As we’ve noted before, sportswriting tends to follow what you might call the Anna Karenina Principle. The good stuff—the stuff that makes year-end lists like Longreads’s and Richard Deitsch’s—is all, on a certain level, the same, similarly structured long profile after similarly structured long profile, all in one way or another tracing the actual workings that animate the world of superficial appearances. The worst is ... not. Every truly bad article and every truly bad post is a unique, delicate flower, blossoming in this harsh world despite its lack of redeeming qualities. So please, read on and bask in the unrepeatable, indescribable, mind-numbing awfulness of 2015’s worst sportswriting.
Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine | The Knicks Are The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Of Basketball
The premise of the piece is self-evidently absurd. A sports team cannot possibly be “the Israel-Palestinian conflict of [sport]” because comparing a struggling sports franchise to a massively complex centuries-old conflict dealing with religion, politics, and geography makes absolutely no sense. This sure doesn’t stop ol’ Liel from trying.
But those of us watching at home or from the bleachers know better. We know it’s not about winning but about something deeper and more primordial. Both the Knicks and the conflict are impossible to ignore because they suggest what so many of us suspect to be true: that, as mortals, there are some problems we just cannot solve, and that some conflicts burn on not just to vex us but also to guide us, to give us an Archimedean point through which to view our place in the world. Herein lies the profound grandeur and strangeness of it all.
Kyle Wagner, Deadspin | Whoa, The 2016 Olympics Will Have 3-On-3 Basketball
So much went wrong here, but the worst part is the source cited for this bit of aggregation. The Betoota Advocate? We should always be open to the possibility that barely-heard-of websites and people report quality news, but The Betoota Advocate? Was The Betoota Advocate’s Wikipedia page clearly identifying it as satire not clear enough? Was The Betoota Advocate really going to scoop the New York Times, ESPN, and all the rest on this big a story? Was The Betoota Advocate a source to be trusted on the Olympics switching from regular basketball to 3-on-3 basketball illuminated “by the headlights on spectator vehicles that are to be surrounding the arena”? Happily no other website will be gullible enough to employ this writer or his moron editors.
I’m going with Steph, Klay, and AD. I can’t defend this position at all. I have no idea what 3-on-3 with NBA and international pros will look like, but I think you’re going to want shooting, range, and at least one great perimeter defender who can defend the NBA equivalent of stretch 4s. Klay’s the best mix of shooting and versatile defending, Steph is in there because he’s a great passer and shooter and also I’m massively biased and just putting him ahead of Durant for no reason, and AD is a space alien with a 15-footer.
Phil Mushnick, New York Post | The Crotch-Grabbing Fiasco Roger Goodell Won’t Truly Address
Remember when Marshawn Lynch grabbed his crotch while scoring a TD, was fined for it, and then did it again? It was some good, funny stuff from one of the NFL’s most interesting and media-shy stars. But for old-school troll Phil Mushnick, a $20,000 fine wasn’t nearly enough. No, Mushnick wanted Lynch suspended for the Super Bowl for ... some reason.
Think of the impact had commissioner Roger Goodell shown that he’s not kidding, that he no longer will pander to the creeps that pervade and pollute? With the courage of his newly stated convictions, he could have — should have — suspended Lynch from the Super Bowl. At the least, from the first half.
So what if Lynch purposely grabbed his crotch for the nation to see after scoring the late, go-ahead TD in the NFC Championship Game. There’s a Viagra commercial next, anyway. And look at the Super Bowl halftime “extravaganza.” It has “progressed” from Up With People to off with clothes. Everyone up for a family twerk!
Roy Bragg, San Antonio Express-News | As Career Winds Down, Tim Duncan Remains A Star
Here’s how this pile of shit begins:
Tim Duncan was selected for his 15th NBA All-Star game on Thursday, and it flies in the face of everything for which the modern NBA stands.
The NBA is about preening drama queens who are marketed ahead of their teams. It’s about aerial acrobatics and TV commercials and impatient men who aren’t willing to make the necessary sacrifices to win it all.
Every year, Duncan faces being shut out of the All-Star game because he’s none of those things.
It only gets worse from there. Somehow Bragg doesn’t understand that Duncan having been elected to the third-most All-Star games in NBA history completely invalidates his thesis that Duncan suffers from a lack of attention because he isn’t a “preening drama queen.” (In fact, if anything Duncan receives more attention than he otherwise would precisely because of his everyman, Dungeons & Dragons-loving, poorly-fitted jeans wearing character.) Duncan being elected to the All-Star Game was a referendum on nothing more than the fact that he’s still a good player and fans seem to like him. There’s also a gratuitous LeBron James jab in here, naturally.
Chris Jones, Esquire | Conor McGregor Doesn’t Believe in Death
Having a writer cover a subject they’re unfamiliar with has its benefits. Their lack of preconceptions allows them to see things differently, in a way an experienced vet’s heuristics don’t. But there is also a downside: it can leave them looking like an idiot, as Chris “Shitheart” Jones does in his profile of Conor McGregor.
The rear naked choke is oblivious to such resolutions. Your body, like nearly everything you do with it, has imperfections that can seem like evolutionary carelessness. There are the few square inches of your liver that lie exposed, wide open under your ribs, a four-lane expressway to your central nervous system. There are the underengineered flying buttresses of your knees, waiting to snap. And there is your carotid artery, conveying massive volumes of your blood to your brain, close enough to the surface of your neck that you can see and feel it coursing, as though a salmon might run up it.
Set the overwriting aside for a moment. McGregor—who just one-punch KO’d Jose Aldo in 13 seconds—is an amazing striker and a famously not-amazing grappler. His attempting to improve at jiu-jitsu is interesting, but does it really deserve a thousand words of hagiography? It’s like going on about DeAndre Jordan’s post-up game or something. Meanwhile, Jones clearly doesn’t understand the mechanics of what he’s writing about. Go look at some pictures of the rear naked choke and then explain what it has to do with the “underengineered flying buttresses” of the knees waiting to snap.
Jason Whitlock | The Playbook
Learn the rules so you’ll know when and how to properly break them.
Write on Monday what everyone else will think to write on Friday.
A great journalist is comfortable in situations where everyone else is uncomfortable.
Great journalists realize we have 2 ears, 2 eyes and 1 mouth for a reason. We are intended to listen/observe four times as much as we talk.
A great leader recognizes good leadership and follows.
Great journalism is dependent on great reporting and great research. An editor can help you write well; only a journalist can report and research.
There’s a difference between being a journalist and a TV personality, a difference between being a journalist and a writer. This project is for people who want to be journalists. Great journalists.
Rob Rossi, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review | Safety Nets Obstruct Baseball’s Beauty
If you can lick the foul pole, you can get your orbital bone broken. Intimacy is not without its risks.
If your ass can caress a seat, you can take a 100 MPH ball to the gut. Intimacy is not without its risks.
If you you can touch your penis to the beautiful PNC Park urinal troughs, you can have it sliced off by a flying bat. Intimacy is not without its risks.
If you can spit on the crushed red brick at PNC Park, you can take a foul ball to the skull, or a shard of bat to the eye.
Intimacy is not without its risks.
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk | Owners Need To Create Downside For Taking Chances On Problem Players
The NFL frequently screws up when imposing discipline, levying punishments that aren’t supported by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and are eventually overturned by a neutral arbitrator. So of course Mike Florio believes that the way to solve the NFL’s domestic violence crisis is to give even more power to the league that has repeatedly proven it should wield absolutely none.
The only way to get the attention of teams inclined to roll the dice on the Ray McDonalds of the world will be to attach the loss of future draft picks when a player with a propensity for getting into trouble gets into trouble.
Ultimately, it’s the only thing that will cause a team that sees a first-round talent slide to round four to stop and think about the potential consequences for rolling the dice. If/when the worst-case scenario unfolds, the team won’t simply lose the lower pick invested in a player whose ability should have gotten him off the board much sooner. They’ll lose one or more picks in the future.
(That link goes to an article about Aaron Hernandez, because Florio believes that the Patriots should lose draft picks for not foreseeing that Hernandez would become a psychopathic murderer.)
Jay Mariotti, San Francisco Examiner | Archive
It would be disrespectful to Mariotti’s oeuvre to single out one column above the rest, so we’ll just include the whole damn thing.
Wow, how come nobody has ever thought of this before? Why wouldn’t you hire a coach who is unable to communicate like a normal human being, and instead relies upon alienating his best player? This seems like good strategy!
Clay Travis, Fox Sports | On The Confederate Flag
There is literally nothing I care less about than Clay Travis’s opinion of the Confederate flag, with the possible exception of Clay Travis’s opinion on what opposition to the Confederate flag says about social media. I’d rather attend a lecture given by my dog explaining why she licks her asshole every day.
We’ve become such a soft country that we can’t handle anything that shakes our comfort level or challenges us to think on a deeper level. Oh, Huck Finn uses bad words in this book! Harry Potter’s focus on wizardry imperils my children’s Christian faith! If I read about something bad happening, it might trigger bad memories in my life! I need trigger warnings!
Here’s the only trigger warning I’m willing to give — don’t pull it when you put a gun to your head.
Tom Junod, Esquire | Why We Love Football (Even Though We Shouldn’t)
Speak for yourself, man, and get that first-person plural shit out of my face. “We” is a weasel word writers use to spread the guilt or responsibility they feel onto an amorphously defined “we,” without having to do any research or reporting on whether their opinions are actually widespread. And please don’t include me in your argument if it’s basura about “souls.”
It wasn’t enough that football endangered bodies; now it endangered the souls of those who played it, and even the game’s climactic spectacle—a grand, cathartic Super Bowl—labored under accusations that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots had cheated in order to get there.
Dave Zirin, The Nation | The Trailer for ‘Concussion’ Should Give Roger Goodell Night Sweats
Of course Dave Zirin saw in the Concussion trailer what he wanted to see, even though we know how neutered it was because its entire development history leaked online. But what gets me is how it appears he may not have actually watched a movie in the last 20 or so years.
Landesman cast Luke Wilson, an actor best known for Idiocracy and a film where Will Ferrell first showed his ass, to play Roger Goodell. This is like casting Rob Schneider to star in a Reagan biopic. You are making a statement just by the choice. Another actor whose casting implies the politics at hand is Paul Reiser ...
Berry Tramel, The Oklahoman | Striker’s Language A Sign Of The Times
Let’s allow reader David handle this one.
It’s one of the whitest, old-man-est things I’ve read in a while; it states that maybe this young black man wasn’t raised well enough, blames rap, and kind of uses the player’s previous use of cursing when criticizing the infamous racist OU frat as a prior strike against him.
A representative passage:
Striker was busting me about my wardrobe the other day, which is really funny. Not because I belong on the cover of GQ, necessarily, but because I’m usually well ahead of the curve when it comes to press corps attire. Then Striker, apparently intent on making sure I remembered I was 54, asked me if I had seen “Straight Outta Compton,” the new movie about rap group N.W.A. Asked me if I liked rap.
Hey, Eric, do I look like I like rap?
Anyway, Striker’s and Byrd’s generation grew up with that kind of language. Grew up with confrontations and the concept of “disrespect” as an everyday part of life. So when Striker challenges the manhood of the SEC, then backs it up in Knoxville, it just seemed natural to gloat like he was straight out of Compton.
Doesn’t he know any better? Maybe not.
He never comes right out and calls him “boy,” but you can feel that lurking behind every word.
Steve McPherson, New Yorker | Now Streaming: The Golden State Warriors
The only thing worse than reading Andy Borowitz is reading a poorly-done Andy Borowitz rip-off.
After a historically dominant 2014-15 season that saw the Golden State Warriors secure the N.B.A. title and become only the tenth team in N.B.A. history to win sixty-seven or more games, it’s not entirely surprising that, this year, the squad has bolted out to a historic 15-0 record while outscoring opponents by 14.4 points per game. What is surprising is the landmark agreement the team has reached with Netflix: it will be releasing its entire season next weekend to better facilitate binge-watching.
Robert Littal, BlackSportsOnline | People Who Complain About Clickbait & Hot Takes, Love Them The Most
The following are 100 percent verbatim quotes from this piece.
You know why something is priced $19.99 instead of $20 because research shows that the brain really thinks you are getting a deal because the .99 is at the end.
People can be easily manipulate, with essentially elementary style manipulations.
No one says, you just put those displays out in the grocery story to make me buy a 24 pack of water, that I probably don’t need.
TV shows get canceled because not enough people watching, it is simple concept.
Here’s the kicker:
Now, the question begs, did I write this to truly inform you or did I clickbait you, by saying it was a clickbait post?
Guess you will never know.
Presumably he flew away like Neo at the end of the Matrix after finishing this.
Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated | How A Book On Stoicism Became Wildly Popular At Every Level Of The NFL
There is an interesting story to be written here, perhaps about why NFL players tend to gravitate towards self-help garbage like Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is the Way. Instead, what we have is a 1,500 word press release for the book masquerading as an article about it.
They’re connected by a book, The Obstacle Is the Way, by Ryan Holiday. It’s a book they’ve digested, drawn inspiration from and applied to their careers. It’s a book about stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy and its principles, and it has sold more than 100,000 copies, been translated into 17 languages and reverberated in one place not even Holiday expected it to—the wider world of sports. He describes that as a “happy accident.”
Ben Hochman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Heyward Deal Has Cardinals Feeling Jilted
Ben Hochman was, and hopefully still is, one of my favorite columnists, but come the fuck on, man. You take a job at a St. Louis paper, and four months later are already turning in gee-whiz, I love watching the Cardinals while wearing my beanie propeller hat columns? Is everyone from that town incapable of understanding that the Cardinals are just a regular-ass baseball team?
And some of the reaction, was, simply, release. It hurts. He spurned you, your team, your city. He’s baseball’s Benedict Arnold, so to speak. And really, it’s not just about Heyward specifically, it’s more of the idea that someone was offered a cloud in baseball heaven — and passed.
Some of the absolute worst writing of the year was so bad—or we were so bored—that we couldn’t wait until year’s end to write about it:
Terry Blount, ESPN | Baldwin Chides Doubting Reporters
Josh Dean & Steve Fishman, Men’s Fitness & New York | Ray Rice In Exile & Ray Rice’s Redemption Campaign
“Rebecca Johnson”, Fox | How To Land A Husband At The Masters
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg View | Aaron Hernandez And The Dark Side Of ‘Boston Strong’
Peter King, MMQB | How Winston Became The Buccaneers’ No. 1 Hope
Rev Halofan, Halos Heaven | Adios Angels! Addict Hamilton Denies Any Relapse Responsibility
Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times | Yasiel Puig Becomes The Dodgers’ Invisible Man
David Moore, Dallas Morning News | At What Point Does Dez Bryant’s ‘Passion’ Become An Issue For Cowboys?
Nothing ESPN brandbot Darren Rovell publishes is too objectionable—besides the fact that most of it is very thinly disguised rewriting of press releases, of course—but his Twitter feed is another story, of course. Rovell got into some cesspools this year:
Rob Neyer & CJ Nitkowski, Fox | Fire Williams For Nats Mess? Careful What You Wish For & Players Overwhelmingly Support Papelbon In Dust-Up With Harper
Lee Judge, Kansas City Star | Should Jonathan Papelbon have choked Bryce Harper?
Louisa Thomas, Grantland | The Pitch
Rick Morrissey, Chicago Sun-Times | Serena Williams Doesn’t Help Female Athletes With Racy SI Cover Shoot
But this is only the worst of what we read. If you’ve got additions, leave them in the comments.
Photo via Getty