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An Accidental Sportswriter: A Memoir Hardcover – May 3, 2011
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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. But, as the memoir indicates, in retrospect, Lipsyte--like Cosell--could often be wrong about what was the gospel. And very unlikeable.
The athlete that dominates the narrative is Ali. Lipsyte sees him in all of his phyisical beauty. Bigger, quicker, faster than Sonny Liston, Lipsyte realizes immediately with a chance assignment to cover the then Clay/Liston fight that Clay was something special in every way. In the aftermath, athlete and scrible become linked and their careers take off together. Lipsyte sees Ali as a social reformer, but wishes for more than the image that Ali projected for public consumption. Turning his back on Malcolm X, openly disregarding the moral teaching of Islam, Ali frustrates Lipsyte, but Lipsyte is always drawn back to him just as American society would be.
Some chapters on social issues seem forced, as does Lipsyte's humility. He seems to recognize how pompous he can be both in life and in print. But, the narrative never drags, and Lipsyte's prose is always first-rate.