How to Deal With All the Sports-Spending Excuses

The 20th anniversary of the largest children’s book in history is giving writers permission to revise their work. Experts say the discussion of addiction is shifting towards an addiction to sports, writes Donny.

We were writing about the fictional David Bates on his first day at the University of Notre Dame. During the entire 2010-11 academic year, David and his lieutenants wrestled in the weight room with coach John Jorgensen, who clocked them on the number of laps they had run with the ball. (And six more times in turn, Jorgensen was docked 50 points.) The kick wasn’t the only disagreement. He also tried to get the younger men on his team to wipe out the steak from an underwire cylinder that had ended up in his locker room.

The column called him a hooligan, but that was to be expected for the hooligan who runs an Arizona high school. The parents of John’s players had dismissed David as just a student and a football fan, so the loss of the football game was crippling. Meanwhile, even more senior players began making disparaging comments about the football coach. But it turned out that just being a football fan was helping to sell tickets — which in turn was making the students feel more confident, which also helped them get more scholarships.

It was at this point that Coach Jorgensen finally made a challenge: What about David Bates, the boy with the issue of weight? In David’s story, I found him a hooligan who helped the football team compete in the thrilling run at UCLA, which was eventually called off. One of the players had called him a traitor for trying to drag down a weak Nebraska squad.

The important thing is not to get into such trivial matters. It was not an accident that the coach’s office doors always open in the summer of 2010. The top stories on Poynter’s Election column Tuesday were about discouraging doping scandals. The very same panel was also discussing racism. We want to learn from those stories and we’re eager to do the same for our sports reporting. I hope our efforts will result in additional sports writing, column or analysis.

According to a report out of Vanderbilt University, more and more of our readers expect reporters to cover the details of sports story, and specifically about sports, as well as sport fitness. In 2016, 63 percent of millennials said they wouldn’t read a story with the word sports in it. However, a Poynter survey this year found that athletes themselves are far more likely to use sports to help them prepare for competitions.

That, my friends, is what one of the great movie moment came to when Kyle Turley, the high school basketball coach, promised Karaoke the night before the team played against Johnstown-Monroe. His promise didn’t last long. The fight, the desperation on the part of the players, was answered when Turley went up on stage and belted out “Let Me Down Easy” by Alicia Keys. It’s a message that goes well beyond the cheers you may get as you travel from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to New York to Sports Authority Field. The key point, of course, is that most folks don’t live in a factory.

It is only through the revisionist, headline-writing process of education that high school students can come to expect, and even use, journalistic terminology to accurately describe the experiences of their peers.

Donny Haskins, a professor of education at Vanderbilt, is the director of the Vanderbilt Center for Sports Journalism and author of The American Tailor.

Click here to read the column on Center for American Progress »

Click here to read the column on Center for American Progress »

Click here to read the column on Center for American Progress »

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