ESPN the Magazine’s D.C. issue – focused on many of this city’s many bright young athletic stars – is barely six months old. But when the magazine’s editors were discussing potential topics for their 15th anniversary double-issue — which focuses on the next 15 years in sports — a pair of Washington names wound up in the conversation again.
You can probably guess which ones.
“They’re exciting, they’re charismatic and they’re good,” Chad Millman, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, said of Bryce Harper and Robert Griffin III. “We’re not Tebowing these guys. We don’t do something about them in every issue. We do something when the moment is special, when we think the occasion matches the interest level in these guys. And certainly right now it’s hard to argue against Harper being in this issue, as good as he’s playing. RGIII was just at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and his knee is still in the news. The NFL is a year-round sport, and he’s going to be a year-round subject. He matters all the time.”
Which is why this double-issue, which hits newsstands on Friday, includes a 5,000-word RGIII piece by Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer, touching in part on how Griffin has the potential to transcend sports and use football as a launching pad for something grander. The issue also includes Harper in a photo-based portfolio of athletes who will help shape the next 15 years.
There are four different covers for the issue; one features RGIII, and one, seen above, shows Harper. This comes just a few weeks after Harper starred on the cover of SI, and about a year after RGIII was on the cover of SI and the cover of ESPN the Magazine.
Indeed, Millman compared the interest in Harper and RGIII to that surrounding Michael Jordan, Ryne Sandberg and Walter Payton when he was a kid growing up in Chicago. They are local stars with national fan bases, which is why editors didn’t shy away from again going all-in on Washington.
“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” Millman said. “If you look back at last year, RGIII in charisma, in style of play, in skill-set, in the attention being paid to every move he made on the field and the decision to keep him on the field, he’s going to be one of those guys you are going to want to know what he does, no matter what he’s doing….Let’s enjoy him, because he’s as dynamic and thoughtful and interesting an athlete as we’ve had in a long time. It’s a natural for him. And Bryce is the same thing, in terms of the charisma and the skill level. Look at what the guy’s done in the first month this year.”
“It’s a good time to be a D.C. fan,” Millman concluded, which seems to be an accurate statement.
These aren’t regional covers; all four versions will be available nationally. The issue also features a Tom Brady piece, in which Seth Wickersham hung out with the Patriots quarterback in his Boston apartment, and a 20-page “screenplay” about Kobe Bryant, with nine scenes written by nine different screenwriters.