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Bert Randolph Sugar is a writer sports historian who has written over 50 books, mostly about baseball and boxing.  He was the owner and editor of of Boxing Illustrated magazine[…]

“Half of us will write on bathroom walls in lipstick if it pays—women’s rooms with two hands.”

Question: Is sportswriting literature?

Bert Sugar: I think sportswriting is a magnificent rnliterature.  You even get non-sportswriters writing about it.  If you’vern ever read Gatsby, there is a portion in there that refers to the 1919 rnBlack Sox scandal, where Manheimer, I think his name is, or Sondheimer, rnis talking to Gatsby in a bar.  You get... Arthur Conan Doyle wrote rnbooks on boxing.  Jack London wrote boxing.  I could go on... Paul rnGallico, who was a sports editor at the New York Daily News, wrote "The rnPoseidon Adventure."  So you get crossovers all over the place. 

Yes,rn we’re labeled sportswriters, but we really are just writers.  And half rnof us will write on bathroom walls in lipstick if it pays—women’s rooms rnwith two hands.

What is your writing/reporting method when you're watchingrn a game?

Bert Sugar: I think Red Smith said it best.  He said, rn“You first cut your wrist, then you bleed on the paper.  Then you rnwrite.”  You’re looking for a lead, you’re looking for a storyline, rnyou’re looking for personalities who did this.  You just don’t write, rn"Four homeruns were hit today and they won 10 to 9."  Okay, great.  rnWhat?  I mean, what went into that? 

I went to a fight last rnweekend, Mayweather/Mosley.  And in the introduction at the press rnconference two days before, Mayweather was introduced as the rn"undefighted feater," which is a spoonerism.  There was a Rev. William rnSpooner in England, at Oxford, who did everything bassackwards.  He rnwould say things like, instead of “Conquering Kings Take Their Titles,” rnwhich is a hymn, he’s introduce it as, “Kingkering Cons Take Their rnTitle.”  Or, talking about at the end of World War I, the troops would rncome home and, instead of “the flags would be hung in tribute,” he said,rn “The hags would be flung.”  He did everything bassackwards and changingrn the sounds of the first words in succession. 

So, I wrote a rnwhole piece almost like that on the fight.  Not easy, but keeping in rnsort of the mood and the flair of what I picked up.  It might be fun forrn people, it might not.  It was fun for me.  And I got the biggest kick rnout of writing and having fun with it. 

I remember one line I rnhad that was fun to get somebody into a story because you like to get a rnhook.  And there was a no-hitter thrown and I'm writing about it, and I rnstarted with, “It was as unbelievable as Santa Claus suffering vertigo, rnCaptain Bligh sea sickness, Mary having a little lamb.  The 'it' was –" rnand then I went on to tell it.  Well, I either scared the hell out of rnreaders and they’ve gone elsewhere, or I’ve hooked them.  And you look rnfor that. 

I have one friend who will go unnamed—a great sports rnwriter—I remember one time he was walking around the press box one day rnreading everybody’s lead.  "That’s good, that’s good."  He was looking rnfor his own, really.  But, but you know, you’re looking for a lead.  Andrn they’re not easy to come by.

Recorded May 4, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen