Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Long Form Love: A Tale of Two Cities

One of the most beautiful things to me about sports is the powerful ability it has to produce unique and compelling narratives. Some famous sportswriter (I don't remember who) said that there are only four types of writable sports stories: The underdog wins, the underdog fails, the champion wins, the champion fails. I find this type of thinking to have two opposite-side-of-the-coin type effects: Bad sportswriting (see every article on espn.com for evidence) and a denial of the truly vast potential athletics have to unveil a living, breathing and wholly distinct tale. And every so often journalists who are committed to that potential come along and help reveal it. Two fairly recent(one from last week, one from last month) basketball articles do that and I wanted to take this opportunity to praise them, as I felt they really shed light on what sports journalism could potentially be:

What a Difference a Freakishly Long, Ungodly Talented, Defensive Wizard of a Man Makes
by Chuck Klosterman

Absolutely, Positively the Worst Team in the History of Professional Sports
by Jeff Coplon

Klosterman is one of those uber-hip cultural critics/novelist that are running around nowadays, and he has written some really solid basketball pieces, including an excellent New York Times piece on Gilbert Arenas. He also wrote an obnoxiously hip piece about how Nash's pass first attitude and liberalism make him some sort of hoops socialist that I felt showed little insight into either socialism or D'Antoni's system, but I can get into that another day. For now, enjoy what is really a great piece on the role players who were with both the abysmal 2006-2007 Celtics and the dominant 07-08 Celtics.

I actually don't know much about Coplon, except for the prose in his essay is exquisite and the poignancy with which he captures the Knicks collapse is unrivaled. I think he's a beat writer for an NYC paper (an anecdote about Marbury during the piece suggests it).

Both of these pieces are not merely examples of good sports writing, but just flat out good writing, something which should be much more highly valued in the world of sports journalism (I'm looking at you, Bill Simmons).

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