What Makes a Good Sports Story?

I’ve been hopping around in The Only Game in Town: The New Yorker Book of Sports Writing, edited by David Remnick.

It’s the second sports book I’ve picked up, after an unskillfully written but completely engrossing book on ultra-long-distance cycling.

To my knowledge, before two months ago I have never so much as cracked open a book-length work about sports or games.

But now I’m thinking about doing a little sports writing of my own. So I am reading this compendium in hopes of trying to figure out what makes sports writing interesting, if and when it is interesting. Why is sports a compelling topic? How do writers approach it?

So far, I have read six pieces. Some guy on open-water surfing off San Fransicso’s Ocean Beach. A profile of marathon swimmer Lynn Cox. A piece by Malcolm Gladwell about why athletes fail. A layered piece by Adam Gopnik about an influential art-history teacher of his, who later coached his eight-year-old son’s football team while dying of cancer. A piece by Nancy Franklin about ping-pong. Haruki Murakami’s personal essay about writing and running.

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