Shea Serrano is one of the most present voices at the start of the new NBA basketball season, and it’s not hard to see why.
A former schoolteacher in Houston, Texas, Serrano began working as a writer as a way to support his partner whilst helping looking after two young children.
Serrano very quickly has ascended into the popular consciousness of a new batch of sports and pop culture writers who embrace fandom as part of their critical stance.
He wrote for Bill Simmons and ESPN’s sporting/pop culture holy grail Grantland, whilst working on rapper Bun B’s Rapper Colouring and Activity Book as well as later on, the best-seller The Rap Yearbook, a rapid-fire recount of what Serrano insists are the most important rap songs from 1979 to 2015. During a research period earlier this year, Serrano worked on a newsletter that quickly gained over 15 000 subscribers called Basketball (And Other Things), which included highlights like a fan-fiction pornography screenplay with San Antonio player Kawhi Leonard and an assessment of which NBA players would be likely to be undercover cops.
He recently returned to working for Simmons at The Ringer, a team up with HBO that replaces and evolves Grantland’s publishing model.
Watching Serrano’s twitter feed and reading his articles is a complete and utter joy, as he tears into any topic with relish and complete and utter sincerity, yet acknowledging the ironies that undercut his writing. Serrano also tweets about his sons, his dog Younger Jeezy (named after the rapper) and rap music with the same kind of absurdist relish.
It’s difficult to locate the kind of analysis that someone like Zach Lowe is extremely good at and which allows sports fans to seriously analyse their sport like an objective science. The writer-as-fan model of Serrano allows for a casual contemplation of the way that sport is embedded deeply in our cultural subconscious. It looks at the way we as fans imagine it as both a domestic drama and a reality entertainment, often at the same time.
Serrano’s work whilst frequently light-hearted engages the drama of being a sport fan, and so offers a meta commentary of it’s absurdities; with his enthusiasm empowering him to compared basketball feats to moments from rap music, cultural archetypes and expectations. It can vary from a 140 character tweet or a 59 question long article about why someone in the crowd threw a dildo into the field during a New England Patriots game.
my mom worked extra shifts so i could be the first in my family to go to college and then i wrote about a dildo https://t.co/L0LhdFESKF
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) October 31, 2016
Whilst sometime Serrano’s work avoids the difficult and serious questions in favour of gags, his work is rigorously researched. It might not always be hard sporting statistics, but Serrano’s work is well contextualised and consistently gives a sense of cultural place.
Thankfully, as the 2016-2017 Australian sporting calendar goes through a quieter patch (with the exception of the contentious horse-racing of Spring Carnival), it’s a place I get to spend a bit more time reading about.