by CARMEN SIERING
While he hasn’t lived in Bloomington since leaving for college in 1989, L. Jon Wertheim says he feels an attachment to his hometown, a place where he saw a lot of examples of success.
“When I was in high school, Indiana University won the national championship [in 1987], Bob Knight was the Olympic coach [in 1984],” Wertheim says. “Everyone loved the movie Hoosiers, and Hoosiers was written by Angelo Pizzo, who lived down on South High Street. It didn’t seem like you were from a small town with an 812 area code. It felt like you were living in a city where there was all this possibility.”
Wertheim, 51, is executive editor of Sports Illustrated, a contributing correspondent to 60 Minutes, and an analyst for Tennis Channel during its coverage of the Grand Slam tournaments. He’s also written 10 books. His latest, Glory Days: The Summer of 1984 and the 90 Days That Changed Sports and Culture Forever (Mariner), was released in June.
Wertheim, a graduate of Bloomington High School North, says he doesn’t consider himself an athlete, but he played sports growing up—mostly tennis and basketball.
“My parents were academics. They weren’t sportsy, and they weren’t from Indiana,” he says. “But I picked up really early that sports was a language you had to speak in southern Indiana.”
He was also a voracious reader and a writer. As a teenager, he was the Bloomington North editor for a now-defunct Herald-Telephone high school insert, but it took him awhile to realize he could make a career out of telling people’s stories.
After graduating from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in history, he took a gap year to work for the Portland Trail Blazers’ magazine, calling the experience one of the greatest years of his life.
“But whether it was because of guilt or it was just the path of least resistance, I went to law school,” he says.
He never practiced law. Instead, he took a summer internship with Sports Illustrated before his final year of law school at the University of Pennsylvania. The magazine offered to pay for his last year if he agreed to come on board as a legal expert. He’s been there since 1997.
Wertheim lives in New York City with his wife, Ellie. They have a son, age 20, and a daughter, age 18, both away at college. “We’re a month into the empty nest,” he says. “We’re just getting used to that.”