Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thursday Blizzard

Bad Sportswriting
Lately I've felt like a pretentious, picky snob when I focus on analyzing sportswriting. So let me refresh and clarify the purpose of such analysis.

Sports reporters and columnists are paid, literally, to write. However, I find that very few seem to have much interest in the actual craft of writing. Furthermore, while there are a lot of places to read critiques of TV commentators and announcers, I haven't seen a lot of serious coverage of sportswriting. I'm not just talking about content--there are a lot of bloggers that will argue with specific ideas of writers. I'm talking about the craft of writing, about the ideas and arguments, yes, but also about support, development, syntax, and word choice. The real guts of writing, down to the details. And since I teach college composition, this is an area that I hope I can provide some insight. There are sports sites that know the law. There are sports sites that know numbers. I know writing.

But bloggers write for fun. Most bloggers aren't paid. That doesn't mean bloggers can't have standards for quality writing, but to me it means you can set your own standards. So when I read your blogs, I'm not looking for cliches, I'm not trying to critique your writing, and I'm not judging your grammar. If I want to argue with the content of blog posts, I do it (and if it's relevant to the argument, I might comment on sentence structure or word choice, but only to clarify or make an argument on the content). Paid sportswriters are different. They have jobs writing. I'm not even sure many of them think of themselves as writers, but if they don't they should, and if they do many of them are lousy at it. That's not true of all sportswriters, of course (whatever you wish to say about Bill Simmons, he cares about the quality of writing). But I hope it is still worth the analysis. So I apply knowledge of composition and literary theory to sportswriting. Sometimes people think my analysis doesn't work (I always wanted an anonymous commenter to call my work "oversensitive, extremist PC garbage"); sometimes, hopefully, it is illuminating.

Vikings v. Lions
Pat Williams on the Viking-Lion game: "We don't worry about the Lions [...] Basically, they have to worry about us. We're not going to change our game plan for what kind of scheme they got. They have to worry about our game plan" (Mark Craig, Star Tribune). Hell yes, Pat.

Viking Update on the rivalry: "The Vikes have won the last 10 meetings between the teams – the longest current winning streak of one team over another. But it gets worse for Lions fans. The Vikings have won 14 of the last 15 and 16 of the last 18 meetings dating back to 1998."

Other Links
Leave the Man Alone compares Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens.

Fanball's Jonathan Lupoch tells fantasy owners not to despair over Donovan McNabb's slow week one.

Cold, Hard Football Facts talks about the importance of big plays in football, and introduces the Big Play Index. Really good stuff.

Milk Was a Bad Choice looks ahead to our matchup in The Ghosts of Wayne Fontes' blogger fantasy league. Peyton Manning, Plaxico Burress, and the Viking Defense led my team to the league's high score for week one. Throw in a 7-1 start in the Hazelweird League (with only the Viking Defense as a common starter), and I had a happy fantasy week one. How about you?


  1. PV, since you're the grammar police of the blogosphere, I've often wondered about your thoughts about stylistic writers, i.e., those writers who deliberately and conscientiously flaunt "proper" grammar. I don't know if this is the best example, but the mainstream writer that comes to mind is Scoop Jackson. What do you think of writing in such a style or any other style (e.g. stream of consciousness). Do you unilaterally oppose slang, curses or text message shorthand such as "omg" or "lol"?

  2. There's a place for all all styles, and if a style is still clear and well-written, I like the variety. For example, Jackson has a very different writing style than a lot of mainstream sportswriters, but I get the impression it's deliberate. Jackson makes a deliberate (or is it unconscious? I think it's deliberate) choice about his writing voice. He goes with that, and once a reader reads a few of his columns, it's pretty easy to go with it.

    Sometimes writers choose a different stylistic voice for overtly political reasons (to apply a little post-colonial theory, writers from marginalized, oppressed, or disenfranchised groups often deliberately defy the conventions of the "proper" language of the dominant group), sometimes it's for realism (to try make the writing sound like people talking), sometimes it's to connect to a particular audience, sometimes it's just a unique voice to a particular writer. That's all fine with me. It may not be considered "formal" (or, honestly, "academic": I'd probably address it in a student paper), but it certainly has a place. Good writing should be clear, and a "stylistic writer" can also be clear in a different style.

    These are just my thoughts, anyway.