Senior writer Richard Hoffer was an appropriate choice to do our Sportsman of the Year story, which celebrates, among other things, diligence, consistency and talent. He has displayed those same qualities since joining SI in 1989. And like the subjects of his Sportsman story, which begins on page 70, he has had a terrific year.
Hoffer might be best known for his boxing expertise, but his versatility was especially evident in 1995. In addition to his news coverage of the sweet science, he filed stories on subjects ranging from the death of Mickey Mantle to disabled athletes, from Tony Gwynn to Bo Jackson, from the offspring of dynasty-era UCLA basketball players to the sky surfers and street lugers at the inaugural Extreme Games. "Rick has tremendous range," says assistant managing editor Rob Fleder. "He can do it all."
"He could cover elephant wrestling and write something lovely," says senior writer Rick Reilly, who also worked with Hoffer at the Los Angeles Times. "He brings remarkable grace and wry humor to every story. Sometimes, reading one of his pieces makes you want to throw your computer out the window in frustration because you know there's no way that you could have written it better."
While Hoffer's writing speaks for itself, he is a man of few words. When he does voice an opinion, we've learned to listen carefully. "Rick is kind of the Steven Wright of our staff," says Fleder. "His delivery is perfectly deadpan, and the things he says are usually hilarious—and extremely twisted." Hoffer, 46 and a native of Cincinnati, lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., with his wife, Carol, an assistant principal at a private school in Los Angeles, and their son, Jonathan, 14. Their home is near the Pacific Ocean, and Hoffer can often be found riding his bike along the beach. He moved to the West Coast 17 years ago to take a job at The Press-Enterprise in Riverside and was immediately smitten with his new environs. "I loved the mountains and the ocean—we didn't have those back in Ohio," Hoffer says. "I was all for California from the get-go."
We felt much the same way about Hoffer. After admiring his work from afar, it was Fleder who set up a meeting in Los Angeles, at the Chateau Marmont hotel, which is famous as John Belushi's last stop. It turned out to be Hoffer's first stop on the way to SI. He was soon assigned a story on George Foreman's comeback and his desire to take on heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Hoffer recalls not thinking much of Foreman's chances, but his piece was a knockout. It ran as the cover story of our July 17, 1989, issue, and Hoffer's name was on the SI masthead soon after. "It was like getting hitched after one date," Fleder says. "And it's worked out a whole lot better than most marriages that start that way."