‘She Made Us Happy’: The All-Star Dreams of Uvalde’s Biggest José Altuve Fan

In this hard but necessary read, Roberto José Andrade Franco writes about one Uvalde family’s loss, and a small-town Texas community on the edge of the Nueces Strip that has changed forever. Franco beautifully honors the life of 10-year-old Tess Mata, a softball player and student murdered in the Robb Elementary School shooting, and traces a history of Texas shaped by guns, violence, and segregation.

When they tell the story, it makes them laugh, even now. They’re trying hard to get used to all the things that are gone. Trying to get used to no longer hearing the sounds Tess made, the thump-thump-thump whenever she practiced her pitching.

“This is where our heart’s at,” Jerry says of Tess’ room, and their home, and their small South Texas town next to the now waterless Nueces River.

We didn’t have to grow up alongside the Nueces River, listening to songs and stories of the violence all around us. But we did.

Source: ESPN
Published: Jul 27, 2022
Length: 29 minutes (7,314 words)

The Untold Story of the WNBA’s Reigning MVP

She has the game; she has the personality. She even has a compelling origin story. Yet few people outside of the WNBA faithful even know who Jonquel Jones is:

In February, Jones tweeted out her own frustrations. “It’s all a popularity contest and politics in wbb. In mbb you just gottah be the best. In wbb you gottah be the best player, best looking, most marketable, most IG followers, just to sit at the endorsement table. Thank God for overseas because my bag would’ve been fumbled.

“Not to mention me being a black lesbian woman,” she added. “Lord the seats disappearing from the table as I speak.”

Jones, 28, has earned almost every on-court accolade there is. She was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player in 2017 and Sixth Woman of the Year in 2018. She was the 2021 MVP. The combination of her size, athleticism and skills makes her a unique talent. She can dunk, block shots, pull up off the dribble, drain a 3.

“A lot of people can’t do what JJ does at her size,” Williams says. “Since the first day I met JJ, I told her like, ‘You the one! Nobody can hold you. Once you believe that you a star, you going to be a star because the things that you can do.'”

But being Black, gay and self-described as more masculine puts Jones at an intersection that has traditionally struggled to attract brands even as the WNBA itself — players, teams and leadership — has become the most LGBTQIA+ inclusive professional sports league in the United States.

Source: ESPN
Published: Jun 22, 2022
Length: 20 minutes (5,000 words)

Inside Kyiv on the Night of Ukraine’s Stunning World Cup Qualifier Victory

“I came to Kyiv to watch a city watch a game.” Wright Thompson goes to the capital of Ukraine to watch the country’s football team play Scotland in a World Cup qualifier. It’s an emotional, poignant read about life during war, the power of football, and the incredible strength and spirit of the Ukrainian people.

Our fixer, who evacuated Kyiv on Feb. 24 and hadn’t returned until now, took me there to have a bowl of borscht, a traditional Ukrainian soup. She said if she had to choose, borscht from this restaurant would be her last meal on earth. We had a big group but everyone ate in silence, still processing the violence of a cruise missile slamming into an apartment building. That’s Kyiv. Something devastated just steps from something cherished. At war and at peace. Modern and ancient. Beautiful and ruined. That’s what Viktoria was talking about, I think, when she talked about the shadows she could sense all around her in the air. Kyiv might exist as a beacon for a new and proud Ukrainian future or, if the foreign money dries up, there might be Russian tanks rolling through these streets. History is being written in real time and nobody knows how things will end. These could be the last days of a regional war or the first days of a world war. Someone told me the best part of a day in Kyiv is the 15 seconds between waking up and your brain clicking into gear. In those fleeting moments everything is like it was before.

Source: ESPN
Published: Jun 2, 2022
Length: 17 minutes (4,282 words)

Untold

The legend of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was ultimately tarnished by the heinous crimes of Paterno assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Before Sandusky, however, there was another monster connected to the school’s football program —  one whose many unspeakable violations are only coming to light now, in Junod and Lavigne’s tireless, exhaustive investigation. This is a long, difficult piece. It’s also a necessary one.

And yet, just as there is a cost to keeping silence, there is cost to breaking it. Decades after Betsy called Ann to tell her what had happened on the night of Sept. 13, they both remain reluctant to speak the word that names what Hodne did to her. The daughter is now 64. The mother is 84. They are close; they know most of what there is to know about each other. But they both remember that phone call, and the weight of the word, and how breaking the silence broke them. They can say it now; they can say that Betsy was raped. But they still grieve each time they do. And both of them, far away from one another, in separate phone calls, still weep.

Source: ESPN
Published: Apr 11, 2022
Length: 126 minutes (31,519 words)

The Unstoppable Drive of Chris Wright

A melding of science and sports, this is the feel-good story of the first NBA player with multiple sclerosis:

Lying immobile and alone, 5,000 miles from everyone he loved, Wright was terrified, unsure of what was happening to his body. He didn’t know if he’d ever walk again, let alone hold a basketball.

Overnight, his livelihood and identity had been ripped away. He’d soon be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and doctor after doctor would tell him his career was over. Wright had every reason to turn bitter, but he refused. As he stands here now, a decade later, he remembers the decision he made then, and the resolve he found: He wouldn’t retire, he would relearn how to walk and run, and he’d damn sure play basketball again.

Source: ESPN
Published: Mar 30, 2022
Length: 10 minutes (2,700 words)

The Secret MVP of Sports? The Port-a-Potty

“Tailgating had become a new American tradition, with attendance at college football games alone surging from 18.9 million in 1950 to almost 30 million in 1970, and a need for portable bathrooms was inevitable.”

Source: ESPN
Published: Jan 5, 2022
Length: 17 minutes (4,311 words)

The Unstoppable Dreams of Ricardo Pepi

A profile of a Mexican American soccer prodigy.

Source: ESPN
Published: Oct 6, 2021
Length: 19 minutes (4,800 words)

“Is This My Life Now?” Justin Foster’s—and My—Struggle With Long-Haul COVID

“From our first conversation, we connected about what it was like to suddenly no longer be yourself, and the constant self-doubt that came with it. If we can’t do the things we used to do, then who are we?”

Author: T.J. Quinn
Source: ESPN
Published: Sep 3, 2021
Length: 21 minutes (5,378 words)

The Incredible Story of Ray Caldwell, the MLB Pitcher Who Survived a Lightning Strike to Finish a Game

“Caldwell is on his back, arms spread wide, out cold on the mound. The lightning strike had hit him directly.”

Source: ESPN
Published: Aug 24, 2021
Length: 13 minutes (3,313 words)

‘I Found Your Mom’

In October 2020, 41 years after his mother’s disappearance, Paul Wulff received an unexpected phone call.

Source: ESPN
Published: Aug 10, 2021
Length: 19 minutes (4,978 words)