A few weeks back, I did a seminar at the University of Maryland about sportswriting on the Internet. Afterward, one of the attendees asked me about the future of the game story. I told him the truth: I don’t know what will happen, but traditional game stories are mostly dead to me.
This isn’t to slight my beat-writing colleagues. A good game story — Kilgore on Game 4, for example — can still sing. But the fact is, for almost any game I care about — and certainly for every Redskins game — I’ve already seen the entire game. So, I assume, have my readers. The basics are already known.
So while casual fans or people riding Metro might want a narrative look at what happened and who scored and how the final few possessions transpired, I want analysis, as soon as possible, from someone who knows more about football than I do.
Which is why — as I told this kid in College Park — my favorite thing to read after Redskins games is the 10 Observations column by The Examiner’s John Keim. (See this one, for example.) It’s one of the few must-clicks on a fully saturated beat. It’s digestible — 10 bullet points. It’s conversational. It flirts with Xs and Os, but not in an obnoxious way, in which the author is primarily trying to prove how smart he is. And it tells me things about the game I didn’t, or couldn’t, notice on my own. It wouldn’t make sense as a newspaper game story, but it’s far more interesting to me than most game stories would be.
Anyhow, maybe you heard the news about the Washington Examiner imminently shuttering its local coverage, including sports. That will eventually put a lot of good people out of jobs, including Keim. I haven’t talked to John, and don’t know what he’s planning next, but if it doesn’t involve writing about the Redskins, I will miss those 10 Observations columns dearly.
Because I sensed I wasn’t alone, I asked some other Redskins media members what makes Keim’s work valuable on a beat that is covered so intently by so many outlets. They all seemed to hit on a similar note. Now, obviously these people are friends of his, but still.
Rich Campbell, Washington Times: John’s work is a blueprint for every beat reporter who doesn’t have the advantages of working for the biggest paper in town. His analysis sets him apart as an authoritative voice because he knows what questions to
ask and he always asks an extra question to dig deeper. His experience (he’s been around since Sammy Baugh) makes him a natural leader and consummate professional. Also, I’ve never met a more competitive person, whether he’s trying to analyze something more sharply, crack a funnier joke or smoke a tastier bratwurst. I don’t want to eulogize him because his great work and the person he is will get him through this situation just fine, but, damn, he will be missed in the media room if it comes to that.
Joseph White, AP: Keim has this amazing intangible known as “instant analysis.” It’s as if he watches the game in slow motion. Most of us watch a play, scratch our chins, see the replay over and over again — and then start to get an idea how to express it in print. By then, Keim’s on his second paragraph.
Mike Jones, The Post: In addition to his experience, having covered the team for so long, I’d say his post-game analysis makes him the most unique. He’s got a talent for really dissecting plays and pin-pointing the nitty-gritty details regarding what went right or wrong, or what a player’s strengths and weaknesses consist of.
Jamie Mottram, Mister Irrelevant: Keim is so damn solid, and the way he covers the team is baggage-free. It never feels like he’s carrying anyone’s water, yet he constantly brings new information to light.
Grant Paulsen, 106.7 The Fan: In addition to being the dean of the daily beat and the leader of the room in a lot of ways, John separated himself with his tremendous analysis of the X’s and O’s of the game. I trust his opinion on football and I value his insight on scheme and technique. He understands the game and he specializes at analyzing plays, something that is often tough for media members to do. Everybody at Redskins Park respects his work immensely. That’s the best compliment you can pay anybody.
So hire him, somebody.
And no, I’m not trying to turn this into “The Out of Work D.C. Sports Writers Bog.” Just been a rough few years.