I used to rail vs clichés like “Cinderella” and “bubble teams.” Those words, though, have been used so pervasively in discussions about the NCAA Basketball Tournament that they are now as endemic to coverage as March Madness. That’s what makes English perhaps the best language on the planet; words are blended and redefined, in part, through popular usage and changes in society. (God help us, though, if charity stripe eventually makes the cut.)
Sports language has been a big part of our vernacular for more than a century. Baseball, in particular, has a strong hold on how we describe our lives. We go to bat for others, strike out when we fail, and hit a home run when we succeed. Sometimes, though, we throw a Hail Mary pass in a desperate attempt to do well. At other times, a decision or action is a slam dunk.
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.
Don’t let coaches intimidate you from asking questions. If you believe the biggest controversy revolves around whom will start at quarterback, then ask about that scenario — even if the coach becomes agitated, surly or even angry, as Tide coach Nick Saban did here.
To Saban’s credit, he apologized. Likely, some coaches will also offer a mea culpa, if you regularly cover a beat (or if the response is well publicized).
Coaches have the power to eradicate such questions by either responding candidly or by making a decision on, say, who will be the starting quarterback. They just need to realize that transparency will set them free.
I’ve learned a few things, and developed stronger stances on several other things I thought I knew after discussing journalism with the 15 high school students attending our camp at Eastern Illinois University.
1. It’s tough to determine what to believe with so many real and false news websites, and even when real news sources fail to be as objective as they should be.
There is a fascinating discussion on gender bias taking place on Twitter among several talented sports writers. No shocker: social media sees this as a black-and-white issue, but there are several gray areas as well.
I think we all need to drop into Capt. Obvious mode from time to time – by stating ideas that are clearly self-evident … except to some of our students.
Students do not often consider the toil required to get to the level where they can get to the highest level – nor that they should enjoy the work itself. Success usually comes to those who are diligent and patient.
Conversely, teachers do not always remember that students are really just beginning on their paths, regardless if they are freshmen or seniors. Here are a few thoughts on the subject that I posted on my Twitter account. Please, feel free to add your own suggestions and tips below – no matter how obvious because they will probably be new to someone.
1/The other day, a student told me he wanted to work for The Athletic out of college. Students frequently tell me they want to work for ESPN. But they first need to consider the work to reach that level. …
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.
March Madness kicks off in less than a week, which means that everybody’s dusting off their cliches about the Big Dance. So I’ll shake the rust off a piece I published back in 2008 on Blogger where I lamented, to no avail, the use of imprecise bromides that have far more fizzle than sizzle. I think there’s a good argument that King Lear would also rage against such language. Alas, here goes my attempt to change your mind.
(March 19, 2008): I feel like putting on my dancing shoes, baby. It’s time for the Big Dance where a Cinderella always pops up. And it’s also that time when cliches run rampant. Writers and editors especially love using the Big Dance, but they also enjoy many other cliches. Many of these cliches are overused well before the NCAA Tournament begins. Games are frequently called tilts, teams fight back when their backs are against the wall, victories are hard-fought, and players assert their will.
Columnists are reporters with an opinion. The best columnists are also keen observers, precise writers, and excellent storytellers. A sports columnist should offer meaningful insights, cover sports ignored by others, address cultural criticism, and analyze games in considerably more depth than the average fan. A sports columnist should, at different times, afflict and comfort us. Write with style and grace, have strong opinions (sharpened with facts), and offer fresh perspectives.
They should be as passionate as fans, but avoid acting like them by making partisan statements that are either implausible or simply laughably wrong. Sports columnists sometimes bring readers to places where fans cannot go, such as a locker room or the home of a player.