“A Sportswriter’s Life”

March 29, 2011

In his “Sports Movies: Journalism and Storytelling in Film” course, instructor Dave Kindred asks students to look for unspoken clues that define characters. For example, in “Rocky,” what does Rocky’s Philadelphia neighborhood tell you about the fighter?

“I want the students to discover the fun in recognizing detail and utilizing all kinds of detail in telling a story. The greatest part of your job as a writer is that everyone has a story, but they may need help telling it,” Kindred said.

Kindred’s own story includes the very characters personified in the films his class is studying. As a sportswriter, he covered the 1975 Muhammad Ali-Chuck Wepner fight on which “Rocky” was based. Kindred reported from Belmont Park the day Secretariat clinched the first Triple Crown in 25 years. And Kindred was once mentioned by name in a Bobby Knight tirade – coming from a legendary college basketball coach famous for his fiery temper, that’s proof of relevance any sportswriter would envy.

“Dave Kindred embodies a solid, pure form of journalism,” said Dr. Paul Gullifor, chairman of the Department of Communication. “His wealth of experience as a writer and personal connections to some of the greatest athletes and most notable sporting competitions of all time provides a historical context that informs student writing.”

Kindred, who was born and raised just 40 miles from Peoria, returned to central Illinois after a long career writing for some of the most widely read newspapers and magazines, including “The Washington Post,” “The Louisville Courier-Journal” and “Sporting News.” He covered seven Olympic Games, 39 Super Bowls, 40 World Series, 43 Kentucky Derbies, and 17 Muhammad Ali championship fights.

He is the author of nine books, including an insider’s look at the unique relationship between Ali and sports broadcaster Howard Cosell. In “Sound and Fury,” Kindred recounts interviews with both famous figures that demonstrate the journalist’s exclusive access to the men – with Ali, interviews were conducted “in shower stalls and toilets, in funeral homes, log cabins, mosques …” Though most recall the audacious Cosell as a suit and tie-clad, toupee-wearing broadcaster perpetually outfitted for national television appearances, his attire and demeanor were more casual during interviews with Kindred. One of their chats was conducted in Cosell’s home, where he went without the toupee and greeted Kindred wearing just a T-shirt and boxer shorts.

Kindred will share stories like this from his 45-year career as a sportswriter, author, and columnist Wednesday evening as part of the Robison Endowed Lectureship series sponsored by the Department of Communication. His lecture, titled “A Sportswriter’s Life: Heroes, Fools, and Other Dreamers,” will reveal the people, moments, and details that have shaped his character and his story.

The lecture will begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Bradley Hall’s Neumiller Lecture Hall.