’14 Favorites: Stories, Readings and Writings

2014 is quickly concluding, and looking back at the year that was, I figured I’d share some of my personal favorite stories, readings and writings. Nobody asked for this, so if you don’t like it, don’t read it. I swear it was going to be shorter than it ended up being.

Long-form Sportswriting:

Max Lenox’s amazing journey to much-admired Army hoops captain by S.L. Price (SI, Nov. 2014)

This was probably my favorite story of the year, though it’s been a tough year to pick a favorite. Lenox’s story of finding a loving home after coming from a broken, substance abuse riddled family and busting through all obstacles along the way is incredibly inspiring. Having Price, who is one of the best, tell the story makes it all the better.

– Jerry Football by Don Van Natta Jr. (ESPN The Magazine, Aug. 2014)

Lots of Jerry Jones, and lots of Johnny Walker Blue Label. Over time I’ve become more and more impressed with writers who are able to capture and profile difficult subjects, and DVN nails it. I suppose this becomes even more poignant now that the Cowboys won the NFC East, which I’m not exactly thrilled about, because #InChipWeTrust and such.

– Lance Armstrong in Purgatory: The After-Life by John H. Richardson (Esquire, July 2014)

Similar refrain as the Jerry Football story on capturing such a complicated person. One thing I really enjoyed about this look at Lance is it really balanced the good and the bad. Sure he cheated and, worse more, maliciously lied and tore people down, but he has also accomplished undeniable good with Livestrong and in the fight against cancer.

– Nothing Can Be Buried by Wright Thompson (ESPN The Magazine, May 2014)

Thompson did some fantastic work while at the World Cup in Brazil, but this piece on Vedad Ibisevic’s surviving Bosnia’s civil war of the mid-1990s and thriving on some of soccer’s biggest stages is incredible.

– The Right Thing To Do Vs. The State Of Florida by Michael Krause (SB Nation, Aug. 2014)

Florida State has found itself in negative media light all too often in 2014, and Krause’s story didn’t paint any prettier a picture. Devaughn Darling collapsed and died during a winter workout 13 years ago, and his family still waits for reparations and answers.

– Escape From Cuba: Yasiel Puig’s Untold Journey to the Dodgers by Jesse Katz (Los Angeles Magazine, April 2014)

Now that relations between the United States and Cuba are becoming more favorable, hopefully we hear far less about nightmares like Puig and many others had to endure en route to the majors and a better life in America.

– The Many Crimes of Mel Hall by Greg Hanlon (SB Nation, July 2014)

Hanlon has been producing some fantastic work on some dark topics, and his work on serial sexual abuser and former MLBer Mel Hall is no different. What I really like about his work is he had been able to really capture the deeply complicated emotions of the victims. (Note: I spoke with Hanlon about his work back in May.)

Non-Sports:

– Away by Chris Jones (Esquire, Nov. 2014)

The story is behind a paywall, but it’s entirely worth the couple of bucks to view it online or pick up a copy in print. It’s just a tremendous display of magazine journalism taking the reader through what it’s like for astronaut Scott Kelly to prepare of the longest space mission in human history.

– The Lost Bones by Ben Montgomery (Tampa Bay Times, Dec. 2014)

Sneaking in at the buzzer is Montgomery’s haunting two-part series about the brutal murders and subsequent mass cover-up at a Florida state-controlled boys reformatory school. Chilling.

– Baptism By Fire by N. R. Kleinfield (New York Times, June 2014)

The tale of a rookie New York firefighter thrown — literally and figuratively — into the fire. A tremendous multimedia look at what the experience was like.

– The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nesihi Coates (The Atlantic, May 2014)

A deeply important piece. Coates brings the honesty to a topic that needs honesty more and more. Unfortunately with the recent events across the United States, this piece has become increasingly more relevant and necessary.

Still Haven’t Stopped Laughing:

– My 14-Hour Search for the End of TGI Fridays’ Endless Appetizers by Caity Weaver (Gawker, July 2014)

A moment-by-moment look at finding the end to endless mozz sticks. This is really the only way to explain it:

9:17 p.m. Earlier I said these mozzarella sticks taste like garbage. I would like to amend that statement. They taste worse than garbage. I would prefer to eat garbage, because then there would be the chance I would get to eat a bite of something good someone started to eat but couldn’t finish, or paper.

Friends Doing Cool Writing Things:

La Navigation de la Mer by Adam Hermann (The Triangle, May 2014)

He got me to read a few thousand words on club sailing. It’s beautiful, even if I can’t read the writing that’s in French.

– Mike Trout Has Left Big Impact On Tiny Millville by Jordan Hall (CSNPhilly.com, May 2014)

Really awesome feature to lead into the Phillies-Angles series this past season that brought superstar Mike Trout back to his hometown area. Amazing the impact a 23-year-old can have on a town.

– Charles Dickens, HBO Showrunner by Aubrey Nagle (The Toast, Dec. 2014)

I mean, the title says it all. I kind of wish it was true, too. All bias aside, this is a whimsical but positively cultured and smart satirical take on Dickens.

– Carr Creates New Image Through Daughter by Andrew Koob (City of Basketball Love, June 2014)

Aquille Carr went from can’t miss prospect to (now) trying to hang on in Canadian professional basketball. But the birth of his daughter changed his perspective on things. Great story from a unique basketball tournament.

As a son mourns, Philadelphia Union supporters embrace a fan’s legacy by Dave Zeitlin (MLSSoccer.com, May 2014)

The heartbreak of a father’s (and fan’s) death to the rallying of an entire soccer organization and its passionate fan base. Just a great read to go above and beyond the usual Union beat.

– Featured: Josh Verlin and City of Basketball Love by Chase Senior (On The Mic & On Paper, Dec. 2014)

Senior takes readers/viewers/listeners on a multimedia dive into perhaps the most indispensable Philadelphia amateur hoops site.

Favorite Stories:

– Lauren Hill

Talk about taking crushing sadness and turning it into an uplifting story for sports fans and non-fans alike. Hill’s battle through a rare and incurable cancer has inspired so many as she keeps her sights set on her college hoops dream.

– Isaiah Austin

Austin goes from overcoming the odds of being blind in one eye to play Big 12 D-I college basketball to becoming a surefire first round NBA draft pick. Then, in an instant, life as a basketball player comes to an abrupt end with the Marfan Syndrome diagnosis. From the grace Austin has handled the situation with to the how Baylor and the NBA have supported him, it’s become an inspiration.

– Devon and Leah Still

Her smile is infectious, and her strength and innocence leave nothing but hope. As Leah continues her battle with cancer, Devon and the Bengals organization have shown us how to support and how to love.

2014 book:

– Brazil’s Dance with the Devil by Dave Zirin

Such an important book on the unrest and instability in Brazil heading into hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The book’s importance and place in the international sporting landscape will hold into 2016 and beyond as there becomes more and more resistance to hosting mega sporting events.

Personal Musings:

– Why Doesn’t Drexel Have a Football Team? Parts I-III (The Triangle, Jan. 2014)

Before I finished up my undergraduate career, I wanted to take a stab at one of the questions that every Drexel student asks. I’m just thankful my editor, Bryan Fyalkowski, let me run with this without a word count.

Kevin Manyara: From Kenya to the Gridiron (The Trentonian, Nov. 2014)

Kevin’s journey was such an inspiration to me. It’s one of adapting, learning and facing challenges head-on. We can all learn something from him.

– Alex Henery Welcomes Competition From Spear (CSNPhilly.com, June 2014)

Now, I chose this story because it was the first story I reported and wrote for CSN Philly. It may not be my favorite, but it holds some sentimental value, and I’m grateful they let me spew words across their site over the summer.

– Under Further Review 1-10 (The Sports Complex, March-June 2014)

This ended up being a fun little side project for me, talking to different sportswriters of different ages about how they go about being the best they can be.

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