A sports columnist is a writer whose primary job is to give his or her opinion on sports. He or she is typically someone who has many years of experience, and therefore has developed a respected presence within a sports community to the point that his or her opinion is highly regarded among readers.
Because the job of a sports columnist is to give his or her opinion, these writers are often thought of as being rude or disagreeable. The tone of their work is often negative, but their job is also to find stories which might otherwise not be found — a sports columnist must typically become a newspaper's best sports reporter first. Depending on the status of a newspaper within a community, someone in this position can often influence public opinion and thus influence the actions of a team, at least in a small way. If such a columnist calls for a coach to be fired, and the public opinion becomes that the coach should be fired, the team could be inclined to fire that coach.
A sports columnist is generally required to write somewhere around three columns per week. Columns can be generated from games or events — usually, the columnist will accompany a reporter to a game, writing a column to go along with the game story — or they can be more like features. These feature-type columns often resemble features more than columns, with perhaps only a veiled opinion underlying the tone of the column. The columnist might also be required to write an occasional "takeout" — a particularly long and multilayered feature — once a month or so.
Because of the relatively light workload, and because of the experience and status the writer has attained through his or her career, it is common for a sports columnist to branch out into writing books, which can be one of the most lucrative opportunities afforded a sports journalist. In modern times, it has become common for columnists at very large metropolitan newspapers to branch into radio and television work.