Could the SI cover jinx KO ‘The Fighter’? Naw. Then it would be another media story …

Perhaps Sports Illustrated’s decision to go this week with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale from the new movie “The Fighter” as a “Year in Sports Media” cover for the second year in a row might be a sign a big media company legitimizes the compelling influence of the big media in today’s sports world.

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Or, maybe it’s just good timing.

SI associate editor Adam Duerson said in an e-mail the magazine certainly “didn’t feel tied” to making this the cover piece, following Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert in the speed skating outfit a year ago. But it was “kind of a perfect storm” in having a “fantastic movie, arguably the best in sports of the decade with a close release date and an amazing story behind it.”

This is the sixth year SI has expanded its “Scorecard” section for a sports-media theme retrospective of the year.

“We’d be kidding ourselves if we acted like broadcast networks, blogs and internet coverage weren’t an enormous part of the sports experience,” Duerson said. “If we could watch sports in a vacuum, maybe there’d be no need for this issue. But we don’t.

“As an editor of the Scorecard section, I can tell you that plenty of stuff occurs throughout the year that can’t hold up on its own as an item or review. But come the end of the year, packaged as a whole, I think readers enjoy the roundup.”

The 13-page theme spread starts with a Steve Rushin piece about a new media company called StatSheet that has created software converting basketball game summaries into a template story.

And as for the way the section ends — with a small commercial touting a list of 13 SI-related books that were pushed or written by the magazine’s writers — Duerson responds:

“The issue looks at what we consider the highlights of 2010 regardless of what company they were tied to. That said, I don’t recall many items in the package that Time Inc./TimeWarner/Warner Bros. was involved in. In fact, I’ve noted blogs that seemed surprised at how much love we gave ESPN.”

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