Writing About Sports

by | Oct 29, 2021 | Weekly Prompt

It’s the World Series, and my home team is playing for the first time since 1999, when I was just a girl. Back then, I went to major sports events with some regularity, often with my mother. We went to a World Series game, the Super Bowl, the Olympics (track and field, volleyball), the horse races at Keeneland. We didn’t make a point of it; it just kind of happened. I didn’t take any notes or do much to imprint the experiences onto my memory. If I had, I’d write about it. 

But I could write about Atlanta baseball. Once upon a time, I did: I wrote a report on The Braves for 8th grade Georgia History. I know I’ve talked about middle school reports before, #sorrynotsorry. But I still remember reading about all the crazy promotions Ted Turner ran to get people to all the losing games back when he first bought the team. Wedlock/Headlock night, for example. A bunch of couples got married, and some other people wrestled. I don’t think the newlyweds did any half nelsons, but who knows.  

Lincoln Michel, whose new novel (affiliate link)  is about baseball, just published an essay about why baseball is especially literary. For one thing, he says, it’s in our language. For another, it’s a stand-in for America, with its “earnest nostalgia” and “small anxieties” or as a foreground for major world events. 

My husband has a great idea for a baseball novel that I really hope he writes very soon. Maybe this prompt will be what he needs to get going. So without further ado…

Prompt

This is certainly not limited to baseball! In the comments for Michel’s article, some people are quick to point out that other sports are arguably just as literary, depending on the setting: cricket, tennis. To me, it seems like boxing is the sport that writers gravitate to. Baseball is my literary sport of choice, but I don’t really agree that it’s especially literary. 

So choose a sport and write about it. Write as a player, a fan, a student. Either way, get into the dirt with it. The minutiae of sports is where the action is. The unlikely play, the promising career that’s over too soon, or the slow heartbreak of realizing the career will never begin. 
In “American Pharoah,” Ada Limon writes of watching a pre-Derby workday of the eponymous “horse with his misspelled name” before he won the Triple Crown. It’s a poem about the power of beauty (skill, stride, excellence) among ugliness. This is, I think, why writing about sports can do things of its own. It’s not often that we can behold the ideal, the perfected, the gifts that only the gods can give. But at the very same time there must be a keen awareness of mortality. Of humanity. Of the fall.