Under The Bleachers: The Best Stories Aren’t Told Enough

Above: Australian professional golfer and PGA Tour member Jason Day
Above: Australian professional golfer and PGA Tour member Jason Day

Jason Day won the last major of the 2015 PGA Tour season, capturing the PGA Championship a few weeks back after finishing tied for fourth at The Open Championship, tied for ninth at the U.S. Open and tied for 28th at The Masters.

The 27-year-old Australian is in the midst of a massive breakout season and sits atop the leaderboard at the BMW Championship in Lake Forest, Illinois this week after going -10 through his first 17 holes before his round was stopped due to inclement weather. Even if Day collects a par on his first hole today – the final hole from his first round – he’ll shoot a 61 to open the tournament.

If you’re not overly familiar with golf, people don’t shoot 10-under 61s all that often; they shoot 60s and 59s even less frequently and Day has a chance to do it. What makes his current scorching hot streak even better is that his story is a Hollywood script waiting to be written. From Shane Ryan’s book, Slaying the Tiger: By his own reckoning, Day went off the rails. He was only twelve, but he began drinking, staying out late, and getting in fights at school. His father had been the one to facilitate his golf game, from that first 3-wood to the pawnshop to the day he built Jason a putting green at the family home in Rockhampton, but his role had gone deeper than that.

“My dad was the strict one in the family,” Day said. “My mom was always the one that, after we got the belt, she would hug us and tell us it was okay. My dad . . . I remember saying “shut up” one time, and he belted the crap out of me. But that’s just how it was. I mean, he kept me in line. And as soon as he passed away, you know, we all got out of line.”

He became a teenage alcoholic, but now he’s one of the very best golfers in the world and sitting atop the leaderboard with a shot at shooting 59. Do you know where that landed him in the rundown of Top Headlines and stories on ESPN.com on Thurdsay evening?

Several scrolls down the page, well below meaningful headlines about Jason Pierre-Paul’s disfigured fingers, Kobe Bryant being medically cleared to practice and even a video of his playing partner for Thursday’s opening round, Jordan Spieth, making a hole-in-one.

Amazing story, amazing round, buried beneath stuff that generates better web traffic.

Welcome to the world of sports media (and media in general) these days.

Much like the way extended quotes are clipped down and shaped into headline fodder and hot take starting points, the truly compelling and actually cool stories aren’t often the ones that land above the fold in print or on the front page on websites these days. Interesting stories don’t always generate clicks.

Gossip does. JPP’s mangled fingers do. Deflategate and college football – or the NHL up here in Canada – always does.

Great stories like Day’s rise from poverty and pubescent drinking binges to the brink of the No. 1 ranking rarely do and that’s a shame because those are the best stories going and the ones that really need to be told and shared.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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