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  • NYS Writers Institute

Catching up with sportswriter Rick Reilly

Paul Grondahl and Rick Reilly in Albany on Feb. 19, 2020

We emailed Rick Reilly to find out what he's up to since he visited us in February.

One of America’s preeminent sportswriters, Rick was named "National Sportswriter of the Year" a total of eleven times. USA Today called him, "the closest thing sportswriting ever had to a rock star." A former columnist for Sports Illustrated and broadcaster for ESPN, Rick is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump (2019).

Rick is also the author of a recent piece in The Atlantic, "I Miss Sports So, So Much," about how the sudden disappearance of spectator sports "left a gigantic hole in American life."

Q: How are you keeping busy?

A: My son, his wife and my one-year-old grandson moved in, so it's kind of a gift. We raise the little boy during the day while they work. I mean, they could be here for two months! It's kind of a little spot of wonderful in an otherwise canvas of Hell.

I'm trying to memorize "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano. I'm getting to be Roberto Duran on the jumprope. I've cleaned the gutters, the garage and even the bicycles. I'm writing (as always) two hours a day on ...a book, a screenplay and a kids' detective thing. And I believe I have broken the world coffee drinking record, set by Juan Valdez.

Q: Any reading recommendations?

A: I'm re-reading Ball Four [by former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Bouton, published in 1970] for the eighth time, because I love it and I need to laugh. It's the book that made me realize I wanted to be a sportswriter.

Also, P. G. Wodehouse. I'm gobbling P. G. Wodehouse. I'm trying to unravel all the Jeeves books just to see how he did it. It's genius.

Q: Any words of wisdom for us?

A: Some kid wrote me saying he was asking authors/celebrities for advice, so I sent him this:

Dear Colin...

I went to school mostly to eat my lunch.

But I know it helps if you …

Write sentences you’ve never seen before. People like them.

Look people in the eye. Even if you have to put down your phone.

Tell the truth. Lies are like little squirrels -- really hard to wrangle.

Give money away. You’ll be amazed how it comes pouring back.

Apologize. It feels good and you might get one of those back, too.

Be as kind to the guy who cleans the hotel as the guy who owns it.

Leave 15 minutes early. Better for your heart.

Talk about it in the morning. A night’s sleep solves 93.7% of fights.

Laugh your problems down to a size you can fit in your pocket.

Every day, do something that’s hard for your body.

Then do the same for your brain.

Make that one extra call. It makes all the difference.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. In 100 years — all new people!

Rick Reilly

More about Rick's visit to Albany in February 2020:

How are you coping in a world without sports (to play or to watch)?


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