Surf’s down

The new issue of Sports Illustrated arrived yesterday in the mail. This morning, I flipped through it, looking for coverage of the fantastically competitive first-round NBA playoff series between the Bulls and the Celtics. There it was! Five full pages! Three of which were photos! (Well, after subtracting long pull-quotes and inset  photography, at least there were 1.75 pages or so of writing about the series.)

Sure, much of it was about the absence of Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, but at least the Bulls’ loss of Luol Deng got mentioned, too (in the second-to-last paragraph). And the writer even managed to shoehorn in his required reference to Twitter! Awesome! Even if it was a complete non sequitur!

Still, I was a bit disappointed there was no other playoff coverage, in what’s been a weirdly compelling first round. Sure, the loss of Garnett is big for the Celtics, but the Spurs just got knocked out in the first round because they were missing Manu Ginobili. The Orlando Magic, seeded third in the east, can’t separate from a poorly assembled Sixers team with an interim coach. LeBron James & the Cavs just put the last nail in the Detroit Pistons’ coffin. Chauncey Billups has managed to get the year’s biggest collection of (playoff-level) knuckleheads to keep its collective head together long enough to reach the second round.

The only other NBA item in the ish was a two-page spread of Dikembe Mutombo lying in a crumpled heap on court — it would’ve been fantastic if he waved off assistance by wagging his index finger — and a one-third-page item on . . . Dikembe Mutombo’s career-ending injury.

So what was in this 78-page issue, that kept the editors from covering — or even making mention of — the rest of the NBA playoffs? Well, as far as features go, there was the NFL draft, which warranted 4 pages of coverage (including pix & sidebar), the 4-page cover story on rejuvenated pitcher Zack Greinke (including 2-page photo-spread), and a 3-page feature on twin brothers who play for some tea called the Canucks in a sport that seems to involve ice.


I’m not making that up. It’s a TEN-PAGE FEATURE on a 37-year-old guy who surfs. (Okay, it’s slightly smaller than 10 pages, because of the one-third page ad on the final page. And if you subtract the pictures and pull-quotes, it only adds up to about SEVEN PAGES OF COPY, compared to the 1.75 pages given to the Bulls-Celtics story.) So 13% of the issue is devoted to A SINGLE ARTICLE ON SURFING.

I guess you have to chase the ad dollars. Oh, wait! There’s no advertising in the article, except for a one-pager for the InterContinental Hotels Group and the aforementioned one-third-page, which refers to a facing page ad for Rockport Shoes. (Not surfwear. Just dress shoes.)

So the editors ran a TEN-PAGE PROFILE ABOUT A SURFER WITH A GIRL’S NAME (okay, that’s a cheap shot) with no related advertising.

I’m not going to make some wild claim about how “this illustrates everything that’s wrong with print and why all newspapers and magazines are going out of business.” Frankly, this editorial decision is so staggeringly bizarre that I don’t know what it means.

I do know that, if you go to SI’s website this morning, you can look over the entire front page and find no reference to surfing anywhere.

I also know that, in my world, we have a term for articles that are too long for an issue that doesn’t have enough ads. We call them “Part 1 of 2.”

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