Monday, December 12, 2011

Sports Illustrated Writing: from Alexander Wolff, Charles P. Pierce & Jim Gorant

Some great writing from the recent Sports Illustrated double issue that features Pat Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski as the SI Sportswoman & Sportman of the Year for 2011.

Longtime SI writer Alexander Wolff did the cover profile on the coaching icons and paints a revealing portrait of two driven individuals who appear focused on winning the right way. It's solid writing made the more so given that Summitt no longer does one-on-one interviews with her diagnosis of having early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

If Wolff's piece was a well-written profile of exceptional public figures, two other features from this issue of Sports Illustrated stood out as really good writing on subjects known in much smaller universes.

Centered in the town of Magazine, Arkansas, How To Become An American is on the children of Hmong immigrants (with the Hmong portrayed by Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino) playing high school football. Written by Charles Pierce, it combines an almost lyrical beginning with an in-depth description of the athletes and their assimilation into the community and impact on the team. I see Pierce stories most frequently in Esquire and expected and then found a great piece after noting his name in this SI story byline.

A feature that actually turned out to be much more than I expected was According To Alex Kline... on the 17 year old college hoops recruiting guru. Written by Jim Gorant, the two things that stand out in the piece are Kline for creating a thriving avocation out of his interest and Gorant for the style of the piece. After the introduction, the writing flows backwards with sections on various ages of Kline's life to trace what led him to today. This approach helps take something that if done superficially could be little more than a puff isn't that cute? type of piece and makes it a revealing and interesting profile.