There's been a few different feature stories from Sport Illustrated lately with really solid writing on interesting topics.
For the September 12 issue, S.L. Price wrote "The House Of Dream Chasers" on TCU football coach Gary Patterson. While Patterson's tale was an interesting one and told well as Price stories inevitably are, what stood out from the piece was the author's connection to the coach. The sub-heading to the story alludes to the time spent living in the small college town of Davis, CA and it was fascinating reading about how both the author and subject were then living lean and starting out in their desired careers.
"Twenty-five years ago TCU coach Gary Patterson was a tumbleweed assistant clinging to a Division II job. No one expected he would rise to the top of his profession—not even the author, who lived with him then."
Most recently, the Oct 3 issue of SI featured an interesting book excerpt from Jeff Pearlman. "The Hero No One Knew" was taken from Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton and (similar in this regard to most of the books excerpted in Sports Illustrated) a solid read.
Granted, I wasn't Bears and Walter Payton fan, but it's remarkable to me the flack that Pearlman has taken about the contents of the book. Even in this excerpt (which is of course just a portion of the book), Payton isn't portrayed as a terrible guy... just a flawed individual who probably became more flawed after leaving the game that defined him. For someone to think any favorite athlete infallible and then criticize those who would reveal him as less than perfect just doesn't make sense.
Also in this latest issue of SI was 'We're In Baseball Heaven' by Gary Smith on the Philadelphia Phillies and the town's relationship with the team. The piece was the third installment of a series Smith has done of the Phillies this year with the first two being on the starting rotation and then profiling catcher Carlos Ruiz.
Smith writes very well pieces with a strong emotional hook and in describing specific fans and their relationship with the team, he's definitely in his element as a writer. Pretty compelling reading...