FIRE JOE MORGAN: Sportswriting Rule #1: It's Totally Cool To Make Up Unsubstantiated Correlations


Where Bad Sports Journalism Came To Die

FJM has gone dark for the foreseeable future. Sorry folks. We may post once in a while, but it's pretty much over. You can still e-mail dak, Ken Tremendous, Junior, Matthew Murbles, or Coach.

Main / Archives / Merch / Glossary / Goodbye

Monday, January 30, 2006


Sportswriting Rule #1: It's Totally Cool To Make Up Unsubstantiated Correlations

Class, open your textbook to page 44, and you should find an article by the venerable Henry Schulman. Hit us with your knowledge, Hank!


Notice, aspiring sportswriters, how the title is vague enough as to not make any sense. Schulman is clearly at the top of his game here. Whatever "it" literally is, Schulman has it.

"The lack of team chemistry in 2005 was an issue. Was it the biggest reason for the Giants having a losing record (75-87) for the first time in nine years? Hardly. Bonds' five-month absence, the loss of closer Benitez and an awful start by the rotation rank much higher."

An inauspicious start for Schulman. Notice how he refers to things that actually happened -- namely, injuries -- in explaining the Giants' disappointing 2005 season. But quickly, a recovery into the realm of the unprovable:

"Nevertheless, a lack of cohesion inside the clubhouse and on the field did not help. A month into the season, newcomer Vizquel publicly bemoaned what he viewed as a shortage of team play. In mid-June, Alou highlighted the off-field polarization by revealing he had not gone to dinner with a single teammate."

YES! Truly excellent work here -- and the careful reader will notice that he never goes further, in any effort to explain just how this lack of cohesion might have affected the Giants' play. Omar Vizquel once bemoaned that he thought there wasn't enough team play. Good enough! Of course he probably only said these things because the Giants weren't playing well, and not vice versa, but this is a far more difficult story to write. (Extra credit assignment: Try to write an equally unsubstantiated article claiming that poor play results in players claiming a lack of "team play!")

"You can have all the talent in the world, but with the exception of Kobe and Shaq, if you don't get along you're not going to play well," (new acquisition Steve) Kline said.

Hmm. HMM. Absolutely beautiful placement of an actual example that disproves his entire thesis. Note how Schulman doesn't even attempt to give examples of teams that have actually suffered from poor cohesion -- how could anyone prove that anyway?! -- therefore creating the illustion that the Shaq / Kobe era Lakers are instead "the exception that proves the rule." A masterful stroke of nonsense, indeed.

Matheny said the 2005 clubhouse improved with the infusion of youth, an anomaly because ordinarily the experienced players set the tone.
"We started bringing in some young guys who had their own chemistry set up, and I believe that kind of infiltrated the clubhouse and made a big difference. That's a tribute to them. It's something Moises and I talked a lot about."
Then, a purposeful September added to the enjoyment of being around one another.

When attributing performance, or lack their of, to intangibles, chemistry, magic, or any other weird factor you've made up in your head, never -- NEVER! -- describe a winning stretch as "winning." "Purposeful" in this context is all but flat out incorrect, yet perfectly underscores the fact that what the Giants were actually doing was winning. Brave choice, Mr. Schulman. (Notice, also, the wise ommission of any mention of the Giants 4-game losing streak to end the season.)

That is all, students. A reminder: Tomorrow's Celizic Appreciation Society meeting has been moved to McCarver Hall, room 155.

posted by dak  # 5:50 PM
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home


04.05   05.05   06.05   07.05   08.05   09.05   10.05   11.05   12.05   01.06   02.06   03.06   04.06   05.06   06.06   07.06   08.06   09.06   10.06   11.06   12.06   01.07   02.07   03.07   04.07   05.07   06.07   07.07   08.07   09.07   10.07   11.07   12.07   01.08   02.08   03.08   04.08   05.08   06.08   07.08   08.08   09.08   10.08   11.08  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?