November 8th, 2011 / 11:35 pm


True to his plan, arrogant and contemptuous of an opponent’s worth as never before, Ali opened the fight flat-footed in the center of the ring, his hands whipping out and back like the pistons of an enormous and magnificent engine. Much broader than he has ever been, the look of swift destruction defined by his every move, Ali seemed indestructible. Once, so long ago, he had been a splendidly plumed bird who wrote on the wind a singular kind of poetry of the body, but now he was down to earth, brought down by the changing shape of his body, by a sense of his own vulnerability, and by the years of excess. Dancing was for a ballroom; the ugly hunt was on. Head up and unprotected, Frazier stayed in the mouth of the cannon, and the big gun roared again and again.

And, you know, this. Whatever.

And could anyone point me to better next-day Kram (or same) writing about sports? RIP literary sports writing, like of the event, once the actual norm before the YELLING. YELLING is now sports reporting, eh? Get off my YAWN. Who writes very well about sports now? I ask you. I ask. I mean in Good Faith: I’ll read your answer.

RIP Joe Frazier.


  1. Matthew Simmons

      1) Joe Frazier on Writing:

      2) Waiting on

  2. rawbbie

      The best sports writing on the webb, hands down:… though, they are giving Maurice Clarett a column, which reads like a high school essay.  Ignore that.  Almost everything else is pretty good and clever.   I love this piece about cricket.

  3. rawbbie

      just started reading that piece again and laughed almost immediately.  It’s the best piece of sports writing on cricket ever.

  4. Anonymous

      I agree with Grantland. They have Simmons, Klosterman, John Brandon, Colson Whitehead, Katie Baker. I usually find myself reading about things I thought I didn’t care about.

  5. Willie

      Second to The Classical. I’ll read just about anything that Bethlehem Shoals writes. When FreeDarko died, so did a little piece of my heart. 

  6. Matthew Simmons

      Mark Kram is pretty amazing, though. Ghosts of Manilla is a damn good book.

      I mean, it’s no Devil and Sonny Liston, but…

  7. Matthew Simmons

      Tom Bissell. 

  8. Hugh Behm-Steinberg

      Joyce Carol Oates, On Boxing.

  9. GUEST
  10. GUEST
  11. Kyle Minor

      “What’s Inside You, Brother?” by Toure, in Never Drank the Kool-Aid
      Levels of the Game, by John McPhee

  12. Gary McDowell

      Bissinger’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is damn fine.  And Thomas McGuane on fishing is some of the best writing, on sport or not, out there.

  13. alex crowley

      Simon Kuper’s soccer writing, while it tends towards economics/sociology, is pretty great. I also regularly enjoy Phil Ball’s (not the scientist of the same name) columns on Spain for soccernet (even though I could give a toss about the Primera Liga).

  14. thestage

      Wright Thompson.

      If you think Klosterman or Simmons are good at anything but filtering pop culture, then you’re not worth listening to.  Someone above said he/she enjoys their writing because it makes them “read about things I thought I didn’t care about”–that would be because you’re not actually reading about those things, you’re reading about Simmons and Klosterman as they perform the literary equivalent of an underwear readjustment.

      Ralph Wiley died seven years ago.  Does he still count?

  15. Brandon

      If we are talking about a regular sports columnist, Joe Posnanski’s blog is what I turn to, but certainly not for great writing. Instead I’m sympathetic to the new perspectives being applied to the analysis of sports. For the most part, this is what people mean when they speak of the new presence of “advanced statistics” in sports writing. This has a lot to do with the popularity of “Fantasy sports,” but it also alters how many sports fans come to think of how the game works and how it should be played and consumed. I say this due to the fact that Posnanski is on the leading advocates of advance baseball statistics, and writes in the vein of a classic columnists. What I mean by that, is his features have clear and repetitious patterns in their treatment of any issue.

      For people that often enjoy a not-so lofty (in terms of the degree of writing), regular sports column, his is great; everyday I know exactly what I’m getting (much like a pro-baseball season), written with care and humor. (Two good pieces from Posnanski: &

      The problem, identified rightly by Lovelace, is that the right-wing radio model was adapted by ESPN and the sports desks of major newspapers around the same time. Today, if you turn on sports radio or watch Around the Horn or read a columnist like Dan Shaughnessy, you feel the anger, the frustrated masculinity, the aggression; it is nothing but yelling and irrational exuberance. These are only games, remember.

      As far as where to turn for great *writing* on sports, I worry that the days of the aged columnist as wordsmith, carefully capturing the emotion a sporting event as much as the action, I fear those days are gone. Why should I look to the paper for the vivid, when I have every spectacular catch or walk-off homerun recorded in High Definition in my living room. This is the reason for the adaptation of the rant style; people’s expectation of the sports section, and the paper in general, changed, and business models on which the papers’ are built along with it.

      There are still great pieces being written about sports, but they are scare and sites devoted to sports feature them irregularly. For a while Free Darko was shockingly original (, but it ran out of gas or Shoals moved or whatever. Grantland is full of fluffy and garbage, but there are good pieces there sometimes, so it shouldn’t be abandoned just because one may not like Bill Simmons.

      In the end, the nostalgia for the great sports writing of the past is a false one; the vast majority of sports writing is crap. And it’s always been crap. It is the writer that is important. If great writers take up the subject, great writing is produced; if not, then it isn’t. So when someone like David Halberstam or Michael Lewis turns to sports, the results are among their best works.Sorry for the long post, I grew up with the Boston Globe, so I guess, as to the question of good regular sports writers: I’ll also put in a vote for Bob Ryan and Jackie MacMullan. Of the bunch, they are better than most.

  16. deadgod

      nothing but yelling and irrational exuberance

      There is plenty of both of these on the ESPN and other sports line-ups (the CBS and Fox NFL shows are especially egregious), but let me quarrel with your “nothing”:  many shows, including Around The Horn, privilege telling stats.  Dogmatic assumption of statistics as, not pictures of things, but those things themselves, is a danger (not just in sports, of course), but attaching analysis, impression, and even “exuberance” to countable, measurable criteria is a way of valuing both rational method and empirical compulsion, neither of which are, eh, featured in right-wing propaganda.

      This is no argument for, say, Skippy Brainless or any of the mere “yelling” – or for the incontinent moralizing that suffocates substantive, progressive conversation on political-economic and social perspectives of sport (cf. the McMartin Preschool frenzy shitting down all over Paterno these days).  –nor is it a defense of, say, Reali’s preferential prejudices. 

      But I do think you see reasonable quantitative analysis – some – and even some elegant extemporaneous expression on tv sports.

  17. deadgod

      I’d also say that the HDTV-etc. erosion of “wordsmith[ing]” is a much larger transformation – okay, alright:  maybe it’s a ‘problem’ – than just in sportswriting, and that Sturgeon’s Law respects almost no genre immunity (none that I can think of off-hand).

      [By the way, the address to your link to the Free Darko piece concludes with a close-parenthesis and goes to the 404 unzone.  I tried it without that punctuation mark and ran right into a paywall.]

  18. kevocuinn
  19. Brandon

      I certainly do concede to your points, deadgod. Especially around the danger posed by so-called rational statistical analyses, e.g. “econometrics” and such. I also agree that I overstated the point that there is “nothing but yelling and irrational exuberance.” I watch ESPN and enjoy much of it.

      The link was to a review in Harper’s of FreeDarko Presents: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History & Play Their Hearts Out, by George Dohrmann. Sorry for the paywall, but it is an interesting take on sports writing and AAU basketball.





  22. Leapsloth14

      Damn, great reply. Thanks.

  23. John_murn

      Jonah keri deserves mention here, too, though he writes for grantland and other outlets already mentioned here.