Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sports Writing for English Majors

Over the course of the semester, I have made frequent, yet subtle, attempts to encourage my fellow graduate students to share my love of sports. I provided my colleagues with a detailed synopsis of the previous day's Seahawks game each Monday morning. When FIFA announced the World Cup groupings, I took up class time to explain the announcement's importance. When college basketball started up, I taught my classmates my favorite cheer: "Go, Gonzaga! G-O-N-Z-A-G-A!" I figured English majors would like all of the spelling.

Alas, few of my colleagues have joined me in my absolute and total love of sports. While my friends quote their favorite lines from whatever movie won the Superbowl of Indie films, I watch rugby highlight clips and a video capturing Randy Johnson exploding a bird with a well-timed fastball. Although those in my cohort congratulated me for Seattle's victory over Denver, it was with the same tepid enthusiasm with which I treat the pizza coupons that arrive in my mailbox.

So, I am now attempting a new way into their hearts. I will bring sports to the people through literature. One of my favorite blogs, The Airship, recently posted a list of the best sports books of all time, and I wholeheartedly agree with their decisions--especially number five. Also, the blog Narratively put up an interesting story about the extraordinary efforts that go into a live NFL television production. And, if you do not want to do any further reading, I watched Moneyball for the first time over the weekend, and it was awesome and does not require expansive baseball knowledge for enjoyment. (If you understand the terms "ball," "player," and "money," you'll be fine. Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman, may he rest in peace, plays the coach.)


  1. Thanks for posting this list of books. I haven't read any of those although I've heard of some of them. If you're ever interested in reading about the culture and part of the history of Alabama football, I highly Warren St. John's Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Allen Berra's The Last Coach, and Keith Dunnavant's The Missing Ring. You can borrow a my copy of any of these if you're interested.

    Although some people look down on the sports writing, there is some really good writing out there if you look, usually in book form. In baseball though, because of the influence of the SABR community, the advanced analytics and metrics used are quite interesting. But that type of writing is usually done on blogs like FanGraphs, et al. and websites devoted to fantasy baseball.

  2. I feel like we need to stop sleeping on sports writing. Good sports writing is fantastic stuff. And the sports world is a great place to reflect on culture at large. Gender, Economics, Race, Class, Education Policy, Language--everything intersects with sports and gets acted out in really interesting ways.

    Also, I have a thing for uniforms.

    Thanks for the sports/tech linkage. Crazy cool stuff.

    And I'll take this as an opportunity to plug my favorite sports blogger, David Grubb (yes. I have a favorite sports blogger). Check it.

  3. Dr. Taylor, I should have known that there are (at least) three books on Tide Football, and that you would be the guy to go see about them!

    And Terri, yeah, sports are often where issues in our society play out on a national stage. I mean, there is a lot of bad sports writing, but the good sports writing is really, really good. I'm about to go check out that blog.

  4. I have long enjoyed listening to sports analysts, specifically those who are commentators with sensibilities borrowed from entertainment woven into their opinions and the delivery of those opinions. I do not remember if Lombardi was much of a funny man; but I always had the sense that he knew how to make words count and had an impressive repertoire of rhetorical skills. I agree with you, Sean. If only I knew more about sports, I'd be bobbing and weaving it into all sorts of examples (does this one count?).