Positive stories in sports are infinite. They are truly and always will be never-ending. From every pro athlete, to team, the hundreds of NGO's doing groundbreaking work around the world and then the everyday amateur athlete stories: The Bench Is DEEP on it all (because why not use a sports pun here!).
Like the multi-million dollar question of why soccer isn't popular in the U.S. (that's for another blog), WHY aren't the sports stories for good told more often?
Recently I have asked this question to anyone and everyone who I come across. My brilliant guests and students at USC, the new fellow in my spin class, the former Sports Illustrated editor in New York. I'll probably continue to ask until someone tells me an answer that makes sense to me.
When I listen to their answers that range from "it just doesn't make money" or "fans don't want to hear those stories" none of that sits well with me. The most disturbing answer is that when athletes talk about the good work that they do in the community, it comes off as too much self-promotion.
Here's what goes through my head for each:
1. Comes off as self promotion: So then change the way the story is told. If the athlete doesn't feel comfortable promoting themselves, which should be just the draw of the story and not the guts of it, let's hear how the work is positively impacting the community that is benefiting from the efforts. This is where the creative comes in and great writers, producers and collaborators shape those stories so it doesn't seem insincere and self-promotional.
2. Fans aren't interested: This is categorically NOT true. Take 30 people and do an impromptu live survey. Ask these people if they just don't want to hear positive sports stories. There might be a couple in the room who just don't care (who are obviously not good human beings...I joke :)) but most will care no matter of age, gender or background. And if you're surveying a room full of millenials and millenial-minded (like myself), the chances are that they will ALL care about the good work that's happening.
3. Those stories don't make money or bring in ratings: Really? Because that's not what happened when Oprah started to tell these stories. If you think about Oprah's trajectory and what it was that set her apart from the Jerry Springer's and Sally Jesse Raphael's it was the human interest story and telling a damn good story around it. So this is also not true.
Seems to me that what the sports industry needs are better story tellers. We have a handful out there and I do consider myself as a part of that group, but we need more and we need advocates all-around to encourage better story telling so that these good stories in sports get through. They are the rule, not the exception. They happen more often than not and should get their time in the light.