Rick Reilly's departure from the back page of Sports Illustrated to front and center on ESPN may indeed have been amicable and a case of big bucks being dangled in front of the already well-compensated columnist, not to mention a case of wanting to try something new.
SI big cheese Terry O'Donnell said Reilly was a big talent whom he would "miss personally."
And who the magazine will miss even more.
No doubt, SI is still all about some of the most stunning sports photography anywhere. Its writing is more often than not prescient and engaging. The larger problem, though, is that in the hypercharged 24/7 realm of the Internet and, especially, the blogosphere, long gone is the need to turn to an SI for sports information, analysis and eloquent recaps.
Instead, you turn to SI for destination reading -- the season previews, the excellent "Where Are They Now" takeout from a few months back. And you look for signature columnists, which included Reilly and Steve Rushin, who quit earlier this year after SI wanted him to do other things besides his nonpareil column (if you haven't read any of his books, now would be a great time if you need a Rushin fix).
Take away the guys who make you think, laugh or cry in the space of one page and you've removed much of the magazine's value proposition.
True, Dan Patrick is fully severed from the ESPN mothership that for so long nurtured him and whatever his proclivities were at any given moment, and he will now have a large profile on various SI platforms.
Nice guy, knows his sports, but he's no Reilly or Rushin.
The magazine knows that, too. It remains to be seen if readers will notice, or care.