On a mellow midsummer evening in 1992 — back when the Whole Foods Co-op was still next door to the Chester Park Laundromat at Fourth Street and Fifteenth Avenue East — I emptied a big mesh bag full of dirty laundry into three or four front-loading washers, tied my apartment key (for the basement of 1516 East Fourth Street, a little more than a block away ) to the hockey-skate lace holding up my cutoff UMD sweats, and started jogging up the east side of the Chester Creek trail. My plan was to take that side up to Chester Bowl, follow the pavement back to the soccer field, then reverse the process down the west side of creek and return just as the wash cycle ended. The laundromat wasn’t crowded, but I still didn’t want to be the guy who takes up a bunch of machines then disappears. I also don’t like people touching my stuff, even if it’s just to move my wet clothes into a rolling basket with a janky wheel or two so they can use the washer.
I wasn’t taking classes that summer, so I’d probably thrown a small stack of unread Sports Illustrated issues on top of the dirty clothes along with a jug of Tide. I assume my plan for after the jog was to transfer all the clothes into one or two of the laundromat’s huge, nuclear-heat dryers, grab some chocolate-covered almonds and a fizzy drink at the Co-op, and settle in to read about sports things that were starting to seem a lot less important than they had seemed since I was a little boy.
Good sports writing about more than sports is the stuff that had drawn my attention since elementary school, when Grandma Eva started giving me an annual SI subscription every Christmas. I really liked the long stories that focused more on people and culture and ideas than on stats and player trades and the stuff blowhards now shout about on TV and the radio. I should probably start reading the Best American Sports Writing anthology series again. Or maybe re-buy and re-read (if for no other reason than the story “Popper”) the George Plimpton anthology I once owned when I thought I was preparing for a career as a newspaper or magazine sports columnist.