Sports Coverage: The Good vs. The Bad

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Does a false tattoo story qualify as good sports coverage? (Photo from Fox Sports).

Though reporting live from games or matches and writing vivid, detailed re-caps afterwards are important components of sports journalism, many compelling stories are written outside of game hours, and focus on the people that make up the sport. Chuck Gormley’s ESPN article detailing former Philadelphia Flyers player Brian Propp’s recovery from a stroke is an excellent example of such human-centered sports journalism.

 

Gormley provides just enough necessary information to familiarize an unknowing reader with Propp’s legendary NHL career, without over-saturating the otherwise focused article with too many statistics and details. Propp’s stroke story is told in chronological order throughout the article, with details of his career woven in where they make the most sense. The article includes quotes from both Propp himself and his former teammates, which not only validate the story, but help illustrate Propp’s personality based on how others talk about him and his influence.

 

The article also demonstrates the relevance of Propp’s story to hockey players, fans, and the stroke community at large. Mentions of his participation in a Flyers alumni game, charity golf tournaments, and counseling groups for stroke victims make this article far more than an update on a former player who suffered an injury, and overall enjoyable to read.

 

Non-game-specific coverage, however, can also seem forced, unexciting, and ultimately irrelevant when non-influential stories are pursued. For example, Cameron DaSilva’s Fox Sports article on a fan’s foolish tattoo appears to be ultimately unnecessary, and therefore did not work for me as a reader. The story of this tattoo can be largely interpreted simply by viewing the photo—an overzealous fan with confidence in his team made a bold gesture that ultimately did not end in his favor. This story is almost identical to that of a confident Cleveland sports fan, which went viral only a few months ago, and packed a larger punch because of how close the premature tattoo came to being accurate.

 

DaSilva’s article is short, factual, and does not provide readers with a substantial amount of information beyond what is intuitively inferable. Even the quote from the fan provided in the article does not reveal much about him—it simply states that he was devastated by the loss, and expects a Super Bowl win from the Cowboys next year. If this article had provided more unique information about the fan, such as a story detailing the history of his fandom, it might have been more compelling to read.

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A Career in Sports Media

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ESPN’s College GameDay at Ohio State on 11/26/2016. To many outsiders, TV-facing personalities such as Kirk Herbstreit are the epitome of a career in sports media  (photo by College GameDay)

 

I was a 14-year-old high school freshman the first time I was sent to a Junior Varsity football game with a notepad and a camera. Intimidated by my athletic peers and disinterested in sports, I was not thrilled by my first yearbook assignment, but I would soon be excited by the stories to watch and tell in the world of sports.

What draws me most to a career in sports are just those– the countless stories waiting to be discovered and told, that can change the way others perceive and consume the sports media that so heavily saturates our world today. Seemingly insignificant details, like the timing of a franchise move or the analysis of a team’s color scheme, can unlock dozens of opinions, years of history, and demands for explanations, even years after they happen. Player and team profiles can influence fandom, and with games, matches, and meets occurring daily at amateur through professional levels, the story of sports is never complete.

With the constant influx of stories comes the expectancy of sports media professionals to never “turn-off,” working unconventional hours and being willing to adapt and change themes based on seconds of game play. As we have discussed, reporters can have stories completed, proof-read, and ready to be published before a game even ends, only for the expected results to change minutes (or even seconds) before the final buzzer.

A career in sports media is also not as broad as it sounds. For example, most sports journalists focus on only one or two sports to cover, and build up their expertise over time. While other sports media careers, such as broadcasting, graphic design, and social media management may allow professionals to work with a broader variety of sports and teams, individuals rarely have no specialization due to the nature of the industry.

Finally, a career in sports media requires an ability to look objectively at games, and to leave fandom to the fans (though some people do not believe this is entirely necessary). This is another quality that draws me to the sports media industry—learning to watch, analyze, and publish not just scores, but meaningful results from and reports on these events can help promote a more analytical outlook on the rest of the world.