| March 20, 2018

Column: Back to the Basics

May 2, 2016

Anyone who follows a sport will be exposed to jargon and clichés in one form or another.

Basketball is a great example of this trend, as sportscasters claim that an athlete is living behind the arc, another is dominating the paint or that it is raining threes in the building.

The casual slang that has crept into sports commentary and stories is not journalistic, and it is confusing to introductory fans. If journalists were to take out this filler, it would produce more reader-friendly stories.

To be honest, I’m still fairly new to the world of sports. I did not know much about basketball when I started covering the Idaho women’s team in December.

In addition to learning the rules and regulations of the game, I was overwhelmed by the slang and jargon – ranging from trey to trifecta to three-ball. By the way, all of those examples are alternative terms for a 3-point shot.

The encouragement of this jargon makes it difficult for prospective readers to enter the sports realm.

At my high school paper, writers often fought one another to get out of covering sports because they struggled with the terminology. These writers would spend the majority of their time writing and revising in the attempt to find the best way to describe a game.

Reflecting on this situation allowed me to realize the current situation for sports journalists. We often have to write for both the interested newcomer and the veteran fan.

A number of newspaper readers have never read a sports story. They understand the concept of the sport, such as putting the ball through the hoop, but they have not been taught the exact details of the game.

In addition, the athletes and coaches often cannot help but describe the matchup in cliches in the post-game interviews, which forces writers to paraphrase quotes to better summarize the information.

Meanwhile, the veteran readers are often deeply engrained in their respective sport. The often played the game during their childhood days or became involved with their local team in one way or another. In other words, they know the game inside and out.

Veteran fans often demand an in-depth examination of the game, backed by statistics and analytics.

Rather than resorting to jargon, sports writers should employ the basic components of journalism. The basis of the field is to provide a clear and concise presentation of an event.

There is nothing clear about the term “shooting the lights out.” The team did not literally put basketballs into a cannon to fire them at the ceiling lights, so why are we describing it as such?

While most readers are aware that the phrase means a team is shooting well, it would be better for writers to use statistics from the game to show that the team shot well.

Technical language and jargon has no place in the news section, so why should sports journalists continue to let it invade their work? Let’s keep the jargon out of sports coverage.

Tess Fox can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @tesstakesphotos

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