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An Accidental Sportswriter Paperback – May 3, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061769134
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061769139
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,068,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

A longtime sports columnist for the New York Times interweaves stories from his life and the events he covered to explore the relationships between the games we play and the lives we lead

Growing up, Robert Lipsyte was the smart-aleck fat kid, the bully magnet who went to the library instead of the ballpark. As the perpetual outsider, even into adulthood, Lipsyte's alienation from Jock Culture made him a rarity in the press box: the sportswriter who wasn't a sports fan. This feeling of otherness has colored Lipsyte's sports writing for fifty years, much of it spent as a columnist for the New York Times. He didn't follow particular athletes or teams; he wasn't awed by the access afforded by his press pass or his familiarity with the players in the locker room. Between bouts at the Times, he launched a successful career writing young adult fiction, often about sports.

The experience and insight he earned over a half century infuse An Accidental Sportswriter. Going beyond the usual memoir, Lipsyte has written "a memory loop, a circular search for lost or forgotten pieces in the puzzle of a life." In telling his own story, he grapples with American sports and society—from Mickey Mantle to Bill Simmons—arguing that Jock Culture has seeped into our business, politics, and family life, and its definitions have become the standard to measure value. Full of wisdom and an understanding of American sports that contextualizes rather than celebrates athletes, An Accidental Sportswriter is the crowning achievement of a rich career and a book that will speak to us for years to come.

About the Author

Robert Lipsyte was an award-winning sportswriter for the New York Times and the Emmy-winning host of the nightly public affairs show The Eleventh Hour. He is the author of twelve acclaimed novels for young adults and is the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring his lifetime contribution in that genre. He lives in Manhattan and on Shelter Island, New York, with his wife, Lois, and his dog, Milo.


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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By olingerstories on May 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robert Lipsyte admits quickly in his memoir AN ACCIDENTIAL SPORTSWRITER that he never was much of a sports fan. What he wanted to be was a writer, and after he was given a foot in the door at the NY TIMES, he was able to write about what mattered to him most--the social issues of the day--through the vehicle of sports.

The best chapters of the book have to do with Lipsyte's journalistic role models, Gay Talese and Howard Cosell. Known for being a "piper," that is, flirting with the line on the truthfulness of his accounts, Talese represented the opportunity to go beyond the traditional boundaries of journalism. Talese would deliberately focus on the minority, the over-looked, and in doing so would always ask the question "why?" Lipsyte would run with this insight. Covering sports didn't mean that he was stuck with covering sports. Lipsyte credits Talese not only with helping him see this, but also with giving him the confidence to do pursue this type of reporting. At a low point as a TIMES copy boy, Lipsyte wondered openly about his writing future to Talese who on the spot offered to sponsor Lipsyte's writing career. Talese's offer infused the young scribe with the boast he needed, but what Lipsyte realizes after approaching his old mentor for the first time in 40 years is that Talese had "piped" him in making the offer to finance his career.

Lipsyte's other role model was entirely the opposite of Talese's gentlemanly attire and attitude. Howard Cosell was a bull running wild in the open field of TV and radio media. Knowing that he couldn't be both popular with everyone and still be accurate, Cosell sought out the truth as he saw it. Lipsyte soon adopted the same approach, and seemingly enjoyed offending in the name of the truth.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
Robert Lipsyte's memoir "Accidental Sportswriter" is a rambling look at his life through the perspective of his job as a sportswriter. I assume the "accidental" part refers to the way he sort of "fell" into a job at the New York Times in the late 1950's, beginning as a runner and ending up as a columnist. He actually had two stints at the Times in his career, separated by his work as a free-lance writer and other sports related jobs in radio and television.

The book really is "rambling"; Lipsyte writes of the various people and events that have touched his life since he began his career. And he begins, actually, before his writing career, when he was a very smart student who was not active in sports at school. Bullying by the jocks was common-place in Lipsyte's memory, if not actually in reality. But he found it difficult to out-grow the smart-kid vs jock mentality and some of the ambivalence is reflected through his life in how he related to sports figures he met and covered.

Bob Lipsyte covered sports with a smart-kid mentality. A little of the "us vs them" is seen in much of his writing. There's very little of the god-like worship of athletes seen in the work of other, more conventional sport writers. But he does berate himself about his coverage of Tiger Woods before Woods' "fall". Lipsyte, like most other writers, knew-but-didn't-write-about the "real" Tiger Woods, the Tiger Woods who lived a reality at odds with his image. Same is true of Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, whose off-the-field foibles were kept from the adoring crowds of sports fans.

But, if he writes about the "image" problems of well-known athletes, he also takes the reader behind the scenes of other, lesser-known figures like Harold Connelly and Gerard Papa.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Weinshenker on August 14, 2011
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I could not put this book down. His intriguing little tidbits are delicious. If you were a sports fan "in the day" you will especially find this book engrossing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Martin Tolchin on July 9, 2011
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This superlative memoir by a superb sportswriter takes us beyond the athletic arenas into the locker rooms, board rooms, bars and bedrooms of our sports heroes and profiteers. You'll learn a lot about Muhammad Ali, Mickey Mantle, Tommy Lasorda and other sports giants that will enhance your understanding of both their achievements and shortcomings. You'll also learn a lot about the sports establishment, the owners and the media, with whom Lipsyte has picked many bones. And you'll learn a lot about Lipsyte, who is harder on himself than with any of his subjects. A stylish writer with insigbht and compassion, Lipsyte has given us a great read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
When it comes right down to it, isn't everything an accident?

There's a school of philosophy that ponders the myriad outcomes that could have ensued if one had turned left instead of right at a street corner, picked the chicken over the fish, or opted for a morning class in economics rather than an afternoon session in medieval literature. Some don't result in happy endings, others do.

Robert Lipsyte, a Pulitzer Prize winner, falls into the latter category (although his last chapter has not yet been written) as he recalls the special people and events in his life in his new memoir, AN ACCIDENTAL SPORTSWRITER.

Lipsyte's 50-year "accident" began when he applied for a college-break job as an editorial assistant with The New York Times, winding up in the sports department (imagine how things might have turned out differently if he had been assigned to the lifestyle section). Picture the movie The Front Page, with copy boys running around smoke-filled offices amid the shouted orders of reporters bent over typewriters trying to meet deadlines, and you get some idea of the humble beginnings whence Lipsyte started.

He earned a few extra bucks with little writing jobs but eventually decided it was time to move on to a freelance career. This led to another "accident" when then-sports editor Gay Talese made him an offer he couldn't refuse, which led the young aspirant to his destined path.

Lipsyte's full-time sportswriting gig began with an uncomfortable attempt at an interview with an uncooperative Mickey Mantle in 1960 on his way to working with some of the biggest names in the sports and entertainment industries, including Howard Cosell, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Lance Armstrong and Dick Gregory, to name just a few.
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