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Giving Up The Life
Rick Reilly
December 03, 2007
I was born the youngest of four, an attention-seeking missile, half boy, half caffeine and a leading cause of teachers' facial tics. But I always had one clear dream--to work at SI.
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December 03, 2007

Giving Up The Life

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Best moment ever? In a men's shower. Hours after he led his Denver Broncos to a stunning win over Green Bay--ending his run of Super Bowl humiliations--I could hear John Elway whooping and hollering, alone in the shower. "You know what?" I said to the old towel guy sitting on the bench next to me. "That's the sound of redemption. That's primal joy, man." He shrugged and said, "Nah, we ran out of hot water."

Still, the big names and big events weren't the best part of the job. The best part has been my e-mail inbox. I seem to have become the national clearinghouse for stories about people overcoming disease, war or tragedy to achieve great things--tales of courage and resilience that would melt an executioner's heart.

I could tell only a fraction of those stories, but the ones I did write have stayed with me. You may read them once and forget about them, but I hear from my columns all the time. They call, they write, they tell me that their lives just keep getting better.

Just one example from this year: Do you remember Sean Cronk, the kid in Everett, Mass., with cerebral palsy who could barely dribble but could make tons of free throws in a row (SI, March�5, 2007)? He finally got into a game and won a playoff with one. Well, he's going to go to college, thanks to the guy I wrote about the very next week--billionaire Kenny Troutt, who flies his sixth-grade Dallas AAU basketball team in private 737s. Troutt called Sean's mom and said, "Anywhere Sean wants to go, I'm paying." So Sean is going to junior college in the fall, with plans to transfer to UMass. Nice.

My favorite column, though, was not about one person but millions--the impoverished Africans who benefited from Nothing But Nets, the antimalaria campaign you and I started with the help of the United Nations Foundation (SI, May�1, 2006). Every week I hear about another kid donating his bar mitzvah money, a Brownie troop sending its lemonade profits, a family choosing nets over Christmas gifts. We're at $16�million, and much of that has come in twenties and fives and even rolls of quarters. Nobody does teamwork like sports fans.

Anyway, it's been my privilege to write for this elegant magazine and its wonderful readers. Now I'll find out if my little voice can carry in a whole new way. You can reach me anytime at, and beginning June�1, I'll be starting a new job, which includes writing a column and working in TV. Of course, when I told my son Jake that, he said, "Dad, it's not gonna be high-def, right?"

Right. And I promise not to turn purple, either.

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