I remember, growing up, having the covers of Sports Illustrated on the wall. Growing up outside of the county, Sports Illustrated for me was a vital link back home, to America. It allowed me, a stranger in a country not my own, to stay connected to the sports I otherwise would have lost contact with. Back then, I pored over the weeks-old issues, reading accounts of games that were long in the past. I'd read pieces by Frank Deford and Rick Reilly - my only link to an active sports culture back home. (That and Armed Forces Radio on the short-wave made me feel American.) They kept me engaged, connected, in a world where American football was just that - American - and sports in general had a different emphasis. Those days feel very far away, coming up into this Christmas season - an era away. And my boyhood dreams of appearing one day in Sports Illustrated , too, still seem very far away - and different.