Sportswriter Ed Odeven might be living on the other side of the world, but for his new book, he reached out to a hometown hero.
Odeven is a sports columnist for Japan Forward, a national website based in Japan. “Fifty percent of the audience is in Japan and there is a growing audience overseas,” he says. “Some of the stories I’ve written have helped increase the overseas audience in North America, but there’s a large audience in the Philippines and India and Taiwan.”
Odeven has been in Japan for more than a decade now, first writing for the Japan Times as a basketball beat reporter just as that country launched its Basketball Japan League in 2005 and 2006, coinciding with the World Basketball Championship tournament.
“Japan has five national sports newspapers in Japanese,” he says. “They’ve been around for decades. There’s a very robust sports media in Japan, along with national newspapers. There’s a lot of information out there. People get the paper in the morning and another in the evening, especially the older generation. People are taking the train and there’s more time to read.”
Odeven, however, is a New York/New Jersey guy at heart. He lived in that area until he moved to Arizona just before his sophomore year of high school. He remembered reading the columns of Jerry Izenberg from the Newark Star-Ledger from childhood and also in the pieces his uncle would mail him from time to time.
“With the advent of the internet, I read him whenever there was a big fight or a Super Bowl or Triple Crown race,” Odeven says. “He’s a great storyteller, really good and interesting and a different approach from the guys screaming on talk radio. He had a nuanced argument in his columns.”
Izenberg is one of two columnists to attend nearly every Super Bowl, breaking his streak only this year, and instead, he watched the game from a casino near his home in Henderson, Nevada.
When Odeven started a website a few years ago, he reached out to people for interviews and conversations. His new book, Going 15 Rounds With Jerry Izenberg: A Collection Of Interviews With The Legendary Columnist, is the result of five years’ worth of conversations and research with Izenberg and other notable figures in the sports writing world.
“Jerry agreed to interview with me in late 2014. Six months passed and we spoke for almost three hours. The basis of that conversation is the bulk of part one of the book. We also did follow-up short interviews and emails over the next few years that really fleshed out some topics and enhanced some of the questions I had,” Odeven says.
Izenberg has a fantastic memory of sports, going back to the end of Babe Ruth’s career, and credits his father, an immigrant from the Russian/Poland border, for his love of baseball.
In turn, Odeven has a deep respect for Izenberg, who still writes and works despite just passing his 90th birthday.
“I admire the sustained excellence of his career and desire to keep working,” Odeven says. “He just wrote his first novel.”
It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell talks to Ed Odeven, a sportswriter for Japan Forward, about being an international sports journalist and his new book, Going 15 Rounds with Jerry Izenberg: A Collection of Interviews with the Legendary Columnist.