Glenn Stout, the series editor from its inception in 1991, insists that this is a collection of “sports writing” and not “sportswriting.” To him, it is simply good writing that covers sports and not some poor variant of journalism. When done extremely well, sports story transcends sports and succeeds in taking the reader to a general contemplation of life. Each year, this estimable collection reiterates Stout’s contention. Stout and Wright Thompson, the editor of this volume, have culled from various sources
(quite a few of them from online publications), twenty-one pieces that range from the good to the sublime.
From early January 1990 to December of the following year, the Haverford College men’s basketball team had played forty games before they won one. The
Sports Illustrated writer Chris Ballard’s brother was on that team. Goaded by his brother to revisit the streak, Ballard embarks on a journey that has equal amounts of humor and pathos. The team’s haplessly outmaneuvered coach, David Hooks, uses all kinds of motivational techniques (all the while mixing his metaphors) to no avail as the team wends its way to Division III ignominy. Ballard’s fine piece describes the streak as it happens but also buttresses his work by revisiting the players nearly twenty-five years later.
Katie Baker’s article about the Kansas City Royals' successful run to the 2014 World Series does not have a single baseball term, anecdote, or game description. Instead, it is a powerful piece on the siren charms of the city and its ability to connect people long after they have moved. To Baker, now living in Seattle, Kansas City was where her parents met, married, and spent the first years of their wedded life. And yet, the Royals’ march through the 2014 playoffs brings back magical memories of a city with a colorful past.
Much has been written about Cuban baseball players defecting to the U.S. and the treacherous route that they take to freedom. In fact, previous versions of this series have chronicled them. Somehow, by virtue of his meticulous attention to detail and his deep reporting, Scott Eden adds poignancy to Yasiel Puig’s journey to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There are other fine pieces--Don Van Atta Jr.’s profile of Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner,
or Jeremy Collins’ tale of Greg Maddux’s dominance as a pitcher interspersed with his narrative of a friend’s descent to alcoholism--to name a few in this collection that would attract the sports fan. This is a must read for those interested in sports as well as for those interested in good longform writing. The authors are indeed “sports writers”!