Sports Journalism – Hype and Hyperbole
(Note: This is a guest post by my husband, the biggest sports fanatic I know. I wanted him to talk about his thoughts on sports writing, and he had plenty to say. Though this post is aimed more at sports media, the takeaway for writers is clear: don’t let your desire to attract readers diminish the quality of your work. Enjoy!)
The beauty of a blog is that it presents a forum for a person to offer an opinion. Sports journalists have many outlets at their disposal—TV, radio, internet and, yes, even print—which are essentially no more than blogs since these people are really just sharing their opinions. Sure, they have facts at their disposal and they formulate their opinions based on those facts. But don’t we all do that when we express an opinion?
I am admittedly a sports enthusiast. Various sports outlets target people like me and our hunger for sports news. We devour all the little tidbits of information like a school of piranhas in a pond full of goldfish.This feeding frenzy continues relentlessly and yet the passionate sports fans are never truly satiated. As the feeding frenzy grows, the sports journalists and available media outlets multiply. Now we have a full-blown proliferation of relatively useless sports opinions. Nonetheless, we yearn for more. And how do the sports journalists respond? In the true American spirit of competition: one tries to outdo the other in a game of one-upmanship--the first to break a story, the one to get the exclusive interview, the one to take the incriminating photos.The result? Hype is born.
There is a sports talk radio station in the Twin Cities called KFAN. One of the station’s hosts, Dan Cole the Common Man, created the “preposterous statement” tournament, with a bracketed format similar to the NCAA college basketball tournament. One preposterous statement competes against another. The preposterous statements are each uniquely ridiculous. When originally made, the sports journalist undoubtedly had the belief that the ridiculous statement he was bestowing on the world was profound and insightful. Yet, here it is vying for the most ridiculous statement of all. The overhyped opinion backfiring in glorious fashion. It happens.
Not to be deterred, the sports journalist carries on. The opinions must become bigger and bolder, more stunning and magnificent than ever. The hype leads to hyperbole. The sports journalists are intrigued by their peers, who have established a unique identity through outrageous behavior and their propensity for hyperbole. Dick Vitale is perhaps the most well-known color analyst for college basketball. He shouts at the camera and becomes animated as he spews out phrases like, “It’s totally awesome, baby!” and “it’s unbelievable!” Rabid fans can’t get enough of Dickie V., while still others want to say, “Calm down, Dick. It’s just basketball.”
What it all boils down to is simply a matter of scale. We should stop obsessing about what team is the best, what player is the greatest, or what Sports Center highlight is the most awesome. All of these are ultimately still just a matter of opinion. Whether it be yours, mine, or the partially informed sports journalist, one opinion is no more valuable than another. Larry David, the creator of Seinfeld, has a witty and clever show on HBO called Curb Your Enthusiasm. When it comes to sports journalism, I can’t think of a better phrase to recommend. Calm down and enjoy your sports for what they are: a diversion, a hobby, whatever. It’s not life and death—it’s just sports. But, then again, that’s just my opinion.