Book Review: “The Best American Sports Writing 2012”

"The Best American Sports Writing 2012," edited by Michael Wilbon
“The Best American Sports Writing 2012,” edited by Michael Wilbon

Well, it’s that time again. Time to review another volume of Glenn Stout’s Best American Sports Writing series. Time to see what another bigwig in the sports journalism world thought was the best work done in his or her industry during the previous year.

For The Best American Sports Writing 2012, Michael Wilbon — the guy always yelling unnecessarily and somewhat incoherently at Tony Kornheiser on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” — was that bigwig.

In his introduction, Wilbon falls back on the almost cliched observation that journalists have gotten lazy in this modern world of social media. But unlike other such critics, Wilbon at least points out the role teams and players have also played in diluting the system, intentionally creating hermetically sealed press conferences that prevent journalists from asking any real questions getting a leg up on one another.

In his introduction, Wilbon said his collection tried to show that there are still quality sports writers out there, producing stories as good as anything he grew up reading.

And he’s right — BASW 2012 has some really terrific writing.

Perfect stories

Every so often, a BASW volume features a perfect story. Combining excellent structure and technique with rock-solid research, personal voice and timeliness, Taylor Branch’s “The Shame of College Sports” is one such perfect story.

In a 38-page carpet bombing of an article, Branch finally exposes the NCAA as the collection of greedy, hypocritical, dishonest tyrants that it is. Branch loudly and convincingly calls out the organization for making millions off athletes’ names and likenesses while simultaneously punishing players for trading a jersey for a tattoo. After reading “The Shame of College Sports,” still arguing that college students shouldn’t be paid — or at least receive a share of the profits — becomes nearly impossible.

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