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Sportswriting For Dummies
Steve Rushin
July 26, 1999
By reading these rules and slavishly following them, you too can learn our noble craft
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July 26, 1999

Sportswriting For Dummies

By reading these rules and slavishly following them, you too can learn our noble craft

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Next! on fox! Sportswriting Secrets Revealed!

Did you know there are six ways to write a sports story...and only six ways? It's true! With this knowledge, and a reversible blazer, you can be a sportswriter! Enjoy a four-figure income! Say goodbye to personal-grooming products! See Don Zimmer naked! Simply memorize the following secrets of sportswriting!

Pssst! In any story the most difficult paragraph to write is the first, or "lede." The next most difficult is the last, or "close." Thus, whenever possible, construct your story as an "open letter." Begin with "Dear Commissioner," and end with "Sincerely yours." Voila! You suddenly have a lede and a close. The rest is just sandwich filling.

If an open letter proves impractical, and you're still stuck for a lede, then by all means: Describe the sky. The sky is always there, even when a story is not. Grantland Rice made Bartlett's by beginning a piece, "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky...." This told readers of the New York Tribune three things: 1) It was October, 2) there was a sky and 3) it was blue. And this is the most famous sports lede ever written!

Welcome to a world without standards!

Which brings us to Trick No. 3: It's easy to list things, people like lists, and most sports stories are little more than very long lists. Lists can pose as questionnaires ("Is Jumbo Elliott too Big for His Britches? And Six Other Training Camp Questions"), masquerade as chronologies ("Monday, 1:17 a.m.: The Stars arrive in Dallas") or dress themselves up alphabetically ("An A-to-Z Guide to Augusta"). Many stories, you will find, are more bullet-riddled than Bonnie and Clyde's sedan.

A bullet (?) can be used when you have:

?Nothing to say.

?Very little to say.

?Not much of anything to say.

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