D.A.: The Dinosaurs Of Sports Magazines Are Just About Extinct

With the end of an era almost upon us, D.A. pays his respects to the sports publications of his youth

Damon Amendolara
May 01, 2019 - 1:36 pm

USA Today Images

The end is coming swift and clear. The days of picking up pieces of paper and reading sports stories on them are being chased away by the sunset. Not long ago the grandest of them all, the sporting publication of record for 70 years, Sports Illustrated, decided to consolidate into bi-weekly issues. Today, ESPN The Magazine announced it would halt its publication and go digital only. Hope you don't mind that booklet getting put on the antiques shelf with the rotary phone and VCR. 

It's understandable. We are scrolling our phones all day, every day. Our eyes are already attached to screens, so placing content where that attention is makes sense. It's easier to have people open another app, or click on a link instead of fishing through their briefcase or thumbing through mail to get to your article. 

Plenty has been written about the end of the "beating heart" of sports media. Timeliness also clearly hinders the paper product. Will anyone wait a few days to read SI's recap of the big game when it appears in their mailbox or on newsstands? Nah, they'd rather scroll Twitter, get instantaneous reaction, then read the article in the morning. By the time the magazine arrives, we are on to the next news cycle. We move quickly today, a breakneck speed of what's next. The day after the NCAA national championship game, CBSSports.com published the 2020 preseason favorites. The morning after the NFL Draft wrapped up, SI.com had next year's big board. We move on these days. 

As someone who has had an SI subscription for 30 years, this isn't an easy movie to watch end. At 9 years old, I was asking my dad to buy me Sports Illustrated at the newsstand on his way home from work. My parents always stressed reading for me and my two younger siblings. So my dad supported my SI habit even if it wasn't Steinbeck, Hemmingway or Updike. "Just as long as you're reading," he'd say. And so starting in November 1989, with an NBA Preview issue, "Can anyone shut down Michael?" I was hooked. 

I forwarded it to my four college addresses at Syracuse. It arrived at my apartments in Ft. Myers, Florida; Kansas City; Miami; Boston; and Brooklyn. Because of address changes, I've contacted the SI customer service department more times than I've cleaned out my fridge. I love the paper magazine. I'll always love it. Stuffing it in my backpack, throwing it in a beach bag, rolling it up and taking it to the park has always been far more enjoyable than staring at a phone screen. Yeah, I could've lied in bed with my laptop and read Steve Rushin. But I'd rather have those words jump off a piece of paper. 

My high school bedside table had a stack of 5-6 SI's in the corner next to the lamp for my entire adolescence. Inside Baseball with Peter Gammons. Dr. Z's NFL insights. Jack McCallum's NBA missives. Michael Farber's hockey prose. I was taught about sports through the eyes of wonderful writers, people that weren't looking for my clicks, but instead had been empowered to explore. 

There's still great sports journalism. Grantland had it. The Ringer, The Athletic and The Undefeated have compelling long-form pieces The wonderful Wright Thompson doesn't require paper, his stories are just as incredible in digital space. I get comfort by reminding myself it's better for the environment, less trees need to be sacrificed, less ink needs to be dumped. But there is a soul that is lost when we just stare at a screen. 

How about the effects on the brain? Studies say we digest far more if it's on paper. Phys.org cites, "When reading long, linear, continuous texts over multiple pages that require a certain amount of concentration, referred to as 'Deep Reading,' the reader often experiences better concentration and a greater overview when reading from a printed medium compared to a screen." But who wants to deep read anymore? Clicking through your Apple News Feed or CBS Sports app stories at a furious pace is the pace which we move. 

I usually try to evolve with the times, stay flexible and nimble and refuse to get stuck in the past. But the end of the sports publication deserves a funeral, something more noble than this. Newspaper staffs slashed, departments consolidated, entire magazines wiped out. These are the last days of the dinosaur, catch them when you can. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.