The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Lovie Smith story is a #longread run amok


(Associated Press)

If you are a big fan of stories about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lovie Smith, stories about coaching transitions, words, the first 100 days of anything, repeatedly comparing the U.S. presidency to an NFL head coaching job, Darrelle Revis, Lovie Smith’s family, NFL personnel moves, Lovie Smith’s feelings about his firing by the Chicago Bears, NFL coaches watching game film and Lovie Smith’s feelings about the Bucs’ new logo, have we got a story for you.

Scott Smith, the senior writer/editor for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has penned “The First 100 Days: An Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Transformation of a Team During Lovie Smith’s First Hundred Days as Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”

By my calculation, it is 31,064 words long.

To put that number into context, consider this:

– Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” was 27,000 words long.

– George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” was 29,966 words long.

– Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome” was 30,191 words long.

– Were “The First 100 Days” a story in the dead-tree edition of The Washington Post, it would take up 15 pages, and that’s without ads (ha!) or photos or graphics. Add all those in there, and you’re looking at 20 pages or so. Wednesday’s A-section was 18 pages.

In all seriousness, it’s an ambitious effort. Smith got good access to Smith, and the minutiae involved with being an NFL coach — especially one who changes teams — is brought to life.

There’s just one problem: Except for extreme die-hards, no one is going to read a 31,064-word online story about Lovie Smith all the way through to the end. Deadspin offered a reward to anyone who could get through it and offer a coherent synopsis. Few took them up on it.

As Slate’s Farhad Manjoo pointed out last year, most site visitors read about 50 percent of a typical online story — around 2,000 pixels, on average — before clicking away. Scott and the Bucs would have better served their readers by rolling out one new chapter per day (there are 22 of them, which would have eaten up much of the dead period between the draft and training camp).

Scott’s story is exponentially longer than 2,000 pixels, and yet another sign that the current fetishism with #longform — this misguided belief that writing a long story automatically equals writing a good story, even if the writing, the subject or the presentation doesn’t merit such a brick of text — isn’t going anywhere.

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Matt Bonesteel · July 17