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Volume 21 No. 13
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Ink-stained stars: ESPN exec’s retro top sports sections

In a column last month, I called George Solomon’s Washington Post and Vince Doria’s Boston Globe “the two best sports sections in the history of newspapers.”

Because of the parochial nature of newspapers, I wasn’t surprised that many disagreed with my opinion via Twitter and email and over the phone.

I will make no apologies for my love of the Post in the 1980s and 1990s. Every day, I read some of the best sports journalism from the Post’s who’s-who roster of reporters and columnists in that era — people like Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, David DuPree, Richard Justice, Dave Kindred, Christine Brennan, Sally Jenkins, David Aldridge, Ken Denlinger … I could go on.

One of the people who challenged my opinion is ESPN communication executive Mike Soltys, who offered a unique perspective. Soltys started working at ESPN in 1980. He read and pitched stories to all of these papers at one time or another.

I asked Soltys to rank his top-five sports sections of the 1980s and 1990s, which is the golden era of newspaper sports sections. It was a time before the internet boom, when the best reporters and writers plied their trade in black-and-white newsprint. Here are his choices:

Boston Globe: The pioneer of thorough notes columns and journalism legends, from [Leigh] Montville to [Peter] Gammons to [Will] McDonough to Doria.

USA Today: Daily TV sports column prompted the explosion of coverage of the beat. The nation’s newspaper also featured sports often ignored by locals — from soccer to motorsports to X Games.

Dallas Morning News: Their weekend sections during football season had so much in them you couldn’t possibly read it all.

L.A. Times: The West Coast Boston Globe. Expansive coverage of all sports and an impressive list of writers starting with the Hall of Famer Jim Murray.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Leaders in championing diversity in their staff, and their coverage ­— Olympics, NASCAR, sports media and more.

Also receiving votes from Soltys are the many midmarket sections that were as good as big-market sections are today — Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, San Diego Union-Tribune, Kansas City Star to name a few.

— John Ourand