In the introduction to The Best American Sports Writing 2012, guest editor Michael Wilbon remarks on those who would assume the mantle of yesteryear’s sports columnists “coming of age in a world where every semi-literate with a phone can publish his opinion.”
Wilbon and series editor Glen Stout joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game. Today Wilbon co-hosts ESPN's 'Pardon The Interruption', but he spent more than 30 years covering sports for the Washington Post. Wilbon said the sports writers featured in the book rise above the crowd because of their attention to a craft he fears is suffering in the Digital Age.
"People have opinions. There's no shortage of opinions, and there are more of them [now]," Wilbon said. "It used to be, as a young journalist, I didn't express my opinion for years, because I didn't think it was informed enough. It wasn't well-rounded enough, there wasn't enough depth there. Now, everybody thinks their opinion is gold. That creates a great forum for conversation, and maybe our conversations are better, but our writing is not.
"Fortunately, there are still a lot of people who can write," Wilbon continued, "and I tried to really include their work in this edition because I thought that they brought some fascinating discussions and, sometimes, discoveries to their work."
Bill's thoughts on The Best American Sports Writing 2012
The current edition of The Best American Sports Writing is worth buying for Alex Belth's fine appreciation of the late George Kimball, "The Two-Fisted, One-Eyed Misadventures of Sportswriting's Last Badass." In that story, Kimball got the obit he earned and deserved.
Taylor Branch's "The Shame of College Sports" is in the collection, too, just in case you missed it in The Atlantic. There are also a couple of excellent and necessary stories having to do with the work-related brain damage suffered by various athletes.
S.L. Price's appreciation of the baggage Novak Djokovic bears whether or not he's playing tennis is superb. Share it with someone who doesn't think politics should be allowed to creep into sports stories.
Jere Longman's appreciation of soccer star Lionel Messi is splendidly entertaining.
I look forward to The Best American Sports Writing each year. I always find stories I somehow missed when they first appeared, especially as more online pieces have made their way into the collection.
This segment aired on January 5, 2013. The audio for this segment is not available.