You don't have to be a fan to write about sports, but it helps.
Just like other subjects, getting your facts right and confirming your sources are your priorities. With sports, there's also the element of emotion. Letting the fan-in-you come through in your writing allows the reader to share your excitement and enthusiasm for the sport or the team and makes it more fun for the reader as well. But first, you have to have the facts.
If you have ever been in a press room during a live sporting event, you know sports reporting is serious business. I was lucky enough to be in the press room in "The Big House", the football stadium for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, for one of the biggest events in sports -- the annual battle between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes of The Ohio State University.
Though I live in Michigan, I am a Buckeye fan and was fully prepared to scream and yell for every play from the coin toss to the final second of the fourth quarter. But I ended up standing in complete silence.
The press room was full of sports reporters from every major newspaper, sports magazine and electronic media outlet in the country and some international press as well. They might have been fans, but they had to leave their support for the team at the door. The rules were strict and unbreakable -- no one could show any emotion no matter what happened on the field. No cheering, no high-fiving, nothing. Serious business.
It made me think about what those reporters were doing.
Covering a football game or any major sporting event requires much more than just watching players run around. You have to do your homework ahead of time. If you are covering football, you had better know the game inside and out. I realized that every play had to be analyzed and documented. Twenty-two players had to be observed covering their assignments for every play.
To do that effectively, those reporters had to know each player by name and number. Every play was a potential game-changer so you couldn't afford to look away for a single minute.
And then there are the statistics. Every play had to be documented with yards gained or lost, passes completed or dropped. It gave me a new respect for every reporter working that game. It also made me thankful that for that game, I was just a fan.
The next day, as I read some of the stories about the game, I saw that those articles were much more than just statistics and facts. The reporters brought the emotion and excitement of that day to life for their readers as well. If I hadn't been at the game, their words and descriptions would have brought the experience to life for me. That should be the goal (no pun intended) of any article you write -- to bring the experience to life for your reader.
Samantha Mills is a Radio Communications major at Oakland University, graduating this year. She currently interns at a local radio station where her duties include research, writing and producing. Samantha has also worked for MTV for the 2006 VMAs. Her goal is to be on-air talent for a major market morning radio show.