cover image An Accidental Sportswriter: A Memoir

An Accidental Sportswriter: A Memoir

Robert Lipsyte, Ecco, $23 (256p) ISBN 978-0-0617-6913-9

The first time lifelong New Yorker Lipsyte visited Yankee Stadium as a boy in 1951, he was disappointed, finding it to be "less grand than I imagined." His critical eye that rejects the breathless awe of athletes and their environs would later set him apart from most sportswriters, a fraternity he describes as "lodge brothers" guilty of "godding up" sports figures in the masculine world of "Jock Culture." A longtime sports columnist for the New York Times, Lipsyte begins his story in Queens with his grade school victimization by bullies, one of whom he gloriously overcomes. After college, the need for a summer job landed the unathletic, aspiring writer with little interest in sports on the Times sports desk, a job that allowed him to shadow Gay Talese and later cover the emergence of Muhammad Ali, a story that became his "magic carpet ride." Lipsyte writes of his admiration for Ali, Howard Cosell, Billie Jean King, and comedian/activist Dick Gregory; he also explores his feelings about others that were more complicated, notably Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. A defensive thread of bitterness runs through his memoir, most pointedly aimed at Bob Costas, the broadcaster who criticized his "contrarian" approach to sports and whom Lipsyte depicts as walking the line "between journalist and shill." Lipsyte's memoir is at its best when revealing personal anecdotes of his life and the stories he covered, including his surprising late-in-life fascination with NASCAR and a touching concluding chapter about his relationship with his father. (May)