In an odd place: a letter from the sports editor

Sports journalism is weird. We try to take one of the defining aspects of someone’s life and distill it into a few words. We take the thoughts and emotions of people striving to achieve a goal and we turn them into soundbites. We watch and study what athletes do in order to judge and reach conclusions.

At a student paper, writing about our peers and friends, it is doubly strange. We are armchair analysts, using our fledgling experience covering sports to explain games, seasons, and athletic careers to the public. Much of what we do we’ve picked up from “real” writers, studying how they see games, speak to athletes, and parse several hours of action into a narrative.

Like all other journalists, our goal is to illuminate truths about the world. We make calls — reduce years of someone’s life into mere sentences. We do this to make sense of things and put them in a form that can be digested in a few minutes, every week or so. Sometimes, it may seem like we’re being unfair, losing important details as we compress stories like photos.

That&rsquo;s why I&rsquo;m writing this: to better explain what <em>Imprint&rsquo;s</em> sports section aims to do and why we do it.

<em>Imprint</em> is a corporation with editorial independence from all aspects of the University of Waterloo. It is meant to report on all news relevant to students with due diligence and honesty, and no part of the university has any control over what <em>Imprint</em> prints. Though all sections of the paper are staffed by UW students and are reporting on UW news, those sections and their reporters are expected to file news without bias.

That&rsquo;s where the sports section comes in. Like all other independent publications, <em>Imprint&rsquo;s</em> sports section cannot slant the truth in favour of the Warriors. The <em>National Post</em>, <em>Globe and Mail</em>, and <em>Toronto Star</em> all are based out of Toronto, yet they can&rsquo;t cheer for the Leafs, Raptors, or Jays. Even watching our own friends on the field, we have to lay the truth bare. If they have a bad game, we have to call it like it is.

It can be troubling seeing something you&rsquo;re attached to or involved with having negative adjectives affixed to it in print. It might feel like all the positive elements of it were glossed over, but no matter how much effort was put in, or how much player development came out of it, a losing season will be reported on as a bad season. The Warriors may work hard, but the student athletes at Western, Windsor, and Mac do, too.

I may be painting us as dispassionate dispensers of judgement, but as reporters, we try to (when we can) find more in our stories than just win/loss results. We are your peers; we listen to you and your teammates, your coaches and trainers; we watch you perform rare and amazing feats for yourself and for our school. It&rsquo;s incredible, and a privilege to write about everything you do.

Sports writing can be a vehicle to write about anything. That&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s so magical about the world of athletics: it&rsquo;s so incredibly interconnected with all other aspects of our lives. Sports is so closely married to geopolitics, economics, the sciences, math, history, social issues, and most of all, human struggles. My fellow reporters and I are so fortunate to be able to cover what our athletes do, to witness their struggles and triumphs, and to bring those stories to our peers.

What student athletes do is amazing: training, travelling, practices and games, growing relationships with their teammates and coaches, all while balancing a demanding school schedule. These stories are what make our jobs worthwhile, they are the narratives that unite humans, that give life colour.

We, as spectators and reporters, get to find these narratives and relate them to our little corner of the world. Sports journalism may be weird, but it&rsquo;s also one of the most magical things in the world.