Calendar, Readings, and Assignments

"...for really good writers, sports offers an opportunity to express all the pleasure and passion of life." – Nicholas Davidoff

"Revision makes writing better. Always." – William Germano

Please note: OCW users are not able to turn in assignments to the instructor or receive a grade for their work.



Course overview

Why we write

The possibilities of "sports" as a topic for essays

Buy at Amazon Lopate, Phillip. "Why I Remain a Baseball Fan." In Portrait inside My Head. Free Press, 2013. ISBN: 9781451695861. [Preview with Google Books]

Buy at Amazon Updike, John. "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu." In Assorted Prose. Alfred A. Knopf, 1965. ISBN: 9780394414737.

Session 1 Assignment (PDF)

Sports and personal and cultural meanings

Voice, sensibility, audience

Wallace, David Foster. "Federer as Religious Experience," The New York Times, August 20, 2006. Session 2 Assignment (PDF)

Sports and cultural meanings: Description and scenes

Idea and Essay (PDF)

Buy at Amazon Agassi, Andre. Chapter 9 in Open. Vintage, 2010. ISBN: 9780307388407. [Preview with Google Books]

Gladwell, Malcolm. "Slackers," The New Yorker, July 30, 2012, 26–9.

Macone, Steve. "What I Learned From Getting Knocked Around," The New York Times, March 10, 2012.

"The Cage." (PDF) Example student work. (Courtesy of Jesse Orlowski. Used with permission.)

"Reunion." (PDF) Example student work. (Courtesy of an MIT Student. Used with permission.)

Session 3 Assignment (PDF)

The toll excellence takes on players

Shaping an essay

Prepare for Workshopping; Sign up for group conferences

Format for Essays (PDF) Session 4 Assignment (PDF) (contains description of Essay 1)
5 Workshop Essay 1

Fallows, James. "Throwing Like a Girl." The Atlantic Monthly, August 1996, 84–7.

Buy at Amazon Mooney, Sally Cole. "'Man-On': The Culture of Girls' Soccer." In Sport, Rhetoric, and Gender: Historical Perspectives and Media Representations. Edited by Linda K. Fuller. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. ISBN: 9780230619708.

Session 5 Assignment (PDF)

Feedback on Essay 1

Sports & culture: "Throwing Like a Girl"

Introduce Essay 2 assignment

Buy at Amazon Early, Gerald. "Where Have We Gone, Mr. Robinson?" In A Level Playing Field: African American Athletes and the Republic of Sports. Harvard University Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780674050983. [Preview with Google Books]

Levy, Ariel. "A Ring of One's Own," The New Yorker, May 7, 2012, 36–47.

Session 6 Assignment (PDF)

Also, Select book for Book Review. See the Book Talk Assignment (PDF) and Book List for Review Assignment (PDF)


Sports and culture: issues of race and gender

Prep for film Selected list of classic sports movies (PDF)

  Session 7 Assignment (PDF)
8 Film: Friday Night Lights (TV pilot)

Aaron, Hank. "When Basesball Mattered," The New York Times, April 13, 1997.

Hawkins, Billy, Mitch Abrams, et al. "Should Character Matter in Pro Sports?" The New York Times, July 1, 2013.

The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Argument."

Session 8 Assignment (PDF)

Sports and character

Joining the conversation

Developing an argument

Wolff, Alexander, and David Epstein. "A Massive Fraud Now More Fully Exposed." Sports, Illustrated. October 22, 2012.

Lapham, Lewis H. "Mudville." Harper's, March 2008, 11–4.

Session 9 Assignment (PDF)

Sports and drugs

Joining the Conversation / Developing an argument

Pappano, Laura. "How Big-Time Sports Ate College Life," The New York Times, January 20, 2012.

Ripley, Amanda. "The Case Against High-School Sports." The Atlantic, October 2013, 72–8.

Session 10 Assignment (PDF)

"Big-time" college sports

Argument & evidence

Gladwell, Malcolm. "Offensive Play," The New Yorker, October 19, 2009. Session 11 Assignment (PDF)

Sports and strategies

Representing ideas accurately

Rhetoric: handling complexity

"The Human Element." (PDF) Example student work. (Courtesy of Patrick Everett. Used with permission.)

"Johnny Manziel As A Performance Artist." (PDF) Example student work. (Courtesy of an MIT Student. Used with permission.)

Session 12 Assignment (PDF) (contains description of Essay 2)

Essay 2 – Additional Tips (PDF)

Style Matters (PDF)

13 Workshop Essay 2: small groups

"Playing to His Potential." (PDF) Example student work. (Courtesy of Dirk Beck. Used with permission.)

"The System: Football for Sale." (PDF) Example student work. (Courtesy of an MIT Student. Used with permission.)

Session 13 Assignment (PDF)

Feedback on Essay 2

Considering topics for Essay 3 (PDF)

Moving from topic to inquiry question

Academic integrity 1: Approaches to research and taking notes

  Session 14 Assignment (PDF)
15 Library session   Session 15 Assignment (PDF)

Academic integrity 2: Why we cite

Quoting, Paraphrasing, Summarizing, Citing

Prepping for presentations

  Session 16 Assignment (PDF)

Group 1 Oral presentations

Rubric for Evaluating Oral Presentations (PDF)

Discuss revised proposals

  Session 17 Assignment (PDF)
18 Small group work with Essay 3 pre-writing & outlines   Session 18 Assignment (PDF) (contains description of Essay 3)
19 Workshop Essay 3: Specific issues   Session 19 Assignment (PDF)
20 Workshop Essay 3: Small groups   Breathe! (no assignment)
21 Essay 3 feedback & targeted issues   Session 21 Assignment (PDF)
22 Essay 3, more work on specific issues   Session 22 Assignment (PDF)
23 Group 2 Oral Presentations   Session 23 Assignment (PDF)

Oral Presentations 3

Return revised Essay 3

  Work on Re-revision and Cover Letter for Portfolios. Use the Re-Revision Cover Worksheet (PDF).

Bring 1–2 drafts to class for polishing.

25 Polishing prose   Session 25 Assignment (PDF)
26 Final class: Share Best writing Evaluations    

Supplemental Readings

These articles and essays are all excellent examples of writing about sports. While they do not necessarily directly pertain to a particular class session, there is much to learn from their approach, structure, voice, and the skills and efforts of their authors.

Simmons, Bill. "The Kobe Question." Grantland. December 7, 2012.

Carter, C. D. "When Fantasy Football Becomes an Addiction," The New York Times, November 27, 2012.

Gutting, Gary. "The Myth of the 'Student-Athlete," The New York Times, March 15, 2012.

Miller, James Andrew, et al. "College Football's Most Dominant Player? It's ESPN," The New York Times, August 24, 2013.

Gorney, Cynthia. "Ripped. (Or Torn Up?)" The New York Times, June 17, 2009.

Oates, Joyce Carol. "Mike Tyson." Life, March, 1987.

Lewis, Michael. "The No-Stats All-Star," The New York Times, February 13, 2009.

Hohler, Bob. "Failing Our Athletes." The Boston Globe. June 21–27, 2009.