Those who passed by the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress outside Orlando one day in March 1995 would have seen a curious sight: SI senior writer Gary Smith heaving the contents of his roommate's suitcase, and then his own stuff, out a 15th-floor window. One by one they fell—rolled-up socks, boxer shorts, a toothbrush. What did Smith's roommate, fellow SI senior writer Rick Reilly, think? He didn't have time to think. He was too busy trying to catch everything below. During the staff retreat to Florida, Smith, Reilly and senior writer Steve Rushin invented a new version of the kids' game 500. "To get points you didn't just have to catch the object," says Reilly, "but you had to name it as it was falling. It was hilarious when Gary yelled 'My lactose-intolerance pills!' when we couldn't figure out what he'd thrown."
Most readers would expect such shenanigans from Reilly, 39, whose often uproarious style can be found in this week's POINT AFTER (page 116). Early last week he picked up his fifth Sportswriter of the Year award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. But Smith? Last week he earned the prestigious National Magazine Award in feature writing for his cover story Crime and Punishment (SI, June 24, 1996) about Richie Parker, a former high school basketball star who had been convicted of sexual assault. It was the second such award for Smith, a pensive, bearded 43-year-old who, Reilly says, "looks like a visiting professor from the University of Gorky."
So how to explain Smith's behavior in Orlando? Blame it, if you will, on Barcelona. Until the 1992 Summer Olympics, Reilly and Smith had met only once, briefly, but since then, SI's yin and yang have been virtually inseparable when on assignment together, in times both mirthful and tragic. They were dining at Atlanta's City Grill in the wee hours of July 27, 1996, when the Centennial Olympic Park explosion occurred. "We hadn't heard it, but we got there soon enough to smell it," Smith recalls. "So we started scrambling for any scrap of paper we could find and started interviewing people, getting whatever we could for about three hours."
They also share an appreciation of each other's writing. When pressed to choose his favorite story by Smith, Reilly says, "It's like naming your favorite child." After much thought, he cites Smith's profile of LSU basketball coach Dale Brown (SI, Nov. 18, 1985). Smith's favorite Reilly piece was about a high school ref who attempted suicide (SI, Dec. 26, 1994). "I always expect Gary to quote Dostoyevsky, and I want to quote Fred Couples," says Reilly, who can't explain their friendship. "Somehow we get along."