The last few paragraphs of “The Franchise,” Michael MacCambridge’s 1997 history of Sports Illustrated that I finished reading over the weekend, summarize far more than the essence of a magazine that changed the way Americans look at the world of sports.
They come closer to anything I’ve read since Michael Novak’s “Joy of Sports” in underscoring why we give a damn about sports, and why they really do matter, far beyond the raw immediacy of a final score.
The speaker is Ray Cave, a top lieutentant to managing editor André Laguerre, who MacCambridge writes crafted SI during the 1960s and the early 1970s “into the last of the truly sophisticated mass market magazines, and the only sophisticated one to rise in the age of television:”
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“Laguerre infected his staff with a sense of the consequences of sport — to the society, and to each of us. He felt it was a true mirror of the human condition, a meaningful mirror. It was a sophisticated view of sport, and he insisted that the magazine reflect that sophistication. In hindsight, and certainly in net profit terms, he was probably wrong. Maybe sport is, and was, no more consequential than the Bulls versus the Sonics. Laguerre believed otherwise. But there is no arguing about one thing: you make more money with a hard-sports magazine.”