Sports gets snubbed by Pulitzers, again

An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter:


Dave Anderson remains a member of a very small fraternity of Pulitzer Prize-winning sports reporters and columnists. Only three columnists have been cited: Besides Anderson, Arthur Daley of the New York Times [1956], Red Smith of the New York Times[1976] and Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times [1990].

On the reporting side in recent years, George Dohrmann of the St. Paul Pioneer Press won in 2000 for his reports of fraud in the Minnesota basketball program. Ira Berkow shared the 2001 Pulitzer for national reporting for his article “The Minority Quarterback” in a New York Times series on race in America.

The next sports Pulitzer winner wasn’t until 2013 when John Branch of the New York Times won for feature writing for a story on skiers killed in an avalanche. Sara Ganim and the Harrisburg Patriot-News were awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for their terrific coverage of the Jerry Sandusky saga. Ganim, though, wasn’t a sportswriter and the mess at Penn State went way beyond the realm of a sports story.

Based on basically the once-in-a-decade trend, the next Pulitzer winner to come from sports might not occur until the 2020s. George Solomon, who was the long-time sports editor for the Washington Post, calls the Pulitzer situation “distressing” as it relates to sports.

“Sports have been underrepresented by the Pulitzer committee,” said Solomon, the director of the Shirley Povich Center for sports journalism at Maryland. “There have been many terrific investigative stories coming from sports, such as on concussions and college sports. You have great narratives and profiles about people and institutions. I don’t think [the committee respects] sports as much as other subject matters in journalism.”

A case in point are the sports columnists. Certainly legends such as Povich, Grantland Rice and Jimmy Cannon, giants among giants, were more than worthy of winning the Pulitzer. And the fact that Smith and Murray had to wait until they were so deep into their careers is absolutely absurd.

Since Murray, in 1990, it now is 25 years since a sports columnist won a Pulitzer for commentary. Meanwhile, numerous columnists and critics from other sections have been recognized.

“When you think of the number of great sports columnists, it is quite remarkable that there haven’t been more winners,” Solomon said.

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