David Halberstam's Love of Sports & Legacy of Truth
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam died yesterday in a car crash in Menlo Park, CA. He was 73. Halberstam’s work as a journalist ranges wide and delves deep. He covered the Korean War, the Vietnam War and civil rights but he was also fascinated with the humanity and spectacle of sports. He did not simply document the history he lived through – he explained complex societal constructs and cultural shifts in a way that anyone could easily understand. He was one of the only journalists who questioned the Vietnam War early on and it was this same questioning – throughout his life and his work – that allowed him to uncover facts that other journalists side-stepped.
Halberstam was in Berkeley this week to interview retired football quarterback Y.A. Tittle for his latest book about the dramatic 1958 Baltimore Colts’ vs. New York Giants game – a game that Halberstam viewed as pivotal in making football the spectator sport it has become today. He was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles last night and was expected to appear at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Thursday for an event honoring David A. Gill. Halberstam had planned to discuss the similarities and differences between the Vietnam and Iraq wars with LA Times columnist Tim Rutten.
Halberstam’s brand of ask-the-tough-questions journalism was absent in the early coverage of our run-up to the Iraq war. We wonder what Halberstam would have said on Thursday night about this coverage, about where we are now (Iraq) vs. where we were then (Vietnam) – we’re guessing he'd strongly advocate for more questioning, more independent digging, on the part of our nation’s journalists.
Halberstam’s legacy is immense – from his work in the field to his many books. Yet, we hope that his desire to uncover the truth becomes a maxim for today’s working writers, journalists and thinkers. We can’t think of a more important gift to leave the world.
Halberstam's Non-Fiction Work includes: The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era, The Unfinished Odyseey of Robert Kennedy, Ho, The Best and the Brightest, The Powers That Be, The Breaks of the Game, The Amateurs: The Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal, The Reckoning, The Summer of '49, The Next Century, The Fifties, October 1964, The Children, Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made, War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals, Firehouse, The Teammates, The Education of a Coach, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War
Notable Halberstam interviews & speeches: Speech to the Columbia University Journalism School, NPR interview on Iraq, Powell's interview about Teammates, CNN interview, NY Times interview, Salon interview about Michael Jordan, discussion of War in a Time of Peace, discussing The Children, and Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities interview.