Robby Santiago, 1987-2015: Paying tribute to our colleague, our friend
Last Friday, SI Now producer Robby Santiago passed away suddenly. He was just 27 years old. Everyone here at Sports Illustrated is tremendously stunned and devastated as we grieve his loss. Our deepest condolences go out to his fiancee, Christina, and his entire family. Robby was a kind, hard-working and fun-loving man, someone who poured his heart into everything he did. To honor and remember Robby, three of the people who worked with him closest—SI Now host Maggie Gray, SI Now showrunner D.T. Slouffman and SI Video coordinating producer Collin Orcutt—share their thoughts and memories about our dear friend.
We will never forget you, Robby. RIP
By Maggie Gray
Any live show production requires the talented work of many. In numerous ways for us, Robby Santiago was the heart and soul of our show. He was a guiding force for passion, creativity and a constant drive to be better than the day before.
If I were to describe Robby to anyone in the production world, they would think I was talking about a seasoned veteran. Robby was only 27, which makes his talent even that much more impressive.
Earlier this year we were without a showrunner and Robby stepped up to fill that role despite never having done it before. In the following weeks, I got to know just how special Robby was. He worked hard—and then he worked harder. He was a constant. He was creative. He was our moral compass. He was our safety net.
Robby had a laugh that was unforgettable. A high pitch chuckle with a dash of Krusty the Clown mixed in. Robby's laugh was so powerful I could hear it through the soundproof glass in our studio. It was the most encouraging sound ever because he couldn't fake it. If you got one of Robby's laughs, it was like a green light. You knew it was a good show.
Robby was as dedicated to his work as he was to his family and fiancée, Christina. Robby was never about himself. His priorities were always in the right place. How many 27-year-olds can you say that about?
Robby loved great food, and food shows like Hell’s Kitchen. He loved music, baseball, the NBA and the Rangers. Robby loved his alma mater, UConn, WWE and MMA. He loved to watch movies and TV, and play video games. Robby was patient, he was smart, and he was always present.
As a producer, Robby made the show and those around him better. As a friend, he always found a way to make you appreciate the pure joy in life.
I will miss him so much. I am heartbroken. I still can't believe that he is gone.
By Collin Orcutt
When I look back on the time I was lucky enough to work with Robby, his laughter is easily the first thing that comes to mind—the kind of laughter that created more laughter, that conveyed joy and spread it.
But it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Robby worked hard, every single day. He was smart, creative, thorough and always open to ideas. He would take positive and constructive feedback the same way, with a nod, an affirmation and a "thank you." Then he would set about getting better.
Robby was the beacon you hope for on any team. He was full of joy and had the kind of positive attitude that kept the group buoyant on the hardest days.
I never told him this, but there were many times that I would observe how he acted, when news would break and the rundown would have to be ripped up or amidst a pile of projects or waiting for a long show render to finish long after the rest had left. During those times I would remind myself that I needed more of that in me. Robby never let on if anything was bringing him down. He would smile on his way out the door in the evening no matter what.
Robby will be missed, today and on every SI Now going forward. All of us were better with Robby’s presence and friendship. There’s no replacing that.
By D.T. Slouffman
Today and for the foreseeable future, things will certainly be hard. We have been left with a void that goes well beyond mere manpower. In many ways, we have lost our heart. I know Robby Santiago will be missed by all of us, every day for many days to come.
I want to take a minute to let you know what Robby meant to me.
When I was thinking about joining SI Now, I wanted to watch an episode roll. Time Inc. director of live programming and production Joe Lynch set up a date for this to happen. He said that while many of the staff would be at the Super Bowl, I could watch and meet with "a great kid who would be staying in New York because he has his act together and hates to travel." I met Robby for the first time that afternoon. Needless to say, we hit it off. Robby encouraged me to take the job. A week later, he was the first to welcome me to the show.
As the last six months unfolded, Robby became a constant source of encouragement. He was always the first to read my "Sign of the Apocalypse" copy, raving over good punchlines and the injection of humor into SI Now. Robby also wanted to master his craft. Upon my hiring, he asked me if he could continue line producing in the control room. He did so often with great aplomb. He became my trusted confidant and right hand as I bounced ideas about the future off of him in my office or worked through the daily format with him. Most importantly, he became my friend.
I know friendship was something Robby valued. I will never forget walking down 59th Street with him after attending a fellow staffer's birthday party. As we crossed Broadway, we ran into an acquaintance of mine from IndyCar. I introduced Robby as my lead producer and good friend. After a brief exchange, Robby and I continued on for a block or so before going our separate ways. He offered me his thanks. I asked him what he meant. He said, "You introduced me as your friend. That means a lot."
I agree with Robby. Friendship means a lot. It meant a great deal to me to be Robby's friend. He offered me something every creative person needs, a partner with the skills to execute big ideas.
I will miss my friend. I know everyone here will, too.