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Rhetorical Analysis of an Article

In: English and Literature

Submitted By dlukes14
Words 1620
Pages 7
September 16, 2015
Did Geeks Take Over Basketball? The Rise of Analytics Sports are a major part of modern day American culture, and the nation’s top flight of basketball is no exception. The National Basketball Association, more commonly referred to as the NBA, is one of the most popular sporting leagues in the world. With that being said, it comes with no surprise that it continues to progress in all possible facets. One of the more intriguing facets is the rise of in depth analytics to create a new, more accurate era of basketball statistics. In an article for The Atlantic, Terrance F. Ross elaborates on the topic and the controversy surrounding it to during his brilliantly written piece entitled “Welcome to Smarter Basketball”. However, it is more than just the words themselves that give the article its desired effect. Several rhetorical strategies are imperative to Ross’ success in convincing his readers to embrace the analytical movement. The most glaring of these aspects is the rhetorical situation, also called the context of the issue. The issue of analytics in basketball is so relevant today because of the effective results that it has been yielding in recent time. For example, “The most-watched Finals since the age of Michael Jordan ended with victory for the Golden State Warriors over the Cleveland Cavaliers—both of which are teams that have heavily incorporated data analysis into how they play the game” (Ross 1). While this trend is becoming increasingly more popular around the league, it still faces major opposition. Many believe that it takes the fun and magic out of the game that they have known and loved for years, while others have even stronger feelings about the subject. During an infamous rant in January of 2014, Charles Barkley, an NBA superstar in the eighties and nineties, said “Smart guys wanted to fit in so they made up a term called ‘analytics” (Ross 1).
Ross creates this piece in order to present the facts that come along with this new wave of data, and show how it will benefit the future of the league that he loves. He feels that despite the proven results, analytics in the National Basketball Association is still receiving more opposition than it deserves. With that being said, Ross recognizes that the public is not going to be swayed simply by being presented with more statistics, being that they are the basis of the phenomenon. He sets out to push across his ideas in a way that the average reader would find more manageable than the complex number systems that comprise his topic.
The previous notion sets up Ross’ article for two distinct audience groups. Both sects of the potential audience are basketball fans, especially those of the NBA. Therefore, it will be dominated by the male population, while females may still be inclined to read. The initial group contains those that are not fully convinced of the benefits of the analytics movement. These people are generally of the elder variety due to the fact that they do not want to see this movement change the game from the way it was played in their era. On the other end of the spectrum lies those who are believers in the cause, that simply wish to know more about what the future holds for it. This is generally the younger, more highly educated demographic. The reasoning behind this is that the younger crowd wants to see the most exciting brand of basketball imaginable, and this new data has the ability to provide that. Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland Sports says “I think the NBA is in a better position now than it’s ever been… The league is more analytic... and I think more aesthetically pleasing, than ever before.” As for the higher educational level, the overall topic of analytics can be a lot to grasp, hence possibly scaring away the less educated from accepting it.
Ross hopes to create a design for the article that would easily appeal to all of his intended audiences. The appearance of the surrounding page can be equally important, and this is what draws the reader in, and gives them their initial idea of the type of work that they will be reading. Ross’ article utilizes a mainly black and white color scheme. This seemingly bland layout is representative of how statistics and analytics are often considered “black and white”, or clear-cut. There is no room for debate with these new statistics. They are set in stone, which is part of the reason that it has sparked such controversy.
Another important aspect of the design is the way that Ross organizes his sentence and paragraph structure. He realizes that there is no shortage of information that he would have to include in order to create an entertaining and convincing article. Therefore, the article would inherently be of the longer variety. In order to make it seem more manageable to the average reader, he used concise paragraphs, and never stayed on a specific example for an extended period of time. The reader can then break it down into smaller sections, thus creating a less intimidating read. However, there are a few instances where it would take more than one paragraph to properly depict a topic. This is where the use of video, picture, and other forms of multimedia come in. As Ross begins to sense that a reader could begin to grow tired of the topic, he inserts something that is easy on the eye that can sufficiently recap the previous sections for the reader. For example, while discussing the importance of the three-point shot that analytics has revealed, he inserts four distinct buffers, including a chart, a graph, a tweet, and a picture. This does an excellent job of offering the reader something easier on the eye, while still reinforcing his original point.
None of Ross’ brilliant placement matters if his persona does not come across so successfully. As previously mentioned, the information displayed in this article is rather clear-cut. However, that does not mean that the author can be equally dry. Luckily for the reader, Ross is anything but, and is able to keep the audience entertained while clearly pushing his point and stance across. One of the most impressive parts was how he manages to disprove his opposition without ever taking a direct stab at them. Instead, Ross simply notes their ideas, and follows it up with data and reasoning that may suggest that they are inferior. An example of this occurs while he is discussing a formerly prized type of player called a “volume scorer”; “In the past, such single-minded players escaped media scrutiny by putting up impressive raw-scoring numbers, even though they were sub-par in other facets of the game…. Today, those types of players are maligned for their lack of overall impact... No longer is it about raw totals as much as it’s about weighing the impact of each action” (Ross 1). He touches on a belief that may still be held by those who do not use analytics, then follows it up with how the new statistics may have proven it wrong.
Ross’ style utilizes an appeal to logic, also known as logos. Ross believes that the best way to persuade his audience is to present the facts side by side, and let the results show for themselves. This is evident in one of the statistics that Ross includes in the article. He was previously discussing how analytics discovered the incredible effectiveness of the three point shot, which is displayed by how “The last five teams remaining in the recently completed Playoffs were the five best three-point shooting teams during the regular season” (Ross 1). Due to the fact that all five of the teams are firm believers in the movement, their success is no coincidence. When all of these aspects come together, they create a cohesive and well-organized article, which then must fall into one of many possible genres. Due to its broad horizons, which stretch into the realms of sports, mathematics, and generational clash, it is difficult to pin down. Genre may sound like a basic concept, but it is vital in shaping a piece of writing. In this case, the genre that most accurately depicts the piece is sports journalism. This genre allows Ross to utilize his journalistic background to make objective and convincing points throughout, and support them with his extensive knowledge of the sports world.
With every seemingly routine piece of writing, there is far more that goes into it than meets the eye. There are numerous rhetorical elements that are carefully intertwined into each and every paragraph, graphic, word choice, and more. This is no different in “Welcome to Smarter Basketball”, a well-crafted article in The Atlantis, by Terrance Ross that depicts the rapid rise of analytical statistics in the world’s most prominent basketball league. Ross utilizes a broader context, paragraph structure, overall design, and several others techniques to make sure that his reader receives the exact message that he hoped to put across. Through the use of several different rhetorical strategies, Terrance Ross proved to his audience that the analytical movement in the National Basketball Association is here to stay, and for good reason.

Works Cited
"Black-and-white." Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015. <>.
Ross, Terrance. "Welcome to Smarter Basketball." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 25 June 2015. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
"Sports Journalism."'s 21st Century Lexicon., LLC. 18 Sep. 2015. < journalism>.

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