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Scholar by day, sports writer by night
June 14, 2012
Those who follow professional boxing already know about the excitement of this past week, when Timothy Bradley upset welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao in a controversial split decision.
Among the many commentators to weigh in on the contentious bout was St. Olaf Professor of Philosophy Gordon Marino, who published no fewer than four articles about the fight in the Wall Street Journal. In fact his post-fight piece, "How Bradley Beat Pacquiao — Without Punching Him," was one of the most popular articles on the Journal's website.
Clearly Marino, who entered the world of boxing journalism in 2000, is very dedicated to fast-paced reporting on the "sweet science," and his dedication has not gone unnoticed by his peers. This year the Boxing Writers Association of America awarded Marino with a second-place title and an honorable mention for boxing pieces published in 2011.
The second-place award went to his essay, "Why Boxing Is Worth Fighting For," which argues that the physical and psychological benefits of the sport outweigh the risk of potential injury. According to Marino, who is also director of the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College, the essay follows an argument from Soren Kierkegaard himself, who believed that there are risks in not taking risks.
The honorable mention went to "An Appreciation of a Champion," which spoke to the achievements of the late Joe Frazier, a former heavyweight champion and an influential role model and mentor to Marino himself.
And as if writing four boxing articles and winning two awards were not enough, this past week also saw the publication of Marino's "Money Ball," a book review written for the New York Times.
So how does Marino find the time and energy to pursue interests like boxing and to write stories for major newspapers while teaching a full course load and curating the Kierkegaard Library? "For one, I don't sleep very much," he says with a laugh. "And I've also learned that you can write quickly and passionately about subjects you know really well," regardless whether that subject is a 19th century Danish philosopher or a 21st century Filipino boxer.
Usually he has little trouble navigating between the academy and the sports arena. "The playwright David Mamet even claims that a writer needs physical activity to keep him grounded," Marino explains.
Sometimes, however, Marino's scholarly life collides with his work as a sports reporter in surprising ways. The most challenging part of his writing life is when he has to write a live, round-by-round blog of a boxing match in real time. "So I have to live-blog a fight for the first time, and I'm completely stressed out, following each punch while quickly typing a description of the bout," he says. "One of my students must have seen that I was online because suddenly a chat pops up on the screen asking, 'What was Wednesday's assignment again?'"
Read more about Marino in a recent St. Paul Pioneer Press profile.