So long, Sport
One fan says farewell to an old favorite
On June 27, after 54 years of publication, Sport magazine announced that it was folding, citing declining ad revenue. Roger Director, a TV producer and screenwriter and a former editor at Sport, recalls what the monthly meant for a generation of readers.
They closed the barbershop last week, the one in town, the first place—not counting school or a friend's house—where your mother would drop you off and leave you. The bald barber, the white cuff he fastened around your neck, the hair on the floor and you, in your satin jacket, in one of those red chairs along the wall, the lollipop just beginning to get comfortable in your mouth, crouched over, reading Sport magazine.
Reading Sport, transported by its full-page color photograph of Mickey Mantle, realizing that it's O.K. to feel as much as you do about playing and following these games. Accepting, finally, that the Milwaukee Braves had beaten the Yankees in the 1957 World Series, the only way you could ever be forced to accept such a vile thing: because, peeping through one eye, you saw that photo of Lew Burdette with the brand new Corvette the magazine had given him for being the Series' Most Valuable Player. Your mother asking, when you got home, how things were going, and you about to tell her the most exciting news imaginable—that you'd opened the magazine and seen beneath the familiar thick bars of type, under "Next Month in Sport," that there'd be a profile of Willie Mays. Then realizing, No, mom's a pal, but she wouldn't get it, and keeping the secret, going to your room, lying in bed and wishing next month could come tomorrow.
The magazine spoke foremost to youthful passions, but the many talented people who wrote, edited and took photographs for Sport were nothing less than fully flowered. The list of staffers and contributors to the magazine is long and distinguished—Red Smith, Jimmy Breslin and Dick Schaap, to name a few—and it is no knock on them that the knock on Sport was its persistent failure to be more than it was. (As if offering distinctive journalism and straight-onto-your-wall photography to decades of young men was something to be ashamed of.) If it did get bested, let's admit it was up against some pretty tough competition, and it didn't always catch the breaks. Case in point: The late Ed Linn, the flinty author of Veeck—As in Wreck, covered Ted Williams's last game and wrote the piece of his life for Sport. But it was Linn's misfortune that another great writer was in Fenway that day: We relish how Williams homered in his final at bat because of John Updike's immortal Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, which he penned for The New Yorker.
Sport lurched around searching for the right demographic niche these last years. But there was really only one reader, and he was doing a bit of lurching around too. He's the one waiting for his haircut now, the one who made the appointment at the salon from his cell phone, making sure he got the colorist he likes. He's the one sipping bubbly water while flipping through the only magazines they have there, Elk and Wand Vogue. He's the one wondering how in so many pages there can be nothing he wants to read. The old barbershop doesn't exist for him anymore.
TAR HEELS COACH
Who's on Carolina's Mind?
Bill Guthridge, who cited exhaustion in resigning as North Carolina's basketball coach last Friday, was the perfect man at the perfect time. With a subdued decency, Guthridge had spared some slick young suit from having to follow—and come up short in the inevitable comparisons to—Dean Smith, and along the way he guided the Tar Heels to two Final Fours. Yet even as he stepped gracefully down, Guthridge ruined the holiday weekend of a former Tar Heels colleague.
Kansas coach Roy Williams and his wife, Wanda, made their usual July 4 pilgrimage to their South Carolina beach house, only this year they had more to mull over than barbecues and fireworks. Though no official announcement has been made, Williams confirmed that he had spoken to North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour last week, and it was widely understood that the job is his for the taking. Williams's Tar Heels ties are strong: In addition to having grown up in Asheville, N.C., and having been one of Smith's assistants from 1978 to 1988, he has a son, Scott, who is a Carolina alumnus and a daughter, Kim, who's currently on the school's dance team.
If Williams declines the offer—he was expected to make his decision by week's end—Baddour won't have an obvious backup candidate, even from Carolina basketball's generously canopied family tree. The best pure coach, Larry Brown, has a five-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, not to mention lingering in-state opposition for having spirited Danny Manning out of Greensboro in 1984, when Brown, then at Kansas, added Danny's father, Ed, to his staff. Tar Heels assistant Phil Ford blew his chances with a drunken-driving conviction last fall. Milwaukee Bucks coach George Karl isn't quite collegiate enough, South Carolina's Eddie Fogler hasn't been quite successful enough, and Notre Dame's Matt Doherty and Tulsa's Buzz Peterson aren't quite seasoned enough.