On sports journalism and women’s basketball

Q makes some good points via Swish Appeal:

Since they have access, journalists should find a way to bring fans closer to the game and add to what everyone is talking about rather than pandering to it.

Ironically, this point was made quite well by Jacob Shapiro of the Columbia Spectator (perhaps only ironic because I have this crazy idea that professionals should be wiser than student reporters…but what do I know?). From the Spectator:

ESPN, sports media need to refocus

There’s no doubt that sports are made by star players who generate the most attention and income. When Albert Pujols hits a homer or LeBron James dunks over four opposing players, I want to see it. But, as Sports Illustrated correctly points out, I don’t want ESPN to cut to Lebron running the floor every time he has the ball, or only show Pujols’ at-bats during the course of a whole baseball game.

Any true fan knows that the beauty of any sport comes in the intricacies of the game, the little things that the common fan doesn’t notice. And this is especially true in team sports where teams win and lose together, regardless of how the star does.

While the message may be inadvertent, this sort of coverage argues that the outcome and excitement of sporting events are only made by the best players in the league and that all other parts of the game (and all other players) can be largely ignored in favor of following one player. Is this not the very message—the “no ‘I’ in team rule,” albeit in disguise—that we attack every day when our children are playing Little League? If it is, let’s hope our sports networks start behaving like it.

In ethnographic terms, we might say that the goal is to give an account of an event as an insider might tell it. In doing so, you take into account the entirety of a situation: context, the actors, and the interactions itself (pet peeve: yes, there are actually variables in qualitative research. They are just a lot messier and definitely not controlled). While that’s not exactly what one might want out of sports journalism, it places the same burden on sports journalists: to actually gain an understanding of the event itself before moving to the level of interpretation.

That’s what much of the coverage of women’s sports lacks right now – an attempt to understand.

Of course, that does not require writers to ignore the bad and only write positive fluff (ask freelantz: I detest fluff). There are situations that call upon journalists to critique an athlete, coach, or general manager. However, there are ways to critique tastefully without just conjuring up a thought and then stringing together bad logic to make (up) a story (e.g. “UConn is bad for women’s basketball”).

Good analysis.

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