Thursday, December 06, 2012

Solid Sports Writing - by Tomlinson, Ballard, Layden, Davis, Price & Miklasz

It may be a lot to include in one post, but I've recently read six pieces of really good sports writing that group into three different reasons for standing out.

The first set of pieces was excellent in that each story more what might typically be expected given the type of writing. "Shattered Dreams" was by Tommy Tomlinson for Sports on Earth and took the concept of a game writeup and went way beyond it. Rather than simply reporting on the Alabama-Georgia SEC title game events and outcome, Tomlinson went into the emotions of the game and included the tremendously insightful quote "Why do sports hold so much power? Not because they’re life and death -- they’re not. But they make us feel life and death, in all its messy glory, in all its numbing agony." These two sentences struck me as a great encapsulation of being a player or passionate fan of a sport.

The second piece that had this same type of unexpected payoff was from Chris Ballard in last week's Sports Illustrated. "Moneyballsy" is a profile of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, but goes beyond a typical profile piece in a few different ways. There's how Ballard shows Morey's analytic approach to assembling a team roster as part of a larger trend towards data analysis in sports and outside (see: political predictions and Nate Silver) as well as a number of interesting anecdotes provided about Morey and his interests. It's just a very revealing look at the guy.

If the first set of stories noted here had more than the type of piece would generally provide, the second set to mention included simply very well written in-depth feature stories. From the same SI issue that had the Morey profile was "Tinker To Evers To Chance ... ... To Me" by Tim Layden. It's a fascinating and detailed look at Johnny Evers, one third of the famous (to baseball enthusiasts) Tinker to Evers to Chance double play combination and also the great uncle of Layden. The story of Evers is an interesting one and combined with the connection to Layden it becomes all the better of a read.

Another feature profile I've seen recently that did an excellent job telling the story of a compelling individual was "Still Richard: Richard Simmons Keeps Grooving at 64" by David Davis. Written for the Longform section on SB Nation, it's a great profile of the extremely emotionally invested in his work fitness advocate.

Final two pieces to mention here are both on college basketball coach Rick Majerus who recently passed away from heart disease. The more personal of the two stories was "Majerus lived his life to help others" from friend and St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, but the 2008 Sports Illustrated feature "The Life and Times of Rick Majerus" by S.L. Price is also great writing on an interesting individual.