ETHS alum now a bestselling author

ETHS alum now a bestselling author

Rachel Krumholz, Feature Editor

Before journalist David Epstein made his debut publishing The Sports Gene, which is now a bestselling book, he was an both athlete and writer for the Evanstonian right here at ETHS.

The idea behind The Sports Gene came from Epstein’s constant wondering about the correlation between genetics and human performance.

While running track in highschool he didn’t understand why Jamaica, whose population is that of Chicago’s, had such a successful track team. In college, the same confusions emerged when he ran against Kenyans who all were from the same town. “Combine that with wondering why the best Major League Baseball hitters couldn’t hit against softball pitchers, and I just had this running list of questions in my head,’’ says Epstein.

However, one of the biggest inspirations for his book might have been his emotions towards the death of his good friend, Kevin Richards, a fellow ETHS student. Richards was a state champion that ran for Evanston’s track and field team. When he fell to the ground shortly after his event, he was admitted to the hospital and declared dead. Richard’s death took many people by surprise, considering he had no health problems.

“He was, to me, the embodiment of my ideal of Evanston,” says Epstein, “and when he dropped dead in the fieldhouse at the end of a race…well, I wanted answers to how that could happen.”

Epstein is well known for his senior writing position at Sports Illustrated. During his time working there, Epstein revealed that baseball player Alex Rodriguez tested positive for the use of steroids.

Currently, he works as an investigative reporter with ProPublica in Washington DC, where he recently moved to from New York.

When involved with sports writing, Epstein was able to travel to Beijing, Vancouver, and London for the Olympics. He also attended the Pan-Arab Games in Qatar, as well as many other places.

The Sports Gene allowed Epstein to travel even more. “I was in Japan, Jamaica, Kenya, Finland, Sweden, South Africa, England, and Australia… at least, I may be missing some,” says Epstein, “Perhaps more importantly, I’ve been sent all over the U.S. to see ways of life that I wouldn’t have been exposed to if I weren’t in this line of work.”

However, when Epstein was a student at ETHS he thought his future would consist of him attending Air Force Academy and eventually becoming an astronaut.

Things did not work out that way. After highschool, Epstein put his dreams of flying on hold and attended Columbia University, where he earned his masters in journalism and environmental science.
“Painting was Vincent Van Gogh’s fifth career, and he started when he was 27. Charles Darwin was supposed to be a doctor and didn’t realize until he was about 22 what he really wanted to do.” said Epstein, a strong believer in the notion that it’s okay for us young people to not know where we want our futures to take us.

Though he didn’t know he would end up a journalist, Epstein says he was always interested in “reading and writing and playing with words.”

Traveling, meeting new people, earning awards, and publishing a book, still hasn’t locked Epstein into the world of journalism. Although he is in the midst of starting another book, he wants to keep an open mind for what might lie in store in his future.

“The older I’ve gotten, the less I make concrete predictions about my future. Turns out the world doesn’t really care what you think your future looks like,” says Epstein “I feel no need to make firm decisions about where I’ll be a few years from now, and, frankly, I don’t think students do either.”