Thursday, December 23, 2010

Paradigm shift in sports writing

For the longest time, I had this irrational hatred of Bill Simmons's writing. I think it stemmed from my very rational hatred for ESPN (which contains some of the most self-serving, hackneyed programming on television today). Whenever I read an article by Simmons, I'd redirect my anger that I have for his employer and apply it toward his specific work. Recently, however, I've been able to compartmentalize my hostilities, and I think that's largely in part to the fact that he can really write.

Which is kinda the point of his latest article on ESPN. (I know, I know--if I hate ESPN so much, why do I keep reading? Answer's simple: I...uh... No comment.) Anyway, if you have the time you should read his take on the new boxing movie, The Fighter. It's not just a movie review; he's also commenting on the state of sports movies and how they've had to evolve from the formulaic story lines of the last thirty-plus years. Sports movies today have to compete with the high quality sports documentaries you find on the indie screen, HBO, and (surprise, surprise) ESPN.

But he hits the nail on the head when he states that in order to compete with documented "real life" stories, fiction writers need to step it up. He compares this need for producing better stories in film to what has become the new standard in television drama: compelling, character-driven narrative (like "The Sopranos," "The Wire," and "Mad Men"). It's my belief that these shows were the result of television screenwriters needing to compete with "reality TV" for viewers. The only way these shows were going to succeed at drawing in viewers was to produce something worth watching.

For a more articulate take, check out Bill Simmons's story here.

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