Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jimmie Bise Jr.: Inside Cricket Today!

Sundries Shack vs. impenetrable sports reporting:
Now I think I understand the glassy-eyed look I get from non-sports fans when I talk about My Beloved Redskins or the Capitals. I ran across an article in the UK’s Times Online which, I swear to you, is utterly incomprehensible to me. I know it’s recapping a cricket match (game? contest? googly?) and that it turned out badly for England. Beyond that, I’m flummoxed.
Heh. Twenty years ago, when I was sports editor at the Calhoun (Ga.) Times, I imposed a rule on myself: The first paragraph of every game story must include the final score.

This would seem a simple and obvious idea, but by the 1980s, lots of sports writers had picked up the magazine-style method where you begin with an an anecdotal lede -- "Rocky Thompson called his mother before Saturday's game against State Tech . . . " -- then string the reader along to the fifth paragraph before mentioning the final score.

All fine and good for Rick Reilly in Sports Illustrated, where you're doing weekly in-depth coverage for stone-cold sports junkies who already know the result of the game played four days before they pick up the magazine. But in a newspaper? No, I'm sorry. The most important fact -- the final score -- needs to be somewhere in the lede.

Is cricket really as mystifying as the Times of London coverage suggests? Or are the reporters just guilty of the same lazy journalistic habits that affect, inter alia, so much financial reporting? As I've learned from editing financial news at Not Tucker Carlson, if you don't already understand bond markets, you're never going to figure it out from an Associated Press story about the bond markets.


  1. aussie from downonderSat Jul 11, 09:53:00 PM


    I'm in my fifties, have been exposed to cricket all my life, and still don't fully understand how the winner is decided in this full length 5 day original version of the game. And this is 'The Ashes', a legendary rivalry over a century old. Look it up on wikipedia if you're interested.

  2. 'The first paragraph of every game story must include the final score.'

    Well, see where it says, in bold, right underneath the headline: SWALEC Stadium (third day of five): Australia, with five first-innings wickets in hand, are 44 runs ahead of England

    How does that not conform to your 'rule'?! It's as succinct a summary of a match as I've ever seen. Granted, it might not tell you the final score, but that is simply because it is a report from the third day of a five day match. Are you demanding complete prescience from sports reporters?

    Also, the praying for rain is not so much 'magazine writing' as it is an acknowledgment that England is not looking like they can win. A cricket match has to be won: a higher run score must be achieved AND 10 wickets have to be taken. In case this is somehow not achieved within five days (for instance, it starts to rain so much that play has to be suspended), the match ends up a draw (i.e., neither team lost - which is different from a tie, in which case the total run score is equal). And a draw, the first few lines of the article clearly implies, is the best result England can hope for now.

    So, although I agree that there's a lot of lazy writing out there, this isn't necessarily a good example to use. (If you have to read a mere three lines, three lines of which the headline is one, in order to understand where the match is at, I don't think one can say that the reporter has done a bad job of it exactly.) Lazy reading can also be a bit of a problem.

  3. Yes, It's really that mystifying. Even more so if you're sitting on a hillside in Riyadh, watching Bengali laborers playing on their day off (Friday) and listening to commentary in Pidgin-Bengal-Arab-English.

    Or maybe it was in English. Like I said, it's really that mystifying, so who can tell?