Academic journal article Journalism History

Grantland Rice and His Heroes: The Sportswriter as Mythmaker in the 1920s

Academic journal article Journalism History

Grantland Rice and His Heroes: The Sportswriter as Mythmaker in the 1920s

Article excerpt

Inabinett, Mark. Grantland Rice and His Heroes: The Sportswriter as Mythmaker in the 1920s. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994. 130 pp. $14.

In 1924, Grantland Rice covered the Notre Dame-Army football game for the New York Herald-Tribune. His first four sentences may be the most famous ever written by a sportswriter:

Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.

While such "purple" writing is understandably avoided by today's sportswriters, Mark Inabinett, managing editor of the Washington (N. C.) Daily News, revisits the era out of which that lead came in Grantland Rice and His Heroes and shows that sportswriters owe Rice a great debt.

Rice, who was the most famous and widely read sportswriter of his time, had an interesting background. A Phi Beta Kappa at Vanderbilt, where he majored in Greek and Latin while playing football and baseball, he joined the Nashville News in 1901, writing sports and covering the state capitol and the county courthouse as well as general assignment stories.

By the time the 1920s ended, he was the first nationally famous sportswriter with a column syndicated in more than 250 newspapers. When he died in 1954, Arthur Daley wrote in his New York Times's obituary, "He could reflect the drama and the excitement as few men could. There was an era in the 1920s when every young writer tried to emulate Grantland Rice., Inabinett recreates that era, which was known as the "Golden Age" of sports because of the exceptional stars who blossomed. Babe Ruth was playing baseball, Jack Dempsey was the heavyweight champion of the world, Red Grange and Knute Rockne became synonymous with football, Bill Tilden ruled the tennis courts, and Bobby Jones took golf to a new height. Rice was a close friend and wrote about them often with hyperbole and lyricism, and sometimes in poetry. In doing so, he helped make them national heroes. …

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