Marshall Jon Fisher for A Terrible Splendor (Three Rivers Press/Crown)

The PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing honors a nonfiction book about sports. The award is open to books of a biographical, investigative, historical, or analytical nature and of the strongest literary character.

2010 Judges

Susan Orlean, Robert Lipsyte, Tim O’Brien

From the Judges’ Citation

A Terrible Splendor is a beautiful, sad, fascinating, and important book that makes the perfect case for why sports writing matters. In part, it is a tense and vivid account of the classic 1937 Davis Cup match between Germany’s Gottfried von Cramm and American whiz Don Budge, with the troubled Bill Tilden on the sidelines. But tennis is the least of it. The book is a slow-motion portrait of a world unraveling before the war, as well as a meditation on the great tension between appearance and reality, as experienced by the three men at the center of the book. Sexuality, politics, nationality, religion, and money, as well as exceptional talent and athletic endeavor, are part of this game. Tennis, graceful and lonely, is an apt metaphor for struggles both political and personal, and in this instance, a sharp reminder that sports are not separate from life but an expression of it, reflecting change and turmoil and sometimes pain.”