I’m not referring to broad expanses here. Not Hawaii or San Diego or Austin. I’m referring, specifically, to small, isolated, individual spots that evoke memories or euphoria or … well, something special inside. For example, I love driving up Emerald Lane and past my old house in Mahopac, N.Y. I love seeing my late grandparents’ old building in Washington Heights. I love to walk into Dylan’s Candy Bar and gaze over the limitless possibilities. I love the old Macy’s elevators, which remind me of my Grandma Marta.
And I absolutely cherish the Sports Illustrated library.
As most of you probably know, newspaper and magazine libraries are sorta dying. They used to be places where a team of librarians clipped articles and placed them in folders; where reporters would head for research on everything from whales to snot to J.R. Richard and Bernie Goetz; where answers were provided and mysteries solved. Back in the day, when I was a young cub at The Tennessean, the newspaper’s two librarians, Nancy St. Cyr and Chantay Steptoe-Buford, treated me as a son. I’d spent hours shooting the shit, talking shop, digging through old files. It felt like home.
The same exact phenomenon took place throughout my career at Sports Illustrated. Joy Birdsong and Natasha Simon (and, in later years, Susan Szeliga) made for joyful company. The conversations were always fast and flip and funny—reality TV, Tupac, the Yankees, on and on. The librarians are smart and aware and eager to help. Even now, as merely an SI.com contributor, they graciously allow me to come and research.
The experience, always, is awesome.
Roughly a decade back, Time Magazine killed its enormous library. It didn’t donate the files to the Smithsonian or offer the contents to other libraries. No, it actually committed suicice, throwing out years upon years of materials, allowing people to take what they wanted and toss the rest. To say this makes me ill is no exaggeration—it makes me friggin’ ill. The SI library has these files that go on and on and on and on. Clips on everyone from Kareem to Griffey to Alex English and John Thompson and Jerome Lane and Steve Fuller and Sal Fasano and Tony Robinson. There are yellowed papers from, oh, 50 … 60 years ago; pieces of paper that haven’t been touched in decades. It’s a wonderful place, and the smell—old, vintage, haunting—gets me every time. For me, it’s akin to the sweetest chocolate, and if I could spend a week straight digging through its contents, I’d be an (oddly) happy guy.