Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The PB&J of Sports News

Dana O’Neil’s article for on Kevin Ware’s injury is a strong showcase of plain style because the story is simplifying a very complex injury and situation. The article could have used much medical jargon, or described the injury in vivid detail, but didn’t. I would argue the plain style is used for this wide ranged audience because of the ESPN activity system, which is owned by Disney.

Though some of the sentences may seem longer in Dana O’Neil’s article. The syntactical structures of many of her sentences are simplistic to follow and use the rhetorical devices of clarity to get her point across. The article is about Kevin Ware’s brutal injury that took place during Louisville’s game on Easter Sunday. Anyone that has seen the replay video, knows that the description of how Ware’s injury took place could be describe in a multitude of ways. Even the descriptions that were more detailed in O’Neil’s article were still clear and to the point. It was actually impressive to see that the readability was so low for a story that could have been filled with medical jargon or even diction that was on a higher reading level. The average grade level for O’Neil’s article was a sixth grade reading level in comparison to the national average of seven. ESPN does this because it believes in a family friendly product for its audience because of the nature established by Disney.

I personally thought O’Neil did a good job of utilizing short answer quotes that got the message across well. I feel that’s something many journalistic writers attempt to incorporate into their pieces because space and time at a minimum for how many sports stories get published on Not mention the audience of mostly males, who in general are probably going to simply watch the video rather than read the article. This male audience can range anywhere from ten year olds to elderly men toward the end of their life. Such a wide range can make writing difficult for articles like this because you have a population that includes children that can be less comprehensive to a particular story like this. I think it’s interesting that the sentences may be longer unlike the plain style, but in fact are very easy to follow and usually in a chronological order. Or in a way that provides descriptive roles the person follows and creates develops disinctio. The syntax though for many of these longer sentences used many comas, which creates a slower pace and is a form of parallelism. ESPN chooses to lower the article’s reading level for this particular story to relate to the number of families watching the game on Easter. If the story becomes too creative or presents too much jargon, then the younger audience is excluded and wouldn’t understand the event that took place. Plus the story is uplifting, which coincides with the Disney and ESPN motto of “a happily ever after” or at least potentially.

Journalism also uses metabasis, and does so very well in O’Neil’s article. It states the message of most importance and tells the less important details toward the end. The article isn’t about the outcome of a game so the concrete statistics aren’t present like in other sports news articles, but even the time in between when Ware’s mother saw the injury to when he called her and told her not to worry is mentioned. There is little to no ambiguity present and every sentence is made to get the point across to the audience. The only question I have is whether or not these types of things are done because they know they have a wide range of education level for their audience? Where do you draw the line to exclude a certain age group or insult a higher reading level?

I feel ESPN does this to not necessarily insult, but to simplify for a young audience that viewed the incident seeing that the game took place on Easter. A holiday associated with family and spending it with them. The game was seen on CBS too, and after the incident CBS even refused to show the replay because of the large national audience. Parents don’t want their kids seeing something as gruesome as that, and it is understandable for ESPN to keep the situation on a positive note rather than scaring a potentially younger audience.

I also think the use of a simple quote as a title for the article embodies plain style in so many ways. The readability average grade level score for this article was a six point one, which is lower than the seventh grade reading level for the average American. The average words per sentence were close to thirteen, but the simplicity behind each word was what really brought down the score. Not to mention the he said she said quotation that goes into sporting news stories and makes things easy to follow.

I notice too, the writing at the beginning of the article is statements rather than quotes and uses the quotes to reemphasize the statement, but not necessarily use repetition. I’d like to say it’s a form of analogy that caters to the original statement. Journalistic use of active voice is very much present too, and lets the reader know exactly who said what or did to the other person. The article also uses no medical jargon, which is a surprise for such a brutal injury. There could have been numerous locations to discuss the specifics of the surgery in language that would or could be at a higher reading level.

The plain style is definitely present in O’Neil’s article. The article maybe not the perfect model for plain style, but surely close in terms of getting the point across and utilizing a wide array of plain style rhetorical devices. The activity system of ESPN being a source of the story played a role in the use of plain style because Disney, which promotes a family experience when it comes to sports, owns ESPN. O’Neil follows this activity system and portrays the plain style for the most part, and I’m sure Lanham would be proud.

-Scott Schell

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