by William Goldman and Mike Lupica
(August 10, 2005)
At least twice a day, a high school or college student sends me an e-mail asking for advice -- they want to write about sports some day, they don't know how to go about it, and they're wondering if I can help. And I never know what to write back. How can you answer a question like, "I want to write a sports column, tell me what to do?"
Last weekend, I thought of an answer.
Just a quick back story: I probably own 800-900 sports books that I've been reading and collecting ever since I was old enough to read. The lamer ones are at my dad's house and my mom's house. The best ones came to California with me. And when we moved a few months ago, five boxes of the best and most relevant sports books ever written were dumped in my new garage -- taped up, stacked on top of one another, sitting in the dark.
Well, I was working on a book, and we had a baby, and it took a few months just to settle into the house, and two weeks ago, everything calmed down enough that I could head into the garage, carry those boxes out and unstack them in two living room bookcases. But as I was unstacking them, I realized something. Here was my answer for those aforementioned e-mails. The main reason I became a sports columnist was because I loved these books, because I read them and kept reading them. For instance, you know David Halberstam's book about the 1980 Trail Blazers, "Breaks of the Game"? To me, it's the perfect non-fiction sports book -- he gets to know the players, delves into their psyches, and inadvertently takes a snapshot of a troubled league at its most critical point, the 1979-80 season, when the NBA was in danger of crumbling and Bird and Magic saved the day. Since I love the way it's written, I try to read it once every two years. It's like taking a grad school course: Here's how you write a sports book.
And there's a lesson here. You don't just start writing a sports column, just...