- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 24, 2009


No. 2 Duke has won 26 of its past 27 home games. But if any team can overcome Cameron, it’s Maryland. Noon, ESPN

What’s missing from the sports pages

Read a good story in the sports section lately? A vivid piece that soaks up the emotion of competition and squeezes it out onto the page?


As the Columbia Journalism Review points out in its January-February issue, there isn’t much outstanding sportswriting out there anymore. Case in point: Nineteen years have passed since a Pulitzer, the highest honor in the business, was last awarded for a sports column (it went to the Los Angeles Times’ Jim Murray).

Nearly a century ago, the New Yorker said the sports pages in a typical newspaper were “wittier, more emotional, more dramatic and more accurate” than the news pages. Today, however, sports sections are often plastered with stories woefully overwritten and/or peppered with meaningless statistics.

To find the cause, turn on ESPN. As the network has flourished, it also has set the bar for coverage quite low. Elements such as “Coors Light Cold Hard Facts,” “Around the Horn” and incessant viewer polls have one thing in common: the dumbing-down of sports journalism. The Internet has exacerbated the problem, with blogs churning out rumors while rarely contributing original reporting.

Newspapers, true to form, have followed the pack, squandering their shrinking resources on content available elsewhere while important stories (steroids, racism) often are ignored.

If newspaper sports sections are to survive, they must find a way to revive the lost art that once graced their pages. Otherwise, there will be little reason for their existence.

TWT Five NFL’s nonstories of the year

1. Cowboys’ affections — Where Tony is spending the weekend with Jessica, how T.O. feels about where Jason Witten stands in the huddle… imagine if ESPN and bloggers had been able to cover the Raiders of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s this way.

2. Favre Watch — After an offseason of minute-by-minute updates on his every possible action and thought, Favre leads the Jets to 9-7 and third in the AFC East. So many wasted hours.

3. Tom Brady’s knee — Unless the Patriots’ QB suffers some sort of major setback, it’s not a story. It’s called rehabilitation.

4. Singletary’s flash in the pants — Unless the 49ers’ coach wasn’t wearing anything (and I mean au naturel), it’s just another halftime speech.

5. Wildcat gone wild — Variations of this formation were invented 100 years ago, and it has been used successfully in the NFL before. Overblown, overanalyzed, overrated.

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