John Schulian

The PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing, which was conferred for the first time in the fall of 2011, is given to one living American or U.S.-based writer each year to celebrate their body of work. The award seeks to recognize a lifetime of writing about sports and its dimensions of character and action with keen knowledge and insight, and especially with a literary voice evidenced in a style of agility and flair. Eligible candidates may work in short- or long-form prose. The winner of this $5,000 award is decided by a panel of three judges, who consider letters of nomination submitted by PEN Members to PEN’s Awards Committee.

From the Judges’ Citation

For more than 35 years John Schulian’s sports writing has stamped sentences on his readers’ minds with the same verve and force of typewriter keys denting pages. In columns for the Chicago Sun Times and Philadelphia Daily News, or longer, more elegiac collectibles for Sports Illustrated and GQ, he has married craftsmanship to a dead-on emotional honesty for his subjects, and an eye for the telling, meaningful detail. A story of a lost hero of the Negro Leagues begins in a barbershop decorated by nothing but a porn calendar and a transistor radio with a coat-hanger for an antenna. A legendary quarterback looms large, “But once you got past Dutch’s mouth, he didn’t weigh very much.” Milwaukee is a city “that looks as if it has a hard time letting go of the old things.” Throughout, Schulian is wary of excessive sentiment and exaggeration that so often accompanies hero worship. Yet he writes, “That’s what greatness is: an exaggeration. Of talent, of charisma….” The same may be said of him, of his talent, and his charisma as a writer.

2016 Judges

Senator William W. Bradley, is a Managing Director of Allen & Company LLC. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1979-1997 representing the state of New Jersey. In 2000, he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Prior to serving in the Senate, he was an Olympic gold medalist and a professional basketball player with the New York Knicks from 1967–1977 during which time they won two NBA championships. He has authored seven books on American politics, culture and economy, including his latest book We Can All Do Better.

Sally Jenkins is a columnist and feature writer for the Washington Post, and the author 12 books, including The Real All Americans, a cultural history of the Carlisle Indian School’s role in fashioning modern football. Jenkins is a four-time winner of the Associated Press sports columnist of the year award, and an inductee into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. But most proudly of all, she is the daughter of PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dan Jenkins.

Dave Kindred is the author of Sound and Fury, a dual biography of Muhammad Ali and Howard Cosell. A newspaper and magazine columnist for 40 years, Kindred is a winner of the Red Smith Award for lifetime achievement in sports journalism and a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.


Past Winners

Roger Angell, Dan Jenkins, Frank Deford, Dave Anderson and Bob Ryan.

Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.