If you go to Grantland from espn.com, they warn you that shit’s about to get literate.
tl;ldr version (with a nod to the Believer): Sports writing has improved a lot.
Mentioned in article: This excellent article from the The Classical (.org) on concussions in sports and how they aren’t manly to acknowledge. Fire Joe Morgan , SbNation and their baseball coverage in particular, and of course Grantland where amongst the sports coverage you can also find hilarious articles like this one about Rachel Ray and Guy Fieri.
It’s 2012 in declinist America and we have apocalyptic messages coming from the Right with every debate and primary, and also from the left with every exhortation to Remember the Maya! But lest you think it is all bad, fear not. According to almost everyone who writes on either the culture, or lifestyle pages of a website/newspaper: we are in the golden age of TV.
But less mentioned (never) is that we are undeniably in the golden age of sports writing. Rather than recap the history of sports writing (because I’m sure someone would insist that I include descriptions of the first Olympics) let’s just take as received wisdom that it used to be bad and now it’s good. Don’t get me wrong, the New Journalists would occasionally enter into amusing size competitions by testing themselves against their athletic ideal. And yes, sure, some inventive and clever writing came from this time. Just look at George Plimpton.
But then the internet happened (some sequences have been shortened) and then Fire Joe Morgan happened.
FJM is the exemplar of a new genre and is throughly internet dependent not just because it allows for cheap distribution, but mainly for the easy access to available statistics– and just as important, the ability to use hyperlinks to complete a joke. Once upon a time, sports writing was a hagiography, a perpetual Ken Burns effect on grown men playing kids games. But then the jealous writers turned on the athletes and starting publishing about their bad sides. They no longer venerated the gladiators on the field, instead they were showing off how well they could form opinions.
FJM came along and armed with facts found those opinions to be laughably empty. They wanted the mediator out of the way and for them to take their racial wolf whistles like gritty (white athletes), or natural talent (black ones), with them. (Where are they now? The founders quit blogging, and left their mom’s basement to go show-run Parks and Recreation.)
On a regular basis, some of the best writing I read on the web is sports related. I read about sports way more than I watch them, because the writing is so lovely. The Classical, Grantland, SBNation, McCovey Chronicles, Deadspin, to name a few. The writers on these publications are clearly the children of post modern, highly referential writers like DFW and Jonathan Lethem. They are young(ish), and their writing is reference filled and highly resemebles the shows they probably watch like 30 Rock, Family Guy, and The Office (aka Reaction Shot Theater). This article from The Classical is a perfect example. It has a jokes per minute count that would make a sitcom writer envious but instead of overwrought punchlines about dated topics it makes references to universal themes. Cleverly.
If they weren’t writing about sports they’d be writing about pop culture in general, (oh look, Carles writes for Grantland). This is clear in their allusions to a narrow and well defined subset of knowing and ironic references. (For example, Voltron, Excite Bike, and Coleco- you get the point.)
This is yet another hipster culture derived from Geekery. I think this is why Baseball writers were amongst the first to settle this land. But as the Slate/Deadspin football roundtable proves, the land rush is in effect.