By Jim Bisco
Deadline was fast approaching when Richard Deitsch (BA ’92) got a hurried call from a high-ranking editor at Sports Illustrated to write a spread on body painting for the annual swimsuit issue.
He arrived posthaste at a Manhattan studio to interview Joanne Gair, a prominent body artist, and the model she was painting, who turned out to be Heidi Klum—a nude Heidi Klum. “It took a good five minutes to wrap my head around the fact that I’m interviewing one of the most beautiful women in the world, who’s nude,” Deitsch recalls, laughing. “I told myself, Bob Woodward never faced this kind of test.”
Deitsch has been living his dream: working for the magazine that set the course for his future in sportswriting after his mother, a professor at SUNY’s Farmingdale State College, gifted him with a subscription when he was 7 years old. “The people who wrote for that magazine felt like giants to me,” he says. “It became my goal to work for SI.”
Deitsch, who grew up in Wantagh, N.Y., has covered nearly every division at Sports Illustrated since interning at SI for Kids in 1997. His current beats are sports media, which he initiated at the magazine, women’s basketball, tennis and the Olympics.
His seventh Olympics, in Sochi, was marked by a dubious lead-up of possible terrorism and alleged corruption, but the competitive heat of the games soon vanquished any dark clouds. In addition to covering “one of the most spectacular events” of his career (the women’s hockey gold medal match), Deitsch found himself writing more media stories than expected, thanks to perennial anchor Bob Costas’ sudden absence. “Normally, rank-and-file reporters like myself don’t get to hobnob with NBC talent, but ironically I was booked into the same hotel and saw Costas, Matt Lauer and Al Michaels every day at breakfast. As a reporter, I was in the center of the storm.”
Deitsch maintains that he would not have landed his dream job without his pivotal experience at UB. Although he majored in communications and political science, he refers to his work on the student newspaper as his real major. “My love of journalism was fostered at The Spectrum,” he says. “It gave me confidence that maybe I would have a shot at a career in this field.”