Friday, December 16, 2011

John Branch on Derek Boogaard / Sports Journalism Today

Remarkable profile of former NHL player Derek Boogaard earlier this month in The New York Times. Written by John Branch, the three-part series is titled Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer with first Learning To Brawl about his early years and then Blood on the Ice about his National Hockey League career. Finally, A Brain 'Going Bad' covers both his accidental overdose (from painkillers and alcohol) death last summer and then damage found upon study of his brain.

It's captivating reading about first the idea of sixteen and seventeen year-old hockey players seeking to make a career with their ability to fight during games and then those same players having severe neurological trauma later in life... in Boogaard's case, a life of just 28 years.


Branch's piece is an extremely thorough profile that's sports journalism by virtue of it's athlete subject, but does more than hold it's own in the broader category of journalism. To this point, there's been several interesting stories come across lately about sports journalism and the great work being done in the field.

For New York Magazine, Gabriel Sherman wrote Blitz!: How sports journalists learned to go for the hard tackle which uses the Branch series as an example of the deep investigative reports being done into sports topics in recent years.

A second piece lately on sports journalism is The Sporting Scene column for the New Yorker by Reeves Wiedeman. It's an interesting short missive about the volume of solid beyond the boxscore sportswriting being generated online.