The last time SI writers Alex Wolff and Hank Hersch collaborated so closely on a story was in 1978, when they were both juniors at Princeton and members of the Press Club, a student-run organization that provided stringers to various area newspapers. Wolff was stringing primarily for the Trenton Times and Hersch for The Home News of New Brunswick, each earning about $200 for 15 articles a month. When the two covered a Tiger basketball game for their respective papers, they would sit on press row in Jadwin Gym, one shouting play-by-play—"Sowinski, 15-foot jumper from the right side"—as the other furiously typed running stats.
"Did Hank mention our dirty little secret?" says Wolff, a bit reluctant to rat on his colleague. "If a class prevented one of us from going to a game, the other would report the story, type up the notes and share the dope sheet. Now at least we're collaborating for the same employer."
Recently Wolff and Hersch have been collaborating for SI on our 1994 World Cup coverage. Their dope sheet on the 24 teams playing in this summer's Mundial is part of our World Cup preview, which kicks off on page 78.
Both Wolff and Hersch went from the Press Club to careers in the press box after graduating in 1980. Wolff is a member of the class of 1979, but he graduated with Hersch's class after taking off his junior year to play basketball in Switzerland for Stv Luzern, a Swiss Division III club. The game was still new to the soccer buffs in Switzerland, and at times players would instinctively kick a loose basketball with their feet.
Hired by SI as a reporter in 1980, Wolff became a writer in 1982. Since then he has covered the NBA and college basketball and has filled his passport while writing about five Tours de France, three Olympics, three French Opens, two Pan Am Games and one Wimbledon. Wolff, whose contributions this week include an opening essay and a piece on German star Jürgen Klinsmann, has spent a good part of the past year traveling throughout Europe while covering soccer. "It's been like a Berlitz course," says Wolff of his time spent learning the game.
Hersch joined SI, also as a reporter, in 1984. After Princeton he worked for the Commercial-News of Danville, Ill., before earning a master's from Columbia's graduate school of journalism. Following a four-month stint at The Mamaroneck (N.Y.) Daily Times, he came to SI and was promoted to writer in 1988. Hersch is an expert generalist who has reported on almost every sport we cover. His most recent assignment was the NBA playoffs.
For the next month Wolff and Hersch, both of whom live in Manhattan, will be traveling to the nine World Cup venues, once again collaborating, telling more than just stories of the play on the field. "Soccer is a game of feelings," says Hersch. "The focus will be on the players, who are rich in personality."
Soccer is also a game that reveals a country's character. "When fans watch Brazil play the game as if it were a 90-minute samba, they learn a lot about the country's culture," says Wolff.
We can't think of two better people to collaborate on bringing our readers such insights.
Wolff (left) and Hersch are on a World Cup kick.