By James Zug
In October 1997 the first issue of Squash Magazine arrived in your mailbox. Some people then might have been surprised to see it reach its tenth birthday. The layout in that first issue was a bit choppy; the size was a bit small (24 pages, half its normal size today); and the writing a bit wobbly. Most of all, the main reason for the birth of Squash Magazine—it was a glossy magazine, unlike Hazel and Tom Jones’ venerable, two-decade-old tabloid newspaper, Squash News, and thus could better exploit good photography—was distinctly unfulfilled. The cover photograph of Marty Clark was mediocre, and the two-page table of-contents spread pic was blurrier than a deep-sea diver with the bends. Only nine other photos appeared in the issue, none large or memorable—if you don’t count seeing a young-looking, gray-hair-less Jay Prince on the Publisher’s Note page.
But the seeds were there. The Dropshots section threw off some sparks. Rod Symington produced the first of his many columns on rules & refereeing. And Squash Magazine was innovative: the oversized pull-out map of the country-cum-winter-tournament-schedule was a great, hardcopy visual that most players would love to see every fall. The inaugural issue can’t help but seem dated (all the mentions of the new World Wide Web), but it also had promise.
Ninety-nine issues later you are reading the premier winter racquet sport magazine in the world, with more advertising, better writing, a richer depth and breadth of regular columns and the cleanest layout in the game of squash.
The key pieces of the puzzle fell in place pretty quickly. Steve Line, the legendary British squash lensman, joined the staff for the third issue and soon was producing some spectacular images—the Nicol rictus in June/July 1998 was a harbinger of great photos to come—nearly 500 to date. Will Carlin started his run of back-page columns in the May 1998 issue. The front matter got a boost from the Drill of the Month which began in the June/July 1998 issue and Training Room in December 1998.
I joined at the start of year two, doing a piece foretelling the coming of Trinity squash in November 1998—in a twist of Sports Illustrated jinx, my cover article came out and Trinity has not lost a match since. Gotta be a connection there.
I have been edited by Kristen Pedroja, Amy Boytz Duchêne and Kirsten Carlson and worked with art directors Randall Scott, Bill Quinby and Paul Huereque. Amy, especially, had a knack for finding a lighter side in the headlong rush towards the deadline grinder and Randall was a blast of fresh air. For almost eight years, I have plotted with Ryan Lewis, the genial power behind the masthead. Most of all, I have talked shop for hours with the most passionate guy in the world of squash, Jay Prince.
In the past nine years, I have gotten to sit on Hashim Khan’s couch and in Mike Way’s pro shop. I have stood umbrella-less in the pouring rain in Manchester, England. I have written obits, travel pieces, party reports and tournament results. One person I profiled about won’t speak to me now. Others have become close friends. I have been wrong: I predicted that the U.S. would have a woman world champion by the end of 2007. And I have been quixotic, calling for public outdoor courts.
My most memorable piece was “The Brothers Pool” which ran in May 1999. It was an eight pages, 4,000 word epic (still my longest article for Squash Magazine), involved two photographers (Randall Scott and Ben Collier) that had to jerry-rig photo shoots (Larry Pool was in the hospital). That piece earned an honorable mention in the Best American Sports Writing of 2000 and led to my 2003 book. I still like the idea of the feel of a wooden racquet, a racquet not guaranteed. I still cringe about some of my angst-filled overwriting: “Life is calling one at fourteen-all in the fifth; time is a bitter feast, steaming hot, then half-eaten and cold; and memory is a mouth that must be found to eat it.”
Happy tenth. Let’s eat.
Top Ten Squash Magazine Cover Appearances:
1. Jonathon Power, 9
2. Peter Nicol, 7
3. Latasha Khan, 5
3. Sarah FitzGerald, 5
3. Julian Illingworth, 5
6. Louisa Hall, 4
6. Michele Quibell, 4
8. Simon Parke, 3
8. Thierry Lincou, 3
8. John White, 3
Fun Cover Facts:
Only back-to-back cover appearances: Jahangir Khan (June 2007 and July/August 2007)
Longest time in between cover appearances: Nicol David (June/July 1999 and February 2006)
Most shocking cover: Mir Zaman Gul headbutting Anthony Hill (November 2002)
Most reproduced cover: “Atlas Lives” Gustav Detter of Trinity (April 2006)
Most letters-received cover: everytime a pro player appears without protective goggles
Oldest cover subject: Earth (January 2003)
Youngest cover subject: SquashBusters and StreetSquashers (June/July 2000)