A Sporting Life
by Ken Burger
A collection of columns by South Carolina’s premiere newspaper sportswriter, Ken Burger.
A collection of columns by South Carolina's premiere newspaper sportswriter, Ken Burger.
About the Author
Ken Burger said he was an “accidental sports writer” because, coming out of college he had no intention of covering athletic events. He hardly knew which baseball teams were in the National League and which ones were in the American League.
Doug Nye, sports editor of The Columbia (S.C.) Record, said that didn’t matter. He liked Ken’s style and hired him as a 20-something sports reporter in June 1973.
That launched a long and distinguished career in which Ken earned so many S.C. Press Association writing awards that he lost count, a double handful of S.C. Sports Writer of the Year citations from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, three nods from the Associated Press as one of the best sports columnists in the country, the title of South Carolina’s Journalist of the Year in 1996, and a special place in the journalism wing of the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame.
While writing for the Columbia papers and The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., Ken’s bread-and-butter topics included University of South Carolina and Clemson football, basketball and baseball as well as local high school and small-college teams.
Privileged to be writing in what many considered the United States’ heyday of sports journalism, Ken traveled far and wide to file dispatches from a dozen Super Bowls, several Final Fours, and almost every major golf tournament, including more than 20 Masters Tournaments.
Ken’s love of writing landed him a ringside seat in athletic cathedrals that included Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Super Dome, and almost every other major temple of sport from coast to coast. When asked about his favorite sports moment, Ken smiles and says, “All of them.”
Well-armed with an impressive homeboy vocabulary, a keen sense of story, and an empathetic ear for human emotion, Ken consistently gave readers something timely that they could not get anywhere else, something he jokingly called “literature in a hurry.”
Ken also served a few years as the Washington D.C. news correspondent for The Post and Courier and wrote an award- winning metro news column for several years. But he spent more than a quarter-century covering Palmetto State sports.
His first novel, Swallow Savannah, was published in 2008. His second novel, Sister Santee, came out in 2010. Both novels were touted as among the best in Southern fiction by the Independent Publishers Association. Burger’s Baptized in Sweet Tea, won the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Gift Book in 2011 by the Independent Book Publisher Association. This award-winning compilation of his best columns featured in The Post and Courier commemorates Southern identity and culture and resonates with readers of all ages. Burger previously published Life Through The Earholes Of Our Youth, a collection of sports columns that has become a collector’s item.
Ken Burger died in 2015. He was two days shy of his 66th birthday.
The man could do more with 600 words than others with books-worth of space. Ken could get to the soul of his topic, whether that meant funny, sad, critical or poignant. Now he’s doing it again, this time in book length, and his gift for [it] endures.
—Bob Gillespie, Former Senior Columnist, The State
The best columnist in my life.
—Pat Conroy, NY Times Best-selling author
Ken gets to the heart of every story in a hurry, then lays bare the emotions that make our games feel like the most important thing on the planet for a couple of hours. As someone who chased the circus that sports became alongside Ken for most of the past quarter century, believe me, that is no small feat.
—Jim Litke, National Sports Columnist, Associated Press
When I was a young writer, I wanted to write like Ken Burger. It was only when I got older that I realized, nobody writes like Ken. He’s the best there is at finding life in sports, and finding sports in life.
—Joe Posnanski, National Columnist NBC Sports, New York Times bestselling author
The most entertaining writer in my time at Clemson.
—Tim Bourret, longtime sports information director at Clemson University
As a writer, Ken is like the Cooper River in that he can make words flow like a strong current, and in several spots, he can be surprisingly deep.
—Andy Solomon, Associate Athletic Director, The Citadel
While the rest of us toiled in the press box writing about sports, Ken Burger painted stories about life. Sports was just the convenient pallette he was assigned to work with.
—Scott Michaux, Sports Columnist