So yesterday I’m hanging out with some buddies and we’re talking sports. Rambling on about the state of the Orioles and who the Ravens should draft and how the Washington Wizards aren’t going to make it out of the first round regardless of how many points Jamison scores. And as we’re talking it struck me that sports enthusiasts speak in a language that’s both fascinating and unique. And then I thought about sports writers. Many great writers either began their careers as covering sporting events or have incorporated sports into their work. Jack London and Ernest Hemingway are two names that immediately come to mind. Both worked as journalists before achieving critical success as novelists. While today there are many writers in our industry worthy of respect, Frank Deford, Tom Boswell and Mike Lupica for instance, I thought I’d offer you a short list of notable sports writers from the beginning of the 20th century. These five names stand atop the rest and pioneered the way for all the brilliant scribes who have come since.
1. Grantland Rice (1880-1954) Loved to use literary allusions and biblical quotes.. His account of the 1924 football game between Notre Dame-Army began with what has become the most famous paragraph in all of sports journalism…
“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction, and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”
2. Ring Lardner (1885-1933) Considered himself “merely a sports writer” but is also one of the great American short story writers of all time.
3. Damon Runyon (1884-1946) Covered the New York Giants and boxing for the New York American. Wrote about the seedy and eccentric New York characters who inhabited the sports and gambling world of the 20’s and 30’s.
4. Shirley Povich (1905-1998) Became a columnist and sports writer for the Washington Post in 1923. Continued to write well into his eighties and had a keen ability to take the past and bring it into the present. Yes, his son is Maury Povich.
5. Red Smith (1905-1972) Became the first sportswriter to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. When asked about writing his famous quote was:
“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
I wish it was that easy… Okay, next blog will be back to local sports and hahas. I promise. But check these guys out. Their work is phenomenal and they’ve set a standard the rest of us can only reach towards but never surpass.