By Stephanie Kuzydym
Feb. 1, 2020
Dave Kindred is still doing what he loved most since age 15: writing.
Maybe you once read his work on Muhammad Ali in the Louisville Courier-Journal or his coverage of the Olympics in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution or The Washington Post. You’ve probably seen one of his columns in The Sporting News or Golf Digest.
He hasn’t written for a newspaper, though, since 1997. And he’s a long way from writing headlines for the Courier-Journal desk back in 1966.
The only thing he steadily writes now is a blog on the Morton (Ill.) high school girls basketball team.
“This is my 10th season,” Kindred said.
Since he and his wife moved back to Illinois in 2010, he’s gone to more than 300 games and in the last five years the team has won four state championships.
“They’re kind of the UConn of Illinois girls high school basketball,” Kindred said.
He’s not joking. They’re 190-13 since he started covering them and undefeated at 26-0 this 2019-20 season.
“It’s a schedule in the winter time,” Kindred said. “If they were 13-190, I might not like it as much but they’re 190-13 so the challenge is always how to find something to write about because they win by 40 points.”
So Kindred does what he’s done since he was a kid on the desk in Louisville when was told to go find Cassius Clay. He finds the story nobody is telling.
That day, he rode around town with “The Greatest,” revisiting the boxer’s boyhood memories.
In his sports writing career, Kindred covering Ali is equivalent to the Yankees winning a World Series or Tom Brady appearing in a Super Bowl. He followed him from championship fight to championship fight — eventually amassing enough information to write a book in 2006 on Ali’s relationship with sportscaster Howard Cosell.
Kindred’s coverage encompassed more than Ali. It included an Indiana University basketball team coached by Bob Knight, a Kentucky basketball team under the tutelage of Adolph Rupp, the Kentucky Derby, more summer and winter Olympics than he can keep track of, the best golfers in the world and at least, by quick conservative calculations, 7.3 million words in column writing alone — and that’s published words.
That’s all across seven decades, 11 books and a lifetime achievement award in literary sportswriting from ESPN/PEN America. Kindred, a National Hall of Fame sportswriter, won APSE’s Red Smith award in 1991 and earned the Dan Jenkins Medal of Excellence in Sportswriting in 2018. He’s donated 50 years of sports writing on Muhammad Ali — known as the Dave Kindred Collection — to his alma mater, Illinois Wesleyan University.
Ten years ago, he went to a high school girls basketball game in small-town Illinois and loved it. He found a father who had a website and asked if he could help.
A few years ago, he joked with the dad, ‘Hey, I’m a professional sports writer. I should be getting paid to do this.’
“He looked at me,” Smith said, “considered my experience, my ability and my good looks and he said, ‘How about I give you a box of Milk Duds every game?”
Some games the coach delivers the box. Sometimes a player runs it across the floor. Sometimes they’re Junior Mints instead.
“The more you write, the more you reveal to yourself,” Kindred said. “I’m 78 years old right now. The greatest thing is to write a sentence I had no idea I was going to write — where did that thought come from? But that’s what you do: find that nugget, that gem. It suddenly appears in your writing and you didn’t know you were going to write it.
“I still search for that little nugget every night when I write about the Morton Lady Potters. I hope that something like that happens and it makes it all worth doing.”