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Posts Tagged ‘Sportswriting’

The end of the gamer?

In sports on 6 Nov 2014 at 3:11 pm
These were the stories at the top of the New York Times sports tab the day after Game 7 of the World Series. There wasn't a gamer to be had. Why is that?

These were the stories at the top of the New York Times sports tab the day after Game 7 of the World Series. There wasn’t a gamer to be had. Why is that?

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. … Read the rest of this entry »


No, you can’t go to Rio

In Ideas on 12 Jun 2014 at 12:36 pm

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Hey, are you covering the World Cup? You know, that thing foreigners mistakenly call “football” between shouts of “goooooooooal!”

World Cup soccer is cool. Like, Olympics cool. It’s a sporting event, yes, but it’s also an excuse to celebrate minority communities in your neighborhood and better understand cultural dynamics that are easier to ignore when folks aren’t taking to the streets and chanting fight songs while draped in their native flags.

Some ideas for community journalism:

  • What does the spectacle mean to the local high school soccer team and coaches? Is this something they’ve been looking forward to for months? How do they explain their love of the beautiful game when all their friends are fixated on the Spurs and Heat?
  • Do you have an influx of Hispanic residents? If you do, you can bet some of them are gathering somewhere to watch Mexico and Colombia and Honduras and other Latin nations square off in what is arguably the biggest sporting event in the world. They may have a league of their own on Saturdays. They may have ties to their national team. There may be a story in there somewhere.
  • How about other, potentially smaller communities? Here in Half Moon Bay we have a sizable Portuguese community. You can bet folks will be streaming in to the local Portuguese Community Center to watch the games. You might have clusters of Germans or Poles, who knows?
  • Is the sport exploding in your area? While my generation grew up playing football, basketball and baseball, kids born after, say, 1980 are at least as likely to play soccer. Explore that. Are there pressures for new youth fields in your neck of the woods? Who would pay for it? Why do suburban parents swear by soccer? …

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4 Horsemen of sportswriting

In sports on 19 Jul 2013 at 9:07 am


Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.

Go ahead and blame the author of those words, Grantland Rice, for all the hyperbole of modern sportswriting that came after. I won’t go as far as the writer who says “Grantland Rice sucked,” but I wouldn’t really argue the point either. Personally, I think that “four horsemen” lede is sort of great. I also like the music of Liberace and fried pickles. Sometimes I appreciate things that go too far. But, when it comes to writing, I know that us mere mortals should leave the work of myth-making to Homer and Mr. Rice.

The Rice style is evident in nearly every newspaper in the land. Senators engaged in a skirmish on Capitol Hill… A war of words erupted in the city council… Teachers may have lost the battle over health care, but the bloody salary siege continues!

It’s enough to make you run for cover. … Read the rest of this entry »

Why do we need sportswriters?

In Online media on 23 Mar 2012 at 8:37 am

I was reading some of our newspapers this morning, enjoying a sunny hour or two after print deadline, when Half Moon Bay Review Business Manager Barbara Anderson came into my office intent on blowing my mind.

Clutched in her hand were neat scoring sheets from her daughter’s high school softball game. Because they had been produced on the computer, you could actually read them (unlike the chicken scratch I kept for years while covering games.) Fly balls, walks, strikeouts… they are all there on the printout. That was cool enough. What she showed me next could be a game-changer. In fact, it’s even called “gamechanger.”

GameChanger Media allows parents like Anderson to keep score using an app on her iPad or smartphone, then turn that data into an actual sports story. It is powered by technology created by another company, Narrative Science, which is working on sophisticated programming that renders facts and figures into a story. The people behind Narrative Science are really, really smart. They include Larry Birnbaum and Kris Hammond, who are both Yale-trained computer science and journalism professors at Northwestern. How good are these stories? Here is what it generated based on nothing more than Anderson’s scorekeeping for the March 20 Half Moon Bay Cougar varsity softball game:

Channie Anderson had a good game at the plate, helping Half Moon Bay to a 4-1 victory over Burlingame on Wednesday at HMB.

Anderson boosted her batting average thanks to a perfect 2-2 day at the plate to pace Half Moon Bay. Anderson singled in the third and fifth innings. … Read the rest of this entry »

No machine replaces Bisher

In Writing on 23 Mar 2012 at 8:31 am

It would stretch the truth a country mile to say Furman Bisher and I were friends. I’m sure he didn’t remember me as anything other than one of hundreds of young men who would give anything to be able to do what he could do so effortlessly. But we did share seats in the same press box, first at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium then at Turner Field, for a few years there. He was a towering figure in Atlanta sports. Suffice to say, I was not.

If I conjured the courage at all, I spoke to him as I might to the Pope, with reverence and a bowed head. To be acknowledged by Bisher, in Atlanta, was akin to beatification.

Bisher made being a sportswriter a majestic thing. He worked for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution for 59 years. That’s right, 59 years. He covered the first NASCAR race in 1949. I doubt he missed a Master’s golf tournament in all that time. He interviewed Shoeless Joe Jackson, for heaven’s sake. And, as the AJC notes in its obituary, he wrote his final column on the same typewriter he used when he started in 1950. (I think the typewriter thing was part of his schtick. I’m sure he used computers.)

Bisher wasn’t a legend because he had been behind that typewriter a long time. He was a legend because he was this good. It’s a column about the death of his son, Roger. Before you read further, just think about that task for a moment. Now read:

Let me tell you about Roger Bisher, the athlete. It won’t take long because the career was short. … Read the rest of this entry »

‘Sports led me to everything’

In sports on 13 Oct 2011 at 3:12 pm

I hadn’t yet figured out that sports led me to everything and everything led me back to sports.

That’s a line from the middle of a wonderful book by Robert Lipsyte, called, “An Accidental Sportswriter.” Lipsyte is now 70ish, I think, and one of the most prolific writers I know. After a very successful career as a New York Times sportswriter, Lipsyte quit to write books. He’s also done some TV along the way. He’s written about a dozen young adult novels and several nonfiction books. The latest is his look back at sportswriting for the Times. Half Moon Bay Review sportswriter Mark Foyer got the book signed for me, as you can see, and I’m grateful for the good read.

Lipsyte fawns over Gay Talese. Talese, of course, was one of the greatest of the New Journalists of the 1960s and ’70s, men (they were mostly men, with the notable exception of Joan Didion) who inserted themselves in the stories or otherwise didn’t pretend to be entirely objective. Talese led Lipsyte away from standard game stories in the sports department, where both men worked.

I just wanted to talk about that quote for a minute. Sports is life distilled into a game, or a never-ending series of games. There are heroic moments, boring times, failure, defeat, shame. All of that is true, to a point, but that’s not entirely what Lipsyte is talking about, if I may be so bold. … Read the rest of this entry »

Conduct unbecoming

In Ethics on 25 Mar 2011 at 8:26 am

Earlier this year a guy named Trevor Bayne won a car race causing another guy named Tom Bowles to wreck his career.

Bayne is the talented NASCAR driver who became the youngest driver ever to win the Daytona 500. Bowles is himself a young guy, a budding sports reporter who made the mistake of cheering in the press box when Bayne crossed the finish line. Acting like a fan in the press box is an acknowledged no-no and has been for as long as anyone can remember. Despite breaking the spoken and unspoken rules, Bowles was incredulous … and I think he has a right to be. After all, it was his very fandom that SI.com coveted.

Bowles was a journalism graduate who was blogging for the racing fan site frontstretch.com when SI.com – Sports Illustrated, for crying out loud – came calling. The iconic sports magazine offered Bowles a job covering the sport he loved and Bowles was in stock car heaven… Read the rest of this entry »