Here are my notes for today’s session on ways to more effectively keep score, take notes and, ultimately, write a more informed story about live sports events. See you later today in Louisville at the Associated Collegiate Press/College Media Advisers national college journalism workshop.
BTW, it’s never too early to start planning for the sixth annual Sports Reporting workshop hosted at Vanderbilt, which is tentatively set for the second full week in February. I’ll supply more details when they become available.
So how did the country cover No. 16-seeded UMBC’s implausible, crazy victory over No. 1 Virginia? Here’s a sampling of the stories that addressed what might be the biggest upset in the NCAA basketball tournament – and the first time a No. 16 seed has ever beaten a top-seeded team. Few fans had ever heard of the school, making its second appearance in the tourney. After the historic game, they crashed UMBC’s website trying to learn more about the little team that did.
An historic game deserves equally momentous writing, right?
As everybody knows, the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series title since people primarily relied on horses for transportation in this country by defeating the Cleveland Indians in a heart-palpitating 10-inning game last night.
Stories are still rolling in, but we do have numerous deadline game stories on probably the most-watched baseball game since 1978 when viewers usually only had about three channel options. That Yankees-Dodgers series averaged 44.3 million. This year’s series will probably average about 22-24 million after Game 7 ratings that ultimately might have reached 35-40 million.
In 1956, legendary sports writer Shirley Povich offered exalted prose that matched a performance by Yankees pitcher Don Larsen, who threw the postseason’s only perfect game and gave New York a 3-2 lead in the World Series, at the time the most popular game in America. Think Super Bowl by today’s standards.
In his lead, Povich creatively mixed clichés and repetition to put Larsen’s amazing performance in historic (and perhaps biblical) context:
This is the new(er) look of game coverage: a package compiled by a writer typically watching an event away from the venue and who relies more heavily on advanced metrics, video and social media instead of on play-by-play and post-game interviews. You’ll also notice that visuals (metrics charts that appear more like daily stock market charts), video clips and social media screen shots play as big a part in presenting this story as words do. To learn more about advanced hockey metrics, you might want to start here.
You’ll also need to learn to break down action on the ice, as SB Nation’s Pat Iverson did below. To improve your ability in assessing play, you can chat with high school/college coaches and players, asking if they’d be willing to meet with you to explain – even off the record – aspects of the game. If you’re lucky, you’ll also be able to sit in when they break down game video.
Value picks. Understanding advanced hockey metrics (left) can get as complicated as evaluating ebbs and flows in the stock market (right).
Today’s game coverage has changed a great deal from two decades ago, before social media and during digital media’s infancy, but some things haven’t changed: telling stories that are focused around key players, plays or trends – even if they are conveyed through audio, video, photos or all three mixed together.