Gary Smith is to National Magazine Awards what Tom Hanks is to
Oscars, albeit with a slightly better record. Smith, a 21-year
veteran of SI, collected his fourth "Ellie" this year, for his
April 8, 2002, story Lying in Wait, a profile of deposed Notre
Dame coach George O'Leary. In this issue Smith tells a tale of
love and tragedy from the world of freediving, where competitors
plunge to extreme depths without the aid of oxygen. The appeal of
the sport is, for most observers, not immediately apparent. "Part
of your mind is saying, Are these people crazy?" says Smith, who
lives in Charleston, S.C. "But to them it's the rest of the world
that's insane. They feel lucky to experience this transcendental
peace and rapture." Indeed, as Smith discovered, freediving can
exert an all-too-powerful pull.
Speaking of awards, senior writer Michael Farber recently picked
up one of his own: He will receive the Elmer Ferguson Memorial
Award, which means, among other things, that his name will be
placed on a plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame, in Toronto.
Farber, who began writing about the sport for the Montreal
Gazette in 1979 and joined SI in 1994, says he is "shocked and
humbled" by the honor, voted on by his fellow writers. Farber
wraps up the Stanley Cup finals in this issue but says the best
series he's covered was the hard-fought 1994 Rangers-Devils
conference finals. What he likes most about the game, he says, is
the "realness" of its players. "In 1980 I was supposed to fly to
Philadelphia on the same flight as Gordie Howe and the Hartford
Whalers," Farber recalls. "When I couldn't get a seat, Howe said,
'Don't worry about it, I'll take the next flight with you.'"
Walter Iooss Jr.
It was one of the nagging disappointments of his 42-year career
at SI that Walter Iooss Jr. had never taken a great picture of
Sandy Koufax. But while going through his archives not long ago,
Iooss noticed three negatives that, together, captured the unique
torque of Koufax's motion. The triptych is in Iooss's new
collection, Classic Baseball (Abrams, $35). Says the
photographer, "I have finally eliminated Koufax from my wish
list." He also found new perspective on the game of the
1960s--the topic of his book--when he revisited thousands of
images he shot as a young freelancer living with his mother in
East Orange, N.J. "Forty years of baseball history," says Iooss,
"has a way of making these pictures more interesting."