Times are tough all over sports media, as they are all over pretty much everything (note: statement does not apply to Major League starting pitchers). Sports Illustrated just put out a college basketball preview skinny enough to make Jonathan Scheyer look like Big Baby Davis (although they still do some good work), for instance. And GC is already hinting that this year’s CSTB contributor bonuses might be smaller than last year’s. Which, considering that last year’s bonuses were $9 worth of company scrip for the CSTB Online Store, is kind of a bummer.

So it isn’t a total surprise to learn, via Mediabistro’s Fishbowl NY blog, that the New York Times is shutting down its quarterly sports magazine, Play. It is still kind of a bummer, though, especially considering that Play wasn’t losing any money, according to managing editor Mark Bryant. (Yes, this Mark Bryant) (No, not really) This is from the Fishbowl post on the shut-down:

“It was on the schedule. It was in the budget,” Bryant told us when we asked why the magazine had been shuttered so soon after both he and the Times brass confirmed it would continue next year. He later added that, “I knew everything was back under review.”

In the end, “The company needs to make some pretty considerable cuts going forward,” Bryant explained and his magazine was a victim.

According to the editor, Play wasn’t losing money. “I’m am told that last year we more or less broke even, thanks largely to the Nielsen deal for the Olympic issue,” he said. (Nielsen bought out the entire issue. It was, according to Bryant, the “largest single day sale in the history of The New York Times.)

“I was very proud with what our group did at Play,” Bryant said. “I’ve been told over and over this had nothing to do with the editorial content.”

It’s difficult to believe anything a boss-type says in the context of laying you off, but it probably didn’t. Play wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be, necessarily — I’m still waiting for the sports magazine that delivers longish, literary-ish New Yorker-type articles on sports’ big themes and issues, and will doubtless be waiting a long time — but it was generally very good, and had a ton of very talented and intelligent people writing for it in any given issue. Yes, there’s no reason why anyone should ever let Chuck Klostermann write about sports (which Play did, fairly often), but that’s an oversight at least one still-extant sports entity still makes. But beyond that, Play was pretty great, and will be missed. Especially by me, because I always wanted to publish something in there, and was working on a pitch for them when I heard this news.