Here at Awful Announcing, and across the sports media world, we spent a lot of time talking about TV. And while TV is a fun and dynamic medium (and, more importantly, pays the bills) we sometimes forget the less-heralded heroes of sports media: the writers. So with that in mind, we take some time every month to recap the highlights of the past few weeks of sportswriting, including some recommendations for stories you may have missed.
Without further ado, here’s the best in sportswriting from the month of March.
Sportswriter of the month: Wright Thompson
Ask 100 sportswriters to name their favorite sportswriter, and no one will receive more votes than Wright Thompson. Though few people alive can write like Thompson, what really separates the ESPN Magazine feature wizard is his special ability to figure out what makes someone tick. He takes inscrutable subjects (Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, for example) and offers clear-eyed views into their psyches.
In March, ESPN published three pieces from Thompson, and all were brilliant. There was a piercing profile of Ichiro, for which he traveled to Japan and observed the legendary outfielder’s meticulous routine. And a beautiful dispatch from the funeral of Italian soccer star Davide Astori. And best of all, a truly illuminating piece on the unique position of UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.
All in all, it was quite a month for the guy many call the best sportswriter working.
Columns of the month:
UConn bad for women’s basketball? Not by a long shot; by Natalie Weiner, Bleacher Report
As people who don’t watch women’s basketball shrieked about how UConn’s dominance (well, up to a point) is bad for the sport, Natalie Weiner went out and talked to people actually in the sport. Spoiler alert: They’re not upset!
Help! I married my dreaded baseball rival (a love story); by Daniel Brown, The Mercury News
This is just so darn charming.
This is how to pay college athletes; by Patrick Hruby, Deadspin
Do you think college athletes should be paid, but wonder how exactly that payment would work? This piece provides pretty much all the answers you need.
Oral history of the month:
Kyrie Irving: One and done to No. 1; by Aaron Dodson, The Undefeated
This piece offers a fascinating game-by-game look at Kyrie Irving’s brief but impressive college basketball career, through the eyes of the opponents he dominated.
The month in sportswriting news:
- The Athletic is expanding once again. In March, the site announced new hubs in Seattle, Denver and Tampa, and a Boston vertical appears to be on its way.
- Among The Athletic’s many new hires is former Sports Illustrated media columnist Richard Deitsch.
- How is the site growing so quickly? Well it received $20 million in funding in its latest investment round. Here’s how that figure compares to what other digital media companies have pulled in over the years.
- Barstool’s premium service should be arriving soon.
- FanRag Sports cut ties with a large number of writers, many of them part-time or freelance.
- A round of Chicago Tribune layoffs included the paper’s Blackhawks and White Sox reporters.
- The Ringer parted ways with president Eric Weinberger over sexual harassment allegations.
- National NFL writer Jim Trotter has left ESPN to join NFL Media, where he will appear on both NFL.com and NFL Network.
- CBS Sports reporter Jon Rothstein has reportedly filed for a trademark on the phrase, “This is March.”
- Cubs blogger Michael Cerami promised to jump into Lake Michigan if Ian Happ homered in the Cubs’ first at-bat of the season. Happ did his part and so did Cerami.
- Here’s a fun one: Former ESPN reporter Jane McManus appeared on an episode of House Hunters International.
Stories of the month:
LaMarcus Aldridge finally opens up; by Michael Pina, VICE Sports
There is probably no NBA star who keep a lower profile than LaMarcus Aldridge. This profile is a rare opportunity to get to know the future Hall of Famer.
How Charles Koch turned Wichita State into a college-basketball powerhouse; by Zach Helfand, New Yorker
An example of why sports and politics can never be fully separated from each other: Conservative maga-donor Charles Koch has invested huge sums in Wichita State basketball and might be using the team to further his agenda.
Tim Lincecum and the weird gremlin of grief; by Levi Weaver, The Athletic
This profile of Tim Lincecum doubles as a meditation on what it’s like living through grief.
How Giancarlo Stanton negotiated his way to the Yankees to create baseball’s scariest lineup; by Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated
This was a well-reported behind-the-scenes look from multiple angles at how Giancarlo Stanton wound up a Yankee.
Smooth operator: Dwane Casey is still ironing out every wrinkle he can find; by Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated
Lee Jenkins’ profile of the Raptors’ Dwane Casey explores the winding career of an NBA Coach of the Year favorite, including how he has pushed back on stereotypes about black coaches.
Suicides, drug addiction and high school football; by Juliet Macur
This is a powerful glimpse at how drugs and suicide have affected a small Indiana town and what role a struggling football team plays there.
Countdown to liftoff: How Joey Gallo and Josh Donaldson embody baseball’s new era; by Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated
Tom Verducci provides the most comprehensive story to date about what baseball’s vaunted fly-ball revolution looks like and what it means for the sport.
Like mother, like son: Villanova’s Mikal Bridges saw strength every day growing up and had no choice but to follow suit; by Dana O’Neil, The Athletic
Instead of painting Tyneeha Rivers as a supporting actress in her son Mikal Bridges’ basketball career, Dana O’Neill makes her the star of the story in this short profile. Pieces like this one make that Athletic subscription pay off.
A new Dawn; by Allison Glock, ESPN
You’ll walk away from this profile feeling that, 1. South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley is one of the most interesting people in sports. 2. You now really understand what she’s all about.
And the three must-read stories of the month…
‘Why not us?’ The story behind UMBC’s upset for the ages; by Brian Hamilton, The Athletic
In the hours after UMBC’s upset of Virginia, Brian Hamilton put together a thorough, engaging look at the multi-year process that culminated in the Retrievers making history. It’s the best piece you’ll read on the 16-seed triumph we’ve all been waiting for.
When winter never ends; by Wright Thompson, ESPN
Thompson went to Japan to create the most intimate portrait of the ever-fascinating Ichiro that you’re likely to find.
Pretending to be okay; by Wright Thompson, ESPN
Geno Auriemma would seem to have as carefree a coaching job as exists in sports, but as this incisive profile shows, it’s not easy to lead a team for whom a single loss — or even a close win — constitutes a massive failure.