This collection of 27 pieces is notable in several respects. The gamut of sports covered is wide, ranging from bicycling to snowboarding, while also including the traditional sports of baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. The number of articles from publications for whom sports is not a primary category is quite high; we see articles from Esquire, The Atticus Review, and Alpinist, among others. The themes covered are also far-ranging, from sports as education ("Learning to Dunk") to sports as a welcoming stage for bad actors ("The Most Dangerous Man in Football") to sports as a character builder ("Her Decision, Their Life"). What is common among them is this: the profession of sports writing in America is quite robust and arguably in good hands, given the number of first-timers to this collection.
While the majority of pieces are notable for their attention to detail and the eloquence of the narrative arc, Eric Moskovitz’s story about Jessica Kensky and the aftermath of her injury following the Boston Marathon bombing stands out. Both Jessica and her husband, Patrick, lost their left legs below the knee because of the bombing. Patrick’s injury healed well, both physically and in terms of making him feel normal, more or less, again. Not so Jessica’s. Part of her problem was the nature of her injury, but a lot of it had also to do with her stubbornness in eschewing certain kinds of treatment and embracing others. This is a sports story because it deals with long-distance runners. But it is also a story of courage, one’s ability to deal with pain, and more importantly, how one holds on to one’s beliefs even in adverse circumstances. Jessica Kensky’s story is both poignant because of what happened to her, and also a story of indomitable courage that, in Moskovitz’s telling, is plausibly rational and convincing.
This annual collection is a national treasure. While all the stories may not appeal to every reader, there is enough in it to satisfy even the most discerning one. Jessica Kensky’s story is just one example.