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Franz Lidz

Franz Lidz joined the writing staff of Sports Illustrated in 1980, even though he had never read the magazine and had covered only one sporting event in his life - a pigeon race in Shapleigh, Maine. A columnist for Smithsonian and Vice President of Communications of the Detroit Pistons, he has written for the New York Times since 1982, on travel, TV, film and theater. His work is widely anthologized and includes the childhood memoir Unstrung Heroes -- which was turned into an eponymous 1995 film, directed by Diane Keaton -- the urban history Ghosty Men: The Strange But True Story of the Collyer Brothers and the "crypto-memoir" Fairway To Hell. His career highlights at S.I. include road trips in search of sports on the equator, the world's most dangerous sport and Roman gladiators as the first sports superstars, a lengthy meditation on Don King's hair, the second-ever descent of Africa's Zambezi River, a weighty essay on the 580-pound sumo wrestler Konishiki, an investigation into the questionable around-the-world run by Robert Garside, a look inside the mind games at the 1987 world chess championship between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov in Seville, Spain, three weeks in the Sahara covering the 2002 Paris-to-Dakar Rally, a trudge through Panama's Darien jungle retracing Vasco Núñez de Balboa's 1513 expedition, and a journey into the world of Jeopardy! His essay on George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees' line of succession was called the "scoop of the year" in the 2008 Houghton-Mifflin collection The Best American Sports Writing. In 2013 he co-wrote a groundbreaking S.I. cover story with NBA player Jason Collins in which Collins became the first active male in one of the four major North American team sports to announce he was gay. Among the other noteworthy news stories he broke: the surreal, Fifth-Dimensional beliefs of former All-Star catcher Darren Daulton. and the twisted torment of onetime Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.