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UT establishes the Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting

🕐 4 min read

Two worthy sports writers will be selected this year as the inaugural winners of the Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting. The fact that the award named after the legendary Fort Worth sports writer known for bleeding TCU purple is based at the University of Texas doesn’t make it Dead Solid Perfect, but maybe that’s Life Its Ownself.

Jenkins is known from here to Baja Oklahoma as one of the best sports journalists to ever grace the pages of a newspaper or a magazine and both fiction and non-fiction books.

“I get a tie with Red Smith and Ring Lardner, who have awards for sportswriters,” Jenkins said. “In fact, I’ve received the Red Smith from the AP sports editors and I am receiving the Ring Lardner from the Union League of Chicago the week after the Masters. Usually, you don’t get these things when you’re still vertical.”

Smith, who died in 1982, wrote a regular column for the New York Herald Tribune until its demise and then joined The New York Times. Lardner died in 1933 and was known for his writing ability in sportswriting, satire, fiction and plays.

The Moody College of Communication Texas Program in Sports and Media (TPSM) at the University of Texas created the Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting to be presented annually to two honorees. The first selections will be announced later this year in two categories: lifetime achievement in sportswriting, and the most outstanding work of sportswriting published in the previous calendar year.

“I’m flattered, humbled, proud, and all such things as that. I hope the award will achieve a certain status in the future, as long as there are newspapers and magazines, which may not be that much longer,” Jenkins said.

“I am equally proud that some people at the University of Texas thought it up. It does have the best sports journalism department in the country and is active in preserving stuff. They are getting my library, research, letters, and original manuscripts eventually,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins is no stranger to honors himself. In 2012, he became one of only three sports writers to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He’s also a member of the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Texas Golf Hall of Fame and the TCU Lettermen’s Hall of Fame. The chance of one writer collecting all those awards is pretty much Slim and None.

“Dan Jenkins is a born-and-bred Texan whose name needs to be celebrated and whose work deserves to be studied,” TPSM Executive Director Michael J. Cramer said in a news release. “Dan is a quintessentially original writer with a creative and resonant voice that has entertained readers – and inspired writers – for decades. As a seminal chronicler of sport’s rise in American culture, he introduced or innovated many conventions in what we have come to accept as common sports writing practice today.”

Jenkins broke into the Semi-Tough, You Gotta Play Hurt and Fast Copy world of sports writing at the Fort Worth Press and Dallas Times Herald, along with the likes of Jere Todd, Blackie Sherrod, Bud Shrake and Gary Cartwright. He went on the write for Sports Illustrated and later Golf Digest. They may have been The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate because they were around when Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson were about to make their mark on the golf world.

“[Jenkins] covered his first major championship at the 1951 U.S. Open,” the World Golf Hall of Fame notes. “Hogan did battle with a brutal Oakland Hills course and grabbed the title. Sixty-one years later when it was announced that Jenkins would be part of the World Golf Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012, he said Hogan’s final-round 67 remains one of the greatest he had ever seen.”

Texas Monthly writer Jake Silverstein interviewed Jenkins for a March 2014 article titled “Not Just Semi-Opinionated” in conjunction with Jenkins’ autobiography His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir. He asked Jenkins about a line in the book that said “political correctness is a plot to destroy America.”

Jenkins told Silverstein that he takes a backseat to no one in his hatred of political correctness.

“I don’t know how anybody let it out of the box. If they can’t take a joke, f— ’em,” Jenkins said. “It was the Modern Language Society that did it, and everybody bit on it. The academics loved it because it gave them something to do. The sad thing is that the newspapers fell into it. That was the bad part. I blame teachers. The whole thing about you gotta be liberal or you can’t advance in the profession if you’re not liberal. That may be true, but it’s time it stopped being true. Hell, we had liberal teachers when I was in college. We laughed at ’em. We had one conservative and everybody wanted to take his course because he was funny. It was like taking a course with Hitler. But we didn’t take him seriously either. But now everything’s from one side.”

You might argue that that is Rude Behavior, but that’s Dan Jenkins for you.

Paul Harral
Paul is a lifelong journalist with experience in wire service, newspaper, magazine, local and network television and digital media. He was vice president and editor of the editorial page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and editor of Fort Worth, Texas magazine before joining the Business Press. What he likes best is writing about people in detail and introducing them to others in the community. Specific areas of passion are homelessness, human trafficking, health care and aerospace.

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