SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is readying the launch of "SI Players," which promises to be the venerated sports weekly's most lifestyle-heavy section yet. First hits: Sept. 20. Inside: what Executive Editor Charlie Leerhsen calls "a more in-depth exploration of players' lives, and the way they live." Plus standard men's service tropes like workout tips from star athletes. "You might see [Tennesee Titans QB] Steve McNair's sword collection," says Leerhsen. Support: a TV ad campaign, courtesy of BrightHouse, Atlanta, featuring Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, and the tagline "Nobody gives you football like Sports Illustrated." Tilt: football heavy-at least at first. SI Players is now slated to run 16 issues, but SI President John Squires concedes, "I'd be shocked if we just didn't roll it right through next year."
SI execs insist that the lifestyle-heavy tilt of ESPN the Magazine had nothing to do with the tone of their new section. But, says Gary Hoenig, editor-in-chief of ESPN the Magazine, "We've had elements of that in our magazine from the beginning. ... It's not a wild innovation as far as I can tell, but I guess it is for them." SI execs also deny specifically targeting a younger reader, though spots will air on the likes of Spike TV, ESPN and Comedy Central . Not that SI Players is all ha-ha-ha. "There will be fun stuff," says Squires. But "the overall tone has to be about the game, not the trivial stuff all around it."