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My morning sports fix – online

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on October 27, 2006
(Issue 2443, A Nightmare on Edge Street)

As a kid growing up in Dayton, Ohio, I was unknowingly spoiled in my daily newspaper reading. The morning Journal Herald featured the column of Ritter Collett – who had also been the paper's beat writer for the Cincinnati Reds for many years. In the afternoon (and Sunday) Dayton Daily News, I got to read Si Burick's column throughout the week. And covering the Reds for the Daily News was (and still is) Hal McCoy.

All three are now in the Writers Wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1979, my dad got a new job in San Diego and we all moved out here – and I got to read Jack Murphy and Phil Collier every day in the San Diego Union.

And so I simply assumed that everybody got to read such great sportswriting in their local paper.

But then Murphy died, and his shoes remained unfilled for many years (until Nick Canepa, native San Diegan and former Evening Tribune writer, was made the Union-Tribune's featured sports columnist a few years ago).

Before the Internet, those of us living in towns without great sportswriting didn't have a lot of options. There's the weekly sports magazines, of course. And for a year or so, we had The National, an all-sports daily where you could read Frank Deford several times a week.

But then it folded, and outside of subscribing to the Dayton papers and getting them a week or so later, I didn't have a lot of options. True, I could have subscribed to the New York Times to get Dave Anderson's writing, or the Los Angeles Times for Jim Murray, and there were days I picked up one or both at the news stand for just that reason.

Today, though, I have a whole new crop of favorite sportswriters. They're scattered across the country, and I can check to see if they have a new column every day. And when they do, I lose myself in morning reading bliss.

From Michael Wilbon at the Washington Post to Ray Ratto in the San Francisco Chronicle to Jason Whitlock in the Kansas City Star, I have my own roster that I check on a daily basis.

Admittedly, I'm a pretty serious purist about sportswriting. I've got hardcover books by Murphy and his good friend Red Smith (Murphy, Smith and Burick were legendary hunting and fishing buddies), as well as even older books by Grantland Rice and Ring Lardner.

Those must have been great days, when even sportswriters had colorful nicknames. Red. Ring. Granny.

But we've had great sportswriting since, represented on my shelf with books by Roger Kahn, Thomas Boswell and even poet Donald Hall, who wrote a wonderful collection of essays on sport.

So I'm a bit of a sports writing snob.

Which makes a free e-mail newsletter offered by the Dayton Daily News such a treat. I've signed up for two weekly columns by Hal McCoy, as well as weekly roundup coverage of the Dayton Dragons minor league ballclub.

Now, I get Hal's weekly baseball column, his weekly Reds roundup, plus Dayton baseball coverage – all in my e-mail basket.

While I've not checked any of the entries on my above faves list, I'm sure some of those papers offer weekly e-newsletters, too.

What's most amazing is that these are all free, although the Washington Post and Dayton Daily News require you to register to read their articles. But the registration is free and relatively painless.

All the sites are supported (apparently) by online advertising. Sports pages are among the best-read, whether in print or online, and they offer demographics (males 18-45) that advertisers want to reach.

The magazines, too

Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News both offer comprehensive national sports coverage, and both have free Web sites as good as if not better than most papers.

Then there's the king of online sports, While ESPN has lost a bit of its luster by firing Whitlock for his criticism of other writers, it's still the most comprehensive sports site on the Web. No matter the sport, no matter how small your college, it will be on And even with the glaring absence of Whitlock (whom I can now read in his home paper, anyway), offers a tremendously strong lineup of writers.

Maybe we don't live in the Golden Age of sports writing – but surely, we live in the golden age of sports coverage.