Now at 43 years and counting: Renewing subscription to Sports Illustrated; columnist laments magazine is in decline

SI-MarinaroLast week, I realized I hadn’t received any editions of Sports Illustrated for a while. It turns out the credit card had expired on my automatic subscription renewal.

I found it interesting that nobody reached out to me to fix the situation. I didn’t receive any emails or letters from SI.

I quickly renewed my subscription. I’ve been getting the magazine since I was 12 in 1971. You never forget your first cover, right? Mine was Cornell’s Ed Marinaro on the Nov. 1, 1971 edition.

Naturally, I wasn’t going to break a habit that dates back more than 43 years. Yet others have.

Frank Fitzpatrick of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a column about what he thinks is the demise of SI.

Recently, casually lifting a Sports Illustrated out of a magazine rack in a physician’s waiting room, I nearly had a heart attack. Fortunately, it was my cardiologist’s office.

I don’t know how long it had been since I last held a copy of the magazine I’d grown up adoring, but this one was frighteningly emaciated, a slight and insubstantial version of its once-robust self. Even the frail old men surrounding me seemed healthier.

Time – both the passing years and the magazine’s parent company – clearly had not been kind to SI. The issues I eagerly consumed as a boy used to have a tangible heft. They were as physically imposing as their content was mentally stimulating.

Later he writes:

Those who didn’t subscribe bought it at newsstands, borrowed it from friends, or read it in libraries and doctors’ offices. It set the agenda. It identified sports’ heroes and villains. It added depth to what until then had simply been fun and games.

It was the bible for our boyhood. Youngsters everywhere plastered SI covers all over their bedroom walls, saved every issue, had them autographed. In an age when televised sports were still relatively rare, it was our surest connection to that world.

He concludes:

It’s inevitable. The world moves on, and sentiment can’t stop it. But when the print SI is gone something will have been lost: the way some words and photos seemed created for a page; that delicious anxiety you felt opening a mailbox to see whether the week’s issue had arrived; the tactile sensations of thumbing through a fresh, beautifully produced magazine.

And so, before this incredibly shrinking magazine evaporates like a puddle in the sun of new technology, its readers past and present ought to take a moment to appreciate all the great journalism, writing, and photography it brought us.

Today’s SI might be thin and flimsy, but when it’s gone, the hearts of those who loved it will be heavy.

Fitzpatrick is right in respect. It is sad to see Sports Illustrated feel so thin during many weeks. Soon it will rival the “Great Jewish Athletes” pamphlet the flight attendant hands to the woman in “Airplane.”

Yet there still are many reasons to read SI. The quality of writing remains excellent.

I expect my subscription will expire one day. I think the physical magazine’s days are numbered. Ten years on the outside.

Until then, I will keep SI on automatic renewal.


6 thoughts on “Now at 43 years and counting: Renewing subscription to Sports Illustrated; columnist laments magazine is in decline

  1. From 1983 to 1998 I had a SI subscription…but, decided to not renew it as I saw changes to its writing and coverage that were taking the magazine away from what made it a must read…
    I brought one in June of this yr. when American Pharaoh was on the cover as a personal collector item…great action photos and story on the race, but, it seem there was half the coverage than what would have been back in the mid 80’s and 90’s…in another words some 3-pages today vs. 5-6 pages back then….just not the same SI as in the past….

  2. I have had a similar experience as to Renewal — nothing in the mail, no phone call. All of a sudden, it stops coming.

    They have so much going On Line, that the Print Edition is getting less and less. I guess it is a sign of the times. I seldom search out the On Line material — just not used to it.

  3. I think they have simply turned all their attention to the internet, same as the newspapers. When my Des Moines Register isn’t delivered in the morning, they don’t care, the standard reply is…..”you can read it on the internet, you know.” Yes, I know! I want to read my actual newspaper. Same for SI.

  4. I found my first copy of SI in its very early years in a tobacco shop in a small community in northern Manitoba. I was hooked just I was hooked to Sport magazine. I subscribed for several decades, but didn’t renew about 15 years ago and didn’t miss it. I signed up again a couple of years ago for a short run, but that was it. Yesterday i was at a friend’s place and saw the latest copy, but didn’t bother opening it. However, when I come across old issues, it brings back memories of the magazine’s glory days. In those early years, it didn’t matter that the magazine reached Canada later that it was distributed in the Sates as you were getting information and reading writers that wasn’t available elsewhere.

  5. I felt the same way about The Sporting News. I used to get it when it was in newspaper form and I couldn’t wait for my issue to arrive. It changed throughout the years and finally went away .

  6. The people at SI have been let down by their leadership, on both the business and journalism sides. That leadership missed on ESPN, and it missed on the digital revolution. Nobody wants to work there now unless they have no choice. Sad.

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