Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gary Smith retirement writing - by Price, Posnanski, Tomlinson & Reilly

There was some excellent pieces of writing done recently with longtime Sports Illustrated feature writer Gary Smith announcing his retirement from the magazine.

There were missives by Joe Posnanski and by Tommy Tomlinson for their respective personal blogs and for Sports Illustrated, appreciation pieces from Rick Reilly and from S.L. Price as well as the SI compilation "The best of Gary Smith: Picking the greatest stories of his SI career." Really great writing on someone I've posted on and linked to a number of times.

Boston Marathon stories - by Lowery & Pfeiffer

Two really interesting pieces sports writing were done recently on the Boston Marathon last month, with one before and one after the race.

"The story behind that Boston Marathon photo of runners carrying a competitor toward the finish" was written by Wesley Lowery for the Washington Post and about a heartwarming moment from the race and "One Last Boston Marathon For Legendary Father-Son Team" was by Sacha Pfeiffer for the Boston-area radio station WBUR and about the longstanding heartwarming tale of Dick Hoyt and his quadriplegic son Rick Hoyt, the duo many learned about from a great Sports Illustrated profile (which I wrote about in 2011) by Gary Smith.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

GQ piece by Paterniti on Spanish restaurant & Esquire by Pierce on Elizabeth Warren

Recent issues of GQ and Esquire had two really sold pieces of recent feature magazine writing to note here. From GQ, Michael Paterniti wrote about the Spanish restaurant Mugaritz and Charlie Pierce for Esquire did a fairly lengthy story on Elizabeth Warren.

Paterniti's recent writing is heavy on great description and feeling and this very much comes through in the GQ feature and while Pierce also an excellent writer, I'm most fascinated in the Esquire profile for who it's about in the Massachusetts Senator frequently talked about as a presidential candidate.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Writing on Matthew Powers & Alaska's Aniakchak National Monument

Two pieces of recent writing I found to be excellent were a feature on travel to a remote national park system area at the start of the Aleutian island chain in Alaska and a remembrance of frequent outdoor adventure writer Matthew Power.

The tribute for Power who died while working on a story in Africa last month was "No Way Is Matt Power Gone" by Brad Wieners for Businessweek and both lovely writing on him and provided details into the heat stroke that brought about his death. Such a shame that he passed away and also understandable to read how someone could unwittingly put themselves in great danger.

The Outside Magazine piece was also really well done and struck me as being on the type of adventure that Power would frequently embark on and then write about. Written by Christopher Solomon, "Surviving Aniakchak National Monument" covered his time travelling in Aniakchak National Monument, "the least visited site in the national park system," and was a cool story about a place that also happens to be brown bear country.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

GoPro story by Bill Gifford in Businessweek

A terribly interesting story in a recent Businessweek was "GoPro Goes Big as a Hybrid Media Company/Videocam Maker" by Bill Gifford and it brought to mind past writing on another company that's built a huge business based on the lifestyle around their product, just as much if not more so than around the product itself.

"Red Bull's Billionaire Maniac" was written by Duff McDonald for Businessweek in 2011 and then there was a Teressa Iezzi feature on the company at #29 on the 2012 Most Innovative Companies list by Fast Company Magazine.

Really interesting on both companies and the approach they've taken towards becoming fairly iconic brands.

"Bigger Than the Game" by Dirk Hayhurst

Bigger Than the Game by Dirk Hayhurst was an interesting follow up book to his first two books Out of My League (which I reviewed here) and The Bullpen Gospels about his journey as a professional baseball player.

This most recent book was set during a baseball season Hayhurst lost to injury and in the process had to deal with the mental pain caused by not being able to play.

In terms of his injury rehab program, it was both remarkable and entirely believable reading about how some medical programs would have a seemingly guessing based approach with the "sure, can't hurt" principle to getting better and then other approaches would be highly methodical. What ultimately got Hayhurst better was care at the Andrews Clinic in Birmingham, AL with rehab direction done there by Kevin Wilk under Dr. James Andrews. While many of the stories of his time there are fairly mapcap and entertaining, Hayhurst detailed some pretty remarkable work done on high profile athletes done at the clinic.

Overall, it was an entertaining book on the experiences of a player in the world of professional baseball.

Surfing story by Joe Spring for SB Nation

Really enjoyed reading last week "The Deadliest Wave" by Joe Spring for SB Nation.

It was about the 2013 Billabong Pipe Masters in Memory of Andy Irons competition on Oahu's North Shore as well as the overall season points crown between Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning and brought to mind the fantastic Susan Casey book The Wave that I wrote about back in 2010.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Great Sports Writing - by Michael Rosenberg, Jane Lee & Jeff Pearlman

Three recent sports stories I particularly liked included a short MLB player profile, a feature on the players from an NCAA men's basketball Final Four 25 years ago and piece about writing a huge sports story 15 years ago.

The one about writing a story was "A Reporter's Tale: The John Rocker Story 15 Years Later" for Bleacher Report by Jeff Pearlman on putting together the story he's perhaps best known for.

The Sports Illustrated feature on the 1989 NCAA Final Four participants was by Michael Rosenberg and title "A memorable title game twenty-five years ago brought joy, heartbreak." Really some fascinating stories about the people involved, including: referee John Cloughtery, coaches P.J. Carlesimo, Mike Krzyzewski and Steve Fisher and players Rumeal Robinson and Ramon Ramos.

The baseball piece was a short one by Jane Lee for titled "Thanks to his dad, Gray was built for success" about Oakland A's starting pitcher Sonny Gray and his late father Jesse Gray.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

"Hatching Twitter" by Nick Bilton

Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton was about some compelling people that came up with a pretty revolutionary business. Reading the book reminded me of my thoughts about what I wanted to do with blogging when I began in 2008 and just over 20 of my posts since have included Twitter as a label, with many of them linking to writing (the most memorable to me being this by Clay Travis) about Twitter as a platform for disseminating all types of communication.

Bilton in Hatching Twitter writes a highly entertaining book that I found myself at times wondering how accurate it all was, but the people portrayed (with the possible exception of a seemingly batty CEO Coach) and their actions struck me as quite plausible, especially given the presence of power, prestige, money and strongly held beliefs.

Detailed in the book is how Twitter began in 2005 out of a podcasting startup, Odeo, that was founded by Noah Glass and funded by Ev Williams who made his money by starting and then selling Blogger to Google. With $200K in Odeo, Williams became CEO and around this time, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone joined the company and then the podcasting website idea basically got killed when Apple said they were going to have Podcasting on iTunes, leading to Dorsey’s idea of building something around a “status update” message similar to what was up on AOL instant messaging. Glass came up with the name Twitter for the venture and was completely enthused about the human connections the idea could foster, but then fired from the company by Williams as the lead investor lost confidence in and disagreed with Glass on many things.
Twitter hit big at the 2007 South by Southwest conference in Austin, TX and when roles and leaders were then established, Dorsey was the first CEO with 20% of the company, Williams as the lead investor 70%, Stone and Jason Goldman around 3% each with the remaining 4% split up among other employees. Not long after this, Williams and Dorsey began to have disagreements and Venture Capital investors Fred Wilson and Bijan Sabet came into the picture and sided with Williams on feelings of unhappiness with the CEO.

In 2008, Dorsey was forced out as CEO, but not from the company and he then accepted any and all press requests that came his way and burnished his reputation and perceived role at Twitter at the same time that he began the payment processing company Square. Additionally, Peter Fenton came in as a Twitter investor and would prove a Dorsey ally as the former CEO began to undermine Williams and, along with the aforementioned unbelievable CEO-coach Bill Campbell, force Williams out as CEO with him being replaced in Summer of 2010 by then COO Dick Costello.

There are lots of salacious details throughout the story from Bilton and it makes for entertaining reading that of course portrays some people in a better light than others, but all seems plausible and makes a fascinating read on the people behind a remarkable communication tool.

Esquire essays by Chiarella on helping someone & Jones on doing stand-up

Two different pieces of writing in the latest issue of Esquire stood out as excellent life-lessons type stories as part of the "83 Things You Need to Do Before You Die" section of the issue.

Tom Chiarella wrote "I Don't Have a Life List" and Chris Jones did "Live Your Nightmare," with both being really well-done introspective looks at things they've done.

"Grandma Gatewood's Walk" by Ben Montgomery

Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery was an interesting tale of one woman's determination and journey as she in 1995 became the first woman to through-hike the entire 2,050 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

The story of Emma Gatewood was a compelling one with her raising 11 children while enduring an abusive husband, leaving him, and then after her children were grown taking off on her own and doing the AT hike at the age of 67. Then two years later, she hiked the trail again, later hiked the general path of the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon and in 1964 did the Appalachian Trail for a third time.

Also interesting was mention of how heavily she was followed by the national media as word of her hike began to spread, and then towards the very end of the book, Montgomery wrote of meeting on the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine through-hikers who cited Gatewood as an inspiration.

The read for me did get to be slow going at times, but I think that was due simply to the less than glamorous subject and the book built up to solid meaning with (among other things) the idea that it's never too late for someone to do what they want to do and turn themselves into something they weren't previously.

I waited until completing the book to read it, but also found interesting Montgomery's piece for Nieman Storyboard on writing the book.