The Way It Looks from Here: Contemporary Canadian Writing on Sports

The Way It Looks from Here: Contemporary Canadian Writing on Sports

by Stephen Brunt

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307368560
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Publication date: 06/11/2010
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Stephen Brunt is Canada’s premier sportswriter and commentator. In addition to Facing Ali: The Opposition Weighs In, he is the author of Mean Business: The Rise and Fall of Shawn O’Sullivan, Second to None: The Roberto Alomar Story, and Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario.


From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

Anyone who has written about sport for a living has received the letter, or e-mail or phone call, that always begins with the same few, stinging words: “I don’t know what game you were watching . . .” What invariably follows are great waves of outrage. The correspondent has missed a flagrant foul against the fan’s favourite team, or erred by pointing out some hero’s sin; he or she has overlooked a great coaching blunder, been oblivious to the key contribution of an unsung star, thought the wrong guy won the fight, and in general couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

Sometimes, any or all of that is true, or at least true for one set of eyes, because perspective matters so much. The way it looks from here is not the way it looks from elsewhere because of the life experience and passion and need and cultural baggage we all bring to the table. What’s great and powerful about spectator sport, the reason the athletes and owners make all those millions, is that it can be anything you want it to be, from light background noise to all-consuming obsession, from empty spectacle to full-blown belief system. Unlike the movies or the theatre, sport requires a real commitment from its audience, a sense of identification with the competitors, a rooting interest that extends beyond the final whistle or the last out. That continuing relationship can originate in community identification, or family history, in forging a bond with a single star, in riding high with a great team, or suffering along with a hopeless underdog. Always, though, it’s personal, and in some way unique.

This collection, a very subjectively assembled cross-section of some of the best Canadian writing on sport, is the product of two, commingled “heres.”

The first is the press box — a place where people who have seen too much, who have told the same story too often, who have witnessed the sports gods at both their best and worst and so can’t help but be a bit cynical — still rise to the occasion night after night, capturing the moment in words. There remains the notion that the sports section is the toy department of newspapers, a place not known for journalistic heavy lifting, but where tall tales are spun out of facts. Once upon a time, there was some truth to that, but the contemporary sports writer often faces a far more complex task than do confreres in the parliamentary press gallery or at a corporate annual meeting. A touch of artistry is a given: the sports pages have always been and always will be a place where good writing truly matters. But sports reporters and columnists have been forced to adapt to a world in which it pays to have some knowledge of economics and labour law, of the ins and outs of a criminal prosecution and the machinations of the stock market, of racial politics and government fiscal policy and, of course, the infield fly rule. Even the fantasy part has become more complex, since any fan can see any game at any time. Thanks to the double-edged miracle of the five-hundred-channel universe, the writer no long enjoys free rein as the lone witness to an otherwise mysterious event. It’s not good enough merely to describe, and perhaps even embellish just a little, what people have already seen for themselves (and seen over and over again, in the replays and highlights). And in some ways, they know too much. Readers now harbour doubts about their athletic heroes, and aren’t always willing to suspend disbelief.

So the challenge for the ink-stained wretch is to spin the event and the personalities involved into a neat little story, with insight, with wit, with insider knowledge, to know when to go with the emotion, to be a fan, and when to stand at arm’s length and deconstruct, chipping away at the myth’s foundation. And do all of that in about twenty minutes, or less.

Deadline writing is rapidly becoming a lost art in the business. So much of what fills the pages in the news, the business, the arts sections of any paper, are forms of institutional reporting and analysis, easily collected and written during a nine-to-five day, long before the presses run for what are now all morning newspapers. (The Internet, obviously, is a different animal, with its perpetual deadlines. So far, though, in terms of sport, it’s a medium that is sensational in providing raw information instantly, but that delivers little or nothing of literary value.) Sportswriters are among the last of a dying breed, called upon to think and write very quickly, to watch an event, to analyze what’s taken place, to turn some aspect of that into an easily digestible tale suitable for a saucy T&A&Sports tabloid, or a mass-market broadsheet, or a gray, super-serious, business-driven rag. The selections contained here come from all of the above, and there are gems to be found in every genre. Stories written to deadline, by definition, aren’t as polished as newspaper features that are fretted over for days, or magazine pieces that are fretted over for weeks, or books that are fretted over for years. It’s a literature made up entirely of first drafts. But there’s also an immediacy to it, something raw, in the moment. The images are still fresh in the writers’ minds; the crowd’s roar still rings in their ears. To have started typing seconds after Ben Johnson crossed the finish line, or after Joe Carter’s home run sailed over the left field fence in SkyDome, or after Mario Lemieux’s goal won the Canada Cup at Copps Coliseum, is different than mulling over the event months later. When it’s done well, a little bit of life and blood and sweat and joy makes its way right on to the page.


From the Hardcover edition.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Baseball
Raines Beats $1000-a-Week Habit, Michael Farber — The Gazette (Montreal)
Carter’s No Ordinary Joe after Series-Winning Blast, Dave Perkins — Toronto Star, deadline writing
Walker Worthy Target for Jays, Milt Dunnell — Toronto Star, deadline writing
August 7, 1921, Steven Hayward — From Buddha Stevens and Other Stories, fiction

Basketball
White Rules, Gare Joyce — Saturday Night

Boxing
Part of the Game, Allen Abel — The Globe and Mail, deadline writing
Discord Works in Tyson’s Favour, Milt Dunnell — Toronto Star, deadline writing
Boxing the Greatest at Ali’s Farm, Stephen Brunt — The Globe and Mail
Going the Distance from Reality, Chris Jones — National Post
The Trouble with Tyson, Stephen Brunt — The Globe and Mail

Curling
Merv Curls Lead, Guy Lawson — Saturday Night

Football
Destiny Finally Arrives for Long-Suffering Franchise, Allan Maki — Calgary Herald, deadline writing
Garry Sawatzky: Uncaged Lion, Jim Taylor — Sports Only
Out of Africa, Jack Todd — The Gazette (Montreal)

Golf
Rough Stuff in the Rain, Cam Cole — National Post, deadline writing
Issue Black and White, but Green Sees Only the Colour of Money, Trent Frayne — The Globe and Mail, deadline writing
Weir Wins in Canadian Style, Cam Cole — National Post, deadline writing

Hockey
Lemieux, Gretzky Team for Winner: Oh, Canada!, Red Fisher — The Gazette (Montreal), deadline writing
Pat Burns Goes Home, Michael Farber — The Gazette (Montreal)
Real-Life Slap Shot, Tom Hawthorn — Toronto Life
Mogilny, Iain MacIntyre — The Vancouver Sun
The Montreal Canadiens, Wayne Johnston — From Original Six: True Stories from Hockey’s Classic Era, fiction
The WHA Revisited, Ed Willes — Ottawa Citizen
Curtis’s Charm, Mike Ulmer — Saturday Night
The Best in the World, Peter Gzowski — Maclean’s
Still Scrapping After All These Years, Dave Feschuk — National Post
A Win When It Counts, Christie Blatchford — National Post, deadline writing
Gretzky’s Gang Beats U.S. 5–2 — and Keeps the Faith for a Desperate Nation, Rosie DiManno — Toronto Star, deadline writing
Saving the Game, Ken Dryden — The Globe and Mail
Orr’s Left Knee Gone for Good, Damien Cox — Toronto Star
Goaltender Suite (iii) “One of You”; Things in Our Day; Desperate Moves, Randall Maggs — From The Sawchuk Poems, unpublished

Horse Racing
The Flood, Jim Coleman — Toronto Telegram
Front Page Girl, Archie McDonald — The Vancouver Sun
Racing’s Other Plate, Beverley Smith — The Globe and Mail
A Stud Is Born, Ian Brown — The Globe and Mail
Silent Cruise, Timothy Taylor — From Silent Cruise: Stories, fiction

Monster Trucks
Return of the Battle of the Monster Trucks, Tom Hawthorn — This Magazine

Pool
Mr. Iceberg, Stan Dragland — From Stormy Weather: Foursomes, unpublished

Snooker
• From On Snooker: The Game and the Characters Who Play It, Mordecai Richler

Squash
Court Jester, Bruce Grierson — Saturday Night

Swimming
Olympic Pressure Takes Personal Toll, James Christie — The Globe and Mail

Track
World’s Fastest Man Even Faster, James Christie — The Globe and Mail, deadline writing
Simply the Best, Steve Simmons — The Toronto Sun
Unforgiven, Stephen Brunt — Toronto Life

Wrestling
The Widow’s Revenge, Brian Hutchinson — Saturday Night

Acknowledgments
Permissions


From the Hardcover edition.

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