Is Your Sport Writing Worth Reading?
Sport writing is among the very best non-fiction reading. Few things offer a writer the opportunity to evoke visuals, mood, and emotion the way sport does. Sport fans are a passionate audience, and their passion will pour into what they read. Conversely, their criticism is fueled by that same passion. And much of it is probably deserved.
First caveat: the world is not fair, and this unfairness is an impediment to all things, not just sports writing.
Largely, the value of your writing is either enabled or handicapped by access. (UNFAIR! But true!) If you have access to the live experience: not just the game, but the players, coaches, management, and supporting staff — you have an advantage over almost everyone else writing. However, most of the people writing with this advantage do very little with it. The majority of them offer little more than recaps of an event most of their audience already consumed. Some of this group provides a modicum of analysis. Others manage to combine their access with intelligent observation and form a sort of narrative, something that provides insight beyond “this is what happened.” Fewer still combine that ability to weave a story with a truly unique voice — but more on that later.
If you don’t have access, you’re probably writing about the fan experience. Your audience, presumably, is other people who have their own fan experience. Generally, you’re in an echo chamber. You have to use one hell of a unique voice to stand out in this field. It’s nearly impossible, and probably a fruitless effort. But don’t stop — write for yourself and let whatever audience you find be yours.
Further, if you don’t have access, then you have to provide something remarkable to stand out. Is your level of analysis, both observational and statistic, a compelling narrative? People who do this well tend to be pretty niche in their writing, but there’s an audience. For example, biometric writing is fascinating to some people, and should at least be respected by others. It’s a talent to break down what players are doing with their bodies, and how that contributes to the unfolding of the game. But, it’s obviously not everyone’s cup of tea, and to a lot of people it’s probably worthless.
Alternately, if you don’t have access and you’re writing analysis, well, everyone has an opinion, and yours is officially worthless. You’re a speculator. Worse, you’re probably the worst kind of blowhard: someone who knows next to nothing and is sure they know something. Your writing is almost certainly worthless.
Of course some people can just flat out write. Their talent is rare and evocative. They make up an incredibly small percentage of the world. They were probably born this way. (UNFAIR! But true.) That’s just the way it is: not everyone gets to be good at everything. Whether these people have access or not, they’re probably going to be worth reading — about anything.
So, to answer the opening question — is your sport writing worth reading? Probably not — sorry — but the only way it’s going to get good and provide value beyond simple diversion is with effort and repetition. So write. Often. Maybe you’ll get good.
And really, does it matter? The doing of the thing is a value in itself. Write if you enjoy it.