ESPN Just Jumped the Oral History Shark

Esther Zuckerman
June 7, 2013

Oral histories have become popular journalistic tools as ways to tell details stories of historical events in a from the horse's mouth type of way. But in the wee hours of yesterday morning ESPN either parodied the format or sounded its death knell as Tom Haberstroh published an "oral history" of Tony Parker's game-saving shot in for the Spurs that happened mere hours ago in Game 1 of the NBA finals. 

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It was a big shot and all anyone could talk about, but an oral history for such a brief instance doesn't, well, it doesn't actually say very much. Take for instance the opening: 

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To some, Haberstroh's post—which to be fair isn't a new format for Haberstroh—was a stroke of brilliance. Others weren't sure if he was making a joke or being serious. And there was a lot of eye-rolling. Because the thing is when something happens in 24 seconds, with live announcers, and post-game interviews set to follow it, the oral history has kind of already happened. 

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Oral histories are often best when they take us to a world that we aren't a part of. Take for instance the one Vulture just published to be about the comedians at Upright Citizens Brigade. Most of us probably did not know that people like Ed Helms and Amy Poehler were involved in a "giant pool of awkward sexuality."  Meanwhile, we all witnessed (or could witness) Parker's shot. 

While we love a good oral history, the genre had seen detractors recently. Grantland (which is owned by ESPN) has particularly indulged in the genre. But perhaps this most recent example is a good indication that maybe we should pause before jumping to the format the next time something amazing happens in 24 seconds.