Try as he might, SI special contributor Donald Katz just can't shake the ferrets. They're tenacious little varmints, and they seem to follow him wherever he goes.
When we were looking for a writer to cover the business side of sports two years ago, Katz emerged as the leading contender. The author of a book that chronicled the battle for control of the Sears retailing chain and a frequent contributor of business stories to many publications, he is particularly adept at persuading tight-lipped corporate executives to open up. We were also impressed with Katz's academic credentials—he has a master's degree in economics from the London School of Economics. But it was his hilarious 1983 story for Outside, entitled "The King of the Ferret Leggers," about a Briton named Reg Mellor who held the world record for keeping live ferrets stuffed inside his pants longer than anyone, that closed the deal. "When we brought up Don's name, everyone remembered the ferret legger story," says assistant managing editor Rob Fleder. "We knew we weren't just getting a business writer."
"I still hear from people about that story," says Katz. "It was one of those things that I wrote in one morning, but people pass it around like a Victorian poem. It's got a cult following."
The collaboration between Katz and SI produced the Aug. 16, 1993, cover story on Nike and its chairman, Phil Knight, which grew into Just Do It: The Nike Spirit in the Corporate World, Katz's 1994 book on the company. In this week's issue his examination of the relationship between sports and the new digital computer technology—also the subject of a forthcoming book—begins on page 58.
Katz, 43, grew up in Chicago and, after graduating from NYU in 1974, headed for London, which served as his base for the next four years. When he wasn't attending classes, he traveled around Europe writing about foreign affairs for Rolling Stone and The New Republic.
These days his base is Montclair, N.J., where he divides his time between his writing, his family—wife Leslie Larson and their three children, Chloe, 9, Austin, 6, and Dashiell, 2—and his role as defenseman and captain of the Montclair Fossils, an aptly named collection of slow-skating, middle-aged men who once harbored dreams of NHL glory. The Fossils recently played a charity game in New Jersey against a team of Russian Red Army and Olympic players from the 1970s and were trounced 14-3.
Off the ice Katz is more than capable of keeping up with the fast-moving world of digital technology. "These technologies are going to change the way we live," he says, "and therefore the way we play."
Katz recently purchased some fast-moving new technology himself—a Pentium-based computer system with a high-speed modem. "At first I could only get it to work at the lowest speed," he says. "But I managed to get the thing going, and now I'm connected."
And through his story, so are we. Now, if he can only get the Fossils up to speed.