A senior writer at Sports Illustrated magazine for nearly 23 years, William Nack retired from that job in 2001 and has been free-lancing for GQ and S.I. while working on a memoir covering his days as a sporting life and racetrack habitue. In the gentler realms of leisure--beyond searching for the world’s handsomest wall-eyed pike, picking through the literary remains of Pablo Neruda and looking for literature’s perfect poem in Spanish-- Nack has but two diversionary goals that consume him: launching a dimpled white ball a distance of 275 yards and creating the platonically perfect tureen of chicken-vegetable soup.
The subject arrived at his state of disequilibrium after more than 40 years in the journalism business, during a career that jostled him from the University of Illinois to the U.S. Army in Vietnam to Newsday newspaper on Long Island and finally to S.I. in Manhattan. In the course of navigating this mother of all boondoggles, he trafficked with assorted heroes and rogues, and attended everything from the execution of Gary Mark Gilmore in Utah to the adventures of the Israeli national basketball team in Tel Aviv during the Gulf War. Along the way, he had a grand time of it. He recited portions of The Great Gatsby with Hunter S. Thompson in Las Vegas, drank with novelist Frederick Exley in Florida, had dinner with Bo Derek at Caesars Palace, put out a newspaper with Roger Ebert in Illinois, attended the 1968 Tet Offensive with 150,000 Viet Cong soldiers in Saigon and watched Secretariat win the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. Nack’s 1975 biography of that surpassing beast, reissued early last year, was recently acclaimed by S.I. as one of the top 50 sports books of all time. An anthology of his magazine work entitled My Turf: Horses, Boxers, Blood Money and the Sporting Life was published this February.