George Plimpton Awarded the Liebling

By Robert Ecksel on January 5, 2012
George Plimpton Awarded the Liebling
George Plimpton’s book “Shadow Box” has earned a place in the boxing canon (Larry Fink)

Prima donnas are great in grand opera, but not so grand when it comes to a great sport like boxing…

Those of us who once looked to the boxing establishment to do the right thing have begun looking elsewhere. Wrongheaded decisions now seem commonplace, by those entrusted with the fight game’s integrity, no less than its history.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame, for example, an idea whose time has come and to some extent gone, is a case in point. That may be less the fault of the IBHOF than with the voters who, no matter how well meaning, remain ignorant or disdainful of the sport’s illustrious past.

Another organization whose reach exceeds its grasp, for reasons similar but more complex, is the Boxing Writers Association of America.

The BWAA has been around for decades and has handed out a slew awards to dozens of deserving participants. There’s the Sugar Ray Robinson Award (Fighter of the Year), Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier Award (Fight of the Year), Eddie Futch Award (Trainer of the Year), Al Buck Award (Manager of the Year), Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award, Sam Taub Award (Excellence in Broadcast Journalism), John F.X. Condon Award (Long and Meritorious Service), James A. Farley Award (Honesty and Integrity), Bill Crawford Courage Award, Nat Fleischer Award (Excellence in Boxing Journalism), and A.J. Liebling Award (Outstanding Boxing Writing).

With so many awards covering so many different categories, one would think that every writer, fighter, trainer, manager, good guy, and broadcaster would have received an award by now. But that is not the case. Sometimes the BWAA choices are right on the money, whereas other times the choices come from left field.

In a sport as multifaceted as boxing, perhaps that’s to be expected. Differences in taste, preferences in style, clashing standards, alternative objectives, and possibly favoritism, or some combination thereof, could be a factor.

The late George Plimpton was awarded this year’s A.J. Liebling Award. Plimpton was a superb writer. He was also a vocal advocate for the literary standards we now see in steep decline. For those reasons, if no others, he deserves an award. But does he deserve the A.J. Liebling Award? What are the criteria for winning the Liebling? Granted, Plimpton’s book “Shadow Box” is in the boxing canon and is a must-read for anyone drawn to fine writing (not to mention anyone drawn to that fine Old Mongoose Archie Moore). But with the exception of a rare article appearing here and there, that about sums up Plimpton’s contribution to the sport.

I wanted to look at the selection process and contacted Jack Hirsch, President of the BWAA, to have him clarify the distinction between the Fleischer and Liebling Awards, and ask what in his opinion made Plimpton worthy of such an honor.

I should state up front that I like Jack Hirsch. He’s unpretentious, loves the sport, and paid his dues many times over doing the dirty work more celebrated BWAA members looked down their noses upon. He filled countless goodie bags over countless years, biding his time, waiting patiently until his dream of running the organization became a reality. I believe it’s a fine thing, even a step in the right direction, that the BWAA has someone other than a prima donna center stage. Prima donnas are great in grand opera, but not so grand when it comes to a great sport like boxing.

“Just looking at the titles and the writing you might have a hard time distinguishing them,” Hirsch told me. “But if you look at the past winners of the award, the Liebling Award honors old-time boxing writers. The Fleischer Award more or less honors the guys who are active. For example, you and I would be eligible to win the Fleischer Award. You and I would not be eligible to win the Liebling Award. So the Liebling is basically an old-time award for writers who used to write about the sport and had a major impact historically, as opposed to the Fleischer, which is a modern award.”

That distinction as described seemed clear enough on its face. But Hirsch wanted to clarify clarity, and adding clarity on top of clarity can cloud the lens perception.

“For example,” he continued, “a couple of years ago we dug out a name that you know, of course, Larry Merchant for the Liebling Award. Now Merchant wouldn’t have been eligible for the Fleischer Award, but he was eligible for the Liebling.”

Merchant was awarded the Liebling in 2008, the same year Leonard Gardner and John Lardner won the same award (multiple winners is a practice that has since been discontinued). The Liebling is a relatively new award, having been resurrected by Tony Page in 1995. By contrast, the Fleischer Award dates back to 1972, with Barney Nagler being the first prizewinner.

When Hirsh brought up Larry Merchant, I pointed out that Merchant was writing for the New York Post in 1972 and would therefore have been eligible for a Fleischer Award at that time. Wasn’t the BWAA, in a sense, trying to make up for a past omission, for failing to give Merchant a journalism award when he was a working journalist? Was it any different than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarding Martin Scorsese a Lifetime Achievement Award to correct their having failed to give him an Oscar in 1980 for “Raging Bull”?

“It’s not a make-up award,” Hirsch said. “It’s not an alternative award in any way, shape or form. Keep in mind about the Fleischer Award—I don’t know how it was determined the first few years. It was before I was in the organization. That’s a good question, something to look into. I’d be a little curious myself. But the Fleischer Award today is only voted on by past winners of the Fleischer Award, and no one else. In other words, I don’t get a vote. Now the Liebling Award is made up of a five-person committee, and that committee chairman is John Schulian. George Kimball was the chairman before he passed away, and upon his request his friend John Schulian took over as chairman. Schulian was on the committee, but not as chairman.”

Hirsch pointed out that each member of the Liebling committee won a Fleischer Award in the past (and only Fleischer winners can vote on the Fleischer Award, which has led to unseemly lobbying and such). That’s not a formal requirement. Perhaps it’s a coincidence. Perhaps it’s inbreeding.

“I’m just pointing it out to say that they could recognize excellence in boxing writing,” Hirsch said. “If there’s a weakness in the system at all—I don’t need to tell you everyone plays to their audience—the past Fleischer winners, if they’re only reading certain work by someone else, they’re more likely to vote for that person. Like if someone reads Robert Ecksel all the time, and they don’t read someone else, they’re more likely to vote for you. If they never read Robert Ecksel, even though your work could be perhaps superior, they’re not going to vote for Robert Ecksel. My concern is that the past Fleischer winners, some of them are real old-timers and I’m not sure how much boxing they read. But a good number of them are modern guys. So it is what it is.”

Although I didn’t raise the issue with Hirsch, it would seem that those entrusted with dispensing BWAA awards have a responsibility, assuming they’re responsible and take their duties seriously, to familiarize themselves with the work of a broad range of boxing writers, not just their friends or the writers they’re used to reading, let alone just the writing of their brothers in the fraternity.

Returning to the subject of Plimpton and the Liebling Award, I mentioned some other fine writers who weren’t boxing writers per se, but whose work was/is, in my opinion, superior to the work of George Plimpton, in that their work was/is both more substantive and of more lasting value. What about Norman Mailer? His book “The Fight”, for example, is sui generis, boxing narrative as acid trip. But Mailer made enemies the way most of us make beds. Has that negatively affected the possibility of his receiving a Liebling? What about Joyce Carol Oates? Her book “On Boxing” in my estimation is superior in every way to “Shadow Box.” Is the fact that she’s a woman, and a woman whose formidable intellect puts the rest of us to shame, been a deterrent in her being awarded a Liebling?

“Your points are well taken,” Hirsch said, “but it’s kind of a matter of opinion.”

I pointed out that, from the outside looking in, it sometimes appears as if the BWAA is trading in celebrity, and that quality takes a backseat to name recognition.

“Doesn’t that go hand in hand,” asked Hirsch, “because if a guy has quality, he’s going to have celebrity?”

“But a guy can have celebrity,” I said, “and not have quality.”

Hirsch didn’t respond.

“Speaking of George Plimpton,” he said, “I think you’d agree with me, he was a very eloquent man. He struck you as extremely bright. I read some of his work in the past. He’s someone who struck me as someone who could have been an English professor. Take for example Pete Hamill,” last year’s Liebling Award winner. “He was considered a tremendous journalist, a tremendous newspaperman. He was more of a newsman obviously. Just like Plimpton wrote more about other sports, he did write about boxing,” albeit early in his career.

I’m looking at the list here and I could make a compelling argument why they’re not in. It’s not my position to get involved, even though I might mention it. You pick a guy like Damon Runyon or Paul Gallico. Those are guys who were legends in their time and I don’t see their names on the Liebling. But you could make an argument in a way—they’re so much in the distant past. Should that be a factor? Should it not? Personally I don’t think it should. But the group of guys are thinking of someone who, when I say the word colleague don’t take it as their friends, so they’re relating more to George Plimpton than guys in the distant past because they followed Plimpton’s work as it actually happened in that era.”

That’s something I can’t argue with. Nor do I need to.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

George Plimpton sums up Muhammed Ali in, 'When We Were Kings'



Norman Mailer on Muhammad Ali.



George Kimball On The Four Kings



Rip Torn vs Norman Mailer - the infamous "Maidstone" brawl - UNCUT!



Boxing



Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles

Comments

This is a place to express and/or debate your boxing views. It is not a place to offend anyone. If we feel comments are offensive, the post will be deleted and continuing offenders will be blocked from the site. Please keep it clean and civil! We want to have fun. We want some salty language and good-natured exchanges. But let's keep our punches above the belt...
  1. Don from Prov 06:45am, 01/10/2012

    Ah, I don’t ever REALLY have a point—
    But thanks for indicating the possibility

  2. The Thresher 04:34pm, 01/09/2012

    you might have a POINT!

  3. Don from Prov 08:46am, 01/09/2012

    What’s so wrong about stabbing a few folks?

    Show some love for Christ sake.
    You know it ain’t easy.

    Plus, you guys might lust over a few LIVING women before you go talking any sexual weirdness stuff—whatever you may think that =

  4. mike schmidt 07:55pm, 01/08/2012

    I’ll go with Rita Hayworth and Jayne Mansfield-on my broad list I forgot to add, and you may give me heck on this, but a young Lee Remick when she played the bank broad who some thugs try to blackmail into stealing- I think it had Glenn Ford in it—loved her eyes- i think it was Experiment in Terror which could otherwise pass for being a boxing writer or manager

  5. the thresher 05:31pm, 01/08/2012

    Getting back on track, who is your favorite Pin Up Girl?

    Marilyn Monroe
    Ava Gardner

    Betty Davis

    Jane Russell

    Jean Harlow

    Marie MacDonald

    Betty Grable

  6. the thresher 11:34am, 01/07/2012

    “Although I didn’t raise the issue with Hirsch, it would seem that those entrusted with dispensing BWAA awards have a responsibility, assuming they’re responsible and take their duties seriously, to familiarize themselves with the work of a broad range of boxing writers, not just their friends or the writers they’re used to reading, let alone just the writing of their brothers in the fraternity.”

    This is it in a nutshell.

    BTW, Ron Borges picked Teddy Atlas as Trainer of the Year. Uh oh

  7. the thresher 06:56pm, 01/06/2012

    Klute!!! What a great movie that was. The scene when snot poured out of her nose as she cried while listening to her friend get strangled was one of the best of all time.

    Don’t start me on movie trivia. I am dynamite!!!! You feeling me on this?

  8. mike schmidt 06:46pm, 01/06/2012

    Kim Novak- yep I think you got us on that Thresh- you spanking Jane in or out of the leatherette Barbarella outfit- maybe one of our own Klute types can answer that one!!!!!! LOL enjoy your weekend

  9. the thresher 06:45pm, 01/06/2012

    Prime Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 and a prime Ava Gardner in anything.

  10. the thresher 06:42pm, 01/06/2012

    I’d like to spank Jane Fonda.

  11. the thresher 06:39pm, 01/06/2012

    Kim Novak in Picnic. End of discussion.

  12. mike schmidt 06:21pm, 01/06/2012

    Linda Evans in THE BIG VALLEY indeed- great pick- cant argue witht “Mary Anne and the movie star” the Lost In Space chicks were nice in their space suits tooooo-“danger, danger Will Robinson”  any of the go go dancers from “Laugh In” and any of the ladies on “The Tom Jones Show” as back up to your picks JC and with that I better sign off before our fearless editor gets after me and somebody else takes a run at me for the Smoger article- beauty in the eye of the beholder as they say

  13. JC45 06:12pm, 01/06/2012

    LMAO at the Rip Torn v Mailer fight. Seen better fights between a pair of drunk sheilas on the average Friday night at the average suburban aussie pub .

  14. JC45 06:10pm, 01/06/2012

    Great choices Mike lol

  15. JC45 06:09pm, 01/06/2012

    Edie Sedgewick , Anne Margaret n Julie Newmar as Catwoman also get a gig in my private auditions .... ;-)

  16. JC45 06:08pm, 01/06/2012

    Top 3 -Jane Fonda in Barbarella , Sharon Tate in anything and Marianne Faithful in a rug ..... Linda Evans , Ursula Andress , Ginger n May Anne of Gilligans island and Linda Evans off that 60s tv western I cant remember the title of also get a mention . Cheers All

  17. the thresher 05:15pm, 01/06/2012

    Who said anything about “Paying your Dues?

  18. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 02:28pm, 01/06/2012

    Mike Schmidt-By far the best P4P list I’ve seen on this great site! I wager that the majority of the writers and posters here would say that if they had it all to do over again that they would’nt change a thing. At the same I bet there’s a few that would’nt mind going back and having one more run at the Sixties.

  19. mike schmidt 01:39pm, 01/06/2012

    And since I know Sares is going to argue about my list I also add on Jean Seberg and Ursula please Undress-when she comes out of the water in James Bond with her little fish knife, wow I would like to add that to my collection, knife collection that is-

  20. mike schmidt 01:26pm, 01/06/2012

    And since Yank and Irish are starting up on the best broads list 60’s style this time, again…. 1) Sharon Tate in Don’t Make Waves with Dave Draper, and Sharon Tate in “The Fearless Vampire Killers. 2) Raquel Welch in BC and Fathom, 3) Catherine Deneuve in anything 4) Julie Newmar as Catbroad in Batwomen.

  21. mike schmidt 01:18pm, 01/06/2012

    Norman Mailers “King of the Hill” book on the first Frazier/ Ali fight i, for me , one of the best boxing books I have ever read, end of story. Wife abuser, drunk etc- not my business anymore than the fact that I like to watch Liston, Tyson, Floyd Jr- their personal business is theirs. Could not give a rat’s ass as to sexuality, criminal record etc etc- a good read is a good read. I am not inviting them over for a barbeee. As for Plimpton- “Shadow Box” is a great read. “Paying your Dues” has to be one of the most dumb ass sayings I have ever heard. Why do you have to “pay your dues.” If your good you get to go in the door without paying—you get fast tracked. “Paying your dues” forged aboud it

  22. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 09:05pm, 01/05/2012

    I’ll answer my own question….women were sexier in the fifties and sixties! Now I’ll trundle off to bed and dream about chasing Eva Marie Saint around the bedroom and prayerfully not about running into Abe Simon, Tony Galento, and Tami Mauriello in some dark alley!

  23. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:05pm, 01/05/2012

    Eva Marie Saint’s lips and a Liebling Award almost seem to have a Larry Flint connection in an etymological syllabic kind of way.

  24. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:01pm, 01/05/2012

    Irish—Well, crack our azzes out of this bohemian slumber!  OK BABY, I’m awake now! What’s that you said about Eva Marie Saint’s lips?

  25. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 08:00pm, 01/05/2012

    Looking at the photo that accompanies Robert’s great article….is it just me…or were women sexier in the sixties?

  26. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 07:40pm, 01/05/2012

    Admit it all of you wanted to be Terry Malloy and kiss Eva Marie Saint’s sweet lips….you know it’s true….I thought so!

  27. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 07:24pm, 01/05/2012

    Schulberg’s Academy Award winning screenplay for On The Waterfront was in my estimation the all-time benchmark for boxing writers even though not one scene depicts ring action.

  28. "Old Yank" Schneider 06:02pm, 01/05/2012

    Well played! Peace!

  29. the thresher 05:56pm, 01/05/2012

    Are you drinking? I already said I was not trying to impose my thinking or opinions on anyone else. Why must you continue to post and post and post on the same subject? You can separate Mailer from his writing. I can’t. No big deal. But stop taking everything so literally. It’s not good for your health. Really, I mean that. It’s just an intellcetual debate with an indirect connection to boxing debate—even if I won it.

    Peace

  30. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:50pm, 01/05/2012

    Mozart was likely a drunkard. Wagner antisemitic. Samuel Morse was anti-Catholic to a fault. Mailer was a woman abuser. Capote a drunkard. Seranno (the photographer) was likely an anti-Christian atheist. Poe was possibly/probably an addict. Am I supposed to reject their art because of who they were as humans? NOT A CHANCE! I can’t do that. Their art transcends their humanness for me. You can’t get passed Mailer’s violence toward women. I get it. I respect it. I don’t ask you to respect my opinion or position. But please don’t demand I buy in.

  31. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:41pm, 01/05/2012

    Nah! Let’s be honest. YOU stated that YOU can’t read Mailer without having a bug up your AZZ over his attitude toward women. Hey, I can respect that. I GENUINELY RESPECT THAT! I object strenuously to violence toward women. But Mailer is a writer! Art that transcends is by definition TRANSCENDENT—including transcending his personal ugliness and crimes.

  32. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:36pm, 01/05/2012

    I got plenty of hang-ups all on my own—I don’t need (nor have the capacity) to take on anyone else’s.

  33. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:33pm, 01/05/2012

    REFERENCE: Anyone. It was written “should anyone”; therefore it was intended to be taken literally. I have NO OBJECTION to “anyone” having a pebble up their AZZ when they read Mailer due to his offensive violence toward women. I just ask them to keep the pebble to themselves; I’ve got enough bothering my AZZ that I don’t need anyone pushing their pebbles up mine!

  34. the thresher 05:05pm, 01/05/2012

    “Hey, if anyone gets a pebble up their AZZ every time they read Mailer that’s their choice.”


    Just who were you referring to with that comment?

  35. "Old Yank" Schneider 03:34pm, 01/05/2012

    Hey, if anyone gets a pebble up their AZZ every time they read Mailer that’s their choice. I can watch Mel Gibson on the screen and then yell at an article I read about his antisemitism. I can enjoy a Mailer read and volunteer for fund raising for the Grace Smith House Shelter for Battered Women. To each their own pain and to each their own remedies for dealing with the pain. I can listen to Richard Wagner’s Die Walkure and light Chanukah candles the same night. I understand those who can’t, but don’t expect grief from them for seeing the world through a different lens.

  36. "Old Yank" Schneider 03:24pm, 01/05/2012

    The Thresher—I agree that what Plimpton did was novel; not necessarily great writing, but novel.

  37. "Old Yank" Schneider 03:23pm, 01/05/2012

    “George Plimpton Awarded the Liebling” is the title to this piece. On its face it implies that the BWAA sees merit in Plimpton’s work. Does a restatement of the obvious label me a BWAA booster? The BWAA gave Plimpton an award. I’m going to go out on a limb here and I’m going to take a huge chance on suggesting that they thought Plimpton deserved it. What the insular frat house of the BWAA deems deserving is not necessarily my view. Personally I can think of others more deserving, but Plimpton is not an obnoxious choice in my view. But I don’t have a history with the BWAA that sets me off either—some fine, fine boxing writers are members as best as I can see (and some not so fine as well).

  38. the thresher 02:40pm, 01/05/2012

    correction: that status gave him initial entry and he certainly made the most of it. But in my view, what he did was more a novelty than an art form.

  39. the thresher 02:32pm, 01/05/2012

    Repeat post for Robert: “But let’s make certain we get Plimpton right. He was as privilged a blue blood as it gets. Not that that has anything to do with his writing but it has everything to do with his being a jock sniffer which enabled him to get close to the jocks and do the stories. His status gave him entry. Whether that status was economic or based on writing skills is something we can only speculate about.”


    Rephrased post for Robert:


    But let’s make certain we get Plimpton right. He was as privileged a blue blood as it gets. Not that that has anything to do with his writing but it has everything to do with his being a jock sniffer which enabled him to get close to sniffing the jocks of Karras, Layne, etc and enabled him to do the stories (which I personally thought were dreadful but that’s just an opinion). In short, his social status gave him entry. Whether that status gave him initial entry, he certainly made the most of it. But in my view, what he did was more a novelty than an art form.

  40. the thresher 02:26pm, 01/05/2012

    “The BWAA seems to answer “yes”!” Huh? Who cares what the BWAA does? Or are you now being a selective booster of that group?

  41. the thresher 02:24pm, 01/05/2012

    Pass me the puke bucket. One beat women. The other suffered from a disease called alcoholism. Last I knew beating and stabbing women was not a disease. 

    I can read Capote and separrte the man from the work. I cannot do the same with the far more egregious Mailer. If you can, all the more power to you, but I can’t. No need to respond because I am now through with this debate.

  42. Robert Ecksel 12:23pm, 01/05/2012

    We no sooner choose our DNA than we choose when and where our parents met. We can’t hold a man’s eye color against him. Plimpton could have spent his life playing polo and savaging the “little people.” To his credit he did not and tried to make something of his life. Whether he succeeded or not is for each of us to decide.

  43. "Old Yank" Schneider 12:11pm, 01/05/2012

    Perhaps we are attempting to close in on the essence of “self-made”. Like the monsterously successful NASCAR driver who is “self-made” while driving technological advances that he can’t spell on tracks he could not design if his life depended on it. Plimpton was privileged—did he use it to the delight of himself and others? The BWAA seems to answer “yes”!

  44. "Old Yank" Schneider 12:07pm, 01/05/2012

    Capote lost his first real job in the book business because he pissed off Robert Frost! If some publishing fool could fire Capote then the BWAA can certainly find a way to get it wrong inside their insular frat house.

  45. "Old Yank" Schneider 12:03pm, 01/05/2012

    Mailer was a woman abuser and depicted sexual violence in writing. Capote was gay and a drunk and depicted addiction and homosexuality in his writing. What are relevant to a discussion is what one chooses to make relevant and what one chooses to make irrelevant – to each his own. My point is one is a writer or they are not (stolen from Capote)—they might also be a wife-beater, a drunk, a homosexual or a blue-blood with a New England accent. What they abuse, sniff, drink or speak neither qualifies nor disqualifies them from being seen as a good writer. In Capote’s own words, ” I felt that either one was or wasn’t a writer…”

  46. the thresher 11:47am, 01/05/2012

    And by the way, This is my opinion. It may be right. It may be wrong. But It’s mine. I am not trying to impose it on anyone else.


    Moreover, getting bogged down on “love for Mailer and Plimpton” detracts from the essence of this article which is about the BWAA being an insular fraternity.


    But let’s make certain we get Plimpton right. He was as privilged a blue blood as it gets. Not that that has anything to do with his writing but it has everything to do with his being a jock sniffer which enabled him to get close to the jocks and do the stories. His status gave him entry. Whether that status was economic or based on writing skills is something we can only speculate about.

  47. the thresher 11:37am, 01/05/2012

    “Is Mailer “beating up women” any more relevant to the discussion than Capote being a “drunk”? ” Damn straight it is. The guy was a documented wife beater and wife stabber. Accordingly, to portray himself as a much macho just doesn’t do it. The video confirms that.


    “Mailer was violent to his wife. He was at one time involuntarily committed to Bellevue Hospital for 17 days; his wife would not press charges, and he later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of assault, and was given a suspended sentence. While in the short term, Morales [his wife] made a physical recovery, in 1997 she published a memoir of their marriage entitled The Last Party, which recounted her husband stabbing her at a party and the aftermath. This incident has been a focal point for feminist critics of Mailer, who point to themes of sexual violence in his work” THAT IS RELEVANT!!!!!!!!


    As for Capote being a “drunk,” We all know what Capote’s issue were. What is gained by repeating them? And how is that relevant to his being a great writer—many of whom were and are “drunks, gay, straights, crazy, sane, macho, effete, blue bloods, ex cons, etc.”


    A guy beats his wife and then acts macho. Sorry, that doesn’t get it for me no matter how great a writer he was. His flaws were of a nature diffrent from those that haunted Capote who never tried to be anything but what he was.

  48. "Old Yank" Schneider 11:23am, 01/05/2012

    Is Mailer “beating up women” any more relevant to the discussion than Capote being a “drunk”? I thought part of this discussion was about how far afield some writers seem to get from the subject they write about and the question of whether or not that makes them “real” or not. Plimpton being a “blue-blooded”, Connecticut Yankee-accented (a la Kate Hepburn), “jock sniffer” does or does not have anything to do with his writing ability? Did Red Barber, Mel Allen or Ernie Harwell ever swing a baseball bat in a pro game in their lives? I honestly don’t think any of them did. But they might be the best three baseball announcers who ever lived. The color of a man’s blood, what he sniffs or drinks and how close he ever came to participating in the subject of his scribbles might all be irrelevant to how good he is at the art of writing.

  49. the thresher 10:50am, 01/05/2012

    BUT IF CAPOTE DID WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT BOXING, IT MIGHT WELL HAVE BEEN A GREAT READ BECAUSE HE WAS A FANTASTIC RESEARCHER AND PAID ENORMOUS ATTENTION TO DETAIL. HE FUNDAMENTALLY WAS A GREAT WRITER.

    HOWEVER, HIS BEING A “DRUNK” (PROBABLY THE LEAST OF HIS ISSUES) IS NOT A RELEVANT PART OF THIS DISCUSSION.

  50. the thresher 10:19am, 01/05/2012

    I preferred Jimi and the Rolling Stones over the Beatles who I never thought were all that great musically speaking.

    The difference was perhaps generational or possibly socioeconomic, but whatever it was, those who liked the Beatles seldom listened to Jimi.

  51. the thresher 10:14am, 01/05/2012

    I just wrote a super long post and mistakenly deleted it.

  52. the thresher 10:03am, 01/05/2012

    Capote did not write about boxing.

  53. the thresher 10:01am, 01/05/2012

    “...it would seem that those entrusted with dispensing BWAA awards have a responsibility, assuming they’re responsible and take their duties seriously, to familiarize themselves with the work of a broad range of boxing writers, not just their friends or the writers they’re used to reading, let alone just the writing of their brothers in the fraternity.”

    This is the nub of the problem. The BWAA is a closed fraternity. They do not grant writing awards to anyone outside of that fraternity. You can’t even win the now defunct Pat Putnum award which remains one of many major blunders on the part of this group.

    My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that they even hhave a “soft” blacklist” but maybe I’m just jealous. I did belong once but resigned out of total disgust at the politics.

    The BWAA has many fine writers like Lee Groves and Adam Berlin, but it also has way too many young wannabes who manifestly lack a historical perspective when they “write” their articles. And that’s just plain sad.

  54. the thresher 09:48am, 01/05/2012

    Robert, baloney. These guys were not boxing writers. They were writers who wrote about anything that would sell.

  55. Robert Ecksel 09:11am, 01/05/2012

    Old Yank—Both your examples, the Beatles and Truman Capote, are excellent. You said in a few words what I needed many to express. Good writing is the bottom line. One can’t judge a book by its cover.

  56. "Old Yank" Schneider 09:04am, 01/05/2012

    Truman Capote was a drunk. I doubt he ever clinched his fist, never mind pulled the trigger of a shotgun. But damn that man could write! Much like my willingness to avert my eyes from the foibles of a fighter outside the ring, I’m willing to avert my eyes from the private prattles of a good writer.

  57. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:56am, 01/05/2012

    Robert—A very small fraternity rarely changes tradition—no matter how new their traditions are. Chew on this: Roger Miller (of country music fame) won 6 Grammy Awards in 1965 while the Beatles won NONE! Miler’s hit was “King of the Road” in 1965. That same year The Beatles released “Help”, “I’m Down”, “Yesterday”, “Ticket to Ride”, “Eight Days a Week”, “Please Please Me”, “Do You Want to Know a Secret”, “With Love from Me to You”, and “Roll Over Beethoven”. The “frat house” gets it wrong all the time; it never stops them from continuing to pat themselves on the back while they justify their next misstep.

  58. Robert Ecksel 08:02am, 01/05/2012

    The Thresher—I agree with you in principle, but believe it’s more complicated than that. Plimpton was effete in a manner that has since been affected by others, and no less convincingly. But I believe Plimpton, Mailer and their ilk, despite their personal shortcomings, were/are genuinely fascinated by boxing. It’s hard enough to write about something one cares about. It’s even harder to write something, especially something of substance, about which one doesn’t give a hoot. I know nothing nor do I give a damn about other sports (except for a casual interest in sumo), but recognize that one of the great things about boxing is how interest in a “poor man’s sport” crosses racial, economic, generational, class, gender and educational boundaries; and has forever. One some level, I think boxing needs its Plimptons as well as its Kimballs. Not every great jazz critic has picked up a tenor sax to honk ugly sounds in a mirror. Not every great art critic attempted to paint The Last Supper. Good writing is good writing. Those who can do it may or may not be obnoxious twerps, but at least they’re not complete dolts.

  59. the thresher 07:33am, 01/05/2012

    THESE GUYS LEND SUPPORT TO THE NOTION THAT A MAN GAINS MANLINESS WHEN HE ASSOCIATES WITH REAL MEN. IN HS, WE CALLED THEM JOCK SNIFFERS. THEY MAKE ME WANT TO PUKE.

    THE BLUE-BLOODED PLIMPTON AFFECTED AN ACCENT THAT WENT WITH HIS BRAHMIN LOOKS.

    KIMBALL WAS THE REAL McCOY BECAUSE HE WAS ONE OF THE VERY LAST TO MAKE HIS LIVING WRITING ABOUT BOXING THE OTHERS VIEWED BOXING AS SOMETHING THEY COULD SUCK OFF OF. SICKENING.

    ARE YOU FEELING ME ON THIS?

  60. the thresher 06:32am, 01/05/2012

    LMAO

  61. Robert Ecksel 06:29am, 01/05/2012

    Mailer also stabbed one of his wives. I’ve been married and understand. But the brother could write.

  62. the thresher 06:20am, 01/05/2012

    That fight shows what a moron and true wimp Mailer was. However, he was pretty fierce when it came to beating up women. What a true a-hole.

Leave a comment