Beginning 21 years ago with a parody entitled SPOTS ILLUSTRATED in Dart, the Dartmouth College humor magazine, SI has been frequently skewered on the pens of undergraduate satirists and their elders at publications such as Mad, Playboy and National Lampoon. Excerpts from the most recent parody, done in 1974 by the Harvard Lampoon, were reprinted a couple of weeks ago. The Lampoon, the nation's oldest humor magazine, celebrated its centennial by publishing 100 Years of Harvard Lampoon Parodies. The book's section on SI includes such articles as "Antlers in the Foam" by a writer identified as Frank Deformed and "Hear No Eli, See No Eli" by one Roy Terrible, plus takeoffs on SCORECARD, FACES IN THE CROWD and BASEBALL'S WEEK.
Almost all major magazines have been parodied at one time or another, but SI must hold the record for catching the satirist's eye most quickly. Dart took its shot at us just 3½ months after we began publishing in 1954. "We lay claim to the dubious distinction of being the first magazine in the world to publish a parody of Time-Life's new baby SPORTS ILLUSTRATED," Dart said. "With such intriguing features as THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF SPORT, [Jimmy Jemail's] HOTBOX, PAT ON THE BACK and SPECTACLE, how can one resist a little friendly teasing?"
The Stanford Chaparral's SPORTS FRUSTRATED followed in 1958. In that issue a SPORTING LOOK feature by Jo Ahen Zilch presented the then-ridiculous idea of sweatsuit ensembles designed for the sportswoman, a fashion concept whose time has long since come.
The Yale Record's two parodies, SPORTS ILLITERATE (1959) and SPORTS ILLSTATED (1965), included "Jimmy Germeal's Rot Box," a "Fib from the Flop" golf tip and articles with the somewhat familiar bylines of Clare Boothe Lucre, Jeremiah Lax, Charles Boren, Nick Jacklaus and Tex Maul. The sidewalk surfing barefoot boy who appeared on the SPORTS ILLSTATED cover was Seth Hoyt, now an advertising salesman for SI. The Record chairman that year, John Schenck, heads up our promotion presentation department.
March 1, 1976
At least five issues of Mad have used take-offs on our name: SPORTS SOPHISTICATED, TRUE CONFESSIONS of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, SPORTS INFANTILE, NON-STRENUOUS SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and YOUNG SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. And in 1970 Playboy suggested a new dimension to SI's coverage by envisioning what might happen if we had a centerfold girl. The result: Jacqueline Strap, a topless sportswoman for all seasons.
Harvard senior Mark O'Donnell was one of the members of the Lampoon who helped produce its SI parody during the summer of 1974. "We did most of the photomodeling ourselves," he says. "My identical twin Stephen and I appeared as the football-playing Siamese Dromio twins. The 11-person staff, which included the first woman ever elected to the Lampoon, arranged seemingly impossible feats, including the renting of Fenway Park for the cover photograph and the finding of five miniature stuffed moose.
"Stacks of SIs dating back to 1955 were studied to absorb the cavalier, erudite, punny, just-alliterative-enough prose. We found SI to be probably the hardest magazine of all to parody, because of its quality. I had never read the magazine before. In fact, half of the staff had never read SI. By the time it was over, we'd become habitual readers."
That makes us smile, too.