Back in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, if you had a sacred cow — particularly if it had to do with sports or anything connected — Dan Jenkins would come along and push it over. And make you laugh while he was doing it.
Jenkins was one of an elite group of sportswriters who worked for Sports Illustrated — the group included Frank Deford, Roy Blount Jr., and Mark Kram — who could be counted on to cover the big game and set the reader on a journey that was pleasurable and enlightening. Jenkins himself specialized in golf and college football.
One of the high points of Jenkins writing career came in 1972 with the publication of his comic novel Semi-Tough, the first person account of Billy Clyde Puckett, the star running back for the New York Giants, during the week leading up to the Super Bowl with the New York Jets. The book mocked everything and everyone, including Jenkins’ own — the sportswriters and journalists who were his colleagues.
They gave it rave reviews, and the book is still cited as one of the funniest books ever written about sports. In 1978, Semi-Tough was made into a hit movie starring Burt Reynolds.
Jenkins was born in 1928 in Texas and began his writing career at the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. His writing was clean, sharp, and sometimes surprising and led the reader straight into a punch line.
Talking about the frustrated golfer who can’t learn to putt, he wrote:
“He knows he has tried 41 different stances, inspired by everyone from the club pro to Fred Astaire in ‘Flying Down to Rio’ and as many different strokes. Still, he knows he is hopelessly trapped. He can’t putt, and he never will, and the only thing left for him to do is bury his head in the dirt and live the rest of his life like a radish.”
Jenkins died last week at the age of 90. One of his greatest legacies is his daughter, Sally Jenkins, who is a top-flight sports writer for the Washington Post. She wrote this remembrance of her father found here.
Here is Jenkins’ obituary in the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/08/obituaries/dan-jenkins-dead.html
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