Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why Sportswriting all too often isn't

Winning is the first-nine-paragraphs thing

Don't get me wrong; I'm still touchy about 2001, but that didn't expand to disliking Ray Bourque or Chris Drury or any other members of the Team That Should Have Lost(tm).

What I'm not understanding, though, is how Drury and Ira Berkow got snookered into that title. Let's look at the second paragraph:
Drury, co-captain and center, has helped the Buffalo Sabres to a franchise-best 52 regular-season victories and a 3-2 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in their first-round N.H.L. playoff series. Few people have won more major championships at so many levels and have captured more individual awards and accolades than the soft-spoken 29-year-old Drury. [italics mine]

Nor does Berkow leave that last without examples:
Drury's athletic success is extraordinary, if not unparalleled. As a youth, his Greater Bridgeport (Conn.) hockey team won the United States national amateur championship in 1989. Five months later, he hit and pitched his team from Trumbull, Conn., to the Little League World Series title with an upset of Taiwan.

He won a state championship in hockey in high school but was not drafted until the third round, 72nd over all. In his first season at Boston University, the Terriers won the N.C.A.A. hockey championship. As a senior, he won the Hobey Baker Award as the best collegiate player in the nation.

Now I'm as fond of that video of Drury catching the final out in that Little League World Series as anyone else who was bored by its broadcast-on-infinite-loop during the 2001 Cup Finals,* but we're now six paragraphs into a story about how Winning Isn't "the Only Thing" with no end in sight.

Indeed, there are three more (mercifully short) paragraphs about Winning before we get to the point:
"Not a day goes by that I don't think of Travis Roy," Drury said in the Sabres' locker room after a recent practice.

Stop. Pause. Take Deep Breath.
Eleven seconds into the first shift in the first game of Roy's college career, he crashed headfirst into the boards trying to check a North Dakota opponent. He fell to the ice, motionless....

Roy had snapped the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Football fans have Darrell Stingley. Basketball people have Hank Gathers writhing on the floor. Baseball people still talk about Ray Chapman.

As Albert Brooks said in Broadcast News, "I buried the lead." And, worse, so did Berkow.

Yesterday was Blog Against Diablism Day, and the human and inhuman stories flowed. Today, the New York Times proves that it's business as usual, and winning is still everything. Or at least the lead and the next eight 'grafs.


Post a Comment

<< Home