The One Where a BYU Fan Confronts Rick Reilly about Jimmer
A reader, and BYU fan, relayed a story to me about how he was at the games in New Orleans (yes, he left his hotel room), and confronted Reilly on press row after BYU’s loss and Reilly’s take-down piece on Jimmer. I thought it was interesting, and he graciously agreed to let me reprint it here. It’s a rare look at Reilly in the wild, and he comes across as, well, read for yourself:
Last weekend I was able to do what everyone on this site wants to do – give Rick Reilly a piece of my mind.
I am a big BYU hoops fan, and vowed to follow the Cougars this post-season until they lost or cut down the nets in Houston. In the last three weeks I saw myself in Vegas for the MWC tourney, then Denver and finally New Orleans. (Sidenote: Not once was I ever mortified by my surroundings, and in fact left Vegas up $350 from blackjack. Sorry for bucking your caricature, Rick.)
Anyway, obviously we were gutted after the Florida loss, but our flight was scheduled for Sunday morning (more on that later) so we stuck around for Saturday’s game. That morning before the game, I shook my head in bewilderment as I read the now notorious hatchet job.
Well guess who I see during warmups of Butler-Florida? Rick Reilly; strutting his stuff in his designer jeans, hipster boots, and a smirk. He was in the second media row so it was easy for me to walk down and tell him what I thought of latest column.
I began by telling him that I enjoyed his work from his SI days. Then I told him I was a BYU fan and didn’t appreciate his latest column on Jimmer. Really? Why not? He acted genuinely stunned. I said he dumped on Jimmer, who’s just a college kid and didn’t deserve it. He claimed he did nothing of the sort. Throughout the conversation (that lasted a good 10 minutes) it became evident to me that he is a very smug, pompous guy, and probably doesn’t hear much face-to-face criticism.
I asked him how many times he had seen Jimmer play. He told me just once, vs. Florida. (Yes folks, that column is entirely based on seeing him play once, in one of his worst games of his career.) I told him I’d seen Jimmer play about 20 times this season and asked him if it was fair to judge his performance off one game. He said nothing. I asked him about all the cheap shots about Jimmer, BYU fans and the Mormon religion. He feigned innocence, and said the article “intended” to merely represent how he thought Jimmer would fare in the NBA.
While he obviously didn’t acknowledge this on paper, he did admit to me that Jimmer was a great college player and probably his choice as POY. He told me his rub with Jimmer was… wait for it… that he played no D and was not a leader. We all know that it’s not Jimmer’s role to be a lockdown defender, and I tried to explain to him why on this particular team how that’s reasonable. Again, he disregarded all my points.
But his claims about Jimmer’s alleged lack of leadership really bothered me. I asked him what he meant by that. He responded, “Have you ever watched Jimmer in the huddle? How he sits all by himself?” I reminded him that I had seen Jimmer play over 20 times this year alone. Reilly then pointed out Matt Howard of Butler, who was warming up at the time, and said, “See that guy; that guy is a leader. He makes his teammates better and Jimmer does not.” I reminded that there are different ways of leading, not just the rah-rah type. I asked him to consider where the BYU team would have been this year without Jimmer, especially if he did not make his teammates better. Reilly dismissed that, naturally. I insisted that Jimmer was the absolute leader of the team and that he in fact had lifted his teammates to great heights in many big games. He just laughed. I asked why Jimmer’s teammates got so many open shots. He could not comprehend that with Jimmer constantly guarded by two+ guys all game, by default his teammates would be more open. He continued to dismiss all my comments.
I asked him about the Nick Martineau quote. I told him frankly I didn’t believe Martineau said it. The smirk came off his face as he said “absolutely he told me that, word for word.” And as to why he would interview the 12th man? He said Martineau was the only guy available to be interviewed. At that point, I laughed.
I also questioned the Maravich comparison. He said he had heard that from a BYU fan. So Rick, now one hyperbolic fan represents all of Cougar Nation? However, it was clear that no minds were going to be changed so I shook his hand and left “agreeing to disagree.” I was amiable, but still got my point across.
The funniest part of the story is the next day at the airport. Guess who I run into at the gate? – Rick Reilly, still toting his designer jeans, boots and smirk. I smiled and asked him if he remembered me. He laughed and said yeah. I made small talk. He told me he was from Boulder, Colorado (which may explain the political and religious biases) and that he was never an athlete. He also told me that he left SI for ESPN because they “offered me three times the money, and I had three kids in college at the time.” I don’t think he was too happy to see me for a second time so I walked away.
But get this: In a turn of poetic justice, I was bumped up to first class in the row DIRECTLY behind him. I just smiled and said, “Hey Rick, looks like I am sitting behind you.” He mumbled something and did not engage in further conversation. The only people he spoke to on the flight were Reggie Miller (who, by the way, also chatted with me about Jimmer. He was much more optimistic, but did say Jimmer would have to play the 1 in the NBA), who was in the row in front of him and Stan Verrette, a Sportscenter anchor.
Overall, I found him to be arrogant, unprofessional, and completely out of touch with reality – essentially the type of guy you figure he is, but hope to be wrong.
Fredette about it – he really is a hack.