I was in Autzen to watch the ducks’ beat down of USC this weekend, and I figured it was the perfect occasion to post my first blog relate to sports (since, after all, I do want to become a sports writer). In the wake of the big win I think it’s a good time to look at the college football journalism.
Oregon’s amazing turn around since their opening disaster at Boise State has been a prime example of what I see as a major part of being a sports journalist, eating your words. People want sports journalists to have huge personality and opinion in their writing. Sports writers and columnists are paid to see things in black and white even though it’s been proven a million times over in sports that nothing is certain. They tell you who will win, where teams should be ranked, and which players are with absolutely certainty and explain their logical as to why things will happen how they say in utter detail, only to be wrong a good portion of the time.
Oregon’s awful start this season after gaining so much preseason hype, including gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated Magazine, and unbelievable turnaround to become one of the best teams in the country perhaps the years best example of what sports journalist must do. Oregon has had sports journalists backtracking on themselves all season first praising them, then crucifying them then praising them again. One week journalists would preach how Oregon didn’t stand a chance against California golden bears and the next week they would be complete retracting their statements, such as Buster Sports Pac-10 writer Nick Dashel’s extremely apologetic post-game article after the Ducks’ win over Cal.
No one is a better example of this than the Oregonian’s controversial columnist John Canzano. After Oregon’s first two games, in which they played terribly, Canzano wrote an article basically stating the ducks weren’t a good enough team to get even the six wins required for a bowl game. That article didn’t sit well with a lot of duck fans to say the least, and they haven’t let him hear the end of it since. Canzano’s latest article, however, couldn’t be more different from his first. After Oregon dominated USC this weekend Canzano not so subtly proclaimed in his column Oregon could beat any team in the country, and that they deserved, more than anyone, a shot at the national title. Canzano is infamous among Oregon sports fan bases (Blazers, Ducks, Beavers) for writing such controversial and very pessimistic about the teams.
So how do sports writers get away with using such widespread sensationalist journalism? One would think that with the amount of surefire predictions and analysis that sports journalists end up having to retract for being completely wrong, at some point they would start being less arrogant of their opinions and write the articles from a bit more neutral standpoint. After all, in most forms of journalism, if the writer found himself having to print retractions every week he’d probably find himself out of a job. In sports journalism, however, this confident stirs up much controversy and fan hate mail, but still thrives. That of course is because of the controversy itself. Canzano is the Oregonian’s most
popular sports writer, but also, seems to be, the most hated. Just reading the comments below his articles online show the vast numbers of people who have negative things to say about Canzano as a journalist (and sometimes person), and yet they are still online reading all of his articles.
In the end, sports fans relish the opportunity to come back and tell these opinionated sports writers how wrong they are and see them eat their words. Sports journalists using this style usually don’t have excess love or hate for the team their writing about, but they present the best or worse case scenario for the team or athlete as what they believe will happen specifically for the purpose of creating a debate. Some will be angry, others happy, but they’ll all be supporting that journalist by reading him, whether they like it or not.
So for better or worse it seems that as long as readers flock to these types of articles, even if it’s to insult to the writer, sports journalists will always be throwing around their most extreme views and will be prepared for a humble retraction when things don’t go their way.