Here’s a rubric for evaluating sports columns

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.

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Columnist says Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is using alternative facts to explain his team’s struggles in 2017

Bernie Miklasz, who covered the St. Louis Cardinals for 26 years, relies on advanced metrics to illustrate that the team’s manager, Mike Matheny, has incorrectly blamed younger players for problems in 2017.

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Take chances, vary approaches when writing sports columns

Originally published November 2013

Ron Higgins had never left a press box during a football game in his 20 years of reporting. This time, though, he knew he had no choice.

Craig Zeigler, a tight end for Ole Miss, lay on the football field, his leg broken in two spots and twisted in a grotesque position after being leg-whipped by a Vanderbilt player. Teammate Eli Manning said later he could not look at his friend.

Zeigler, Higgins knew, was a beloved teammate who had worked through numerous injuries to earn his starting spot. So after the senior was carted from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Higgins walked out of the press box, headed to Baptist Hospital North Mississippi, spoke with Zeigler and his father before the surgery, and wrote a column that prompted Vanderbilt’s chancellor to call in praise and the Football Writers Association of America to award first place in a national competition.

“Think outside the box,” Higgins told students at the College Media Advisers national journalism conference in New Orleans. “Think differently. Columns are not just about good writing.”

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