Local Event Sports Association

Sportswriter’s Credo: First—Do No Harm!

By jillie jones On May - 29 - 2009

Usually when I write one of these “think” pieces, everyone heads for the fall-out shelter, sure that I am going to whine and carry on about another form of mistreatment I feel has undeservingly befallen me.


I prefer to think that I am exercising my right to express my opinion about an injustice.  You call it whining; I call it defending myself.  Shallow shades of differentiation.


To be fair, I have defended your right to read no-content articles that feature smutty pictures of scantily clad cheerleaders and no-brain fans. 


Instead of pretending to read, I say get some binoculars and make your peek-a-boo fetishes reality.  Guilty pleasures indeed. 


But fine: You want to read them and the site wishes to promote them because more people wish to be titillated than to read about baseball statistics.  Great!  We are a democracy. 


But I draw a line in the sand on this point.  Please, please, would-be journalists, if you learn nothing else about writing, please pay attention to this. 


When you write about sports (honest to God, real sports), write about the sport, team, or individual in the sport that is the focus of your article.


No one cares to read about you.  No one cares that this player makes your heart beat faster or your pulse race.  If you wish to publish your little diary, do so and don’t pretend you are a sports journalist.


No one cares that you cannot breathe waiting for the outcome of the match or game.  No one cares that he or she has been the focus of your every thought and dream since you reached puberty. 


I put these self-aggrandizing articles right up there with the titillating ones.


Furthermore, all of the fans that follow this athlete jump on board and start commenting not about the match, the tournament, or the fine points of victory, but about their feelings for the athlete. 


Gag me!


A little of that goes a long way.  There is just way too much of it to be tolerated.  It sickens the senses and destroys the attempts of good journalists to be heard.


Let’s have another channel and call it “Sentimental Journeys!”  These articles will all fit nicely into this arena along with the fashion reviews and the boyfriend, girlfriend complaints and the marriages. 


Remove yourself from the article and let the words describing the action speak for themselves.  You will be a better journalist if you practice this point of view. 


That is not to say that first-person narration is taboo.  Quite the contrary.  Sometimes the person writing the article is equally interesting or more interesting than the subject matter.     


Writers like David Foster Wallace spring to mind.  I certainly would not mind listening to Mark Twain talk about a baseball game or George Carlin about the difference between baseball and football. 


Just spare me the teenaged angst that a sports fan endures as he or she watches a game. 


Or if that is the point, then remove the article from the sports site and move it into humor, a funny take on a match or move it to Sports and Society, or Foxes in the Henhouse.


I call this kind of self-indulgent writing “regurgitation.”  It is simply upchucking your emotions and spraying them onto the page. 


A real sports article has a point with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It has imagery and purpose.  It flows together and paints a complete picture of the person, the game or the tournament. 


I realize that this site is dedicated to beginning writers with aspirations to become full-fledged sportswriters.  But someone must speak out and stop this madness. 


It has already overwhelmed the Tennis page with articles on Roger Federer, closely followed by treatises on Rafael Nadal. 


I suspect that the NFL experiences similar instances with Brett Favre.


So as the sun sets on Bleacher Land, the lines form to watch “Guilty Pleasures” flash by and another heartfelt confession stands ready on the edit block—spare us all, oh editor, and lose this one on the many loves of Andy Roddick in the spool!

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