ESPN announced today that Rick Reilly will be going part-time, giving up his ESPN.com column and restricting his appearances to television, including his features on SportsCenter and Monday Night Countdown. This is a little surprising, if only because the big-name columnists tend to die in harness.
Reilly, 56, has had a bad run of late, culminating in last month's truly blatant recycling of a 2009 column. While no public statement was made at the time, we were told Reilly's bosses were "reviewing the situation with Rick." Some folks at ESPN were apparently mad enough that they threatened not to promote Reilly's upcoming book, a collection of his ESPN.com columns. (An ESPN spokesperson told us the company still plans to promote the book, which won't be an ESPN publication.)
The official word from both Bristol and Reilly is that this cut-back in work was Reilly's decision. "He proposed this," an ESPN spokesperson told us today. "He's looking for a different work schedule after a very long time of cranking out columns week after week."
Still, we've heard that people in Bristol were not exactly unhappy when his latest bit of self-plagiarism came to light, figuring the embarrassment would make it easier to reduce Reilly's visibility. So while we're stuck with his televised stand-up comedy and soft-focus features, a long—and, for a long time, excellent—writing career seems to have come to an end.