Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Play by Play Closing 'For a While'

John and his delightful wife Joyce at a Salem Red Sox baseball game recently.
It saddens me that my old friend John Montgomery is closing Play By Play Magazine, the Roanoke Valley-based sports monthly, "for a while." This was a publication that gave him great joy, if not great riches and it always showed between the covers of the tabloid.

The current September issue is the last one, says John, at least until market conditions improve.

In this last issue, John writes, "This rainy-day thing appears to be an appropriate metaphor for the status of Play By Play--as with this issue, No. 136, we head for the dugout, at least temporarily.

"Sour business conditions have made it prudent to cut our losses and cease publication ... you have to know when to fold 'em." As is John's habit, he jumps right to a smiling face: "But enough of the gloom. Let's celebrate 10 complete years."

That's 10 years of PBP, but it was preceded by eight years of the Sports Journal, which John founded with Sam Lazarro, now a Salem lawyer. At the time of that startup, the three of us worked for the Blue Ridge Business Journal and the Roanoke Times had not started its ownership influence, which eventually led to the demise of the BRBJ and the Sports Journal. I contributed some to the SJ and later to PBP, but always as a "guest," never as a regular. I enjoyed doing it, but was pretty well tied up with the other publication to get too involved.

I recall that at about the end of the first year, John asked if I would mind if he moved my column from the lead in the front of the book to a less conspicuous spot, so that he could put another column up there, one he thought would have better readership. "Oh, hell, I don't mind, John," I said. "The readers will find me." He still laughs at that.

I spoke at the Kiwanis Club recently at the invitation of John and he mentioned then that he was considering closing the publication. It had become more work and less play, I'm afraid, as tends to happen when projects don't pay for themselves. I know that first-hand.

John recruited a lot of people to contribute to SJ and held on to them for PBP. His was always a mix of features and commentary, led by Mike Ashley's always-readable column. Mike is one of the truly funny sports guys in the country and I keep trying to push him into a book.

Anyhow, I'm hoping this works the way John wants it to, whether it's a comeback or something else. He's one of the good guys in this end of the state and he deserves the kind of fulfillment publication success brings.

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