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Vol. 53, No. 2 • January 2016 • .pdf version
Sports Illustrated writers dominate best-writing contest
Writers from Sports Illustrated dominated the USBWA's best-writing contest, winning three of the five categories and placing in another.
SI's Brian Hamilton (game story/spot news), Seth Davis (enterprise) and Lindsay Schnell (moderate length feature) all claimed first-place entries, and Luke Winn (game story/spot news) finished third.
Ken Davis of KenDavisFiles.com finished first in column writing, and Dana O'Neil of espn.com took first for magazine length features.
The contest's judge wrote: "The contest this year was marked by poignant, passionate tributes to the extraordinary life of Coach Dean Smith.
"Also, entries in the magazine length category were simply outstanding. Winnowing them to five winners was all but impossible. There could have been twice that number, maybe more."
Ken Davis' winning column was about an unexpected call from Smith on his birthday:
"'How can I help you?' Smith asked. 'I don't have a lot of time, but I wanted to return your call.'
"You don't ask Dean Smith to call back when it is more convenient. You can't tell him that the baby is on a blanket in the living room. So you move on and hope for the best. Until the baby starts crying. And then the 4-year-old starts screaming, 'Dad, the baby's crying. DAD, the baby's crying! DAD, THE BABY IS CRYING!!!!'"
Hamilton's winning game story was from Wisconsin's victory over Kentucky in the Final Four semifinals:
"In the locker room, they sang and danced. When Frank Kaminsky entered, the Badgers greeted their All-America forward with a ritual all of two weeks old: Whose birthday is it!?! Whose birthday is it!?! they shouted, with the freshly 22-year-old Kaminsky bouncing in the middle, hands in the air. This was a routine adopted after a dinner at Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles in Los Angeles only last weekend, during which guard Bronson Koenig and forward Vitto Brown saw staffers cheer birthday diners this way. Following an Elite Eight win over Arizona, the Badgers invoked the chant in the locker room. It wasn't actually anyone's birthday that night. To know Wisconsin is to know that is far from the point."
Seth Davis addressed a national decline in scoring with his winning enterprise story:
"Millions of people are preparing to set their sights on college basketball for March Madness, but the sport is not ready for its close-up. All season long, there have been games where the winning team struggles to reach 50 points. Halftime scores in the 19-17 range have been a nightly occurrence. And because too many coaches use too many time outs, games become interminable during the last few minutes. As a result, this game is in danger of turning off casual fans while losing ground with the younger set, who have more choices than ever before."
O'Neil's winning magazine length feature explored the comeback by Michigan's Austin Hatch from an airplane accident that killed Hatch's father, Stephen.
"It was as if he was giving his son a manual, a how-to guide to be something more than ordinary, and Austin, so in awe of his dad, drank it all in. He sat like his dad sat and told terrible jokes like his dad did. He got good grades, excelled in basketball, spoke politely and behaved admirably. Every day he strove to be the best Austin he could be, all the time believing the best Austin would have an awful lot of Stephen Hatch in him.
"And then Stephen Hatch was gone. In the seconds it takes a plane to crash, all that wisdom, the map Austin was supposed to follow, his beloved role model and best friend ... all gone. Forever."
Schnell explored the bizarre world of Bill Walton:
"Considered one of the best players of all-time, Walton, a 62-year-old former redhead whose hair is now white, lives his life exactly the way he analyzes college basketball games on ESPN and the Pac-12 Network: Randomly. He is popular and polarizing, celebrated and sneered at. Unpredictable and unquestionably authentic. Friendly, too.
"'I'm Bill,' he says moments later, sticking out a giant hand and dwarfing a timid female student with his 6-11 frame. 'Two L's.'"
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