As sports fans, we all have our favorite sports writers. The ones whose websites we check every day (if not many times a day) so we can read their latest article as soon as it is posted. Each sports fan has their own criteria for what makes a great writer or why they favor one writer over another.
As a sports writer, I’m always looking for writers that I want to write like. The ones that don’t pander to the masses simply to get reads but the ones that write well and get their point across in a great way.
I prefer writers that write from the heart and back their opinions not just with facts or stats, but with facts and stats supported by the use of logic and reasoning. I may not always agree with what they write, but at least I understand how they arrived at their view point and why they believe in what they do.
One of my favorite sports writers is Joe Posnanski. He currently writes for NBC Sports, but you may recognize him from Sports Illustrated or one of his books. I believe that he is the best baseball writer in the business today and is one of the best overall sports writers as well.
Recently I had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with Mr. Posnanski. Below is the interview in its entirety.
How did you get into sports writing?
It was a complete accident. I’m always amazed by people who knew they wanted to be a sportswriter when they were, like, 3-years-old. There are a lot of those people. I was a late bloomer. I went to college to study accounting and through a series of failures, coincidences and good fortune; I somehow managed to hook on as a high school stringer for The Charlotte Observer.
I loved sports all my life, and I had grown to love to read, but I had no idea if I could pull off the writing part. Once I started writing stories, though, I was hooked, and I decided that I would pretty much work day and night to make a living out of sportswriting. I was lucky enough to have numerous good editors show me the way.
You have lived all over the country – you were born in Cleveland, lived and worked in places like Cincinnati, Augusta, and Kansas City, and now live in Charlotte, NC. Has moving around so much helped your writing? What has each stop along the way taught you about writing, sports or life in general?
Well, there’s no question that Cleveland is in my bloodstream. The harsh winters. The ethnic surroundings. The heartbreaking sports seasons. I’m not sure I could put into words what Cleveland instilled in me because that’s where I grew up and I suspect everything about me comes from Cleveland. Just today, I went bowling for the first time in probably 10 years. But as a Cleveland kid, bowling is in my bloodstream too.
Charlotte was a real culture shock for me in high school. But it’s where I learned to love college basketball and the South. I’ve already talked about what the Charlotte Observer meant to me.
Augusta gave me a love for golf, though I don’t play. The people in Augusta were endlessly generous to me. It was the perfect place for me to have my first sports column because people were encouraging and they were kind about my many mistakes. And once a year, I got to be center stage at the best golf tournament on earth. It was pretty heady stuff for a 24-year-old kid.
I worked for an amazing editor named Mark Tomasik in Cincinnati, and he taught me many things, but particularly how to be a big city sports columnist. I also worked with incredibly talented writers in Cincinnati. And I got to write about Marge Schott and Bob Huggins and Mike Brown and Pete Rose … my cup runneth over.
Kansas City — well, that’s home. In a way, it will always be home. I lived in Kansas City for 15 years, met and married my wife there, bought our first house there, had both our children there. I worked with the greatest editors in the country — Dinn Mann, Mike Fannin, Holly Lawton — and with some of the biggest stars in the business today. I could never list off all the things I learned living in Kansas City.
You recently joined NBC Sports. What made you decide to join them? What are you looking forward to the most with this new opportunity?
It has been a whirlwind last year — I’m built really to stay in one place. But the NBC opportunity, to work with the great people there, to be a part of what they are building, and to be connected to the amazing television work — I mean, Sunday Night Football, the Olympics, the Golf Channel, all the great work of my friend Bob Costas — it’s thrilling. I loved working at Sports On Earth with the amazing people there, and I know they will make it into a huge success. I’m their biggest fan.
You have written four books – “The Machine: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds;” “The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America; “The Good Stuff,” (a collection of your columns); and “Paterno,” (a biography that you were writing during the whole Jerry Sandusky scandal). Which was your favorite to write? Which was the hardest?
Well, it’s pretty easy to say that PATERNO was the toughest one to write, with the shifting landscape and the intense emotions surrounding it. But in many ways, the toughest one to write was “Soul of Baseball” because it was my first book, and I didn’t really know how to write a book. Plus I felt this huge burden to make that book special because it was about my friend Buck O’Neil. I don’t know that I have a “favorite” book, but I do know that I’ll never do anything more special than “Soul of Baseball.”
I have been reading your articles for years now and consider you the best baseball writer and one of the best overall sports writers today. How did it feel to be named the National Sportswriter of the Year in 2012?
Thank you for that. I’m not really into awards because; let’s face it, what we do as sportswriters is so subjective. One person might think the column is the best they’ve ever read, another person will think that exact column is the worst thing they’ve ever read. That happens all the time. But the National Sportswriter Award was special because it was voted on by sportswriters and sportscasters, so that meant a lot. And it was a really special event — two of my heroes, Bob Costas and John Feinstein were inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Dan Shulman, who I think is absolutely brilliant, was named best sportscaster. So it was really special to be in that company.
Up Next: Buck O’Neil