We Get Letters
You love us, you hate us, but what matters most is that you care enough to write. Each week SI receives an average of 550 letters, a number that has grown steadily since we debuted in 1954. Back then readers sounded off about the art of baseball-card collecting and our pitiful lack of archery coverage. More recently, you have written us about Magic Johnson's quality of life (Nov. 18, 1991: 534 letters) and Dennis Rodman's right to his life (May 29, 1995: 574); the case for Pete Rose (Nov. 1, 1999: 18) and the case against Bobby Knight (Sept. 18, 2000: 116); missing names on our lists of the top 50 sports figures from each state (Dec. 27, 1999-Jan. 3, 2000: 1,026) and missing bikini tops on swimsuit models (Feb. 23, 2001: 14 and counting).
When we started accepting e-mails for publication in January 1995, a good portion of the 71 messages that trickled in that first week wondered whether we were giving out T-shirts. Now, not only are e-mails more timely than their postmarked counterparts, but they are also just plain more: Most letters, including a whopping 762 of our 961 messages last week, are downloadable. "When Dale Earnhardt died, people went straight to their computers to tell SI how they felt," says Linda Verigan, who has headed our letters department for 16 years. "Because of e-mail, we received about two dozen poems of tribute to Dale before our issue even came out."
Whether they arrive in our mailbox or in-box, all reader responses are given equal consideration by Verigan and her colleagues, Liz Greco and Margaret Terry, who each week sift through everything from electronic manifestos to cocktail-napkin verse in search of the gems that are gently polished and published in our magazine. Readers who aspire to see their names in SI's Fenway font should take a cue from the Bard: Though the struggles of your Red Sox might border on epic, brevity is the soul of wit.
The letters department will reply to almost anything legible that comes in. Letters addressed to specific writers are forwarded accordingly. Columnist Rick Reilly, who inspires more mail than any other writer, has set up a private letters department at his house in Denver: His son Kellen, 16, earns money for gas by opening and highlighting Dad's mail, while daughter Rae, 11, handles envelopes and stamps. Like many of our other writers, Reilly also responds directly to e-mail that comes to him via a link on SI's website (www.cnnsi.com). Letters give him, and all of us at SI, an idea of where we stand in the hearts and minds of our readers. Says Reilly, "If it weren't for the letters, even the ones dripping hemlock, this job would be like hollering down a black, dry well."