In this episode we cover John's career as a sportswriter and stories from his books covering the NFL. Speaking of his books, John has graciously offered to send an autographed copy of his book to one lucky winner.
John's writing journey began when he was a sports-loving youngster in Dallas, Texas. After completing the imaginary football and basketball games that occupied him for hours after school, he would come inside, sit down in front of a typewriter and author game stories, copying the styles from articles in the local newspapers, which he devoured every day.
His love affair with writing and reading continued with his first job as a teenager. He worked at an independent bookstore that his mother co-owned.
As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, he majored in English but spent most of his time at the school newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, where he was a staff writer and sports columnist. In his senior year, Penn’s basketball team won the Ivy League and went on a miracle run to the Final Four. John traveled to Salt Lake City for the event – the first of dozens of major sports events he would cover.
After college, he wrote for newspapers for almost three decades, starting at the Dallas Times Herald, one of the papers he had devoured every day as a boy. His first job was covering high school sports, where Texas’ fabled “Friday Night Lights” provided a rich writing tableau. After jumping to The Baltimore Sun in 1984, he spent more than two decades as a columnist covering major events around the globe while also paying close attention to his hometown teams – the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Orioles, and Maryland Terrapins.
Along the way, he wrote 3,000 columns, won more than 20 awards, and witnessed historic sports achievements such as Cal Ripken’s Ironman streak, Tiger Woods’ barrier-busting Masters triumph, Michael Jordan’s Game 6 masterpiece against the Utah Jazz in 1998, and both of the Ravens’ Super Bowl triumphs in January 2001 and February 2013. He covered the Olympics in Los Angeles (1984), Calgary (1988), Albertville, France (1992), Lillehammer, Norway (1994) and Sydney, Australia (2000).
After the experience of working in a bookstore, John set a goal to author a book. That goal was attained when he published his first work of narrative nonfiction in 1996. The book was The Longest Shot, about an unlikely Kentucky Derby winner, a relatively obscure horse named Lil E. Tee. John has since written nine more books on baseball, pro football and horse racing.
In 2017 he published The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record, an in-depth examination of baseball's Iron Man record, which Gehrig and Ripken made famous. It was a finalist for the Casey Award, which honors the best baseball book of the year, and was short-listed for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sportswriting, which honors the best sports books of the year.
Although he left newspapers in 2007 to focus on his books, John has continued to write daily about Baltimore sports, first at csnbaltimore.com and now as a columnist for the Ravens. He has also written for Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian Magazine, and Details, and taught an upper-level sports journalism class at Towson University.
John lives in Baltimore with his wife of 34 years, Mary Wynne. They have two grown children: Anna, a University of Maryland graduate who works as a corporate designer near Washington D.C.; and Wick, a former college pitcher who works as a communications specialist for the Whiting School of Engineerng at Johns Hopkins University.
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