Is knowing Dave Kindred and admiring him and his sportswriting, as I do, what drew me to read this story? Perhaps. But if my curiosity about what Dave's doing these days wasn't my primary reason, then the headline would have pulled me in.
Legendary sportswriter returns to roots by covering local girls' basketball
In an extraordinary career covering just about every major sports event there is to cover, Dave was awarded sports journalism's highest honor, the Red Smith Award. He's a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame. Then, in 2010, he retired, and he and his wife circled back to where they'd grown up in rural Illinois, and there he's become the beat reporter covering the Morton High School Lady Potters basketball team. (His stories are in this blog on the team's website.) He receives no pay but the "job" comes with lots of spirit-reviving benefits.
After reading Tony's story about Dave, I had to share it – in part because so few high school women's basketball teams receive any news coverage at all. With Dave writing their games, these young women have one of the most accomplished scribes. In writing about this girls' team, Dave is finding renewed joy in life as he copes with his wife's devastating illness.
Before I tell you more about Dave's life today, here's a bit about his career. He was "a columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The National Sports Daily, Sporting News, and Golf Digest. He has written nine books. For "Around the World in 18 Holes," he flew 37,319 miles to 21 countries on four continents with his sports-writing pal, Tom Callahan. (I reported the 1984 Summer Olympics with Tom who wrote sports for Time magazine and I was a correspondent. From those Games, here's my story about Carl Lewis, who tied Jesse Owens' track and field record by winning four gold medals in those games.)
Despite the Lady Potters winning three Illinois High School Association Class 3A State Championships, as the smallest Illinois town (population 16,000) to ever win a 3A title in any sport, few people show up to watch these girls play.
Let's pick up Tony's narrative about the Lady Potters:
Early on in Tony's story we learn that Cheryl, his life partner and Dave's high school sweetheart and wife of 55 years, suffered a catastrophic stroke in Dec. 2015. Each day Dave spends time at her bedside, though she remains unresponsive to his visits. One day soon after her stroke a visitor suggested to Dave that he step away from her bedside for a little while and go to back to watching the girls play basketball. He and Cheryl had gone to their games and Dave had begun to write about them. He's not missed one of their games since that day.
Years after my sportswriting career had ended and I was the editor of Nieman Reports, a magazine about journalism published by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, I reached out to Dave to ask him to write about sportswriting in the time of social media. I commend his story to you for in so many ways it is the anthesis of the kind of sports writing he's delighting in being able to do today.
As Dave told Peoria Public Radio in a story called "Dave Kindred's Search for the 'Essence of Sports,' he observed: “You get so caught up in the hoopla of a major sports event, you forget what matters . . . If you pay attention, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. If you work at it, you can make a girls’ high school basketball game as riveting as the Super Bowl.”
In that same collection of stories Marie Hardin wrote a story I titled "A Shrinking Sports Beat: Women’s Teams, Athletes," reminding us of the tough climb women athletes still face in trying to receive news coverage for their games. As her story made clear,
Need further proof of this downward trajectory, check out this video documentary produced by the University of Minnesota Tucker Center to describe findings from their report on Media Coverage & Female Athletics. A key finding – "40 % of all athletes are women, but only 4% are represented in the media – and too often how they look is more important than their skills."
I urge you to read Tony's story about Dave and the Lady Potters. And next time the girls are playing basketball at your local school, head over there. You might be surprised at how much you – and hopefully your kids will be with you – enjoy the show.