The prize for being named National Sportswriter of the Year is a personalized Louisville Slugger, which explains why senior writer Rick Reilly owns more good wood than Geppetto. Last month Reilly won the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association's award for the ninth time, second only to legendary Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray, who had 14. "I love this award because it's voted on by my peers, the guys who have to write columns in press busses with Japanese photographers falling asleep on their arm," Reilly says. "They know how hard this job can be."
Reilly's columns ranged last year from the hilarious (an interview with Robin Williams) to the sublime (Anderson, S.C., high school runner Ben Comen, who competes despite cerebral palsy). What makes a good Reilly column? Even Reilly can't say for sure; some weeks he hashes out three or four ideas before one works. "Someday I'll publish the others," he says. "The book will be called The Ones That Sucked."
Awards season has been kind to SI. Senior writer Steve Rushin received his fourth National Magazine Award nomination, in the Columns and Commentary category. (The winner will be named in May.) One column that earned him the honor, "My Big Fat Sports Wedding," was a recap of his love-at-first-height romance with former Connecticut and WNBA star Rebecca Lobo. (She stands 6'4" to his 6'5".) Rushin gets the occasional assist from his wife when brainstorming ideas, but Lobo didn't see his account of their courtship until they were on a minihoneymoon in Boston last April. "She picked it up at a newsstand and read it as we walked," Rushin says. "I thought she was overcome with emotion, but it may have been the bus fumes on Newbury Street."
A less blissful union was the focus of "All My Exes Wear Rolexes," a feature on golfer John Daly for which staff writer Seth Davis won first place in the non-daily-news category at the Golf Writers Association of America's annual awards. Davis, who also writes SI's college basketball column and can be seen as a studio analyst for NCAA tournament coverage on CBS, found Daly to be painfully candid about his fourth wife, Sherrie Miller, who was arrested on federal money laundering charges last summer. (The case is pending.)
It wasn't only SI writers who picked up honors. Photographer Bob Rosato won first place in the Missouri School of Journalism's 2003 Picture of the Year competition for his shot of the home plate collision between the Giants' J.T. Snow and Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez that ended the National League Division Series. Rosato had the sports magazine division's second-place finisher, too.