What An Opportunity

A blast-off of creativity

In Sports on October 30, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 11.11.55 PM

Writing columns isn’t easy. Not only is your name attached to the story, your picture is, too. Readers’ comments can get personal, and their attacks can get vicious.

And columns are opinionated by nature. While an article states, “this is what happened,” a column opines, “this is how I feel about what happened.” So when people disagree with your opinion, they’re sure to be unhappy. And when people hide behind a keyboard, they don’t have any problem hurling insults.

That’s why I have a lot of respect for columnists. They get glory when people like them (they’re the “celebrities,” so to speak, among print journalists), but they also get plenty of hate. As I have stated on this blog before, my favorite sports columnist is The Buffalo News’ Jerry Sullivan (what can I say, I’m partial to my hometown and the teams there). There are quite a few other great ones at newspapers in America, though. One of those tremendous columnists is The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke – whom you might know from “Around The Horn.”

Plaschke’s column on the Los Angeles Lakers’ 116-103 victory over the Clippers Tuesday wins The Best Sportswriting I Read This Week.

Here is the link: What a blast-off by the Lakers’ castoffs

Let’s start with the title. I realize a copy editor back at The Times’ office probably wrote it, but it’s terrific. Rarely can you create an applicable title that rhymes and doesn’t sound cheesy. I love it. Shout out to that editor.

I also enjoy the lede, which lasts five paragraphs. The “never…” start to every sentence creates a structure and rhythm that got me hooked on the story. Additionally, the two-word sentence – “Believe it” – that ends the sequence is short but smooth. Plaschke was clearly setting it up with all the “never thoughts.” He also keeps the rhythm by ending the next three sentences with “it.” (Believe it. The building is still rocking from it. The NBA experts are still reeling from it.)

This column reads like a poem. The writing is outside the box. That’s why I like it. Traditional is boring. Creativity is enticing. In this 30-second-attention-span day and age, writers need to break the mold to maintain an audience’s focus. Plaschke routinely breaks the mold. That’s why he’s great.

A couple examples of sentences that could have been worded literally and straightforwardly but are more effective because they read like well-crafted prose:

The Lakers hit them over the head with a bench, kicked them in the gut with energy…

It was Showtime from a team expected to spend the season in down time. 

It was skips and struts from reserve Jodie Meeks.

This is another part of the column I enjoyed that isn’t a credit to Plaschke but to The Times, but I enjoy all the related content listed alongside this story. There are four related stories and one photo gallery – all five items listed with terrific pictures – to complement Plaschke’s piece. That adds aesthetic value and also tells me The Times put some serious effort into covering this game. Small things make a big difference to readers.

There is something I don’t like about the column: I think he overhypes the Clippers. They’re expected to be good, sure, but I haven’t seen any pundits predicting they’ll go to the NBA Finals. But Plaschke consistently says things like, “ The Clippers aren’t supposed to be knocked out until at least the NBA Finals.” I know this is his opinion, but I think he’s exaggerating how good people expect the Clips to be this year.

In all, I like this column because the writing is terrific and because Plaschke captures the spirit of the night. I felt like I attended the Lakers-Clippers game Tuesday night because he makes it seem so real. He’s not getting carried away, saying the Lakers are terrific and Clippers are terrible. He is merely reporting on one game and telling the reader how he felt about what happened.

He does a fine job getting that across – capturing the spirit of the night.

Recent entries of The Best Sportswriting I Read This Week:

Oct. 27, 2013: Reflections on a cold-blooded feature

Oct. 11, 2013: The Times profiles Mills, and Cacciola’s writing thrills

Oct. 8, 2013: Simmons’ comedy, research make column a winner

Sept. 29, 2013: Grantland Flexed: Giraldi’s piece on Heath is astounding

Sept. 23, 2013: Jets best Bills, and Times’ reporting, as always, impresses

Sept. 15, 2013: Emotions flow freely, and so does Sullivan’s quality writing

Sept. 8, 2013: The Buffalo News’ Canisius football preview: Why it worked

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  1. […] Oct. 30, 2013: A blast-off of creativity […]

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