I've heard from countless people - whether it be friends or people writing letters to the editor - that when they receive their Sports Illustrated in the mail each week, the first thing they do is flip to the very last page and read the Point After column. I have a sneaky suspicion that this isn't the case for the majority of these people anymore.
For those who do not know, Rick Reilly was the former back page columnist for SI. Reilly was informative, chance-taking, unique, and above everything else, funny. He owned that final page for many years (or at least as long as I've had a suscription, 1999). But a few months ago Reilly jumped ship to ESPN, where he will debut in June and where he will earn a boat load of money.
Since Reilly's departure, SI has decided to use a rotating staff for the back page column, including mostly Selena Roberts, S.L. Price, and Chris Ballard.
The results can't be what Sports Illustrated had hoped for, as the rotating cast just isn't working well.
Personally, I do not enjoy Roberts' columns. There are times where I believe she is writing to an audience to prove a point and sound smarter than her viewers. And her articulation and syntax don't really flow too well, especially for a column in a sports magazine.
Price hasn't done too many back pagers, but at least the few he has written have been somewhat interesting. But he needs a few more for a true and honest opinion to be thrown out there.
Ballard seems to be the best fit for the job out of the three. He can be funny and he can tell a good story. But if he became the regular full-time columnist, his reporting job at the magazine would probably have to end. And that would be a shame because he is one of the better storytelling journalists at SI.
So there needs to be something done to get this cherished column back to the level of Reilly, or at least close to it. And luckily there is something Sports Illustrated can do.
Former ESPN Sportscenter anchor and ESPN Radio host Dan Patrick was introduced to SI a few months ago. He was given a page in the magazine called "Just My Type" right after the "Players" section where he performs an interview with an athlete or celebrity, and offers opinions on all things sport on the other half of the page. To me it appears that Patrick's page is something reminiscent of a Sports Illustrated for Kids feature.
It really isn't working. And neither is the Point After column. Just throw Patrick on the back page and see the results that would follow.
There would be a big name on the page week after week, and Patrick can certainly write an enjoyable column.
If Sports Illustrated did this, I believe the loyal readers of the magazine would flip to the back page to begin their weekly reading, just like old times.