Lists and Notable Articles and Sport

The Best Sports Journalism Ever (According to Bill Simmons)

By posted at 7:21 am on October 12, 2008 13

I’m still fairly new to reading ESPN’s Bill Simmons (and despite his relentless Boston boosterism, I get a kick out of his columns). One reason is that he has some interests beyond the ballfield, quite rare for folks who make a living in sports punditry, and contained within his columns, you’ll sometimes find gems like the list of “best sports pieces ever written” that he dropped into his “Mailbag” this week.

The list is really terrific, and, as much because I want to remember it as I do share it with you, I decided to try to find links to some of these pieces online (or at least to the books that contain them).

Simmons put the list together after a fan asked him whether his recent footnote-adorned column on Manny Ramirez was in tribute to David Foster Wallace. Simmons said no, but that it was a meaningful coincidence. The reader mentioned Wallace’s famous “Federer as Religious Experience” as an exemplary piece of sports writing. Simmons agreed, but said that it is in fact superseded by Wallace’s “Tennis Player Michael Joyce’s Professional Artistry as a Paradigm for Certain Stuff about Choice, Freedom, Discipline, Joy, Grotesquerie, and Human Completeness,” (from A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again) which Simmons calls “one of the single best sports pieces ever written.” He then shares his list of the rest of the best (with the first seven joining “Joyce” as the best ever):

So, literary sports fans, do you have any you want to add to this list? Share in the comments below.

See Also: The New New Journalists, Football Books: A Best Sports Writing Addendum

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13 Responses to “The Best Sports Journalism Ever (According to Bill Simmons)”

  1. Robert C.
    at 12:28 pm on October 12, 2008

    The original Esquire version of David Foster Wallace's essay on Michael Joyce is available online. If that link didn't come through:

    The book version is expanded, I believe.

  2. Max
    at 12:32 pm on October 12, 2008

    Awesome. Thanks. I've added the Joyce link to the post.

  3. beastie978
    at 6:19 pm on October 12, 2008

    One of my all-time favorites is Ralph Wiley's piece about the Ray Mancini/Duk Koo Kim fight in 1982, Then All The Joy Turned To Sorrow


  4. AC
    at 7:54 am on October 13, 2008

    Gah! This is frustrating. I spent about an hour and a half on Saturday finding the same links. :) You've done it cleaner than I would have, and found all of the Talese links I couldn't.
    Here's the article I'm going to add when I link to here, about Bob Kalsu, the only professional athlete killed in Vietnam.

  5. bdr
    at 1:26 pm on October 13, 2008


    (Excellent) novelist Tim Parks wrote a book about following Serie A squad Hellas Verona around Italy for a season (as they tried to avoid relegation – unsuccessfully) with its hardest-core fans called *A Season with Verona,* that's terrific.

    Philip Ball, who covers soccer for The Guardian, wrote a book about Spain, Spanish history, and how it all plays out in Spanish football called *Morbo* that's even better.

  6. Anonymous
    at 6:04 pm on October 14, 2008
  7. Max
    at 6:08 pm on October 14, 2008

    Thanks anon. I added the link for Centre Court.

  8. Frank
    at 8:29 pm on November 2, 2008

    The Heresy of the Zone Defense, by Dave Hickey:

  9. Noumenon
    at 5:47 am on November 3, 2008

    Moneyball is so much better written than that excerpt about Michael Jordan. You really get to know the players he profiles, and I teared up at the end.

  10. Nick E
    at 7:47 am on November 3, 2008

    The best sports book I've read is CLR James' "Beyond a Boundary," which is about cricket but also about sports in general, imperialism, art, race, culture, and the human spirit. It was written in the sixties but still well worth reading, even if like me you have little interest in or understanding of cricket. Particularly worthwhile are his chapters on whether sports can be considered art (the answer is basically yes).

    Here's a great review by Joseph O'Neill (author of Netherland):

  11. Marc
    at 1:11 am on September 21, 2010

    It would be interesting also to read some writing by women or about sportswomen.

  12. Bryan
    at 10:00 am on March 30, 2012

    Great information for my project SPEAK THE TRUTH!!

  13. Sara
    at 12:12 am on April 22, 2015

    Nothing But Nets by Rick Reilly
    Jaw dropping, heart thumping, tear jerking…this article has helped to raise 45 million dollars and save countless lives. An amazing projection of the impact of sports on the human condition and its universality…

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