An accidental sportswriter : a memoir by Robert Lipsyte

By Robert Lipsyte

A long-time activities columnist for the 'New York occasions' combines own tales with the occasions he has lined, discussing how 'Jock tradition' has permeated enterprise, politics, and kin lifestyles, and the way its definitions became the normal to degree worth

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I couldn’t even discuss the chart with Dad because he was a schoolteacher. I didn’t want to make him feel bad. Now, of course, I wish I had. He could have taken it. I would have learned something. Maybe I was less concerned about his feelings than about appearing soft and weak to him. I saw Dad as a tough guy. He may have loved to read philosophy, but his career—from middle school English teacher through principal to director of the city’s several dozen schools for troubled kids—had been in rough neighborhoods bristling with switchblades and zip guns.

Lelyveld recalls Gay’s admonition to stay off page one, where the full weight of the Times stylebook could crush a lively story. A good writer, said Gay, will be discovered wherever he shows up in the paper. Slim, handsome, friendly, impeccably be-suited by his New Jersey tailor father, Gay had been a Times copyboy after the University of Alabama (the only college he could get into and then with strings pulled by one of his father’s customers). He had returned from the army to be a reporter in sports.

Those were the two main approaches to sportswriting when I showed up, although two spirited tabloid writers, Jimmy Cannon (the most socially conscious of his generation and a man who called sportswriters “the vaudevillians of journalism”) and Dick Young were leading the way down from the Olympus of the press box to buttonhole athletes and coaches for quotes and explanations. Young was also running blind items in his gossipy New York Daily News columns that alluded to jock shenanigans, on and off the field.

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