1) From Dr. Aaron Carroll, an expert on health care and public policy issues – a pithy seven minute or so video, titled “The Sky Isn’t Falling,” about all the ways in which the kids are, in fact, alright. It isn’t about sports, but it articulates very well a recurring theme on this blog – the tendency to nostalgia among sports media and the endless related plaint about “kids today.” Carroll notes that the available data suggest kids today engage in less sex, less drinking, less smoking, are less likely to get pregnant and so on, than the fabled youth of yore. I don’t share all of Carroll’s optimism about what technology has brought about and growing class divisions in American society mean that aggregate data can’t paint a complete picture of who’s benefiting and who isn’t in today’s world.
Nevertheless, a welcome corrective to the typical media tropes, inside the sports world and out.
2) Speaking of, Deadspin’s Tim Marchman compiles a list of some of his favorite pieces of sports writing in 2013.
Marchman is having none of the trope that we live in a fallen time for sports journalism:
Unfortunately for those of us who are by temperament disposed to believe that everything is sliding down an incline into the gutter, there’s more good sportswriting than there ever has been, the best of which is every bit as good as the best of what came before, and much of which couldn’t possibly have been written or published without the use of modern digital tools. It would take a pretty serious quantity of liquor to get me to even listen to an argument that Zach Lowe’s investigations of the inner workings of the NBA or Brent Brookhouse’s iterative reporting on a jiu jitsu cult are the products of a fallen world.
The fact is that standards are now higher than they ever have been. As wonderful as Gay Talese’s stories about Floyd Patterson were, his reporting techniques wouldn’t make the grade today even at a shop as sketchy as Deadspin. Ready access to public records has made it easier, by orders of magnitude, to expose abuse of the public trust. And the sheer amount of good work being done consistently pushes writers away from obvious and overly covered subjects and toward quirkier and more obscure ones. American sportswriting today is more accurate, more confrontational, and far broader in scope than it has been at any point I’m aware of, and the result is more good work than anyone can keep up with.
One story in particular on the list worth highlighting (and I certainly haven’t read them all): by Mother Jones’ Ian Gordon on MLB’s Dominican sweatshop system.
On the subject of lists – from Sports Illustrated’s media guy, Richard Deitsch, a list of the 100 or so best pieces he read, sports or not sports-related, this year. It’s a fun and eclectic list.
One of the stories on Deitsch’s list is this (non sports) New Yorker story about civil asset forfeiture. It might be the single most infuriating thing I’ve read this year.
Happy new year to all!