2011 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing
George Dohrmann for Play Their Hearts Out (Ballantine Books)
The $5,000 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing honors a nonfiction book about sports. Eligible titles should be of a biographical, investigative, historical, or analytical nature and of the strongest literary character.
The inaugural PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing honored A Terrible Splendor by Marshall Jon Fisher. The judges were Robert Lipsyte, Tim O’Brien, and Susan Orlean.
Buzz Bissinger, Madeleine Blais, Phillip Lopate
From the Judges’ Citation
“George Dohrmann’s Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine examines a subculture we think we already know about, but is much more complicated, heart-wrenching, and Machiavellian than even our most strident imaginings. Readers will be taken aback by the degree to which the maniacal desire for athletic glory affects not just kids and their friends and families but also coaches and recruiters. Dohrmann is himself a world champion at hanging out, devoting nine years in pursuit of this subject. His in-depth research has yielded stunning details and resulted in an intimate sense of these people’s lives. The moral passion, indeed anger, animating his book is impressive: there are no punches pulled, no judgments waffled, but at the same time a scrupulous fairness amounting to wisdom illuminates the whole enterprise. An amazing blend of writing and reporting, Play Their Hearts Out is a book other journalists who write about sports should read and treasure for future inspiration.”