Sportin’ Literature


I have barked and cheered at the television and searched sports blogs feverishly during this year’s NBA championship and USTA seasons. And I did these things relatively alone, talking to one friend via text and Voxer. Not only are sports not a common topic in literary circles (which I avoid in favor of an arts community), but they are also not a shared activity among me and my closest friends. Apparently, I’m hanging with the most un-American of folks. There is no religious or biological theory that I can surmise for the low probability of sports and arts existing as openly as they do lawfully. No. I believe it is our great ability to compartmentalize and to follow trends that allows it. Of course, class dictates sports watching on a major level, but the other levels are too complex for me to pause and pick on the classists.

I’ve read of writers gathering to play sports, and obviously writers muse about sports like the infamous poem from Hoagland that I wrote about in January or Wole Soyinka’s canonical poem “Muhammed Ali at the Ringside”. There is also the fact that Joyce Carol Oates, beloved and literary writer wrote boxing for decades with respect from the fields of sports and writing. Still, on the streets Oates writing about boxing and especially writing about Mike Tyson is mythic. For sure, I–member of the streets–want to know what writers know about sports and sports figures, how they know and why they bother when the audience for writing is reading not watching their words. I mean in the culture write what you love often means love what others love so there is little room for taking such chances. Gotta love Oates even if she over “psychoanalyzes” in her book On Boxing as one reader wrote. Besides, erring on the side of over analysis is the post-modern way.

Writers interested in sports aside, what if writer-athlete was a common phrase in bios? For that to happen writing would have be a contact sport so no counting the writing competitions that accept submissions for periods or year round(!), but I’m counting on competitions of fiery tongues both of poet and audience and hands and heads so twisted that the team of poets are playing soccer with the mic as ball: slam poetry. What if next to Allyson Felix in the 200m or Michael Phelps in one of his seven swimming events was a waving, grinning, crying you on the podium?

If you were around in the early 20th century, you might have witnessed or been a part of De Coubertin’s “Ode to Sport.” for which he won the 1912 gold medal for literature. Check out the article Poetry’s Relationship with the Olympics and post a comment (in the spirit of honking at a sign)–Maybe we can chat about why you still hate Lebron so much (because you’re a hater, obviously) or if Serena will win another major (in the next three days, no doubt)–This is called trash talking if you are new to sports.