Posts Tagged ‘sportswriting’

Sports: big business or merely games?

September 10, 2009
Posnanski

Posnanski

Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski streams his conscience on the current state of sports journalism, grappling with the reasons the profession has changed during the past 50-plus years. Are sports business or are they games? And he ponders the role ethics play in sports coverage. A terrific read. The reader responses at the end of this post offer an equally interesting look into how fans think about sports coverage.

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Thanks for Title IX, coaches, sports journalists, and (yup) umpires

November 27, 2008

turkey_joe-blakeAt times, I cannot believe I get paid to teach and write about sports. I’m no longer the kid impressed by big events and star athletes. (That ended after I interviewed Earl Anthony so many years ago.) Now, I’m more impressed by smaller events, athletes fighting hard against all odds, and about private acts of kindness.

I’m thankful …

that I could spend time with the wild, passionate fans who attended the NCAA Cross Country Championships last weekend in Terre Haute, Ind. In high school, I ran cross country but I was never talented enough to reach a major event like this, where fans were so excited that they ran across the course to catch a fleeting glimpse of athletes straining and pushing themselves just a little beyond what they should, even the runners at the back of the packs. This is a must-see event for any true sports fan.

that I was able to coach a travel softball team filled with hard-working and fun-loving kids. We did not spend 500 bucks a month on pitching or hitting coaches like some of the bigger teams in Chicago and Indianapolis, nor did we have an indoor facility like the big-time teams, but our girls fought hard every game – fouling off high fastballs, running full bore around the bases, diving for balls – and laughing at their coach’s stupid puns and jokes. I look forward to another season with an equally goofy, determined group of middle schoolers. (more…)

Sex still drives sports entertainment

October 11, 2008

Imagine (but not too hard since you may forget all else) half-naked models running on a manicured grassy field, smacking their voluptuous bodies into one another – legs splayed, exposed, tight bellies breathing heavily above tiny bicycle briefs while another player adjusts her sports bra, (slightly) worried she may be exposing more than Janet Jackson ever dreamed.

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Tips from an amazing storyteller

October 11, 2008
Gary Smith offers many tips to sportswriters in his interview with Poynter's Jemele Hill.

Gary Smith offers many tips to sportswriters in his interview with Poynter

Readers of this blog know how much I admire Gary Smith, perhaps the most talented narrative sports writer in the universe. That’s why I am so excited tonight. About 15 minutes ago, I found an interview with Gary Smith on Poynter’s website (required reading for all journalists) that has terrific advice and great insights into developing longer-form sports journalism. And there is a certain eloquent simplicity to his approach to journalism. For example, how does Smith reconstruct scenes so finitely?

Smith: By asking a zillion questions. When I sense a scene could really be a compelling one, a revealing one, an important one, I’ll just think of a million little questions about what that moment was like. I talk to other people who might have had some glimpse into it as well. It’s basically painstaking questioning, really.

And how does Smith craft those compelling conclusions?

Smith: If you’re going in looking for the conclusion, then you’ve just short-circuited the whole journey. [You have to] trust what you find and trust the process to bring you somewhere, but not want to wrap it up prematurely at all. …

The other thing I’ve found is that ambiguity is where the reality lies. It’s much more honest. When you inspect yourself about what’s pushing you to make one decision or another, it’s usually this whole flux of things that are going on inside of you, a whole mixture of things weighing and leaning on the choices you make. It’s not that clean. So writing in a way that just irons out the wrinkles and gets you more to the black and white mode of human nature is really kind of dishonest.

Welcome ambiguity and the complexity because it’s a lot closer to the truth. … There’s a gold mine there if you don’t try to skirt it.

You must do two things. First, read Jemele Hill’s fine interview with Smith. And, second, read Smith’s collected stories, Beyond The Game. You’ll be a better sportswriter for doing this.
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MLB seeks interns for summer ’09

September 23, 2008

Here is the press release for MLB’s summer internship program. It’s a terrific opportunity to learn on the job. Good luck.

Begin release

Want an exciting summer of covering Major League or Minor League Baseball? MLB.com offers 33 reporting internships to aspiring sportswriters. These internships are designed to give associates the full range of experiences that comes with covering a professional team. Each associate will work closely with a site reporter to give visitors to a team’s Web site all the information they need to follow the team from Opening Day to season’s end. Each Major League city will have one associate, and MLB.com, which manages the Web site for MiLB, will offer three internships for the Minor Leagues.

We will be looking for talented college juniors and seniors, as well as graduate students, for our 2009 Summer Internship Program. The application deadline for all internships is Nov. 30. We will make our selections by the end of January.

We expect each intern to spend a minimum of 10 weeks in the program, dates determined by a person’s college schedule. Also, the more flexible an applicant is in terms of which Major League city he or she can work in, the better the person’s chances of being selected. Interns are paid $500 per week.

Applicants should submit a resume, five to 10 published articles (no columns should be included), a list of references and a 750-word essay on why MLB.com should pick you? Please use the essay as a way of showing your creativity as a writer; in short, it should be more than a simple cover letter.

MLB.com also will be offering a limited number of internships for copy editors/producers.

Associates are responsible for arranging their own housing and transportation.

Please mail all internship applications to:

Bill Hill
Assistant Managing Editor/MLB.com
Attn: Internship Application
14825 N. 97th Place
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

If you have any questions, contact Bill Hill at bill.hill@MLB.com and put the words “Internship Info” in the subject line.

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‘Living on the Black’ is a primer on pitching and storytelling

September 20, 2008
Sports journalists can learn a great deal about pitching – and storytelling – by reading Feinstein's latest book

Sports journalists can learn a great deal about pitching – and storytelling – by reading Feinstein

I’m always looking for books that can offer insights into sports. John Feinstein‘s Living on the Black does just that, revealing how two future Hall of Famers – Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina – approach pitching in the major leagues. As sports journalists, we need to recognize how much we don’t know, no matter how long we may have played or have covered a specific sport. This book reveals much about pitching by a talented sports journalist. Readers learn how pitchers react to errors, the importance of pregame and off-day routines, and why a first-pitch strike can make or break a pitcher, among other things.

The pitchers themselves are compelling, cerebral characters, something that drives this book. Both are also active union reps. Mussina is far more reserved while Glavine more easily endures the spotlight – although his last season with the New York Mets tested his patience. At one point, Glavine declines a request from a TV reporter, a moment Feinstein uses to offer an insight into journalism.

The reporter wisely waited to see if Glavine would say anything else. Sometimes, especially when dealing with a good guy, reporters know that silence is the best way to get someone to change his mind. Not this time. “I understand the reporter said, sticking his hand out. “Maybe some other time.”

“Almost any other time,” Glavine said. “I appreciate your patience.”

Which he did.

Feinstein also shows the challenges major-leaguers face adjusting to the rhythms of lengthy seasons. “No one goes through an entire year without a bad stretch of some kind,” Glavine says. “I’ve had them every year of my career. It’s like that old baseball saying about bad teams having winning streaks and good ones having losing streaks.”

The first inning can be the most difficult for even skilled pitchers like Mussina. You should count the number of pitches each inning to track trends like this. Halfway through a season, you’ll then be able to evaluate the best and worst innings for a team’s pitchers. That would be a terrific story. Glavine gives up nearly half his total runs in the first inning. Mussina can also be challenged at the start of games.

“The first inning you often aren’t completely comfortable on the mound,” Mussina said. “It takes a while to get yourself to feel exactly the way you want to feel in the game. You throw thirty to forty pitches in the bullpen, then you get eight warm-up pitches on the mound. That’s why a lot of times if you see a guy who is good get through a tough first inning, he settles down and pitches well. When you’re on the bench facing someone good and you get men on in the first, you automatically think, ‘Better get him now because there may not be another chance this good.'”

Some other insights:

■ Pitchers get more excited when facing another team’s top pitcher. “I think it actually gets me to pitch better because I know I have less margin for error,” Mussina says. “It isn’t as if you’re trying harder; it’s just that you’re a little more focused.”

■ Sometimes, pitchers call pitches more than catchers. “With some pitchers, you call pitches,” Posada said. “With Mike and some others, you make suggestions.”

■ The best umpires usually allow players to vent after they have blown a call, but, Feinstein claims, most aren’t that good. Umpires hate to be shown up.

■ Pitchers – and especially managers – care more about quality starts than wins. Sportswriters should also focus on these quality performances. For example, a pitcher can limit a team to two runs and still lose, 3-2, while a pitcher who allows five runs can also win 8-5. Don’t be seduced by wins and losses. Check a pitcher’s other stats.

■ Most pitchers prefer a strike to ball ration of at least 2-to-1, meaning they would prefer to throw 60 strikes for every 30 balls during a 90-pitch outing. Try to chart number of pitches and strikes each inning to get even more insights into a pitching peformance.

You should analyze Feinstein’s work as you read through this lengthy (but quick) read on two compelling pitchers. Also, assess how Feinstein interviews, reports, and describes key moments. This is an educational (and entertaining) book from a masterful storyteller. Check it out.

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Covering blowouts is a challenge

September 13, 2008
Missouri QB Chase Daniel became the school's all-time passing leader Saturday.

Missouri QB Chase Daniel became the school's all-time leading passer by throwing for 405 yards Saturday.

Covering blowouts can be a challenge, but Missouri Maneater’s Nick Forrester did a terrific job in covering the Tigers’ 69-17 football victory over Nevada. Typically, you want to focus on plays toward the end of the game, but when covering routs like this, citing an early play, as Forrester did, can work pretty effectively.

Senior quarterback Chase Daniel said that the Missouri offense was worried about the Nevada defense before this game. It didn’t show, as the Tigers racked up 651 yards of total offense in a 69-17 victory against the Wolf Pack.

On just the fourth play of the game, sophomore tailback Derrick Washington ran 59 yards for a touchdown, and Missouri never looked back.

Stats are usually not worth mentioning in the lead — unless a team rolls up 651 yards (or a quarterback throws for 405 yards on 23 of 28 passing for four touchdowns, as Chase Daniel did.) Unfortunately, these key stats were not cited in the story, but this is an early posting published a few hours after the game had concluded. Daniel’s overall performance was put in historical perspective, though. Daniel is now Missouri’s all-time passing leader with 9,153 yards. He also tracked down Nevada coach Chris Ault for a comment on Daniel’s performance. Good job for an early gamer.

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NCAA’s policy remains idiotic

September 11, 2008

As I have written before, the NCAA’s policy on live blogging (or glogging) at games is ridiculously narrow-minded. Reporters at a college paper in Iowa are the latest victims of the NCAA’s misguided policy. The NCAA is concerned that a newspaper’s live blog is going to cause financial strains for its sponsors and media partners? C’mon. The NCAA’s leadership needs to brush up on some history, which reveals that every increase in sports’ popularity is a result of increased media coverage. The NCAA should invite more bloggers to games, much like NHL teams have started to do in cities like Washington, D.C. Fans are not going to turn off the CBS feed to their TV, nor turn off the local radio feed in Iowa to follow the games online. These live blogs are for people who do not have access to these other media or for those who want to read along as they watch the games on TV or listen to audio. The University of Iowa just announced it would back off from its original stance thanks to a protest from the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Live blogs complement other media coverage, offering free publicity for the NCAA and universities. I can see why the NCAA would be concerned.

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Here’s how to write a notes package

September 10, 2008

The Daily Trojan offers both breaking news and fun tidbits in its football notes package about a pivotal football game set for Saturday. Josh Jovanelly observed that two Southern Cal defensive players sat out practice Tuesday. Linebacker Brian Cushing, a Butkus Award candidate, hurt his hip, and Kyle Moore has back spasms. Meanwhile, Ohio State cleared running back Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells to play. Jovanelly puts the injuries into perspective, offers updates on other previously hurt players at both Southern Cal and Ohio State, and describes how USC used more experienced players to simulate Ohio State’s offense. Plus, the writer included a note about Pete Carroll’s one-year stint as an assistant coach for the Buckeyes that includes a reminiscence about Woody Hayes. This, folks, is how to write a notes package.

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Read other college sportswriters

August 29, 2008

In order to write well, one needs to read as much as possible. If one wants to be a better sportswriter, one needs to read other writers – both professionals and one’s peers. That’s why I just added links to college newspaper sports sections so you can better access these peer stories. I will also add more professional sports sections in the coming weeks. I just started posting websites devoted to prep sports coverage down the right side as well under ‘HS Sports coverage.’ I am also compiling links of college sportswriters who are blogging on their respective schools. You can send those links to jgisondi@gmail.com. Hope this resource helps.
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