graphic pages followingScorecard that were pioneered by senior editor Kostya Kennedy. The idea was tobring readers not just inside the game but inside the heads and lives of thosewho played. Hence Players and regular features such as How It Feels ... (to hita walk-off home run or make a three-pointer), My Workout, The Players Poll andTale of My Tattoo. Kennedy also began writing the incisive Hot-Not column, adestination point that now scores higher among readers than anything in thehistory of the front of the book.
Not surprisingly,Players was also a hit with athletes as varied as David Ortiz, Danica Patrickand Chad Johnson, who were all particularly taken with the First Personinterviews and unconventional photo shoots. "Everyone thinks footballplayers are one-dimensional, but this section lets guys show different sides ofthemselves," says Saints Pro Bowl end Will Smith, who was featured cookingwith Emeril Lagasse in the Feb. 5 SI.
The venerableScorecard section, meanwhile, was undergoing a relentless tune-up by senioreditors Mark Bechtel and Stephen Cannella, who made the section both newsierand funnier and drove it to an alltime high in reader satisfaction. Time toconnect the dots.
Starting withthis issue, the Players section is expanding to include the most popularelements of the old Scorecard--For the Record, Sign of the Apocalypse and TheySaid It. The rubric Scorecard is now the heading of a reported essay bringingtogether various themes and ironies of a given week and setting the tone forassorted new takes, angles and elements that all begin on page 18.
These changescame after three months of meetings and memos, with numerous writers andeditors contributing ideas and wisecracks. So now another lightbulb at SI hasbeen changed. Actually more than one. Let us know what you think atletters@SI.timeinc.com.
ERICK W. RASCO
A UNITED FRONT Cannella (left), Kennedy and Bechtel managed the Players-Scorecard merger.