One of my favorite all-time stories is about Elvis Grbac (left), Rich Gannon (right) and People Magazine‘s Sexiest Men issue from 1998. It is both outlandish and 100-percent true.
Back in the day I knew many People staffers, and they were all cool, fun, intelligent—and woefully ignorant about sports. Every year, in planning the Sexiest Men issue, People‘s editors would ask a bunch of us at Sports Illustrated for suggestions and insight. In 1998, for a reason I’ll never understand, they decided not to seek out help.
The magazine chose Rich Gannon as its Sexiest Athlete. At the time, Gannon was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Still a couple of seasons removed from his golden tenure with the Raiders, Gannon was 33, handsome and likable. In other words, a solid choice. Yet People, being People, simply informed the photographer assigned to the piece that the Sexiest Athlete was the Chiefs’ quarterback. Hence, he took pictures of the Chiefs’ quarterback. Well, one of the Chiefs’ quarterbacks: Elvis Grbac.
The pictures made their way back to the New York offices, and editors were dumbfounded. This was their Sexiest Athlete? Yet upon learning the truth, no one with the magazine had the heart (guts?) to tell Grbac that an unfathomable mistake had been made. As a result, Elvis Grbac reigns as People‘s 1998 Sexiest Athlete.
The article’s final line says it all: “His personality makes him sexy.”