The other day I was reading a blog post that was recapping some of the week’s college football highlights. Whenever I have a sports writing assignment, this is a weekly routine I like to do. However, on this day, at no point in doing so was I engaged in the content, nor did it become apparent that the writer had any real passion behind his statements. It made me think: The only thing worse than an overzealous sports writer is one that has no idea what they are talking about nor conviction behind their prose. As a reader, this is the ultimate turn off; as a writer, it is the most common shortcoming.
As I continued to read the mundane recap of the Sanford vs. Oregon game, I could not help but find something wrong with the overall tone of the blog post. I mean, here, the post was supposed to be covering one of the more thrilling college football games in recent memory, yet I was barely keeping my eyes open, and actively struggling to hold back the yawns. Then, it dawned on me: the writer must not be a fan.
As a sports writer, when it comes down to it, if you are not a fan of the sport or team you are writing about, then that is going to show directly in your writing. Freelance sports writers are just like any other type of writer; the interest, passion and knowledge of what they are writing about is always evident. Quite frankly, even if you are the best writer in the world, there is no way you can consistently fake passion for a topic. Readers are always judging a writer and are exceedingly aware of any lackluster tones in content—they catch on pretty quick.
For those freelance sports writers looking to increase readership, or perhaps just hone the engagingness of their content, I recommend one main rule of thumb: Write as a fan. For instance, if you are a Bay Area sports fan like me, write about the epic World Series run by the San Francisco Giants in 2012, or the 49ers quarterback controversy. If you aren’t a fan, then become one—watch some games, read up on the players, and then write about it. Whatever you do, don’t write about something you have no knowledge of; it will show through to your reader faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100 meters (9.58 seconds).
With that said, the beautiful thing about sports writing is, you do not have to be an expert. So long as you have a basic knowledge and interest in a team, its players, and the history of the sport, then that’s all you need. Thee most important quality in a sports writer is his or her passion. So, if you are looking to become a sports writer—start small—write about a player or team you can get behind, not the one that gets the most headlines.
Jamison H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.