If you think about it, the best sportswriters are not sportswriters at all. They are novelists or historians or essayists who apply their craft to sports every so often. And sports fans greatly benefit from their decision to do so.
In my view, Norman Mailer & David Halberstam are the two best examples of great writers who dabbled in sports.
Check out this example. Its Mailer, writing about the fight between Emile Griffith and Benny Paret, which concluded with Paret's death inside the ring at Madison Square Garden:
"He hit him eighteen right hands in a row, an act that took perhaps three or four seconds, Griffith making a pent-up whimpering sound all the while he attacked, the right hand whipping like a piston rod which has broken out of the crankcase, or like a baseball bat demolishing a pumpkin. I was sitting in the second row of that corner — they were not ten feet away from me — and like everyone else, I was hypnotized...
And Paret? Paret died on his feet... He was still standing in the ropes, trapped as he had been before, he gave some little half-smile of regret, as if he were saying, "I didn't know I was going to die just yet" and then, his head leaning back but still erect, his death came to breathe about him. He began to pass away. As he passed, so his limbs descended beneath him and he sank slowly to the floor. He went down more slowly than any fighter had ever gone down, he went down like a large ship that turns on end and slides second by second into its grave. As he went down, the sound of Griffith's punches echoed in the mind like a heavy ax in the distance chopping into a wet log."
Tell me something- have you ever read anything like that in the sports section of a newspaper? I haven't. Mailer was a literary giant, and he applied his genius to sports.
I mention Mailer because Sunday theere will be a panel discussion on his legacy at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. The Book Festival takes place at Borough Hall, outdoors and indoors, and its scope this year is amazing.
No matter what kind of reader you are- fiction, non fiction, poetry, comic books, romance novels etc. there will be a panel discussion with your favorite authors that you don't want to miss. And it is all free.
Here's the link: brooklynbookfestival.org . (After you click on "Enter" go to the left side and click on "Schedule". )
Baldman will be attending the Mailer panel, as well as the Edwidge Danticat panel. Then he will go home and watch his beloved Giants slap the Redskins around.