Summer of 1981; I was asked to chronicle the arrival of a promising trio of centers—UCLA's Stuart Gray, Wichita State's Greg Dreiling and somebody named Patrick Ewing. I gave Patrick his due as a shot blocker, but I made far too much of Gray and Dreiling and I expressed serious reservations about Ewing as a shooter. Eight months later, as Ewing was leading Georgetown into the NCAA championship game, his coach, John Thompson, spotted me in a media scrum and said, "There's the fool who said Gray and Dreiling [both flameouts] were better than Patrick." That isn't what I said, but I hadn't exactly distinguished myself as a scout either.
—Jack McCallum Senior writer, 1985--2008
Sept. 11, 2005; opening Sunday of the NFL season. Hurricane Katrina had just ravaged New Orleans, and SI had done some tremendous reporting for the previous week's issue. In hindsight, the obvious call for that opening week was to write on how the Saints were dealing with the disruption, uncertainty and heartache. Instead I sent Michael Silver to Detroit for a cover story on Joey Harrington and didn't staff Saints-Panthers. But against all odds, New Orleans pulled out a last-minute win, and Silver ended up writing the uplifting Saints cover piece from the press box in Detroit. Mike did a great job under the circumstances, but I don't think he'll ever let me live that down.
—Mark Mravic Assistant managing editor
By the time I became SI's baseball editor, in 1999, I already had lived and (mostly) died with the Boston Red Sox for four decades. Of course, this in no way influenced my judgment in 2000 when, with the full assent of my superiors, I put Pedro Martinez on the cover of the Baseball Preview Issue with the line, "Why the Red Sox Will Win the World Series. (Really!)" Rather than making me a hero in my hometown, though, the best-case prediction brought out all the haters who feared the fabled cover jinx. (Thanks, Mom!) In October, after the Sox failed to make the postseason, an enterprising writer from The Boston Globe ferreted out that I was the perpetrator and demanded a retraction and an apology.
You'd think I'd learn. But what did I do the next spring? I put AL batting champ Nomar Garciaparra on the cover. Fresh off a .372 season, Nomah was the picture of health. But the day the issue hit the newsstands, it was revealed that he'd split a tendon in his right wrist. That season, he played in just 21 games. In essence, Nomah was no more.
That season was also my last as baseball editor. I wonder why....
—Dick Friedman Senior editor, 1994--2012
I wrote a 1997 cover story proclaiming Terrell Brandon the best point guard in the NBA—this despite John Stockton, Gary Payton and the two Hardaways, Penny and Tim, all being in their primes. We rated them all in a number of categories; I like to think of it as a primitive attempt at advanced basketball analytics. But even Dr. Jack Ramsay, who was the nicest man in the world, said, "About that Terrell Brandon story: What exactly were you thinking?"
—Phil Taylor Senior writer
Now this is going to be fun. I hear those words at least once a week, just as they appeared on the cover of the Oct. 29, 2012, issue, over my name. The headline fit my story, a breathless NBA Preview feature about the Lakers, a team that started four potential Hall of Famers. What could go wrong? Everything. L.A. went 0--8 in the preseason. Steve Nash broke his left leg in Game 2. Coach Mike Brown was fired after number 5. His replacement, Mike D'Antoni, clashed with Pau Gasol. Owner Jerry Buss died. Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles. They were swept by the Spurs early in the playoffs, and Dwight Howard fled. This was perhaps the most disappointing team in pro sports history. So was it fun? Maybe for readers in Boston.
—Lee Jenkins Senior writer
In 1993, I put Scott Bentley—the freshman kicker who was supposed to reverse Florida State's wide-right jinx—on the cover of the College Football Preview. It was a huge amount of pressure to put on a teenager. Bentley ultimately kicked the field goal that won the title, but he had an erratic season. He was subsequently caught up in a minor sex scandal and never had the NFL career to which he aspired. Perhaps things would have turned out exactly the same if he hadn't been on our cover so early, but I've always wondered.
—Chris Hunt Special contributor
In March 2013, I employed a little dark magic and convinced my bosses to commission a painting of Roger Goodell on a medieval throne for the cover of our Power Issue—an incredibly nerdy reference to Game of Thrones. Season 3 of the HBO show was about to start; I was convinced this was a brilliant analogy. And the art was executed gorgeously.... Too soon, though, I suppose—it was our poorest-selling cover of the decade. A bittersweet epilogue: Thrones is now the most-watched HBO show ever; and several months later the actor who plays Jaime Lannister (undoubtedly the show's biggest badass) thanked me at a Yankees game for the shout-out. Personal victory, public failure.
—Adam Duerson Senior editor