During my adolescence, I loved sports: I played it, watched it, and treasured it. I still do love it to this day, but not to the degree that I did growing up – life has a funny way of inviting new interests. What has changed, however, is how I consume sports. Aside from watching it, the other thing I would love to do is read about sports: rumours, analysis, and interviews. Now that I have a bit of life experience, I have come to realise how poor the quality of sports journalism has been traditionally.
If you take the most visible format for sports journalists, the interview, there has not been much innovation. While I used to love watching post-game and pre-game interviews to get myself into things, I no longer do. This is primarily driven by the often stupid questions that these sports journalists ask. I question whether there is any creativity involved because it feels like the same list of questions are being asked across different publications, therefore, the same answers are being given. There is no tension with these interviews because there is no novelty. What do they actually get paid for? From the perspective of a fan, I see little value-added by the press conferences. Every now and again there are insightful questions, but they are too few and far between. The only show with some consistency in terms of quality interviews that I have seen is Inside the NBA on TNT with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaq, and Ernie Johnson.
Sports analysis, however, has grown significantly with the onset of big data. Led by the fantasy sports culture in American Football and other sports, it has become more fashionable to dive into the data. The sort of insightful, data-driven investigations that are found regularly on FiveThirtyEight are probably the gold-standard for this kind of stuff. In terms of disruption, they are leading the way with mainstays like ESPN falling behind the curve.
The other component of sports journalism is speculation or rumours – this I believe to be the most under threat to disruption. We no need look further than the litany of podcasts popping up by current and former professional athletes. Where before this format of sports journalism were relegated to those with sports journalist or reporter on their job description, it is now being overtaken by a new wave of opportunistic athletes. From my perspective, the Ringer was the first organisation to involve athletes in the discussion and paved the doorway for what we are seeing today with the likes of JJ Redick, Matt Barnes, and a number of others starting their own thing.