Here at Awful Announcing, and across the sports media world, we spent a lot of time talking about TV. And while TV is a fun and dynamic medium (and, more importantly, pays the bills) we sometimes forget the less-heralded heroes of sports media: the writers. So with that in mind, we launched a feature in which we recap the highlights of the past month of sportswriting, including some recommendations for stories you may have missed.
We skipped our sportswriting roundup in July, so this month we’re bringing you the best sportswriting from both July and August.
Sportswriter of the month: Diana Moskovitz, Deadspin
Deadspin senior editor Diana Moskovitz writes good stuff on all kinds of subjects, but she really separates herself with her coverage of violence against women, a subject that often goes under-reported in sports media. Again and again, Moskovitz excels at not only reporting on domestic violence and sexual assault but also synthesizing that reporting into smart, thoughtful commentary.
This summer, Moskovitz has been all over the complex and sometimes-confusing Ezekiel Elliott saga, in which the Cowboys’ running back was accused of abusing his ex-girlfriend, then suspended six games by the NFL amid much he-said, she-said. Moskovitz wrote several sharp, insightful pieces criticizing the league’s repeated mishandling of domestic violence cases and worked with Emma Baccellieri to break down the NFL’s investigative report on the Elliott incident in meticulous detail. She also obtained police reports, 911-call audio and video from another incident involving Elliott, while finding time to cover the NCAA’s empty sexual violence policy, Hugh Freeze’s bizarre firing, McGregor-Mayweather and more.
Moskovitz is an essential read on pretty much whatever subject she chooses to write about.
Blog post of the summer
The NFL set itself up for this; by Diana Moskovitz, Deadspin
“No matter what the NFL does, it devolves into a bunch of dudes arguing about whether or not a woman is a liar. … Because not only is the entire Ezekiel Elliott case devolving into a slut-shaming shit show, but it’s a shit show the NFL set itself up for. NFL brass made this happen, and are so stupid they don’t even realize it.”
Oral histories of the summer
Deep Blue: an oral history of Appalachian State vs. Michigan; by Andrew Kahn, Scout.com
Oral history: Michigan players recall shock, embarrassment of loss to Appalachian State; by Mark Snyder, Detroit Free Press
An oral history of the biggest upset in college football history: Appalachian State 34 Michigan 32; by Cyrus Smith, Underdog Dynasty
Sept. 1 marked the 10-year anniversary of Appalachian State’s shocking upset over Michigan in Ann Arbor, and the oral historians sure took note. If you want a Michigan-heavy look-back at the upset, check out Snyder’s piece in the Free Press. If you want an App State-focused version of events, try Smith’s recounting on Underdog Dynasty. And if you want a thorough look-back with perspective from both sides, go for Kahn’s Scout piece.
The summer in sportswriting news:
- The Athletic just keeps expanding and now has sites in six cities, plus three national sites featuring big-name writers like Ken Rosenthal, Seth Davis and Stewart Mandel. Its founders say it can work in every major American market.
- Former Sports Illustrated writer Greg Bedard recently launched Boston Sports Journal, a subscription-based site modeled after three-year-old DK Pittsburgh Sports.
- R.J. Bell of Pregame.com is suing Deadspin for defamation, with the same lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan in the lawsuit that bankrupt Gawker. Deadspin parent company Gizmodo Media claims the suit is just an attempt to intimidate journalists.
- Deadspin is also being sued by an Atlanta United fan angry about how the site used a photo of him.
- VICE laid off nearly its entire sports staff in a shift to video.
- Layoffs also came to FanRag, which said good-bye to, among others, director of content Tommy Stokke.
- Sports Illustrated could cut back to 24 issues a year.
- Yahoo Sports scooped up ex-SI writer Pete Thamel, continuing a summer of college-sports-writer musical chairs.
- The San Jose Mercury News‘ Sharks beat writer, Paul Gackle, was stabbed in his home.
- ESPN hired accomplished reporters Joel Anderson and Phil Steele, while extending investigative ace Seth Wickersham.
- The Ringer jumped from Medium’s publishing platform to Vox’s and now resembles the SB Nation site.
- SB Nation appeared to fire a Utah Jazz blogger who made homophobic jokes about Gordon Heyward.
- SB Nation’s Cowboys site posted and deleted an insensitive article about domestic violence.
- Related: A Deadspin piece on how SB Nation compensates its team-site bloggers (or rather, fails to compensate its team-site bloggers) included some odd quotes from SB Nation editors.
- ESPN disciplined Mike Wise, a writer for The Undefeated, for tweeting misleading fake Nick Saban quotes.
- The Seattle Times banned its writers from appearing on local radio station KJR.
- I interviewed some sportswriters who have left the profession recently, whether due to layoffs in the industry, the stress of online media or the simple desire to do something else.
- Here’s a fun newspaper slip-up. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel confused former Packer Jim Ringer with former Beatle Ringo Starr.
Oh no, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel! (August 26, 2017) pic.twitter.com/iwwZAOGvwv
— Romenesko (@romenesko) August 27, 2017
Stories of the summer
First Golfer: Donald Trump’s relationship with golf has never been more complicated; by Alan Shipnuck, Golf Magazine
Donald Trump is probably the best golfer of any president in U.S. history. He also has enough scandals relating to golf to fill a multi-thousand word article.
How Jerry Jones became God’s gift to sportswriters; by Bryan Curtis, The Ringer
This piece about Jerry Jones’ unique relationship with local and national media doubles as a pretty illuminating profile of the Cowboys’ owner.
Where have all the Deions gone?; by Robert Klemko, The MMQB
Robert Klemko reviews the legend of Deion Sanders, then explores why there hasn’t been a two-sport star since him… and whether one could be around the corner.
The fallout from sportswriting’s filthiest fuck-up; by Jeff Pearlman, Deadspin
One small-town newspaper reporter played a prank on another, no one noticed until it was too late, and we’re still talking about it 20 years later.
Why Floyd Mayweather can still box after beating women; by Soraya McDonald and Lonnae O’Neal, The Undefeated
This piece thoughtfully examines why so many people are willing to excuse Floyd Mayweather’s record of domestic violence, with input from a wide variety of sources.
‘Skunk in the outfield’: How the most epic trick play in history broke baseball; by Sam Miller
This is a delightful story about the craziest baseball trick play you have ever heard of and the odd effect it had on everyone involved in it.
How Dude Perfect makes child’s play hard work; by Chris O’Connell, Texas Monthly
This is a fun look behind the scenes at a group of overgrown children whose YouTube videos you have almost certainly come across.
Hunter Greene is not the LeBron of baseball. He wants to be something more; by Joon Lee, Bleacher Report
I wasn’t sure I needed yet another profile of the most-discussed high school baseball star since Bryce Harper, but this was an engaging and humanizing look inside Hunter Greene’s somewhat surreal life.
Finding Darko; by Sam Borden, ESPN
ESPN caught up with infamous NBA Draft bust Dark Milicic, who seems awfully content with his life, no matter what American fans think of him.
A team of their own; by Jessica Luther, Bleacher Report
This story draws attention to an essentially invisible constituency in the sports world: girls who just want to play baseball.
The fairy tale and the nightmare; by S.L. Price, Sports Illustrated
Everything about the deadly Chapecoense plane crash is devastating. Price pulls out some harrowing stories, including a widow forced to reckon with the accident while working for the team and a survivor wracked by pain and guilt.
“It’s amazing I haven’t ruined myself,” by Timothy Bella, Esquire
I won’t blame you if at this point you never want to read the name “Curt Schilling” again, but this piece is enjoyable even for a Schilling-hater, with an incredible kicker.
And my three favorite pieces of sportswriting from the months of July and August…
The search for Aaron Rodgers; by Mina Kimes, ESPN
What makes this story so great is how Kimes zeroes in the aspect of Aaron Rodgers she found most interesting and develops a compelling narrative around it. In place of the boilerplate biographical details that come with most profiles are genuine insights into what makes Rodgers tick. It helped that Kimes got some really incredible access—in her own living room.
The death of a teenage quarterback; by Lars Anderson, Bleacher Report
Lars Anderson walks us through the Evan Murray’s final hours, the football game that helped kill him and the tragic aftermath of his death. The subject matter is tough to read, but the writing itself is simple, clear and deeply evocative.
The complicated life and death of Hideki Irabu; by Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated
Every once in a while, it’s useful to be reminded that when we mock over-priced free agents or underperforming stars, we’re mocking real human beings. You may remember Hideki Irabu as a punch line (or as a “fat pussy toad”), but Ben Reiter shows that he was actually a sensitive, layered, somewhat tortured man with a complex back-story.