If you’ve consumed even a tiny bit of sports media in the past few years, you’ve no doubt come across a particular kind of story. It’s a lighthearted one, and the hook is something like, “Hey! Did you know that [group of athletes] are really interested in [non-sports related object or activity]? Isn’t that kind of kooky and interesting?” The headlines on these stories often promise to reveal how the thing in question is “taking over the locker room” of the team in question.
Sometimes, the information conveyed is kooky and interesting. The Ringer’s Kevin Clark basically invented this genre when he was at the Wall Street Journal, and the piece I remember most fondly is the one about a group of Green Bay Packers who got very seriously into Settlers of Catan. Clark filed a bunch of similar stories at the Journal, and occasionally mines the same beat at The Ringer. Now, it feels like every sportswriter and sports publication in the world is trying to get in on the action, and it’s getting to be a little much.
Did you know that NBA players are really into their phones? Did you know that the Thunder really like halal food? Did you know that the Utah Jazz are obsessed with coffee? Did you know that the Atlanta Hawks love Uno? Did you know that the Washington Capitals really like crossword puzzles? Did you know that NBA players like wine? Did you know that NBA players like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Did you know that NBA players like to eat good food? Did you know that NFL players enjoy The Walking Dead? Did you know that NBA players like to eat at Cheesecake Factory? Did you know NFL players also like wine? Did you know that the Panthers like Waffle House? Did you know that Doug Marrone likes bologna? Did you know that Doug Pederson likes ice cream? Did you know the Titans like Super Smash Bros.? Did you know the Houston Astros like Fortnite? Did you know the Oakland A’s like to hunt? Did you know the Cardinals like to play chess? Did you know that Charlie Blackmon likes video games? Did you know that NBA players like to collect art? Did you know that the Nets are into fashion?
It’s not that these stories are inherently bad—though some of them do have to strain pretty hard to appear interesting. Is there really anything remarkable about young rich men with a decent amount of free time having the sorts of hobbies common to young rich men with a decent amount of free time? Do we need whole features explaining to us that athletes sometimes enjoy particular foods and drinks? The real problem is there are so many of them. At this point, they are basically paint-by-number affairs: Establish that athletes have interests, reveal allegedly interesting and unexpected hobby, pack in as many whimsical quotes as you can.
I can’t even blame editors and writers for continuing to pump these out. The allure of getting professional athletes to talk about something that has nothing to do with sports, thus greatly increasing the chances of them saying something funny or revealing, is hard to pass up. It’s also likely that these stories do quite well—a source tells us that after Baxter Holmes’s story about NBA players liking peanut butter and jelly did bonkers traffic, ESPNers were encouraged to produce similar stories. But it feels like the well is starting to dry up.
Take, for example, Bleacher Report’s latest entry into the genre, which aims to tell us all about the “bottled water obsession” that is “taking over NBA locker rooms.” The story is about how NBA players—professional athletes—understand that drinking water is important, and how many of them prefer a particular brand of bottled water in favor of other brands. It has some moments, such as...
The NBA’s obsession with water is difficult to trace, but one player who pushed the league’s taste forward more than any is Antawn Jamison.
The playoffs are in full swing, but so, too, are the high-end water wars. Players are choosing sides.
NBA players didn’t think drinking water was good until Antawn Jamison made it cool? The fact that NBA players are as susceptible to marketing and brand loyalty as the rest of us indicates that there are “high-end water wars” raging within locker rooms? I don’t know, man! It seems like we might be running out of ideas.