Did you see this photo doing the rounds on Facebook a few weeks ago? cyqle8i6

It made me chuckle but I soon realised that most of the people that were sharing this photo were writers making light of their football fan friends or partners. I thought the real laughs came from the way the comic tapped into the inanity of the sideline report, with a person that is likely exhuasted and trying their best not to say something stupid. But I think the reposting of this photo might have had a bit more of an underlying malice, like the poster thought sport was stupid too.

I’ve often wondered why people that like sports and people that like books are regularly categorised as being on opposite side in the Blue Light Disco of cool. I've never quite understood it. Mostly because, on a lazy Internet jaunt I'm just as likely to end up at the Lifted Brow as I am on ESPN, and I think I'm fairly cool.

But isn't it just a lazy dichotomy to say that writers and sports don't mix? I mean, poetry used to be an Olympic sport!

I've given these two worlds plenty of thought since our editor Sam said 'Hey, you like Sport. Want to write something about writing and sports?" It was a broad scope and one I struggled with it until I thought about this scene.

Powerful stuff.

And everyone loves Cool Runnings.

Throughout the film there is not a swearword, car chase or love interest in sight. There's not even that much bobsled. It's a simple story of team of failed Jamaican sprinters who go to the Winter Olympics. And it's really good.

It got me thinking about what makes great sportswriting. Surely, in order for a sports book, film or article to be really good it simply has to go beyond the result of the game. Otherwise it's just sports news.

Below, I've included some of my favourite pieces of sports writing. I'm sure there are more and I'd love you to share your favourites.

Friday Night Lights

The best teammates ever?

The best teammates ever? © NBC

The list has to start here. FNL's is a major network television show about Texas high-school football. It's got some of the best character development I've ever seen and from the very first episode with Jason Street, you know this isn't going to be your average rom-com/sport show. There is also a book and a film, but for me, it's all about Coach and Tami Taylor.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougal


McDougall had been a staff writer for Men's Health and Esquire when he was sent to the physio to figure out why his feet hurt. He was told to stop running but was encouraged by his then editor to find the secret behind ultamarathon runners success, and set off to the badlands of Mexico's Copper Canyons. It's beautifully written, researched and deeply philosophical.

Independence Day - Richard Ford


Can you get more meta than a book called The Sportswriter? I found the sequel to it (Independence Day) in a secondhand bookshop during my second year of university, just around the same time I was thinking about packing it in. Reading about Frank Bascombe's failed writing (and real-estate) career and him finding his books on shelfs at discount stores was one of the strongest images I've ever read in fiction.

Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach


The story goes that Harbach (of n+1) spent ten years writing, editing and shopping this baseball book. And that seems like just about right amount of time because this book is just about perfect. Surely, it will be turned into a film, with lots of good looking people and win many awards.

Samba Soccer

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 06.28.31

A recent article in the New Yorker about the mighty Corinthians football team of Sao Paulo, set amongst gang violence, poverty and the megabucks of FIFA. Fascinating. 

From Russia, with love

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 06.31.11

Grantland is my favourite sportswriting website. It also focuses on pop culture and recent coverage of the Sochi Olympic games, as well as profiles on Woody Allen and Philip Seymour Hoffman show the great depth and range of its writers. Check out this fascinating story about Ice Hockey billets in Nebraska.

The Manti Te'o Saga

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 06.35.48

Want a real life Catfish? Well, this is it. Te'o played the game of his life days after hearing of the death of his girlfriend. Only, she didn't ever exist.

Michael Jordan has not left the building

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 06.38.18

A profile on one of the most recognisable figures of 90's sport and definitely the most famous basketballer of all time as he reaches 50. He's still got an obsession with winning that borders on the mentally unwell.

Friday Night Tykes

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 06.41.03

Story about the best under-12 football team in the whole of Texas. And probably the world.

20 Minutes at Rucker Park

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 06.42.22

Fascinating profile a basketballers journey from Sacramento to New York to chase a streetball dream.

Originally I was asked to write something about being in the minority as a sports fan and book nerd. I struggled with it because I didn't ever think they should be mutually exclusive things. It did occur to me though at the 2012 National Young Writers' Festival on that day in September, watching a Sydney team play a Melbourne team for the premiership flag, that there might not be such a big crossover. Sure, Benjamin Law or someone brilliant was hosting a panel, but I thought there would have been more of a NYWF/AFL crossover? Perhaps not.

All I know is, the stories above, for me, transcend sport and could be appreciated by any non-sports fan. But actually playing sport, well that might be a different story.


Geoff Orton is a teacher, founder of Writers Bloc and a tragic Boston Celtics fan.

admin's picture


Lorem ipsum....