You don’t have to be a diehard fan to understand the passion seen in sports fans and the athletes themselves. And the same can be said for sports writers.
A former editor in chief at my college newspaper once told me sports writers are the best writers. I took what he said and made a mental note of it, not really thinking much about it. But occasionally the thought would creep back up. That thought even caused me to buy a couple editions of “The Best American Sports Writing” series.
Right now, I’m about half way through the 2008 edition in the series, and it’s obvious why my former editor told me that. Because it’s true. There’s just something about sports writers that makes them unique. They have such a passion for what they write about that I can’t even begin to describe. But it shows in every word of ever story.
Sure, reporters get excited about breaking news (I know I can) and big, investigative pieces, but the deep connection with the subject just isn’t there. The relationship between the writer and the subject doesn’t have near the history in news as it does in sports. I’d be surprised to find a sports writer who didn’t grow up idolizing the people or the sports they’re now covering.
From my first experience in a newsroom environment (my high school journalism class), I heard the phrase, “Sports is on an island.” And it’s really true. There’s a different approach to writing game stories versus meeting stories, sports profiles versus traditional feature profiles and even investigative sports stories versus an investigative news piece. There is just something in how the story has to be approached, how the writers grew up immersed in the subject they report on and how they have to transition from biased fan to objective spectator that, I think, makes sports one of the most challenging — and rewarding — things to write about. And something I’ve always admired.
Obviously, that last statement is speaking from very little experience, as most of my sports stories (the list can be counted on one hand) have been profiles or sports-features. But that doesn’t discount my theory that sports writers are, arguably, some of the hardest-working, most dedicated reporters.