James DuthieTODAY: Sportscaster James Duthie

James Duthie is host of the award-winning NHL on TSN. Outside of broadcasting, Duthie’s recent accomplishments include publishing two books in 2010: They Call Me Killer: Tales from Junior Hockey’s Legendary Hall-of-Fame Coach and The Day I (Almost) Killed Two Gretzkys.

Rick Reilly: “No Ordinary Joe” (Sports Illustrated, July 2003)

“It was one of the few columns I’ve actually clipped – wanted to read it to my kid, thought it was the best piece of writing I’d ever seen,” Duthie says. The story dates back to 20 years ago, when Kansas City Chiefs football player Joe Delaney jumped into a man-made pit of water to save three drowning boys, despite not knowing how to swim. He managed to pull out one boy, LeMarkits Holland, before drowning with the remaining two. The storyline is what struck Duthie: “I like that it was not your typical feel-good ending because the person he saved went on and made nothing of his life, got in trouble with the law and went to jail, even though Joe gave his life to save his.”

Gary Smith: “The Ripples from Little Lake Nellie” (Sports Illustrated, July 1993)

Gary Smith is one of the few writers whose byline Duthie seeks, and this particular piece stuck out for him. “It must’ve been written over 15 years ago,” he says, “but I remember it. It had a huge influence on me.” Written four months after Cleveland Indian pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin died in a boating accident, the piece explores the lives of the widows and their families’ grief. When asked how he felt while reading the piece, Duthie gushes, “Oh, I bawled. I’m a sucker for the sad stories. It was gut wrenching. He writes like he’s inside these people’s heads.”

Jon Krakauer: Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster (1997)

Duthie thinks this is one of Krakauer’s breakthrough books and a definite must-read. “I guess I’m a sucker for first-hand accounts too,” he says. This book recalls Krakauer’s climb up Mount Everest during the deadliest season in the mountain’s history. He reports on the sudden commercialization of Mount Everest and the shocking journey he and his fellow climbers endured. Duthie says, “Krakauer was lucky as lucky gets for a writer, if you think of the story he got to tell.”