Franz Lidz is a prominent journalist who spent 27 years as a senior writer at Sports Illustrated. He is a contributing editor for Smithsonian, a correspondent for Slate, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, The Village Voice, NY Observer, Golf and Men’s Journal, and, since 1982, has written for The New York Times on travel, TV, film and theater. His work is widely anthologized and includes several books, one of which, the childhood memoir Unstrung Heroes, was adapted by Hollywood in 1995 into a feature film. Directed by Diane Keaton, the movie starred John Turturro and Andi MacDowell as Lidz’s parents.
At the age of nine, Lidz moved from New York to Penn Valley. He attended Belmont Hills Elementary, Welsh Valley Jr. High and Cheltenham High. At Antioch College, he was a theater major who chose to interpret the tragic role of Othello dressed as a house painter in coveralls and a spattered cap. “I wanted to play Othello not as the noble Moor,” explained Lidz, “but as Benjamin Moore.”
When Lidz hitchhiked to the Manhattan offices of Sports Illustrated in 1980 for a job interview, his resume read like a picaresque novel. He had been a DJ, soda jerk, substitute teacher, improvisational actor, a wanderer through South America, a cabbie in Boston and a bus driver near Baltimore, which is where he met his wife Maggie, when she was one of his passengers. They married a day after her high school graduation.
Lidz’s 2008 investigation of George Steinbrenner and the NY Yankees’ line of succession was hailed as the “scoop of the year” in the collection The Best American Sports Writing. In 2013, he wrote a groundbreaking S.I. cover story in which NBA player Jason Collins became the first active male in one of the four major North American team sports to announce he was gay. Among his other career highlights: a road trip in search of sports on the equator, the second-ever descent of Africa’s Zambezi River, three weeks in the Sahara covering the 2002 Paris-to-Dakar Rally, a Rome-based study of Roman gladiators as the first sports superstars, a weighty essay on the 580-pound Japanese sumo wrestler Konishiki and a look inside the mind games at the 1987 world chess championship between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.
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