Dan Jenkins - Sportswriter
Dan Jenkins, 90, a sportswriter who covered ski racing for Sports Illustrated from 1963 to 1972, died March 7 in Fort Worth, Texas, after a long illness and a broken hip.
A specialist in golf and college football, and not himself a skier, Jenkins brought a unique style and voice to skiing during its classic era, mainstreaming the sport for a vast American audience.
Jenkins grew up in Forth Worth and played golf for Texas Christian University. He landed a job at the Forth Worth Press and rose to become sports editor before joining Sports Illustrated in 1962. He covered the 1963 and 1970 Alpine World Championships, the 1964 and 1968 Olympics, and the Vail leg of the inaugural 1967 World Cup season. Jenkins looked at ski racing from a strictly Franco-American viewpoint, portraying these years as a road show featuring Jean Claude Killy, Jimmy Heuga, Billy Kidd and Guy Perillat embarrassing Karl Schranz and the Austrian drill team. He had a football writer’s appreciation for Bob Beattie’s scrappy infighting with the FIS establishment.
Jenkins brought to ski racing a quotable, weisenheimer Texas wit. Of the foggy Chamrousse slalom that capped the drama at the 1968 games, he wrote “At the finish line, if you leaned over a little and adjusted your binoculars, you could see your feet. Up on top, the racers pleaded that they could see no more than two gates ahead. . . . So the funniest ski race of all time was staged. Dimly, you could see the racers cross the finish line, one by one, trailed by ominous, uncertain applause. They seemed to be creeping down, a convoy of lost souls. As America's Rick Chaffee put it, ‘I made every gate I could find.’”
His interviews made Killy’s heady self-confidence come across as thoughtful humility. The 1970 combined world championship became, in Jenkins’ telling, something like Billy Kidd’s Ph.D. defense.
Jenkins dropped out of the ski racing scene after publishing his first best-selling novel, the bawdy football satire Semi-Tough, in 1972. The book was made into a movie in 1978. Jenkins went on to write for Playboy and Golf Digest, and more satirical novels about sports. –Seth Masia