In 2007, Reilly® mailed in a Sports Illustrated column in which he counted off everything he loves about sports. Sharp-eyed readers will find certain similarities with today's mailed-in ESPN column, in which Reilly counts off everything he loves about sports.
Reader John H. alerted us to the columns. Let's compare:
2007: When I was a sophomore in college, working on the town newspaper, a professor took me aside and said, "You need to get out of sports. You're better than sports."
2009: When I was a college sophomore and just starting to write for the Boulder sports section, my journalism professor edged me aside, looked me in the eye and said, "You're better than sports."
2007: There's no back door in. If you're Aaron Spelling's daughter and you want to act, you get to act. If you're a Trump, you get to build. But nobody in sports makes it onto the field because he caught a lucky sperm. Jose and Ozzie Canseco were identical twins. Jose played 1,887 major league games. Ozzie played 24. And sports doesn't care how you did last month, either. If you're Derek Jeter and you stop hitting, it doesn't matter how many Visa commercials you've done, you're toast. And yet Flavor Flav still puts out CDs.
2009: Sports is real. It can't be faked. If you're Henry Fonda's son and you want to act, you get to act. If you're Chelsea Clinton and want to govern, you get to govern. But just because you're Nolan Ryan's son doesn't mean you get to pitch in the Show. Money, family, looks mean diddly in sports. If Tom Brady suddenly can't throw the 30-yard out, he's benched, dimple or no dimple.
2007: Sports is a way in. One of the best e-mails I ever got was from a 25-year-old: "Thanks for writing what you did about the Red Sox. It's the first time I've been able to talk to my dad in five years."
2009: Sports is Oprah for guys. I knew a Boston dad and son who hadn't spoken in five years. Some disagreement that just grew too big to see around. But when the Red Sox won it all in 2004, the son came home. They hugged and cried and laughed, and if you think it was about baseball, you don't know men.
2007: Sports isn't an escape from life-it's woven into the fabric of it.
2009: Sports is woven deeper into American life than you know.
2007: It's black and white, there's no gray area. Every night there's a winner and there's a loser and nothing in between. There's no waiting to see the third-quarter fiscal report. It's open to zero interpretation. I've never been to a game yet where, at the end, the ref announced, "O.K., Cleveland won 14—13, but the Cleveland coach was blocking his deep-seated childhood need for validation. So, actually, Buffalo is the winner." There's a score and it's fair and clean and easy to understand. Except for figure skating, of course.
2009: Sports has no gray areas. It's black or white, win or lose, hero or goat. Nobody has to form a committee to figure it out. Not true in dance or art. Who was better, head to head, Matisse or Monet? If it were sports, we'd know. (Matisse, 13-8.)
2007: So bite me, professor. Thirty years later, I still don't think I'm better than sports. In fact it's been the other way around the whole time.
2009: So here's to you, professor. I'm glad to know I'm not better than sports. But you did show me I'm better than one thing: advice from professors.
I'd point out here that Reilly was paid a "ridonkulous" amount of money to write a weekly column, and that he is that rare columnist who can write about whatever he wants, and that with so much freedom, it's absurd that he nonetheless chooses to repurpose some two-year-old piece of hackwork — I'd say all that except that, well, we'd just be plagiarizing ourselves.