Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"An Accidental Sportswriter" by Robert Lipsyte

Recently finished reading the Robert Lipsyte memoir "An Accidental Sportswriter".

I first heard about the book from this Sports Illustrated review and enjoyed the description of his life and experience in writing. Lipsyte's choice of title of title was fitting given both his writing outside of sports (both general-life type column and Young Adult books) and non-traditional subjects when working as a Sportswriter.

This idea of topics on the fringe of sports comes out as Lipsyte writes of the Lodge Brother (in italics to note as Lipsyte's term) approach to sportswriting practiced by many through the years. Rather than celebrating the Jock Culture atmosphere, Lipsyte often sought out the story that revealed a greater slice of life than simply someone who could play great ball and whose exploits generated the type of prose readers wanted. Nowhere in recent memory is this concept more in evidence than the Mark McGuire-Sammy Sosa home run race... celebrated at the time as a magnificent (and non-steroid pumped) achievement.

Later in the book there was an interesting mention of ESPN writer Bill Simmons, who wrote of steroids as only being a negative in how it caused him to look at achievements. It's representative of an interesting viewpoint by Simmons... rather than focusing on the game or athletes themselves, the thing that matters is one's reaction to and thoughts of sporting events. Makes sense if one believes that big time sports isn't life for a fan, it's about being entertained.
Additionally, Lipsyte wrote of this Jock Culture mentality towards sports (and associated Lodge Brother mentality of sportswriting) with his prose around the seemingly lack of interest that people have in looking at or writing about gay athlete's coming out.

Finally, I also found of note Lipsyte's mention of his early years as a New York Times writer. From that period he references working with Gay Talese, writer of the Esquire piece "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold"... often credited as being the example of New Journalism or compelling narrative non-fiction.

Closing out the book was Lipsyte's chapter on his relationship with his father (who lived past 100). Solid read, especially for someone interested in writing.