hen you're born into an Irish-Catholic family of nine children, you're born to have your orbs busted. And so what could I do, as Rick Reilly won one National Sportswriter of the Year Award after another, but brace and cringe when I went home for the holidays? "But ... but I've won a few awards," I'd splutter, "and besides, there's no way to compare my four long stories a year to his 51 columns." By 2003, when he was crowned for the eighth year, I was all out of splutter.
And then, last spring, an amazing thing occurred. No, not that. Rick called and asked if I'd present his ninth award to him at the national sportscasters and sportswriters banquet in Salisbury, N.C. ... on the same day my family would be gathering from all over the East Coast for my mom's 80th birthday. In North Carolina.
"Sure, I'd love to," I assured Rick. He couldn't see my eyeballs glint.
"Don't you think you should warn him?" my sisters kept asking as I hatched my plot. "Rick doesn't even know us. Won't he get mad?"
"No," I kept insisting. "You gotta know Rick. When we covered the '92 Olympics in Barcelona, we ended up in a nightclub at 3 a.m., dancing around a ceremonial pile of everything we'd peeled off--shirts, shoes, socks, watches, wallets, passports. He'll go along with anything."
I strode in front of America's finest quills and tonsils that night in Salisbury. I began to explain how my siblings had finally accepted that I'd never win the damn award, when suddenly, from the back of the hall, they all stormed the podium brandishing protest banners. award hog screamed one. They pulled a black hood over Rick's head and bound him with a rope.
"We're holding Rick hostage until my brother gets the award!" cried my sister Sue. It was all going perfectly. "Unless...."
Suddenly she was offering him two alternative conditions for his release. If Rick agreed to become a member of our family and change his column's name to The Life of Smitty, he'd be freed to accept the award, and my disgraced siblings would finally have a brother who was king.