Saturday, February 16, 2013

Compelling sports stories - by Wright Thompson, Greg Bishop & Ryan O'Hanlon

My favorite pieces of sports writing come across recently were three that stood out for wildly divergent reasons.

The oldest was one a few weeks back from Outside Magazine and (perhaps logically given the source) really less of a sports piece and more of an adventure travel one which came about because of sports. "Soccer in the World's Most Violent City: The Great Mall of San Pedro Sula" was written by Ryan O'Hanlon and is a tremendously interesting riff on his time in Honduras for the U.S. Men's Soccer World Cup qualifying match. Just a different world there than most people in America familiar with.

A second excellent piece was done a week ago by Greg Bishop with "A Leg Rebuilt, a Life Renewed for Jay Williams". Written for the New York Times, it's a profile of the former Duke basketball star who was selected second in the 2002 draft by the Chicago Bulls and then saw his career all but ended by a motorcycle crash following his rookie season. Bishop wrote a thorough look at Williams and his life that certainly still carries a measure of what could have been, but at the same time seems to be on a really solid path.

The most recent story to note here was an ESPN feature by Wright Thompson posted Friday. "Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building" is just an incredibly well-done look at Jordan, his life and psyche as he turns 50 on Sunday. Jordan is by many accounts not a terribly nice guy and heavily driven by his grievances and resentments over slights both real and perceived (as detailed in a Thomas Lake feature for Sports Illustrated) and Thompson portrays this side of him, but also shows how the public life Jordan has led (including his father being killed as a result of Jordan's fame) makes his life so far apart from others. Thompson has done some tremendous pieces of writing for ESPN I've previously seen and one of the things that made this story exceptional was how it revealed so much detail on Jordan, but still left it to the reader to evaluate him as they may.