Box Scores and Bylines
In an age of multiculturalism and a time of global and national political divide, sports provides Americans with a safe, shared experience. People with seemingly little else in common can bond in St. Louis or New York or Charlotte over a team.
This may lay at the heart of the familiar, even ritualistic nature of sports pages.
Even the changes in technology have not fundamentally altered—or replaced—the experience of the morning sports page. People may know the score on their PDA moments after the game has ended. They may see the 30-second highlights late night on ESPN, and even have heard a discussion of the team on sports talk radio.
Yet there remains something alluring apparently in reliving the experience of the game by reading about it within the reference point of the home-town perspective, through the eyes of the hometown writers, with the small details of your team’s club house only the local scribes can offer and the fan point of view they embody. In an age where geography doesn’t matter, in sports, it still does.
There is something else to the unchanging nature of the sports pages. While interpretative, they are still grounded in reporting. While sports has become a topic for wild speculation and opinion-for-the-sake-of-opinion in some forms of media (Could LeBron James guard Michael Jordan when Jordan was in his second year in the NBA?), that is less the case on the sports pages, which are thoroughly reported, heavily sourced and highly descriptive.
There are disadvantages to the ritual nature of the pages. Because the coverage is so focused on teams, as members of a local family, larger issues in sport are often missed. Sports remains a journalism apart.
America’s sports pages are a lot like a comfortable bar or restaurant you go to before or after the game. You know what you are going to get and it’s not going to be spoiled by the latest fad, but you’re also not going to see a lot of change on the menu.