Commentary

Rick Reilly RIPs himself

In an excerpt from his new book, the author shares his last wishes

Originally Published: June 3, 2014
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Rick ReillyCourtesy Rick ReillyThe sun is setting on Rick Reilly's sportswriting career, but he's going out swinging.

Now that I'm dead, I'd like to discuss my funeral.

First off, I want chili cheeseburgers. And Guinness. And the Phoenix Suns Gorilla. Love that ape.

I'd like my final rankings to be on big posters hanging on the walls. So you can read them from the seats. Like so:

NICEST PEOPLE: 1. Steph Curry, 2. Jim Nantz, 3. That bald guy with the mushroom-cloud ear hair who always comes up to me and tells me how much he loved my last column even though Mitch Albom usually wrote it.

BIGGEST JERKS: 1. Barry Bonds, 2. Barry Bonds, 3. Robert "Arliss" Wuhl, 4. Barry Bonds, 5. Jay Cutler.

MOST FUN: 1. Charles Barkley, 2. George Clooney, 3. David Feherty.

LARGEST REGRETS: 1. Believed Lance Armstrong, 2. Didn't believe Jose Canseco, 3. Sold all my Apple at 125.

BEST PRESIDENTS: 1. Clinton (18 holes, sugary rules), 2. Obama (well-prepared fantasy football partner), 3. Ford (kindly, though he stepped on my foot), 4. Bush 41 (very fast, very bad golfer), 5. Carter (wouldn't let go of my wife even though the photo was already snapped.)

Up on the altar, there will be a bottle of my favorite scotch, The Macallan, for every year I've been alive. Each person will come up to the stage and take a shot from the year they met me, then smash the glass.

If you don't drink, we probably never met.

I've taken the liberty of writing my own obit. I don't want to leave it up to some obit writer who's just had a fight with his wife and has a bottle of Smirnoff in the middle drawer. If you'll please just send it to the papers and the websites and whatnot:

 

RICK REILLY, 56, sportswriter, died this week. He probably had it coming.

Reilly published or posted over 2 million words in his 37-year career. You don't even want to know how many he wrote and killed.

Reilly tried to write the truth. He might not have always done it, but he tried. He also tried to make it all add up to something that might mean something to people.

What was strange about Reilly as a sportswriter was that his columns often had very little sports in them. They were often about people's lives, their struggles and their victories, most of it off the field. He leaned toward human interest stories, perhaps to a fault. "Every week I read your column," the comedian Bill Scheft once told him, "just to see what body part will be missing."

Reilly covered every major sporting event except the Indy 500 and every minor one, including the World Sauna Championship, in which he placed 103rd. He made it to over 100 countries and every state but North Dakota.

He became passable at golf, mediocre at piano, and knew just enough magic to annoy people. He had a TV series -- "Missing Links -- that lasted one episode. He had his own ESPN interview show - "Homecoming" -- that lasted 15.

Desperate for a column one week in 2006, he invented a foundation to protect African kids from malaria called Nothing But Nets, which has raised almost $50 million to date.

The son of an alcoholic, he made his own way. He could've done better. He could've done worse. His main deal was trying to write sentences nobody had ever read before. Also, he never was on one of those everybody-yells shows.

He saw the Northern Lights. He ran with the bulls. He saw the best humans could be and the worst, and that included himself.

Oh, and he once took $5 off Arnold Palmer on the golf course.

After the church service (30 minute limit!), we'll drive up to the graveyard in monster trucks. I've arranged for junk cars to be parked along the way -- marked with a giant orange X. Every griever for himself. You're welcome.

After my caddy says a few nice words, such as, "He had a loop in his backswing you could drive a Mack truck through, but at least he tipped OK," everybody can bring one item to throw down into the grave, depending on whether you were fan or foe.

A few items I'd like to see thrown in:

*My 7-Eleven smock. I worked there for one week before I got my first writing gig. I have also been a grocery bagger, rental-shop clerk, lawn mower, book packer, parking hut attendant, flower deliverer, bank teller, gas jockey, and car washer. Got fired at most of them. I kept the smock to remind myself that writing is all I can do.

*My 100-plus photo collection of people choking me, including Michael Phelps underwater. Made for funny pictures, except for the time Eli Manning didn't realize it was supposed to be a joke.

*It'd be funny if Tiger Woods was there to shovel dirt on me, since I've shoveled so much on him.

It'd be damned considerate if my wife -- The Lovely Cynthia -- lost it at some point and dove on top of the casket as it's being lowered. But by then I figure she'll be too busy fending off advances from my single buddies. Or not fending them off. I can't blame either of them. Then I'd like to leave this note for my kids: "Sorry I spent your inheritance. Love you. Hope you have as much fun as I did."

Lastly, I want the tombstone to say:

Here lies Rick Reilly

1958-2014

Tried to write well

P.S. (I bet my buddy Two Down O'Connor, The World's Most Avid Golf Gambler, $100 that I'd break par before I died and I never did. So he's going to come up and pretend to sob over my coffin, but he's really going to be looking for the $100 bill I left inside the left breast pocket of my black blazer. Please make sure I'm wearing the blue pinstripe.)

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com