Gary Smith is to National Magazine Awards what Tom Hanks is to Oscars, albeit with a slightly better record. Smith, a 21-year veteran of SI, collected his fourth "Ellie" this year, for his April 8,2002, story Lying in Wait, a profile of deposed Notre Dame coach George O'Leary. In this issue Smith tells a tale of love and tragedy from the world of freediving, where competitors plunge to extreme depths without the aid of oxygen. The appeal of the sport is, for most observers, not immediately apparent. "Part of your mind is saying, Are these people crazy?" says Smith, who lives in Charleston, S.C. "But to them it's the rest of the world that's insane. They feel lucky to experience this transcendental peace and rapture." Indeed, as Smith discovered, freediving can exert an all-too-powerful pull.
Speaking of awards, senior writer Michael Farber recently picked up one of his own: He will receive the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, which means, among other things, that his name will be placed on a plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame, in Toronto. Farber, who began writing about the sport for the Montreal Gazette in 1979 and joined SI in 1994, says he is "shocked and humbled" by the honor, voted on by his fellow writers. Farber wraps up the Stanley Cup finals in this issue but says the best series he's covered was the hard-fought 1994 Rangers-Devils conference finals. What he likes most about the game, he says, is the "realness" of its players. "In 1980 I was supposed to fly to Philadelphia on the same flight as Gordie Howe and the Hartford Whalers," Farber recalls. "When I couldn't get a seat, Howe said, 'Don't worry about it, I'll take the next flight with you.' "
Walter Iooss Jr.
It was one of the nagging disappointments of his 42-year career at SI that Walter Iooss Jr. had never taken a great picture of Sandy Koufax. But while going through his archives not long ago, Iooss noticed three negatives that, together, captured the unique torque of Koufax's motion. The triptych is in Iooss's new collection, Classic Baseball (Abrams, $35). Says the photographer, "I have finally eliminated Koufax from my wish list." He also found new perspective on the game of the 1960s—the topic of his book—when he revisited thousands of images he shot as a young freelancer living with his mother in East Orange, N.J. "Forty years of baseball history," says Iooss, "has a way of making these pictures more interesting."