Wick Communications

Sports is life

In sports on 24 Apr 2014 at 4:45 pm

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This week, in The Times Insider, New York Times sports editor Jason Stallman takes us behind the scenes and tells us why the best sports stories are not really about sports. (Incidentally, The Times Insider is a premium New York Times product that costs a little extra but delivers wonderful insight into the inner thoughts of some of the nation’s best journalists. This week it includes Opinion Page editor Juliet Lapidos demystifying the editorial pages and Trip Gabriel talking about how he attempted to penetrate what he considered a closed society to report on food stamps in Appalachia. Really interesting.)

Stallman says: “We start from a simple place. We want smart stories, deeply reported and well told. I know, I know, I just dazzled you with innovative thinking. Sorry it’s not more profound.”

But it is more than that. As he correctly notes, the best sports stories are only partly about sports. A story on a girl overcoming a knee injury incurred on a high school basketball court is really about the resilience of the human spirit. It may touch on gender politics, medical insurance and technology, and even family dynamics. I have always said that the score is the least interesting part of the game. Stallman and his crew are after the universal and the human stories that sometimes play out in a sports context. …

You already know this. When you pull together your sports stuff for the annual awards entries, I bet the ones you choose go well beyond the daily gamers. Let that inform your coverage. Need some ideas?

  • Are kids turning away from organized sports in your area? Check the local Little League or youth football league for stats over, say, the last 20 years. Why is it up or down? Can you graph the expense of playing over the years? Does participation correlate to the rising economic fortunes in your community? Does it have anything to do with fears of concussions?
  • Do kids play golf in your community? There is a move afoot to increase the size of the golf hole to attract people, particularly young people, put off by all that failure.
  • Do you have any surviving bowling alleys around town? Who plays? Is it really exercise? Are the lanes endangered by land-use pressures?
  • The World Cup is coming up. Do you have any cultural clusters that are really looking forward to the matches? How are folks preparing?

I could literally do this all day long. I love sports. I just don’t love the games all that much. I’m much more interested in what makes LeBron James tick than how many points he scores tonight. How about you?



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