Online sports storytelling: The best of the best

When my professor gave me an assignment to “go find examples of great online storytelling,” I thought it would be easy. There’s a ton of great stories out there, right? Truth is, yes. There is. There is a great sports story popping up on my Twitter feed on an hourly basis. But is it the story that’s good? Or the way it’s told? We’ve been talking a lot about the absence of good, in-depth sports reporting due to the demand for quick news updates. Here’s my ode to some of the best sports reporting and storytelling to grace the internet lately.

Manti Te’o gets catfished
Alright, so if you turned on the television or any sports channel in January, you were probably bombarded with stories of Manti Te’o and his fake girlfriend. The overwhelming media attention was extreme and completely blown out of proportion, but the original story that broke online was in-depth, gutsy, and most of all, well-researched. First posted on Deadspin by Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey, “Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking and Inspirational Story of the College Football Season, Is a Hoax,” dives into the story behind the Notre Dame star football player’s dead girlfriend story, and then refutes every incident with evidence they had found through good reporting. I’m even sick of talking about it, but one thing that I can’t get over is why it took so long for anyone to notice that the girl they were writing about was fake. Prestigious papers were quoting her, quoting people talking about her, and publishing a picture they presumed to be her. Props to Burke and Dickey for second-guessing sources and getting down to the nitty, gritty details.

Screen shot 2013-04-17 at 12.25.23 AM

A screenshot of ChicagoSide’s feature, “Franchise Players” by Daniel Libit.

Franchise players
Any reporter can look up the facts behind collegiate athletics and figure out how much each coach makes per year, and how much the schools are raking in off of their athletes. But ChicagoSide’s Daniel Libit actually took the time to ask the people who are affected the most—the players—about their thoughts on the money they are missing out on in his article “Talking Economic Fairness With the McDonald’s All-Americans.” Granted, it’s not the most phenomenal writing and Libit’s language isn’t necessarily proper for all ages, but he gets down to what matters, and his reporting and interviewing skills says it all.

The String Theory
This story literally revolves around a little yellow ball and the science behind the sport better known as tennis. Although “The String Theory” by David Foster Wallace was originally published in 1996 in Esquire, a web version was posted to the web in June of 2010 that came complete with interactive footnotes. Even though the story was originally written for a publication, I think it reads just as well on the internet, and better yet, it’s a story that you could read even if you didn’t know anything about tennis (and you’d probably walk away outsmarting your tennis friends). It covers the money side, history and tournaments, all while walking you through Michael T. Joyce’s serve and his match in the qualifying round for the Canadian Open. Although it’s technically a print-turned-online story, it’s hard to see anyone in this decade doing something as remotely long or detailed as this story.

Boston: What was left behind
Following that last semi-outdated post, I figured I would choose something a little more current—the Boston Marathon bombing. With every news outlet covering the story, I’ve been absorbing what has happened through various sources since Monday afternoon. However expected, sports leaders ESPN managed to pull together a compilation of the top stories and cover the sport, and the tragedy, to the fullest extent. One of the web stories that grabbed me right off the bad wasn’t a written story, but instead, it was “What Was Left Behind,” a video and picture montage that had a reporter voice over—something that would not exist in a traditional platform. In addition, the page linked to the Grantland story “The Marathon,” which I thought was an extraordinarily written story that encapsulated what everyone was feeling on that day.


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