This is most definitely not due to my influence. Growing up, my family watched the news after dinner, not Monday Night Football. Instead of getting our nightly dose of Sports Center, (was that even a thing then?) we got the weather forecast from Dr. George Fischbeck. In fact, the closest I ever came to playing a sport was when my sister and I pretended to be Mary Lou Retton and Kathy Johnson during the 1984 Olympics.
As luck would have it, however, I married into a family that is the polar opposite.
My husband has played every sport known to man – and played well, I might add. His family watched it all: baseball, football, golf, and even the Kentucky Derby. To this day, his mother still records all the televised Angels and Ducks games, even though she is the only one left at home to watch them.
So, from these two different worlds we came, into our first apartment – me with my subscription to People magazine, and him with his to Sports Illustrated. It was during these first months that we found, on the last page of Sports Illustrated, some reading material we could both enjoy: “Life of Reilly,” by Rick Reilly.
What made Reilly’s column so great was the fact that it was about more than just the sport. An opinion column, it could just as easily be a rant about a crooked college athletics system, or a touching story about the more human side of the athletes we admire.
We might turn to that last page and read about an inspirational person, overcoming odds to do what they love, or about the time Reilly took his teenage son to a Sports Illustrated swimsuit shoot.
Everything Reilly wrote was always so relatable. Whether we agreed with his viewpoint or not, it was presented from the mind of a regular Joe – someone just like us, sitting at home, watching the action unfold, and loving every minute of it.
His departure from SI to ESPN was the end of an era for us.
Now, we are able to enjoy Reilly’s spin on the world in so many more places, from his books to his essays for ESPN, and even on his television show, but there will always be a soft spot in my heart for those days in our first apartment, sitting on a hand-me-down couch, when his columns helped bridge the gap between a die-hard fan of a husband, and his just-learning wife.
This month, we will have the opportunity to revisit those roots when Reilly comes to speak at the Newport Beach Public Library.
As part of the Witte Lecture Series, Reilly will visit Newport on Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22. His talk, entitled “Playing the Game From the Inside Out,” will engage those in attendance on the topic of sports, as he draws on his lengthy career as a sportswriter and author to regale us with entertaining anecdotes, and his own unique point of view on the sporting world.
Both the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon lectures will include Reilly’s presentation, a Q&A, book signing, and dessert. Friday’s event will also include music and a wine reception before the lecture. Tickets are $50 and $35, respectively, and may be purchased at nbplfoundation.org.
I have tickets already, and can’t wait to attend. I have no doubt that the brilliant, witty mind that brought us not only years of enjoyment via “Life of Reilly,” but also great sports books such as “Shanks a Lot,” “Whose Your Caddy,” and “Sports From Hell: My Search for the World’s Dumbest Competition,” will be just as amazing in person as he is in print.
Edie Crabtree is an avid reader, and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected], or on the Facebook page Under Cover Book Corner.