After reading a column about Aaron Hernandez from a prominent national columnist, I really got to thinking. The columnist tried to make a connection between Hernandez’s actions and the society that he comes from. The word “gangsters” was thrown around a lot along with names like Jay-Z and conveniently timed references to Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini had passed away just a few days earlier).
However, the column was missing something. Something big. Facts, statistics, research. The column mentioned nothing and linked to nothing, not even an article from the column’s home site. Yet, the columnist’s readers – those that agreed, at least – praised the work. It made no sense. How could a national columnist get away with a piece of writing that would not fly in even the most amateur of college classrooms.
Later, I read one of my favorite writers, Dave Zirin of The Nation. Why is he one of my favorites? While tackling complex issues between sports and politics on a daily basis, Zirin’s work is always filled with facts, statistics and research. When connecting sports to society as a whole, facts and figures are essential. Anecdotes will get a writer nowhere. Zirin does it right.
That is why I wrote my guest post for the Sports Analytics Blog. To highlight the importance of research and facts in journalism because even the most highly read writers need a reminder at times. Using Zirin’s column on the matter as the gold standard as well was media/journalism lessons from Charles Pierce and the late Michael Hastings, I laid out a definitive argument to why statistics are so important in journalism.
Here is an excerpt from the post:
As details surround the case where Aaron Hernandez, the 23-year-old New England Patriots tight end, allegedly murdered his friend and semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd, writers from bloggers to national columnists tried to connect Hernandez’s brutal actions to the society we live in. We revere athletes too highly. We allow the “gangsta culture” into locker rooms and onto sporting fields. We celebrate gangsters like Jay Z and Tony Soprano over clean-cut, high-performing athletes.
The fact is these anecdotes are merely anecdotes. Without the proper statistics and research to back such claims, the points remain circumstantial and lacking true merit. This is exactly why when dealing with as complex of a task as linking a single athlete’s actions to being the product of an entire society, statistics and data are paramount.
Read the rest of my guest post for Sports Analytics Blog here.