Years ago (mid-’90’s), I used to be a baseball fanatic and avidly read Mike Ricigliano’s USA Today Baseball Weekly’s comics portion. I loved the originality of the comics and looked forward to each upcoming issue.
Fast forward to today. I grew up and (thankfully) had other obligations that ate into my sports time, and gradually stopped buying issues of Baseball Weekly. I found out a couple of years ago that Baseball Weekly changed to Sports Weekly as it combined all sports issues into one publication. Right away, that registered as a warning sign for me that USA Today was struggling in a market where practically everything is readily available online for free. The problem is that “free” doesn’t pay the bills, let alone the hard-working writers that need to get paid to support their families. I remember hearing in the past that online media meant the death of newspapers but was initially sceptical as to how soon that was becoming a reality.
I recently decided to look up my favorite sports cartoonist, Mike Ricigliano. It turns out that USA Today’s Sports Weekly, the Los Angeles Times and Buffalo News all let him go due to financial reasons. It also turns out that Sports Cartooning is a rapidly dying art. It’s sad, but it makes sense. When an industry is experiencing a rapid decline, the “nice to haves” go first. Cartoons provide humor (potentially educational) but can easily be replaced by a news piece that has more meat in it and is considered more relevant to a newspaper. It’s a hard truth that all of us will sadly need to face one day.
The article I referenced noted that one of Mike’s sons built him a website 2 years ago to help bring in revenue. However, upon visiting the site, I saw that it has a total of 6 comics as of April 2012. Not very promising.
Noting the above, it indeed looks like that sports cartooning has no future, as fun as it looks. It’s very fast-paced, extremely time sensitive, has little job growth and apparently is under-appreciated. There seems to be more of an industry in online comics that are more general and therefore have a longer shelf life. Websites like The Oatmeal, for example, have proven to be very successful in creating comics readily available for free, then creating books out of many of those comics and selling them.
All that said, here’s to a cartoonist that provided sports humor for millions of sports fans over an extensive period of time.