The Lost Art of Deadline Writing

James Parker
The Lost Art of Deadline Writing

Bat meets ball, the essential atomic encounter—and Runyon puts the sound of it, the briefest, most prodigious syllable, right in the center of his column. The surprise and delight of The Great American Sports Page, John Schulian’s selections from a century’s worth of newspaper columns about baseball, boxing, football, gymnastics, and (in one case) swimming the English Channel, is how often it happens—how often the writers connect, how often the prose approaches the condition of flat-out poetry. The brilliant hard-boiled lyricism of Sandy Grady, in 1964, as he watches a crowd of Phillies fans after a home loss: “They hit the sidewalk with tight mouths, like people who had seen a train hit a car.” Or Joe Palmer, in 1951, summoning a vision of the racehorse Man o’ War in motion: “Great chunks of sod sailed up behind the lash of his power.” Sailed up: The soft swell of the verb puts us into slow motion.