“Basketball stories are all the same,” she said. “Buzzer-beating shot wins the game.”
I said—Well, then, don’t write that story! Write about what it’s like to be a basketball player—the endless practices, the rivalries and relationships between the players, the intricate tangle of conflicts and desires that exists in the locker room and on the court….
I’m thinking back on this because I just finished reading George Dohrman’s Play Their Hearts Out, one of the best books I’ve ever read on sports—certainly the most disturbing. Dohrman spent eight years following a team of young basketball players, and the stories of these young men are heart-breaking and tragic and occasionally—incredibly, rising up through the corruption—inspiring. Always we have lives revealed through action.
Dohrman’s book just misses the mark of greatness, I think, because it lacks a strong narrative voice—it’s more a work of journalism (very high quality journalism) than a work of art. I often found myself wondering where the narrator was in certain scenes, and wondering too how complicit Dohrman was in the corruption he describes. (As an observer, does a reporter have a responsibility to step in and help out a kid in trouble? Or at least just address his or her complicity?)
Still, it’s totally worth reading… And it points to maybe the biggest task a young writer—any writer—faces: recognizing the incredible richness of the material that exists in this world—all the stories that surround all of us….
Buy Play Their Hearts Out….
George Dorhman’s website….