A tributary of self-consciousness (is that trying too hard?) flows over me at this moment. That’s because I’m about to…well, we used to say, “put words to paper” about one of America’s very best sports journalists. Ever.
It’s not just me saying that. Already long ago Dave Kindred was given the craft’s highest honor, the Red Smith Award, and just last year received a lifetime achievement award for literary sports writing in the PEN America Literary Awards. His work, they said, reflects “keen knowledge, insight, and a literary voice.”
Me? I had lunch with him last week.
It was an opportunity to thank a guy who graciously provided a “blurb” for the back cover of my new book, The Unforgiven (co-authored with Edith Brady-Lunny) and, more importantly, express gratitude for the example, instruction and inspiration he provided a college kid-rookie in the small daily’s newsroom where a young Dave Kindred was already winning admiring attention from “big city” newspapers.
For two years I watched, read and learned from Kindred close-up. Then he graduated to column-writing at The Louisville Courier-Journal, then The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The National Sports Daily, Sporting News and Golf Digest where he last month completed coverage of his—could it be true?—52nd Master’s.
Dave likely never thought of me again, except for the time I called him on my radio talk show to talk about the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, where he was working at the time. “How do you get tickets to the Derby?” I inquired. “There are no tickets to the Kentucky Derby,” he informed me.
Conversation flowed more smoothly over last week’s lunch. (He ate healthy; I didn’t.) We both loved newspapers more when they seemed to enjoy limitless resources, back before Craig’s List cut a swath through the classifieds. It offered a chance to praise my favorite among Dave’s multiple books. Morning Miracle isn’t a sports book. It’s about The Washington Post’s struggle to stay alive and relevant in a time of blistering change.
I told Dave that what I most admire about his reporting and writing is his observational skills. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard that. “If you just pay attention,” he explained, “you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.” He took a bite of salad. “But you gotta pay attention.”
Sage advice from a sports writing legend who figures he still hasn’t seen it all.