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Print Fights To Stay Alive….RIP, ESPN The Magazine

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I was reporting to my first day on the job at ESPN The Magazine, it was maybe close to 10 AM, in 2003, I’d have to work harder to pin down the month.

My attire was neat, appropriate for an office-place, and I’d be headed into the building on 19 East 34th, between Fifth and Madison. I looked up, there was no phone in my hand to look down at, and saw the WALK sign…I was lost in thought, and caught the WALK sign just as it transitioned to the blinking phase, signaling that you best hustle your rump across that street right quick.

And as I alighted off the sidewalk and starting striding across the street, to this new gig, after I’d finished at NY Newsday, a car going northwards off Madison looked to turn right, into me.

Whoah, I barked, and the driver stopped short.

I looked at him, he looked at me, I looked for him to look sheepish, he didn’t and so I gestured a theatrical “Seee!!!” at the blinking Walk sign.

His window was open, we were now talking to each other. Snapping, maybe is the better term.

“That means I can walk,” I declared. He answered something to indicate he didn’t see it the same way, or maybe just didn’t care. I think expletives were traded. And then, and this gives me no pleasure in retrospect, I’d not suggest anyone follow this hot-headed lead, I invite the fella to step out of the car. This was the gesture…

 

Yeah, I was not in a “…and let live” mode, what can I say, but that I now know better.

Again, theatrics…it must have been early spring, or was it fall..because I had a light jacket on…which I ripped off, tossed to the pavement, and invited the man to step out of the car, and continue his assault, step it up from verbal to physical, if he so desired.

I probably had eight minutes before I was due to report to the fact checking and research department, run by Craig Winston and deputy Roger Jackson, at the Mag, which is what those guys called it.

The guy in the car shrunk back a bit in his driver’s seat, only a bit, and then decided that he’d keep on being feisty, though he wouldn’t escalate the idiocy to a more ludicrous and maybe dangerous level. I tossed my bag, an older the shoulder book bag, emblazoned with an HBO boxing logo on it, I’d gotten that item in a schwag bag at a Boxing Writers Association of America dinner the year before, to the street–did I not look down to make sure there was no oil puddle down there?–and I moved a half step toward the guy in the car.

Not car, right, it was an SUV, he was riding high.

The window was down…I shot a right hand, sharp, straight, aimed at his face. No, I was not that Travis Bickle-y prickly..I stopped it short, so it didn’t enter the vehicle, or go near his face.

He was busy rolling up the window, and so he finished that, hurled a rushed epithet at me, as he stamped his foot off the gas and roared to his appointment. I picked up my coat, and my bag, composed myself and reported for duty.

I told no one about that little street scene and I reported for duty there for the next eight years, until they told us that the NY office would shut down, and they’d be working out of the Connecticut complex moving forward.

It was a very good place to work–interesting and decent people, very few assholes.

Hmmm….Maybe I was half an asshole, now and again, back then. Certainly when crossing the street I maybe veered closer to that role.

But anyway….I think the era ended when powers that be decided to more so consider…what was the word in vogue then…synchronicity? No….Symbiosis, was that the popular tag to explain the move? I don’t recall…

Shit, I figured the rent was stiff and with ad sales having dived when the Wall St titans almost blew up the world economy with the credit default swapping-foolery, it made sense to cut costs where possible. And if they had some empty space in CT, it made sense to “invite” the Magazine to fill it…and also, Mag execs could be in closer contact with the execs from the other segments of the corporation and it would be easier to get on the same page, if that was desired.

We can say the era will end when the last issue to be mailed gets put together, in September, but this has been a long time coming. The era ended…when?…when smart people decided that the internet could be the printing press and the paper and the postal service all in one..and you could reach so many people now, that the numbers would generate revenue, somehow, even though you were now not charging for the content that still cost you to produce.

People were trying to figure that out in 2010, when they announced the Mag would be moved to Bristol…and in 2019, when they announced that the Mag, as it existed, would cease to be.

And that effort to decipher the role of “journalists,” and “magazines,” and “content creators” will not cease anytime soon, I offer. But this I know…I bet that man in the SUV smartened up and wasn’t so quick to boil over and pop into road-rage mode on poor saps just trying to cross the street in peace. I have since smartened up, I like to think, I haven’t torn off my coat in anger since that day. More peaceful, just a bit. And RIP, to the Mag, to that publication, as it was. The text/print ranks are dwindling and the process won’t slow. We in media need to reserve our energy and good karma, and be judicious about knowing when to toe the line and fight…and when to acquiesce and adapt, so as not to get caught in the thresher.

–Michael Woods does a podcast called “Talkbox,” for Everlast, publishes NYFights.com and calls boxing on the Facebook Fightnight Live streaming series.

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About Michael Woods

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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