Did you watch Game 7 of the World Series last week? Everyone in the Bay Area did, I can tell you that. Did you read a newspaper or news site game story the next day?
Me neither. And, as an old sports writer who has covered a few World Series in my day, it isn’t so easy to admit that.
I think it’s time to proclaim the day-after gamer dead. And not just for big-time games we all watch on television, but for high school and college sports as well. In other words, I’d like most of you to consider a big overhaul in the way you cover sporting events.
Now that you’re mad at me, let me explain.
They already know. If you care how the Roanoke Rapids Yellow Jackets fare in tonight’s big game against South Granville, well, chances are you know the particulars by the time the paper hits your doorstep tomorrow. The students aren’t learning the score from us, and by and large their parents aren’t either. Through Twitter, Facebook, MaxPreps, emails and texts from friends and simply from being at the game, the core audience for game coverage already knows what happened in the game. …
We need a wider audience. What percentage of your readership really cares whether the local high school softball team won a particular game, say, three days ago? Be honest. They might care whether the basketball teams are expected to do well or where they are in the playoffs or whether big-name schools are interested in the stars. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about game coverage. My guess is that significantly fewer than 10 percent of the people in the Half Moon Bay Review readership area cares enough to buy a paper to find out the play-by-play of Friday’s high school football game. Shouldn’t our stories appeal to more than a sliver of our coverage area? And don’t confuse a few calls of complaint with a groundswell. If you did away with game coverage tomorrow, you might get a dozen calls of complaint. But you won’t hear from the thousands of people who are silently pleased that suddenly there is something for them in the sports pages.
We can do better. The games are not the most interesting part of “sports.” I know, I know. You sports guys are looking for your foam No. 1 finger to poke in my eye right now. But think about it. Consider those classic NBA championship games pitting the Lakers and Celtics all those years ago. Do you remember who went ahead in the third quarter or who made that fadeaway from the corner? Or do you remember the indelible relationship between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson? Take a look at this amazing story on the ESPN website this week. How many gamers is this worth? You’ll note it doesn’t mention a single score.
Let’s bring it back to the World Series last week. If the New York Times did a game story, I couldn’t find it. Instead there was expert analysis, turns of phrase as good as any 6-4-3 double play and stories of the people who play the game. Stop what you are doing and read this. It’s as good of a sports story as I can remember reading this year. Would you have expected to find Madison Bumgarner’s father at home in Hickory, N.C., on his recliner, while the entire sporting world proclaimed his son the best that ever was? Now that is a story worthy of of your $1.50. This is a story I can recommend to my mother who would rather vacuum the living room than watch Game 7 of the World Series. We are all interested in human relationships, even if we don’t care a thing about baseball.
I’m suggesting we do stories like Michael Powell’s story of the Bumgarners. I’m suggesting you run a briefs column or a rail with the called-in game results. I’m suggesting you spend your time chasing stories that will be interesting to your entire readership – not just a few fanatics who are still wearing their high school letter jacket after all these years.
Who wants to step up to the plate? Who wants to tell me I’m full of it? Bring it.