Episode 59: Don Van Natta Jr.

Don Van Natta Jr. is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print media. He was recently named a finalist — along with his reporting and writing partner Seth Wickersham — for a National Magazine Award in reporting for three stories: “Sin City or Bust,” “Standing Down,” and “Roger Goodell has a Jerry Jones problem.” Wickersham appeared on Episode 28 of the podcast, back in 2014.

Van Natta has had quite the illustrious career. He’s been on three Pulitzer Prize winning reporting teams — two at the New York Times and one at the Miami Herald.

He joined ESPN in 2012, and has since produced many features and investigative pieces centered around the NFL. His profile of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in August 2014 is particularly amazing because of the access he got from a subject who initially did not want to participate.

In 2014, Van Natta started the Sunday Long Read newsletter with Jacob Feldman, a reporter for Sports Illustrated. The two launched the Sunday Long Read podcast in August of last year, and so far has produced more than a dozen episodes featuring some amazing reporters and writers.

Van Natta is currently working on a book with Wickersham. The book, tentatively titled “Powerball,” will be published by Crown Archetype in 2020.

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Episode 28: Seth Wickersham


Seth Wickersham is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He joined ESPN right after graduating from the University of Missouri. While he primarily covers the NFL, he has also covered the Athens Olympics, the World Series, the NCAA tournament and the NHL and NBA playoffs.

Since joining the podcast in 2014, Wickersham has gone on to write several noteworthy stories, including two stories he co-wrote with Don Van Natta Jr., “Spygate to Deflategate” and “The Wow Factor.” He has a profile on John Elway in the September 7, 2016 issue of ESPN: The Magazine that is getting great reviews.

When Matt Tullis talked with Wickersham, he had just started writing some wonderful longform literary journalism for ESPN. He wrote about a runner from Kenya who went to college in Alaska, but suffered his own private torment, something that changed his life forever. He wrote about legendary NFL coach Bill Walsh’s attempt to write a book that would teach everyone how to coach in the NFL. And he wrote about vets who have to put racehorses down after catastrophic injuries, a story that was anthologized in the book “Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.”

In this episode, we talk with Wickersham about two stories in particular. In “Awakening the Giant,” Wickersham wrote about legendary quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who suffers from dementia. He also wrote the story “Out Route,” which chronicled Atlanta Falcon’s tight end Tony Gonzalez in the final season of his hall of fame career.