SPORTS WRITING “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” -Heywood Hale Broun
How much do you know? • If you are playing in one of the four Majors, what sport are you playing? • As a guppie, if you used a lift bag after blowing bubbles, what sport would you be participating in? • If you are riding goofy, what sport are you participating in? • If people call you a Grommet, what are you? • If you try to open up the passing lanes, what sport are you playing? • If you hit a chester, what sport are you playing?
The Answers • Golf • SCUBA diving • Snowboarding • Young Surfer • Football • Volleyball
Be Prepared • Most people believe sports reporting is easy because they have watched/played sports all their lives. • There is more to preparation than immersing yourself in sports. You need the following: • Psychology – competition pushes people to their limits, bringing out their best and worst • Sociology and history – sports has played a major role in struggles for gender and racial equality • Economics – sports, professional and amateur, is big business • Math – fans want to know player and team statistics
Be Prepared continued… • Specific sport • Know the rules, various strategies (and reasons behind them) • Get to know coaches and players • Go to practice sessions as well as games • Read other sports pages, watch sports on television, participate in sports • Once you have an understanding of the sport and team, begin planning your coverage.
Gather information Your coach Opposing team’s coach Opposing team’s sports editor Pre-game story content Time, date and place of game Last year’s score Team’s physical condition Starting Lineups Comparison of records Styles of play Significance of game Analysis of individual players Historical background of rivalry Weather outlook The Pre-game Story
The Pre-Game Story • You can also help present and future staffs by compiling your school’s sports history. • Pre-Game coverage should also not overlook related spirit activities: the band’s halftime show, new cheerleaders, pep assemblies, etc.
Game Story • Develop a system of note-taking • Recording play-by-play • Recording statistics • Watch for turning points in the game • Fumble that sets up touchdown • Bench player who leads the team • Shift in defense that shuts down the other team
Game Story • You cannot be a cheerleader while you are reporting. • You can be partisan (rooting for a specific team) but you can’t let that interfere with the job of reporting. • As a student reporter, be sure that if the professional press has covered the story, you find a new angle.
Interviewing for Game Story • Be prepared to ask intelligent questions • Don’t ask questions that point out the obvious (turning point in game – interception for touchdown with 30 sec. left) • Be aware of temperament of coach • Don’t ask questions that will make coach mad/upset at beginning of interview, but don’t throw out all ‘softball’ questions • Have questions prepared – but be flexible • Jot down notes and have questions prepared, but if interviewee leads you in a direction, take it.
Following the game, continued • Be observant • Observing what goes on in the locker room (crying, laughing, bewilderment) is just as valuable as interviews • Check with trainer • Check status of injured players • Remember to talk with assistant coaches and non-star players • Have significant observations you might not have seen or realized • Phrase questions carefully • Open-ended – gives coach room to maneuver and an opportunity to give a lengthy response • Close-ended – Only get one-word answers
Sports feature Sideline story Background story Sports interview Locker-room story Can include the following: Spectator's actions during the game Historical features on a sport or rivalry Wrap-ups of the season Discussion of rule changes Untangle confusing events that occurred during a game Update readers on scoring records and individual statistics New team standings, awards earned because of performance in game Post-game story
Summary (AP) 5 W’s and H Narrative Appropriate on features Paints a scene The rusting wire fences and crumbling graffiti walls mark its entrance. The faded lines of paint on the dark asphalt draw its inner boundary. In its purest form, the game of basketball belongs to the city. Descriptive Usually run longer, immediately thrust readers into the action When Roger Clemens toes the mound, you can’t take your eyes off him. Standing erect, he exhales deeply as his empty right hand falls politely to his side. Like a chubby-cheeked choirboy lifting an open hymnal, he raises the black Wilson mitt on his left hand to a resting place in front of his solemn face. Sports Leads that work
Contrast or Comparison Effective in stories that establish a relationship between “close to home and far from home” and “that is how it was and this is how it is” angles Almost three years ago, the Atlanta Hawks were looking for a center whom they hoped would make the big shots and big plays for them. So they signed Moses Malone after deciding that Bill Cartwright, whom the Knicks were offering, was no more than a second-string center who had about two years left in him. But Friday, with Malone watching from the bench, where he was for most of the night, Cartwright hit the big shot for the Bulls, that enabled them to defeat the Hawks 99-96. Background Used when the background to a significant story is nearly as noteworthy as the new development itself. They had lost an NCAA-record 34 straight games. They were 1,106 days removed from their last victory. Each loss, the players said, put another monkey on their back. Northwestern’s football team was living on the Planet of the Apes. Sports Leads continued
Staccato Giving information in short, rapid-fire bursts Bodies ache. Adrenalin flows. Mouths thirst. Breathing is hard. Sweat is dripping. Players count the days. Fourteen to go. State University opened fall football camp today with 33 lettermen reporting. Literary Sometimes circumstances in sports will parallel a literary title or reference The USC running back situation now reads like the plot from Agatha Christie’s mystery novel, “Ten Little Indians,” also titled “And Then There Were None.” Sports Leads continued
Sports Clichés • Sports fans want stories they read to reflect the tension, color, excitement, joy, or sorrow of the game. • Writers often relay this by overusing clichés and slang. • Don’t sway from good English!!! • Sports writers need figures of speech, but they should be bright and inventive: • (Good) The USC varsity hits the field like a broken ketchup bottle. They’re not a team; they’re a horde. You can’t beat them; you must dismember them. • (Bad) The Centerville High School Tigers clawed their way to the Intercity League football championship Friday with a 14-0 shellacking of the Anytown Cougars – who played more like kittens.
Sports Features • It’s hard for scholastic publications to compete in timeliness with daily newspapers, so most sports are featurized because the outcomes are already known. • Finding feature ideas • Look for the losers – losing may not build character, but it certainly bares character • Look for benchwarmers – player who has spent four years practicing but never gets in the game, you might find people who both love their sport and understand it more than the stars do, you will find more humanity • Look beyond the crowds – Title IX
Sports Features continued • Minor sports/participant sports (non-competitive) are largely untapped sources of good stories. • More people watch birds than play football, more hunt or fish than play basketball, and more watch stock-car races than track meets • These sports, if covered, are usually by newest or least talented reporter… • Get out of the press box!!! • Drop by bowling alley, skeet-shooting range, Frisbee-throwing tournament…. Find stories there, and maybe some of the athletes you are already covering.
Sports Features Activity • With your group, examine the piece of information provided. • Brainstorm at least 3 feature ideas from the information. • Be prepared to share with the class. BE CREATIVE!!!
In-Class ASSIGNMENT • Using the 3 sports stories from newspapers, magazines and credible online sources. • Identify what type of story it is (pre-,post-, feature, etc.) • Identify what type of lead is used • Identify any clichés used • Pick ONE story, rewrite the first four paragraphs to create another possible lead, using factual information in the article.