A stunning amount of superlative sports writing has been cleverly obscured from view by the literary hidden-ball-trick label equivalent of “Award Winning Modern Literature.” But it is no aberration whatsoever that some of the most celebrated and sophisticated American wordsmiths are also devout students and scribblers who often practice under and emphatically participate in the sports world.
Sports are about so much more than a simple game with a final result. And many great athletes, like writers, possess superb observational skills too.
Although some digging is required on the part of the reader, the following list—all of it presented in no particular order—features several examples of great sports writing. Consider it time well spent if you should dabble in any of these works during the ongoing coronavirus sports drought.
Baseball: “Pafko at the Wall” by Don DeLillo
Baseball: “The Laughing Man” by J.D. Salinger
Football: “End Zone” by Don DeLillo
Football: “Teamwork” by Shawn Vestal
Basketball: “Rabbit, Run” by John Updike
Golf: “Rabbit is Rich” by John Updike
Street, board, kid and leisure games: “Seymour: An Introduction” by J.D. Salinger
Street, board, kid and leisure games: “The Fortress of Solitude” by Jonathan Lethem
Tennis: “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” and “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace
Tennis: “The Information” by Martin Amis
Darts: “London Fields” by Martin Amis
Boxing: “Destination: Morgue!” by James Ellroy
Boxing: “2666” by Roberto Bolaño
Frisbee: “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers
White water rafting: “Downstream” by Antonya Nelson
Rodeo Sports: “The Misfits” by Arthur Miller
Chess: “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon
Hunting: “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned” by Wells Tower
Demolition Derby: “The Sweet Hereafter” by Russell Banks
Racing, aerospace competitions, or anything automotive written by Tom Wolfe