Monday, April 30, 2007

Sportwriting Notes

Why are local newspaper columnists are often negative?
Because they want to be right. Let's just look at the NFL. Each year, 96.88% of teams don't win the Super Bowl, and 93.75% of teams don't make the Super Bowl. You can go further and say that 75% of teams won't win their division. You can go even further and say that 62.5% of teams won't even make the playoffs.

If a newspaper columnist is negative and predicts bad things for the team, he or she is more likely to be correct. That's just playing the odds. Don't let anybody fool you--it's a lot easier to be negative.

The Twin Cities Reporting Scene
When I look at the local media sports coverage (TV, radio, and newspaper) and fan reaction, I see a good mix of relatively objective reporting, overly optimistic homers, and overly negative critics. That's fine. What bothers me is that the negative commentators act like they're doing some great duty, some self-sacrificial defense of Truth, in a sea of rose-colored glasses and homerism. It's just not the case. Especially this year, no fan or commentator should legitimately claim that there is too much optimism about the Vikings, that everybody else is drinking purple kool-aid and that he/she needs to be the voice of reason, that he/she is rebelling against a tide of excitement. It's just not the case. There are optimistic voices and there are negative voices. The negative fans complaining about too much homerism have the tunnel-vision of a conservative complaining about "the liberal media."

Go ahead and be negative--there's a necessary place for your view, too. Just don't act like your a brave, unique rebel.

when I criticize bad sportswriting, I generally target people who are paid to write. Sometimes I'll get into discussions or arguments with other bloggers, and I'll point out what I see as poor logic, a poorly written argument, or a slanted phrase. But I try to let bloggers be bloggers, and focus my critical abilities on sportswriters who are paid for their writing ability.

Last night I wrote a lengthy piece criticizing a ProFootballTalk report on Randy Moss for using slanted word choice to frame the story the way the the writer wanted to, regardless of actuality. I saved it as a draft, but I'll never post it. The PFT Rumor Mill isn't supposed to be a place of good writing; it's supposed to be a place of rumor mongering. The wide speculation, mean-spirited bias, and pseudo-logic I'd like to criticize don't hurt the effect of the rumor mongering (in fact, they help). I realized that writing a post critiquing Florio's word choice would be akin to writing a letter to the editor in order to argue against somebody else's letter to the editor.

Apples and Oranges are Both Fruits.
Don't let anybody ever tell you that you shouldn't compare two things because it is "like comparing apples and oranges." Apples and oranges are both fruits. They both grow on trees. They're sold in the same section of the grocery store. They're both very popular hand fruits. There are all sorts of reasons apples and oranges can be compared. In fact, any two things can be compared. Sometimes that comparison is useless because the things are too different (like Hamlet's hawk and handsaw). But it is also useless to compare two things that are quite obviously different (like comparing one can of Diet Coke to another can of Diet Coke). Any two things can be compared--as long as you recognize it is a comparison of things that do have fundamental differences, and as long as you balance the comparison with contrasts, too (English teachers don't assign comparison papers or contrast papers; they assign comparison-contrast papers). "Apples and oranges" is a stupid cliche, and it is usually used to try quelch legitimate discourse.

1 comment:

  1. I think you meant things that are the same, like diet coke and diet coke.