Yes, the athlete story is boring, but sportswriters often don’t learn from their failures

From my email inbox: I have been worried that when media outlets develop a beat on the effect of short-term doping and lack of testing, we will start to overgeneralize. After all, the impact…

Yes, the athlete story is boring, but sportswriters often don’t learn from their failures

From my email inbox:

I have been worried that when media outlets develop a beat on the effect of short-term doping and lack of testing, we will start to overgeneralize. After all, the impact of performance-enhancing drugs on our daily lives has long been exaggerated. I do not believe that athletes’ blood will cure the brain-disease apocalypse that some fear. However, I hope that you do not plan to be overly alarmist. Instead, I would like to write in support of a sort of new athletics league, one that can complement the amateur games.

Think of the language that you use in your publication to describe athletes. Are they retired or performing, is their place within society commensurate with their accomplishments or ability and are they living up to public expectations? This is a big deal and I hope that you reflect on this before writing a story. Does it really need to be said that a former NBA player might be thriving in a hall of fame class where, one might ask, there are many athletes who were less qualified or deserving?

When a writer writes about what an athlete is accomplishing, I often feel like they need to think about this while they are writing. If they ever want to hear one more time that a professional athlete is motivated and loves what they do, please stop writing about the “beast of war zones” that they seemingly have to flee.

When I look at questions about sports/athletes’ brain health, I recall that I was in the medical field for twenty-three years. I was the principal of a private high school and I treated athletes when I was at a place of trust. Now, I teach health sciences classes to eighteen-year-olds, who are often all too thrilled about having physical and mental challenges. I see kids whose bodies have been damaged or have seriously reduced powers. In this way, I have learned that you and I both need to ask what the value of communication should be.

I would also ask if you recognize that your colleagues have many important things to say. When you have the opportunity to interview individuals who have a range of life experiences, you should appreciate how you can provide a context and perspective that differentiates your reporting. Is our duty to relay an information we gain? Or to fact-check that we are giving the story justice?

In any case, don’t worry. There are already thousands of professional athletes who are living ordinary, productive lives and performing at a high level. Why change it up for the third time? Don’t torture an athlete’s memory of thousands of games by saying, “Thanks for the memories” when he once begged you to, “Write your story how you want.”

Thank you for answering my questions, and for making me feel that you have some serious respect for athletes and the media.

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