Victory Journal is like no other sports magazine, from its generous size to its distinctive point of view. “Victory provides a forum for work that is unapologetically enthusiastic and uncompromisingly personal. It encompasses oral histories and personal essays, photographs and illustrations, films and animations, embracing storytelling methods both classic and not-yet-invented.” I asked Deputy Editor Sam Hockley-Smith to talk more about the thinking behind the magazine.
What is the genesis of Victory Journal, and how did the inspiration strike?
Victory Journal is really the brainchild of Chris Isenberg, Aaron Amaro and Kimou Meyer. Chris grew up obsessed with sports, but through this very literary lens. Victory Journal feels a lot like a distillation of that way of thinking. Aaron set up the magazine to echo the content inside. It’s punchy and spare, and really conveys drama beautifully. Victory Journal is basically the magazine about sports that they wanted to see.
Victory does not fit the sports cliche—how has the response been?
The response is consistently great. The drama of competition is built into every sport, but the best way to capture that isn’t necessarily so obvious. By focusing on telling stories that we feel would resonate with anyone who picks up the magazine, and pairing it with artfully shot visceral images, we’re able to put together a book that captures all that drama, and people really respond to that.
It’s a startling title, but do you also address defeat?
There’s so much nuance in the emotions that come with victory and defeat, and because we deal so much in the humanity behind sport—flaws and all—defeat is a natural, and welcome, part of any story we might be telling.
Do you believe that sports fans have a stereotypical design in mind when reading about sports?
Not really, but there is sometimes a tendency to veer pretty deep into stats-based analysis, and Victory avoids that entirely on a story and design level. The sheer size of the magazine means that we’re telling substantial stories, and the response to this has been strong enough that we can only assume we’ve successfully bucked any stereotype about what a sports magazine is supposed to be.
So much of sport might be described as kitsch culture. Your current cover is of a mascot—where does that stand in the cultural hierarchy?
Pretty much anything that can be obsessed over will appear kitschy to someone not well-versed in the world it comes from, but all this stuff comes from a sincere, artful place. The cover story right now—which features a mascot named Youppi!—is the story of Bonnie Erickson, an incredibly successful mascot designer who got her start working in Henson Studios, making Muppets. The mascot world is huge, and when done right, an incredible financial boon for a team. It, like anything else that has its roots in subculture, may appear kitschy to people outside of it, even if it actually isn’t. And that’s something that Victory does very well—it presents sport, with all its minutiae and convoluted history—in a loving, respectful way. It’s a window into a world you might not necessarily be familiar with already.
You’ve got incredible photography. How does photography alter or shape our appreciation of sport?
The importance of good sports photography can’t be emphasized enough. Often, the moments we capture happen in a split second. Maybe the goal is to get an iconic action shot, or maybe it’s to capture a subtle emotional moment—either way, the ultimate goal is the same: to get you as close to the moment as you can be.
What’s coming next for Victory?
More issues, more films, more original stories on the site. Send us pitches!
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