Night for Joe Louis

By Red Smith The New York Herald Tribune October 27, 1951 [This column is collected in American Pastimes: The Very Best of Red Smith] Joe Louis lay on his stomach on a rubbing table with his right ear pillowed on a folded towel, his left hand in a bucket of ice on the...

The Loser

By Gay Talese Esquire March 1964 At the foot of a mountain in upstate New York, about sixty miles from Manhattan, there is an abandoned country clubhouse with a dusty dance floor, upturned barstools, and an untuned piano; and the only sounds heard around the place at...

Rocky’s Road

By Joe Flaherty Film Comment August 1982 For sheer emotional impact, the two movies that struck a deep societal chord over the last decade were Death Wish and Rocky. The first is easy to fathom. Charles Bronson (if he’s frightened, we’re not paranoid) cinematically...

Sympathy For the Devil

By Joe Flaherty Inside Sports January 1981 All lives are failures in some degree or another. Somewhere along the line we fudge the pristine youthful dream. Even when we achieve, the compromises we’ve made, the injuries we’ve inflicted sully the prize. But most of us...

The Hippest Guy in the Room

By Mark Jacobson Esquire December 1991 The last time I saw Harold Conrad, he was lying in a hospital bed wearing dark sunglasses. Leave it to Harold to stake out a small territory of cool amid the fluorescent lighting, salt-free food, and stolid nurses bearing...

A Clean, Well-lighted Gym

By Pete Dexter Esquire March 1984 The first day the fighter came into the gym he went two rounds with a weight lifter from New Jersey who was just learning to keep his hands up—and he tried to hurt him. I didn’t know if it was something between them or if the fighter...

Brownsville Bum

By W.C. Heinz True June 1951 It’s a funny thing about people. People will hate a guy all his life for what he is, but the minute he dies for it they make him out a hero and they go around saying that maybe he wasn’t such a bad guy after all because he sure was willing...