From Our Soundbooth | August 14, 2018

This week, we are so excited to share with you the first of our 2018 Miller Audio Prize Runners-Up. This project, “Don’t Know Tough” by Eli Cranor, was selected as our 2018 Runner-Up in the Prose category. Guest Judge Avery Trufelman shared these thoughts about “Don’t Know Tough”:

“Right away, Cranor’s extraordinary voice draws you in to this dry yet rollicking story, which comes alive as Cranor embodies each new character one by one. A simple yet remarkable tale that lures you in through a series of small details, circling out and out to become a portrait of a young man, a team, a family, and the machismo culture of a whole country.”

Cranor had this to say about his piece:

I have devoted the greater part of my life to football. I scored my first touchdown at nine and went on to play quarterback in college while majoring in English Literature. By twenty-six, I was the head coach of a small, Arkansas high school nestled right at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. During that time, I came face to face with the desperate lives of some of my most at-risk players. These are the boys I picked up before school, took home after practice, bearing witness to the scars and the pain they fought so hard to hide. I wrote “Don’t Know Tough” a year removed from that place. My process for this particular story was similar to surfing; the voice came out in a wave, and I just fought to hang on. Much thanks to Greensboro Review‘s Ben Newgard and Terry Kennedy for smoothing out the rough edges before the story appeared in the GR‘s 103rd edition.

Eli Cranor writes from Arkansas where he lives with his wife and daughter. In 2017 he was awarded the Robert Watson Literary Prize by Greensboro Review. He writes a weekly column for The Courier and The Good Men Project. Eli is currently at work on a novel inspired by his short story “Don’t Know Tough.” For more information, visit


Listen to “Don’t Know Tough” here: