In the sports world today, professional writers and fans have a tendency to irrationally overreact to hot starts and disappointing beginnings, choosing to make sweeping generalizations for the sake of a flashy column, article or tweet.
Consequently, many sports writers have essentially embraced a model of instant gratification, sacrificing good storytelling and concrete details. Writers might think they are appealing to fans through this model — and they might be right.
Slumps are a part of sports, and although they might have been previously accepted as part of the game, Twitter and 24/7 sports coverage have increased scrutiny of players and managers and, at times, forced both to make unreasonably reactionary decisions.
The problem is not limited to one sport. For example, when this season’s heavy preseason favorite, the Miami Heat, began the season 9-8, “experts” who had chosen them to be the next NBA world champions immediately ate their words.
The Lakers have experienced similar struggles, enduring multiple losing streaks of three games or more. Writers and fans publicly questioned whether the Lakers needed to retool and trade the inconsistent Ron Artest.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak, however, ignored public grumbling and stayed the course. After making no moves, the Lakers are 18-2 since the All Star break and have re-established themselves as the clear favorites for the championship.
Though some of these columnists were adamant the Lakers were just in a funk, others called for a complete rebuilding of the back-to-back defending champion Lakers.
What’s causing this reactionary trend is the impulsive nature of sports writing today. Many columns have abandoned nuance and subtlety, instead providing a reactionary viewpoint to grab the audience’s attention.
Often, writers are contrarians just to piss off fans and get them to read their stories.
Admittedly, it’s worked. Jason Whitlock has made a career of it, pushing his way to become one of Fox Sports’ most read reporters.
Moreover, the newfound ability to bypass the middleman (the editor) by way of social media has made this type of reactionary writing even easier and more widely followed.
Rather than crafting a story or making valid points like ESPN’s Wright Thompson or Buster Olney, most writers are taking the Whitlock route, leading sports writing down a dangerous, impulsive path — to the detriment of fans who remain loyal to professional writing by professional writers.
The Los Angeles Clippers will trail off, the Lakers will go deep into the postseason and everything will shake out the way it should.
But that won’t stop writers from going into hysterics when they see the Lakers’ winning streak snap The commentary will clutter the front page of ESPN with headlines like “are the Lakers losing their edge?” Your Twitter timeline will have plenty of links to those articles, with writers promoting their new article that promises to expose the “real weaknesses of the Lakers.”
Sports articles are too often a ploy for readers’ attention. And although impulsive posts on one’s Twitter might generate publicity, soon enough fans will learn to distinguish credibility from absurdity.
Cyrus Behzadi is a freshman majoring in communication. His column, “The Extra Point,” runs Wednesdays.