Sunday, October 20, 2013

Great sports writing - by Flinder Boyd, Lee Jenkins & David Fleming

There's three different pieces of sports feature writing that struck me as outstanding lately, with two of them reminding me of other stories I've posted on.

For SB Nation Longform was "20 Minutes At Rucker Park" by Flinder Boyd on 24-year-old TJ Webster Jr. and his trip to the famed Rucker Park basketball courts in New York City. Webster hoped to play well enough in the pickup games that he might get a shot at playing professionally and Boyd (who was a pro player and now solid writer) traveled by bus from Sacramento with Webster to chronicle his experience. What results is a compelling look at Webster taking his shot at glory (not to get too hyperbolic) and Boyd does a great job of writing the piece in a way that would make a reader care, but not losing his objectivity as could happen in a piece such as this.

It was excellent stuff that reminded me of a previous SB Nation Longform piece by Brandon Sneed, "The Prospect" on Montaous Walton and his attempts to fashion himself as a professional baseball player. The story on Walton was more about his fabrications and that on Webster more about hope, but definite parallels between the two well written stories.

The second recent piece to note here was the Sports Illustrated cover story this week, "Kobe Bryant: Reflections on a cold-blooded career" by Lee Jenkins. Really a terribly interesting feature that made me think of another piece by Jenkins, the 2012 SI Sportsman of the Year story on LeBron James in that both pieces on gifted and driven basketball players, and both written well in a very segmented style (with me posting last year on the structure that Jenkins employed in his story on James).

The third piece of recent excellent sports writing to mention was "The Marathon of Their Lives" by David Fleming for ESPN. About two separate runners in the 2011 Chicago Marathon, Will Caviness and Amber Miller, it was a fascinating piece to me in that early on, I expected it to end with a climactic moment that involved both runners, but instead was a completely different and a more nuanced story that surprised me. It's of course great to read something that you're immediately hooked into from the beginning, but this piece was a different type of great in that it was really memorable to me after reading it.