Bank vaults hold cash. Fort Knox’s vault holds gold. Film vaults hold old reels of “The Pride of the Yankees.” Burial vaults presumably hold deceased Yankees.
For years now, Chris Armstrong has been wondering what, exactly, is kept in the Sports Illustrated vault. “I totally want to go down to the office and tour the real thing,” Chris said. “How cool would that be?” Chris spends about two weeks every year going on private tours of vaults around the country. He loves seeing how different companies store and organize all their really valuable outdated stuff.
The Sports Illustrated vault would be a dream come true for Chris. “There’s so many urban legends that surround the SI vault. What else besides all those prized articles could be in there?” he said. “I’ve heard people saying things like, maybe there’s top secret story ideas, old swimming suits, vitamin supplements for athletes.”
Chris finally had the opportunity. Last week, when a local talk show was auctioning off a chance to tour the vault, Chris sold his motorcycle and offered $8,300 for the tour. The next highest bidder was Trey Wingo, from the ESPN studio at $275. He had left a pair of cufflinks somewhere in New York and wanted them back—he figured they were worth about that much and would give it a shot.
“When I got the call that I won the bidding, I couldn’t believe it!” Chris said, amazed, “I really didn’t think my bid was high enough. I know a lot of people want to see how SI fits all those old magazines in there.”
Chris soon found something that most baseball fans don’t even know is missing—a defensive metric that measures defense appropriately. “Yeah, it was pretty crazy,” he said. “The tour guide was showing me how interns have to dig through all these piles to find an article that everyone has forgotten about, and I slipped and fell on the mid-August stack. That’s when out from under the heap came this piece of paper. Apparently there’s a bunch of really important numbers on it.”
Even though Chris doesn’t know who Bill James is, he’s glad he helped find the long lost defensive metric that’s going to eliminate a lot of posts on the Internet. Chris knows that for some reason relating to baseball he is famous now, but his new-found fame isn’t a big deal to him. He said, “I know I fell on something important buried in the vault. But what really matters to me was seeing the piles and piles of faded old magazines. The musty smell, all the non-paid journalism students digging through dusty magazines, those are the memories I will cherish forever.”
Chris says he doesn’t need to tour any more vaults. The Sports Illustrated opportunity fulfilled all his dreams. He hasn’t given up his longing to see how people store valuable stuff, though. Next week he’s going to start visiting the backyards of great aunt Hildegards and Bettys around the country to see what’s in the ground next to the third tree on the left.