The best stories I wrote this year (which isn’t to say they’re good, just that I wrote them and they contain minimal spelling errors)

I’m not a fan of self-promotion, but I’m posting this more as an appreciation of the folks I got to write about in 2017. So, here are my favorite stories I wrote this year, and why I enjoyed writing them so much.

If you’re looking for other great writing, my top 10 for the year, my favorite political reads and my honorable mention lists are all up.

* Manny Diaz is finally home

Manny Diaz grew up in Miami. He cut his teeth on football at the old Orange Bowl, watching games with his dad. His father was mayor of the city, was a key player in the Elian Gonzalez story. That Diaz has found so much success with the Hurricanes in the past two years is a terrific homecoming story.

All of this was written before the advent of the Turnover Chain, of course, but I think it’s clear how much Diaz understands Miami, understands its players, and embraces the essence of what The U means to the city.


* Clemson’s best dive bar

One of ESPN’s editors had a plan to write about food this season. His pitch: An Anthony Bourdain-like trip around college football. The idea didn’t entirely take off this season, but as the Waffle House feature noted in my previous post shows, we did do some fun food features. This was another. My story on Clemson’s Esso Club was some of the most fun I’ve had reporting this year, with all the colorful details you’d expect from a place like the Esso, and it got about as much attention as anything I wrote.

Continue reading The best stories I wrote this year (which isn’t to say they’re good, just that I wrote them and they contain minimal spelling errors)

Stories that warrant being mentioned honorably that did not manage to crack my top 10 for 2017

I ranked my 10 favorite stories of the year earlier because that’s what you’re supposed to do with these lists but those hardly represented all the great stuff I read this year.

(Note: Last year’s list of best stories can be found HERE.)

So, while I highly recommend you checking out the top 10 HERE, I’m also including a more extensive list of great reads from 2017.

I separated out stories on Trump because some of you may be inclined to avoid them. If not, have at it HERE.

And if you’re OK with a little self-promotion, HERE are my favorite stories I got to write this past year.

Now, on with the list…

Because food is always a great topic for writing, some great stories on how what (and where) we eat impacts our lives, we’ve got a few that fit that angle.


* My friend Dave Wilson doesn’t write a ton for ESPN — he mostly edits stuff from lesser writers like myself. But boy, when he finds a good subject, he can run with it, as he does here on the subject of Waffle House as religion among college football fans. I’m not sure I read a story this year with better quotes than Wilson got for this. His secret, he told me, was simply sticking around long enough to get them. That’s something every reporter should remember.

Some of the best:

“The syrup,” she says, “gets in your veins.”


“Its warm, yellow glow, a beacon of hope and salvation, inviting the hungry, the lost, the seriously hammered all across the South to come inside, a place of safety and nourishment.”


“There’s no goat cheese and garlic here,” said Blake Tanner, an area vice president. “Just straight-up eatin’.”

Continue reading Stories that warrant being mentioned honorably that did not manage to crack my top 10 for 2017

The best things I read on Donald Trump and the end of society as we know it in 2017

I posted my 10 favorite stories of 2017 earlier. I will post lots more “honorable mentions” in a bit. But, of course, Donald Trump so dominated the news that he deserved (is that the right word?) his own section.

There was a lot of good journalism done and some not so good stuff. But, these pieces were all terrific.


* This from David From in The Atlantic is one of the most important reads of the year — not because it savages Trump (though it does) but because it showcases just how essential it is that we don’t let ourselves be beaten down by all the ways in which Trump has utilized his power.

The home run paragraph:

By filling the media space with bizarre inventions and brazen denials, purveyors of fake news hope to mobilize potential supporters with righteous wrath—and to demoralize potential opponents by nurturing the idea that everybody lies and nothing matters. A would-be kleptocrat is actually better served by spreading cynicism than by deceiving followers with false beliefs: Believers can be disillusioned; people who expect to hear only lies can hardly complain when a lie is exposed. The inculcation of cynicism breaks down the distinction between those forms of media that try their imperfect best to report the truth, and those that purvey falsehoods for reasons of profit or ideology. The New York Times becomes the equivalent of Russia’s RT; The Washington Post of Breitbart; NPR of Infowars.

The elections we’ve seen in 2018 — in Virginia and Alabama, in particular — offer some hope that cynicism isn’t the overwhelming emotion of the Trump era, but the machine will continue to push us toward that if we do not actively fight to avoid it.

* There have been so many stories about Trump and racism and America going to hell, and it’s always quite clear who the good guys and the bad guys are. This wonderful piece from Stephanie McCrummen in the Washington Post about a Muslim doctor fearful that his hometown has abandoned him plays with expectations a bit, doing a better job of drawing three-dimensional portraits of the people on both sides of the story in a way few others have done.

* I’ve read a lot of Ta-Nehisi Coates this year. I struggle with a lot of it for myriad reasons, but as a white male, it always feels like I’m being let in on a conversation between people who would normally never trust me with their feelings. This look at how race is not just a part of Trump’s rise, but the overwhelming cause of it, is so boldly argued and unflinchingly supported by history and data that it’s impossible to ignore.

* Also in The Atlantic, Adam Serwer writes what I think is arguably the most important story on Trump and race that I’ve seen. No one thinks they are a racist. Hell, even the neo-Nazis won’t just come out and say it. But racism is at the heart of so much of today’s rhetoric, and Serwer’s essay is so unwaveringly certain of itself that it’s conclusions feel genuinely earned.

* The ultimate question in our current era of tribalism: What do we do when facts don’t matter? The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert looks at why people are so willing to overlook evidence in favor of opinion and in Scientific American, Michael Shermer looks at how we argue with each other when facts aren’t enough.

* If not for the John Boehner story in my top 10, this New Yorker profile of Mike Pence probably would’ve been my favorite political profile piece of the year. Jane Mayer found so many great nuggets that it was a talking point for the left for weeks, and yet I think some of the biggest implications — for example, that Pence really isn’t that bright — were largely ignored.

* Much was made after the election of the so-called media bubble. Politico does a deep dive, and the results are… concerning.

* This tale of how the Washington Post flipped the tables on conservative scandal makers is so terrific and, for us journalists, feels like something of a superhero story.


The 10 best stories of 2017 as ranked by me, using a non-scientific but completely accurate approach

Each year I try to put together a list of my 10 favorite stories I’ve read. If you’re interested, here’s last year’s list (via Facebook).

The list is not meant to be exhaustive. I read a lot, but I’ve missed a lot, too. If you’re interested in a more thorough list of great reading, might I suggest Longform’s year end list or Pocket’s or Bloomberg’s “Jealousy List” or all the great stuff on Longreads.

Instead, this list is just my favorites of what I read. Some are riveting narratives. Some are argumentative essays. All of them will stick with you long after you finish reading — and that, I think, is the sign of a great story.

What isn’t included here, purposefully, are stories on Trump. While some of these may tangentially touch on his presidency, I didn’t want this to turn into a long list of Trump stories or to politicize any of the great writing below.

I will, however, link to a number of great pieces on Trump in a follow up (HERE!) so if you’re looking for that kind of thing, it won’t be hard to find.

With all that said, my top 10 reads of 2017…


10. The Sub Eater

You don’t need to write a 10,000-word magazine story to find something great. This story from the Buffalo News on a guy who just likes eating a sandwich under a certain tree — and the neighbors who weren’t so thrilled about it — is utterly perfect. Seriously. If I were to ever teach a course on news writing, this would be my first example of how it should be done.

Continue reading The 10 best stories of 2017 as ranked by me, using a non-scientific but completely accurate approach