Best of 2011: Sportswriters for the ages

This week I’m reposting some of my favorite posts from this year, and one of the subjects I’ve been focusing on is the dizzying, ever-changing world of sports media. The trick is not to do too much navel-gazing, one of the hazards of the profession.

Sports media is the subject of amazingly constant attention, and there are so many others who are truly on top of this. When I try to chime in, it usually brings out the worst in me.

For insightful, mature criticism of a field where juvenilia reigns far too often, Richard Deitsch of SI.com is the king. For great links and his fabulously-worded “quotage,” there’s Ken Fang. Jason Fry is all over digital media trends as it pertains to sports journalism.

There are others I am forgetting, so I apologize.

My focus on this blog has largely been about media coverage of women’s sports, and how the usual bromides and complaints get my blood boiling. I don’t always feel proud about this either even though I think I had some valuable points to make.

When I’m done venting, I just feel skunky and dissatisfied. It’s so easy to sound off, but more difficult to offer a better way of looking at something.

Most recently, I’ve been delving into the careers of legendary writers who’ve recently passed, such as George Kimball, and those who continue to remind us that this domain at times has been unfairly labeled the Toy Department.

In that same link, I wrote about John Schulian, now a Hollywood screenwriter, who collaborated with Kimball on a boxing collection and has recently published a new collection of his own writings.

When I came across this interview with New York writer Alex Belth, I mentioned that I was nearly in tears — tears of joy. And this isn’t about nostalgia for some time that never was. This is a treasure trove of what has drawn so many journalists to sports, and what keeps us there.

That book, “Sometimes They Even Shook Your Hand,” is on my list to read early in 2012, as I blogged about a couple weeks back. Not long after that, I received an e-mail from Schulian, which truly blew me away:

“What a wonderful surprise to come across your kind words about SOMETIMES THEY EVEN SHOOK YOUR HAND. I was trolling the Internet, just hoping no one was teeing off on my book, when I found it on your list of holiday recommendations. A million thanks for your praise, and a million more for putting SOMETIMES in such splendid company.

“I wish I could take you back in time to the era I talked about in my interview with Alex Belth. Life really was that good for sports writers — stylistic freedom, budgets that allowed for lots of travel, athletes who spoke in more than cliches. I’m not sure I realized how lucky I was then, but I do now.”

How kind, and how flattering this was. This is of the biggest rewards of blogging — to be discovered by someone totally unexpected.

Now he’s really going to make me cry. Tears of joy, for other reasons.

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