Wick Communications

‘Sports led me to everything’

In sports on October 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm

I hadn’t yet figured out that sports led me to everything and everything led me back to sports.

That’s a line from the middle of a wonderful book by Robert Lipsyte, called, “An Accidental Sportswriter.” Lipsyte is now 70ish, I think, and one of the most prolific writers I know. After a very successful career as a New York Times sportswriter, Lipsyte quit to write books. He’s also done some TV along the way. He’s written about a dozen young adult novels and several nonfiction books. The latest is his look back at sportswriting for the Times. Half Moon Bay Review sportswriter Mark Foyer got the book signed for me, as you can see, and I’m grateful for the good read.

Lipsyte fawns over Gay Talese. Talese, of course, was one of the greatest of the New Journalists of the 1960s and ’70s, men (they were mostly men, with the notable exception of Joan Didion) who inserted themselves in the stories or otherwise didn’t pretend to be entirely objective. Talese led Lipsyte away from standard game stories in the sports department, where both men worked.

I just wanted to talk about that quote for a minute. Sports is life distilled into a game, or a never-ending series of games. There are heroic moments, boring times, failure, defeat, shame. All of that is true, to a point, but that’s not entirely what Lipsyte is talking about, if I may be so bold. …

When Lipsyte wrote about Muhammad Ali, for example, he knew he wasn’t writing about a boxer. He was writing about a cultural phenomenon, the war in Vietnam, the racial divide, marketing, showmanship, machismo, religion, money — he was writing about America in a time of war, civil rights activism and change. Think of it like this: Sports, for Lipsyte and Talese, was simply a medium, in the way that watercolors are a medium for some other artists.

I’ve written about this time and again, but sports needn’t be last night’s field hockey game. More compelling stories are written about the women who play the game.

Read Lipsyte. See how it’s done.

Clay

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  1. I completely agree with you, sports are so important in this country. They also can unite a country

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