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King of The Sports Page
Rick Reilly
May 16, 1994
This SI Classic from April 1986 examines the life of Jim Murray, America's top sports columnist, who, despite a series of tragedies, always keeps 'em laughing
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May 16, 1994

King Of The Sports Page

This SI Classic from April 1986 examines the life of Jim Murray, America's top sports columnist, who, despite a series of tragedies, always keeps 'em laughing

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The thing about Jim Murray is that he lived "happily," but somebody ran off with his "ever after." It's like the guy who's ahead all night at poker and then ends up bumming cab money home. Or the champ who's untouched for 14 rounds and then gets KO'd by a pool-hall left you could see coming from Toledo.

Murray is a 750-word column, and 600 of those are laughs and toasts. How many sportswriters do you know who once tossed them back with Bogie? Wined and dined Marilyn Monroe? Got mail from Brando? How many ever got mentioned in a governor's state-of-the-state address? Flew in Air Force One?

How big is Murray? One time he couldn't make an awards dinner, so he sent a sub—Bob Hope.

Murray may be the most famous sportswriter in history. If not, he's at least in the photo. What's your favorite Murray line? At the Indy 500: "Gentlemen, start your coffins"? Or "[Rickey Henderson] has a strike zone the size of Hitler's heart"? Or UCLA coach John Wooden was "so square, he was divisible by four"? How many lines can you remember by any other sportswriter?

His life was all brass rails and roses—until this last bit, that is. The end is all wrong. The scripts got switched. They killed the laugh track, fired the gag writers and spliced in one of those teary endings you see at Cannes. In this one, the guy ends up with his old typewriter and some Kodaks and not much else except a job being funny four times a week.

They say that tragedy is easy and comedy is hard.

Know what's harder?

Both at once.

MURRAY ON LARGE PEOPLE

MERLIN OLSEN: "...went swimming in Loch Ness—and the monster got out."

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