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A Front-Row Seat with the Sportswriters Who Sat There

Sit down with host Todd Jones and other sportswriters who knew the greatest athletes and coaches, and experienced first-hand some of the biggest sports moments in the past 50 years. They’ll share stories behind the stories -- some they’ve only told to each other.

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Latest Episode

Rick Telander: Going Beyond the Surface

Rick Telander is curious by nature, and his drive to learn more through reporting and relationships has served readers well for five decades. He’s always dives deep on stories, and he takes us with him on this episode. Rick puts us in an NFL training camp, where getting cut as a player caused his writing career to bloom. We go with him to the heaven-like basketball playgrounds of New York City in the 1970s for his first book. We ride with Rick into the Wild West of college football in the ‘80s. He takes us behind the scenes with characters on the ferocious ’85 Bears. Hear about the childlike wonder and blazing inner-drive of the great Walter Payton. Rick also explains the mischievous and competitiveness of another Chicago icon – some guy named Michael Jordan, who could read any room like no one else. And Rick takes us from the heights of fame with Jordan to the tough west side of Chicago, where he chronicled how prep basketball players at Orr Academy must overcome much more than opponents.

Rick has been an award-winning senior sports-columnist of the Chicago Sun-Times since 1995. He wrote about 300 stories and nearly three dozen cover stories for Sports Illustrated as a senior writer for that magazine from 1974-1998. Rick was a senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine, made regular appearances on that cable network’s show, Sports Reporters, and hosted a radio show on ESPN radio. Rick was also a panelist on The Sportswriters on TV, Sports Channel America cable, from 1985-2000. And he hosted a radio show on WSCR-AM in Chicago.

The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association voted Rick Illinois Sportswriter of the Year eight times. He has won nine Peter Lisagor awards for sports journalism. In 2014, Telander was awarded the Ring Lardner Award for Excellence in Sports Journalism by the Union League Club of Chicago. That same year, he was awarded the Ring Lardner Award for Excellence in Sports Journalism by the Union League Club of Chicago. In 2018, he received the Sigma Delta Chi Award and Bronze Medallion for distinguished service from the Society of Professional Journalists, in Wash., D.C. Rick’s work has been featured in The Best American Sportswriting Anthology eight times and in over two dozen other anthologies. He was the guest editor for The 2016 Best American Sports Writing anthology. Rick is the author of eight books, one of which, Heaven Is A Playground, was named one of the Ten Best Sports Books of All Time by Playboy Magazine, and one of the 100 Best Sports Books by Sports Illustrated. That book was made into a movie released in 1991.

Rick is a native of Peoria, Illinois and played football (defensive back) for Northwestern, where he graduated in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. He was named All-Big Ten as a senior and was a two-time All-Big Ten Academic honoree. The Kansas City Chiefs selected him in the eighth round of the ’71 NFL draft but cut him during training camp. He wrote a book about that experience in 2004, Like a Rose, which was made into a short film by NFL Films in 2013. In 2017, Telander announced that after his death, his brain will be donated to Boston’s Concussion Legacy Foundation for research about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Follow him on Twitter: @ricktelander

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The Team

Todd Jones

Todd Jones is senior writer for the Ohio State Alumni Magazine and host of the Ohio State University podcast, One Degree Greater.

Sarah Willgrube

When Sarah isn't using her rich background in film production to produce podcasts, you can find her painting or hiking the great outdoors.