I’m now requiring that all of my students write at least two sports-related stories this semester. I figure if they all have to write a crime story and a meeting story and an issue story, that they should know the basics of writing a sports story.I’m not asking for game stories (short shelf-life anyway) or analysis, but I have some students who are freaking out like I told them calculus was required.So, how about a post about writing sports when you know nothing about sports?
- Like money? Look into the costs of sports, the financial benefits/drawbacks of sports being located in certain areas and not in others or the money spent on keeping up fields/courts/arenas. Look at what jobs pop up AROUND sports like the people who have to clean the place up after Joe Nutzofan decides to eat 12 pounds of nachos and barf all over the place, the folks who run the ticket booths/entrance gates and the people who run the technology for the stadium/arena/whatever.
- Like science and medicine? Look into the advances in technology that make shoes/uniforms/socks/whatever better than they used to be. Look at the surgical repairs that athletes frequently undergo and how they work. Dig into the world of performance enhancing drugs that are illegal or the health plans and team diet structures that are legal.
- Like history? Dig into the past to find out what happened at your school in terms of athletics 20, 30, 50 or 100 years ago. Did you have any superstar athletes that people have forgotten? Did a team do something amazing and an anniversary is coming up? Do people have stories about a long-gone superfan who used to do some outlandish stuff while the games were going on? What about “where are they now?” features on people who were the top dogs and big wigs of the day?
- Like psych? Get into the head of an athlete who is at the top of their game. What makes this person tick? What makes this person push themself beyond what others can do? Get into the mind of the recovering athlete. What’s life like after a major surgery or health scare? How do they come to trust their body again? Get into the mind of people entering their final year of sports. Few will get to move on to “the pros” so what is going on with them now as they enter that final phase? Dig into coaches or refs. How do these people do what they do and why do they do it?
- Like weird stuff? Sports is nothing but weird stuff. Figure out who is the mascot and what the point of this is. Look at some weird sports that people don’t think about as sports like spikeball, pickleball or even noodling. As they used to say about ESPN8 The OCHO: If it’s almost a sport, we’ve got it here.
SHADOW A REPORTER: If none of this works for you, you can always figure out sports by following someone around who knows sports. As a student journalist at a college or university, you likely have student media outlets out there like a newspaper, magazine, TV station, radio station or digital media operation. The reporters in these places who cover sports have an interest in the area and are likely working on the same kinds of projects and schedules you are. This makes them a perfect resource.
Find one of them and ask if you can follow them around while they do their work. Treat it like a personality profile: Use the time with them to gather some observation of what it is they do and then ask questions like an interview for that profile to learn more about what you’re seeing.
The chances are pretty good that you’ll pick up on some of the things they do to cover the topic well. It’s also likely that the reporter will be happy to help you, given that you’re both going through the same kinds of things as student media professionals. At the end of your shadowing, you probably will have enough to scrape together a couple ideas you won’t hate in the field of sports to pass your class.
Or, better yet, you might actually start to like sports.