The sports beat
August 23, 2016
As progeny of the quite singular and encyclopedic Bob Meehan, my siblings and I grew up not only sports junkies but also sportswriter junkies. Admittedly, we were, and remain, strung out.
Being Irish Catholic and, go figure, Notre Dame fans, an introduction to New York Tribune writer Grantland Rice's historic coverage of the 1924 matchup between the Fighting Irish and Army would be assigned homework in place of "See Dick and Jane Run" back when I was just learning to read.
Rice's opening paragraph continues to ring in my ears: "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction, and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”
That way, the old man could be confident his eldest would not only recognize literary journalism when he bumped into it but also, say in a barroom discussion sometime later down the road, be able to recite from memory one of Knute Rockne's more famous backfields.
The obsession, fed by a cigar-box full of previous writers the likes of Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon, and Red Smith, grew by the day. Little did I know it then but these hard-drinkin' philosophers were teaching me a most relevant vernacular.
And once the family relocated to Los Angeles from the panhandle of Idaho, things only got worse. An LA Times sports columnist by the name of Jim Murray, you see, proved to be an addiction of most dangerous consequence. To my brother McGee and I, the thud of the paper on the doorstep produced reactions similar to the drop of a puck at center ice.
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This cat was so cool and quotable and his irony (or lack thereof) so spot-on hilarious that going without was never an option. Recognizing his responsibility in the evolution of his eldest son's dependency, Bob took it upon himself to feed my "jones" by mailing me newspaper clippings wherever I happened to alight once, after high school, I began a series of relocations.
Whether working on a fire crew in the Coeur d'Alene National Forest back in northern Idaho or playing soldier at Ft. Benning, Georgia, Bob kept me in "stash" for as long as I remained away. Later, if the Dodgers or Lakers or USC Trojans took it upon themselves to enter the pantheon of performance art, thick envelopes containing entire sports pages would arrive to satisfy my thirst.
And when I would head west to visit the family, it was quite evident that McGee and my kid sister, Mary Beth, had also become infected by Murray's prose and while dealing with a "jones" of their own, had, in many ways, surpassed their elder brother as far as being reservoirs of arcane sports trivia. In fact, they would blow by me like Seabiscuit.
Then longtime Sports Illustrated scribe Dan Jenkins burst upon the scene with "Semi Tough," a novel that infused a rather large dose of Texas sarcasm into the genre while at the same time having its way with my literary pleasure centers. Although previously it had seemed impossible, the bar had once again been raised.
I suppose what I'm attempting to get at here is that, wherever I happened to find myself, I have never stopped reading the sports pages. Not only for scores but just to keep my finger on the pulse of what, to me, has often raised its head into the rarified air of an art form.
And that includes, as brother McGee so succinctly puts it, "the rag I write for." I don't claim objectivity since some, like the legendary Luke Smith, have been close friends, but sports-writing has a wonderful way of re-inverting the "inverted pyramid" that is journalism and, over the years, The Park Record has had its share of interesting sports copy see print. The current Sports Editor Adam Spencer is a perfect example, as his many readers will attest.
Which brings us to one who recently occupied that chair, Wasatch High School and University of Utah grad Chris Kamrani. Currently winter sports beat writer for the Salt Lake Tribune and a member of their three-man team recently returned from covering the Olympics in Rio, I find Chris' prose to be not only interesting but, also, quite entertaining.
I also try and keep tabs on sports desks nationwide including newspapers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and New York. I'm addicted, remember, and my need for a daily fix shows little sign of waning.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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