After the Lead

Here's the "After the Lead" section of David Moffit's 1979 guide on how to cover football for UPI.

The rest of your story should come easier -- but that doesn't call for letting up. When you have only 300 words to work with -- and when your byline could appear all over the country -- you want those 300 words to be shining examples of fine sportswriting.

(When the order calls for 300 words, IT MEANS JUST THAT -- give or take a few words. If the News Center wants additional for regional purposes, or your bureau wants additional for state purposes, furnish that extra copy only after you have completed the basic assignment.)

Don't let the excitement of the game carry you away. It is a great temptation to fire out 500 words on a thriller (and there have been Unipressers who actually filed 750 words when only 300 was ordered). DON'T! It just slows down the movement of your story to the wires by the amount of time required for a desk man to edit it.

Ifyou should come up with the upset of the weekend, check with the filing point to see if extra wordage (or an alternate lead) is desired. But, like we said, clear out the originally ordered copy BEFORE handling any special requests.

In most cases you should account for all of the scoring in the body of the story. But that does not include any but key extra points and you certainly don't need details on all the touchdowns in a 69-0 rout. Also, the scoring should be listed in its importance to the outcome of the game and not in chronological order.

Back up your lead paragraph with whatever is needed to paint a picture for the reader...then wrap up the rest of the game in a terse, readable account.

When you refer to a player for the first time, give his full name. When appropriate mention his position and, if he was the star, you might wish to provide a little more background. (Jones, a 165-pound sophomore quarterback from Chicago...).

Don't clog up your story with too many statistics. When the winning quarterback completed 15 of 20 passes for 225 yards, that's news. When one of the running backs carries the ball seven times for a total of 28 yards and a 4.0 rushing average, that's excess baggage.

Your reader wants to know about the big plays, not the routine short gainers at midfield.

Stay clear of a modified play-by-play. That will kill your story at a newspaper sports desk quicker than almost anything else. (Some staffers write up the first action during halftime and stick that on at the bottom of their story. DON'T. A football game is 60 minutes, not two 30-minute performances.