How to Be a Sportswriter – Lesson 2 – Ultra Clever Sports Puns

A sportswriter cannot assume people will seek out stories and information on their favorite teams.  People don’t want facts. They don’t feel like browsing though boring stuff like who won the game and by how much.  Who cares who the leading scorer was?  No one cares what records were broken that night.  People want to pick up the sports page and get what they’re really looking for out of their news… a moderate chuckle at a clever pun. 

The ingredients for a good…nay, great sports pun are surprisingly simple.  You just take someone’s name and/or nickname and plug into a cliché.  That easy.  Well, okay, there is a little more to it than that.  The cliché has to at least kind of sort of describe your story. 

For example, remember the stunning performance of LeBron James in the playoffs in which he scored, I don’t know, a billion points in the 4th quarter and took the game into overtime, in which he scored half a billion more?  Well, the headline should read King James Holds Court.  You see, because he ruled.  King.  Ruled.  Get it? Oh, man that’s good.

The Monday morning paper after this past Super Bowl Sunday?  Sports page should have featured the headline Super Bowl MVP?  The Colts Have Found Their Man(ning).  

Stanley Cup?  Ducks Too Mighty for Senators

On the Tour De France reign of Lance Armstrong, Only the (Arm)strong Survive.  Okay, I was really reaching into the past on that one, but as much ass as that headline kicks, that really shouldn’t matter.  Hell, I could still throw out my little beauties about the 85 Bears “Shuffling” to victory and it would still grab the readers by the horn.

Imagine this scenario… The Yankees are down one run in the bottom of the ninth against the Red Sox, a runner on third, and up to bat comes A-Rod, who has been 4-4 in the game with 2 homeruns.  Instead of pitching to hit and letting him bring home the game tying run, the Sox decide to walk A-Rod.  Up comes Giambi, who rips a shot into the far corner of right field, allowing both the runner on third and A-Rod to score, winning the game.  What should your headline be?  That’s easy. 

 Spare A-Rod, Spoil the Yankees 

See what I did there?  Not only is it a pun and ultra clever, it’s also taking a cliché, switching it up a little, and making it mine.  That’s my cliché now.  You’ll think of me and my brilliant sportswriting every time someone uses the old cliché about the rod and the kid being spoiled.  See?  My headline rules so hard I can’t even remember how the original goes now. 

  

Coming Up – Lesson 3: Ultra Bitter Home Team Reporting

 

 

 

 

How to Be a Sportswriter 101

 

Welcome to the first of many lessons in the fine art of sports journalism.  I can recall my first journalism class in whcih the professor informed us that any form of journalism, above all else, must focus on answering the 5 W’s; Who, What, Where, When, and Why.  Man, what a load of crap.  While scores and stats and outcomes are vital to sports writing, there are far more pressing and important aspects to the craft.  We here at The Finger are committed to teaching the intricate ins and outs that are so much more vital than simply reporting some facts. 

Lesson 1 – There Is No Middle Ground

            As far as the sportswriter is concerned, no athlete in any sport has ever had a good game or a decent outing.  Likewise, they don’t have a poor or sub-par game.  An athlete either has the best game that has ever been imagined, nonetheless actually played or has the type of game that is complete humiliation and brings his sport to a lower level than it has ever been played at before.  

            For example, LeBron James’s recent 48 point game could be described as a solid outing that foreshadows his potential greatness… if you want your article to be as exciting as waiting for an oil change at Wal-Mart.  That game was the single most dominate playoff effort that established James as King.  Never has there been anyone take a game over so completely. 

            Stay away from noncommittal, wimpy tag-ons like “In recent memory” or “that comes to mind.”  Sell it.  Go all out and just claim that the Spurs are the most dominate NBA dynasty.  Ever.  (We will later cover the selective use of stats to support such claims in a later lesson) As a sportswriter, there are many times you are required to ignore recent memories altogether, anyway.  Let me elaborate.

            Let’s say that on Thursday, you write an article about Pujols being the greatest player to ever step out on the diamond, talking about that day’s 3-homer outing he had being the greatest batting performance in history.  Then on Friday, A-Rod hits for the cycle and drives home 7 runs.  It’s more than acceptable to now claim A-Rod the greatest player of all time.  No need to reference your previous claim about Pujols.  It never happened.  Who’s Pujols? 

            There are many benefits to the flip-flop approach, but most importantly, you’ll be able to pull off always being right.  Write several NFL pre-season pieces, in one claim how dominate the Colts will, be.  Write another about how the Bears will get over the hump this year.  Talk up San Diego’s team in yet another.  Keep going until you have all the bases covered, then, after the Super Bowl, just quote yourself in the article that turns out to have best predicted the outcome.

            All in all, there is no single greater piece of advice for the sportswriter than to write in absolutes and extremes (See, didn’t that make you want to listen to this guidance so much more than some half-assed “This is pretty good advice” comment?).

           

            Coming up – Lesson 2 – Ultra Clever Sports Puns