In his commentary, sports editor Billy Cole explains why sports journalism can be looked down on and under appreciated. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

Misleading topics, over analyzing athlete’s tweets, inconsistent opinions and a lot of irrelevant numbers — I understand. Sports journalism doesn’t turn on a lot of young, aspiring journalists. Why write about a game when there’s dozens of groundbreaking stories waiting to be covered? Poverty, social justice, wars — are all much bigger than sports. There’s no arguing that. I feel sports journalism is often overlooked and maybe not taken as seriously as other categories. Some may say sports are just a child’s game. But that’s where they’re wrong.

This is my second year as a sports editor and despite the daily stress it’s brought me, I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’ve made my mistakes and have learned lots. This gig isn’t necessarily the most fun when no sports are being played, but the power sports has pushes me each week to keep this section alive. 

I too had the stereotypical idea of what a sports journalist was when I first started. Some guy with his hair slicked back and a nice suit, standing courtside interviewing star athletes or at a table in a shouting match on live television. It quickly changed.

As a sports editor, I’ve gotten a taste of a lot of different stories. Game coverage, profiles, hard news. When I first started covering games during my first year as a volunteer reporter, I thought it was something I wanted to do for life. But to be honest, it becomes quite routine-like after sometime.

I love watching the games and finding the scene and narrative but there’s a lot more to it. Some of my proudest work comes from those writing stories about those who seem like everyday athletes. Discovering their journey’s can inspire anyone is what makes sports journalism worth it. To them, it’s more than a game. It’s their life. Their stories can lift anyone off the ground and motivate them because if they’re “just” athletes, what’s stopping anyone else from accomplishing their goals? Everyone has a story and I’ll take that to the grave. 

I’ve been lucky enough to speak with some of the Atlantic’s toughest athletes. Former St. Thomas men’s basketball guard, Michael Otto, was told he’d never play basketball after suffering a major brain injury caused by a motor-vehicle accident. Bodybuilder Aranyam Bora was a scrawny kid in India who would get beat down by bullies because he was an easy target. Emily Olesuk, former Tommies’ women’s hockey captain led a team of underdogs all season to a near upset over the University of New Brunswick Reds. These are stories of perseverance, proving anything can be done. 

The term “sports journalism” is often mistaken. It’s not two guys sitting at a table in a shouting match, whoever yells louder has the better opinion. Yeah, to a sports fan it can be fun to watch. But is it really journalism? It has set a bit of a stereotype around writers who are “just” sports journalists.

The writers in the sports world cannot be labeled as “just” sports writers. They’re able to find the story in any situation, like in any other category. It’s up to the reporters to make it interesting.

Sports journalism is like a TV show. We get all the different angles and thoughts from our characters. Different plots, upcomers, underdogs. We get to know the protagonists, the antagonists (terms can vary, depending on which side you choose). Some may remain a mystery. Every day is a new episode, no matter if the season is in play or not. But the episodes can’t air without the writers. A TV show needs all of its staff, actors, directors, camera crew and so on. But what happens when no one writes the script? Where’s the exciting plot twists, the development in characters, those dramatic season-finale cliffhangers? In the same sense, the great stories in sports cannot be told without the reporters.

Sports may be the most powerful thing in the world. It has the power to influence. To inspire. It will unite us in the darkest of times and provide us with hope. It all comes down to the narrative.

During this past year, the world has been shaken by COVID-19. We saw businesses close, people lose their loved ones, sports around the globe cancelled. But during all of the dark times, some light was provided. Netflix had released The Last Dance, a 10-part docuseries about Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. While it did prove how good Jordan was during his playing days, it showed the world a lot more — how influential one athlete can be.

Jordan’s greatness started with his abilities. But the journalists made the narrative. It was his time to expand the league and the writers made him the most famous person in the world. Believe it or not, the NBA was nowhere near as popular as it is today. Jordan’s story was a major influence in the uprising of basketball across the globe.

I have no problem with people not liking sports. To each their own. But to look down on the art of storytelling because of the subject? Everything comes down to the narrative, no matter what it is. And everyone has one. What’s your story going to be?