Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Sports Writers Can Teach All Writers

Writers come in many sizes, shapes and styles. Some of us write long and some short; in flowery prose or direct to the point; with relish and flair or nothing but the facts.

Writers are as diverse an artistic community as you will find, with as many different types of writers as a painter has colors to choose from.

But among all writers one groups stands out as the most creative, most stylish and most given to excel themselves: sports writers.

Did you say poets? Or novelists? Or perhaps speech writers? None of those writers has to deal with the exact same subject matter, over and over, and must constantly find new ways to say the same thing without seeming trite or boring or inept.

For as long as we have had sport there have been those who have made a vocation from writing about it. They immerse themselves in every nuance of the game, surrounding themselves with statistics and facts from decades previous. They are enamored of the players, but they do not (for the most part) allow themselves to be blinded to their humanity. Also, with every sports writer I have ever met, they understand that in the final analysis what they do is write about nothing more complicated than a game.

I salute every sports writer for having the fortitude to endure the taunts of fans of rival teams, or those who fervently disagree with a point or statement they make about a hometown team and feel obligated to voice their disagreements with threats of violence commingled with some of the most vile and reprehensible obscenities I have ever heard.

Sports writers have the unenviable task of writing about a subject which people take more personally than either politics or religion, and they do it day after day, game upon game upon game, and somehow make it always new and exciting without so much as a hint of pandering. (Ok, maybe an occasional pandering, but not much and only in their columns where they are allowed to do such things.)

If you really want to learn something about writing, research sports writers; read the sports section of your newspaper and do something other than check the scores. I think you'll discover a new way of creating stories which is at once fresh and different from anything you have ever done before.

And if you are already a sports writer, well, pat yourself on the back and have a beer. On me.

1 comment:

u.v.ray. said...

I have long thought the same thing and have often looked to sports writers for guidance.

I have read through my collection of Ring boxing magazines from the 1950's, and although styles have changed over the years sports writers across the decades seem quite adept at witty insults, too.

Norman Mailer's The Fight is a fantastic book. He was a fantastic writer, regardless of genre or field of speciality.