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Sports: Writing The Short Game Story

Conveying All The Drama in 500 Words Or Less

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Sports: Writing The Short Game Story

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning attempts a pass during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on December 18, 2008.

Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

There are lots of different kinds of stories you can write on the sports beat, but probably the most basic is the short game story. A short game story, usually 500 words or less, follows a straightforward format that can be applied to any game you cover.

Here’s the format:

The Lede

The lede of your story should include the final score and some details about what made the game interesting. Generally this means focusing on the efforts of an individual player.

Let’s say a team’s star athlete is injured and a previously unheralded player comes into the game as a substitute. Not much is expected of this rookie but he defies expectations and plays a great game, leading the team to victory.

Example:

Second-string quarterback Jay Lindman, who had never played a down for Jefferson High School, came off the bench after star QB Fred Torville was injured Friday night and threw three touchdown passes to lead the Gladiators to a 21-14 victory over the McKinley High School Centurions.

Or maybe the game is a close, seesaw battle between two evenly matched opponents, and is won in the final seconds by an especially dramatic play.

Example:

Second-string quarterback Jay Lindman threw the game-winning touchdown with just 12 seconds left to lead the Jefferson High School Gladiators to a 21-14 victory over the McKinley High School Centurions Friday night.

Notice that in both examples we focus on the efforts of an individual athlete. Sports is all about the human drama of competition, and focusing on a single person gives the game story a human interest angle that readers will enjoy.

The Body of the Story

The body of your story should basically elaborate on the lede. If your lede was about the benchwarmer becoming the game’s star, then the body should go into more detail about that. Often a simple chronological account works best.

Example:

Torville’s ankle was sprained when he was sacked in the first quarter. Lindman came into the game with low expectations but threw his first touchdown pass in the second quarter with a high, floating ball that receiver Mike Ganson snagged in the end zone.

In the third quarter, Lindman was forced to scramble out of the pocket to avoid the rush but managed to fire a bullet to receiver Desean Washington, who made a diving catch at the goal line.

The Wrap Up

The wrap up or ending of your story usually centers on quotes from the coach and players gleaned from post-game interviews or press conferences. Getting great quotes for sports stories can sometimes be tough – coaches and athletes often speak in clichés – but a snappy quote can really be the icing on the cake of your game story.

Example:

“I knew Lindman could play but I didn’t know he could play like that,” said Gladiators coach Jeff Michaelson. “That was one heck of a game by a young guy who showed a lot of heart.”

Washington said Lindman exuded confidence even in the huddle before his very first snap.

“He just said, ‘Let’s do this to win,’” Washington said. “And he went out there and did it. That boy can throw the ball.”

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