For the Love of Magazines: Jeremy Leslie Reviews the Sports Biannual 'Victory Journal'
The Brooklyn-based indie publication celebrates the emotions and aesthetics of sports in an unparalleled way
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Sport has had a long, close relationship with publishing. Player or fan, its basic narrative offers material for the extremes of storytelling.

It comfortably spans from the obsessive numbers geek poring over records for trends and predictions to the raw emotions of winning and losing. There was a time when publishers could offer both types of story: From their early days, newspapers and magazines have been on hand to publish the cold fact of sports results alongside more reflective match reports and player interviews.

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“Although punctuated with long-form writing, it’s the imagery that’s the big appeal—it’s the antithesis of the internet slideshow.”

Increasingly though, the mainstream media has become fixated on numbers. This is partly because technology in our multi-channel era works better with numbers than emotions (as does the growing betting industry) and partly because today’s sports stars are protected from raw, emotional interviews by their managers and PR handlers.

A number of independent sports publications have jumped into this emotional vacuum; most focus on a single sport, successfully providing a mix of stats and emotion for the committed fan. However, the Brooklyn-based sports biannual Victory Journal offers a broader experience.

Launched in 2012 by design studio Doubleday & Cartwright, Victory ignores facts and figures in favor of the human and cultural aspects of sport. Filled with stories from all eras of sport, its huge (11″ x 16.5″) pages make the most of archive photography, art and illustration. Although punctuated with long-form writing, it’s the imagery that’s the big appeal—it’s the antithesis of the internet slideshow. You simply don’t see well-researched, multiple-spread sports photography reproduced on this scale anywhere else.

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Like so many of today’s indies, it’s a bold, seemingly simple publication that makes a single promise and delivers more than anticipated on that promise. Victory assumes a universality to sport, the shared endeavor to be the best whether the game at hand is obscure boat-jousting from Sète in South West France or a world-famous championship boxing match. Such pure sporting stories are balanced by reports from the periphery of sport—a couple of issues ago there was a wonderful photo report by Abbey Drucker about life as an NFL cheerleader.

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The single piece of editorial flamboyance is the opening page, where ‘The Ten’ offers a list of ten words that together sum up the whole content. The tenth issue boasted, ‘Pharoah, Disguise, Ascension, Slapshot, Venus, Carnage, Talese, Pettibon, Plaster, Memphis,’ alluding to stories ranging from Raymond Pettibon’s sports drawings to a photo report from the Williams sisters play-off at the US Open, via American Pharoah’s triple crown string of race victories and the strange tale of basketball venue Memphis Pyramid.

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“Victory ignores facts and figures in favor of the human and cultural aspects of sport. “

The highlight of this issue is the cover story about the sports team mascots designed by Bonnie Erickson of Jim Henson’s Muppets workshop (she designed Miss Piggy). On the cover, one of these mascots is jumping in celebration of a score. It’s the closest thing you’ll see to a typical game report image in Victory, a parody of the cliché sport celebration and everything the magazine seeks to be an alternative to.

Magazine fiend Jeremy Leslie is the founder of online journal magCulture. With 25 years of experience in editorial design, Jeremy is dedicated to finding the best magazines out there. In a series that celebrates contemporary indie publishing on FvF, Jeremy will be sharing his thoughts on a selection of old and new magazines with a strong focus on design and editorial content.

Text: Jeremy Leslie from MagCulture
Photography: Robert Rieger