May 12, 1997
May 12, 1997

Table of Contents
May 12, 1997

Faces In The Crowd


Those who passed by the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress outside
Orlando one day in March 1995 would have seen a curious sight:
SI senior writer Gary Smith heaving the contents of his
roommate's suitcase, and then his own stuff, out a 15th-floor
window. One by one they fell--rolled-up socks, boxer shorts, a
toothbrush. What did Smith's roommate, fellow SI senior writer
Rick Reilly, think? He didn't have time to think. He was too
busy trying to catch everything below. During the staff retreat
to Florida, Smith, Reilly and senior writer Steve Rushin
invented a new version of the kids' game 500. "To get points you
didn't just have to catch the object," says Reilly, "but you had
to name it as it was falling. It was hilarious when Gary yelled
'My lactose-intolerance pills!' when we couldn't figure out what
he'd thrown."

This is an article from the May 12, 1997 issue

Most readers would expect such shenanigans from Reilly, 39,
whose often uproarious style can be found in this week's POINT
AFTER (page 116). Early last week he picked up his fifth
Sportswriter of the Year award from the National Sportscasters
and Sportswriters Association. But Smith? Last week he earned
the prestigious National Magazine Award in feature writing for
his cover story Crime and Punishment (SI, June 24, 1996) about
Richie Parker, a former high school basketball star who had been
convicted of sexual assault. It was the second such award for
Smith, a pensive, bearded 43-year-old who, Reilly says, "looks
like a visiting professor from the University of Gorky."

So how to explain Smith's behavior in Orlando? Blame it, if you
will, on Barcelona. Until the 1992 Summer Olympics, Reilly and
Smith had met only once, briefly, but since then, SI's yin and
yang have been virtually inseparable when on assignment
together, in times both mirthful and tragic. They were dining at
Atlanta's City Grill in the wee hours of July 27, 1996, when the
Centennial Olympic Park explosion occurred. "We hadn't heard it,
but we got there soon enough to smell it," Smith recalls. "So we
started scrambling for any scrap of paper we could find and
started interviewing people, getting whatever we could for about
three hours."

They also share an appreciation of each other's writing. When
pressed to choose his favorite story by Smith, Reilly says,
"It's like naming your favorite child." After much thought, he
cites Smith's profile of LSU basketball coach Dale Brown (SI,
Nov. 18, 1985). Smith's favorite Reilly piece was about a high
school ref who attempted suicide (SI, Dec. 26, 1994). "I always
expect Gary to quote Dostoyevsky, and I want to quote Fred
Couples," says Reilly, who can't explain their friendship.
"Somehow we get along."

COLOR PHOTO: JEFFREY LOWE The writings of pals Smith and Reilly again proved to be award-winning. [Cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED featuring photograph of Richie Parker and Gary Smith byline]COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER [See caption above--cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED featuring photograph of John Elway and Rick Reilly byline]