Dan Jenkins’ You Gotta Play Hurt is a book that’s stayed with me.
I first read the novel in the early ’90s. I was freelancing sports articles after having authored sports columns for the college newspaper. I even interviewed for a sportswriting position at The Courier-Journal but, in a rarity for me, decided on the spot during the interview that I could never work for the editor. The gentleman was combative, abrupt and, I suspected, professionally unhappy.
Intrigued by Kirkus Review’s mention that some will find the “bawdy, bitter” book “offensive,” I may have to download the title on the Kindle. I can’t find my copy and I believe the hardcover and paperback versions are out of print.
I recall reading the book at the same time as my father and discussing (potentially using our new Prodigy or AOL email accounts!) how Jenkins captured much of what life was like for sportswriters on the road, traveling from one event to the next, becoming more disillusioned with each stop as the industry lost luster and celebrated athletes’ behaviors increasingly degraded. No event, not even the stately Kentucky Derby, seemed to avoid Jenkins’ condemning eye. But it’s been 30 years since I’ve read it. So it may be time to revisit the story.