Here's the assignment section to David Moffit's 1979 guide on how to cover football for UPI.
DURING THE GAME . . .
The anthem has been played, the flag has been raised, and the players are lined up on the field ready for the kickoff.
The notes that you will be taking in the next few hours will be the nucleus for your story so they'd better be clear, concise and readable (at least by you).
Many sportswriters have their own systems for keeping up with the progress of a football game. None are faulted as long as they get the job done. Some keep notes -- either as a running account in paragraph form or in separate columns. Most major press boxes provide play-by-play accounts at the end of each quarter but those should be used to supplement your own nontes since you can really get bogged down at game's end if you try to work from those press box-provided sheets alone.
Your main interest should be in the movement of the football. Thus whatever system you use, it should keep you informed as to the location of the ball on the field at any given time. You'll need the big plays -- the long runs or passes, the touchdowns or field goals. You don't need the one-yard bucks at midfield during an unsuccessful drive (unless that was a fourth-and-one play that came up short).
Don't hesitate to ask someone else in the press box for a confirmation when you are in doubt about a particular play. Listen to the press box announcer. There are statisticians in the press box who can usually answer your questions. And, the sportswriter sitting next to you is more than willing to help out since you'll probably be doing the same for him before the game is over.
The important thing is you don't get so involved in your system -- so concerned over who made that last two-yard run -- that you lose touch with the action. Get the key plays right and you can afford to miss a few of the minor ones with no serious damage.
You are about to be introduced to the Dave Moffit handy-dandy football chart. It may look like hieroglyphics at first glance. But once the fog clears, it becomes as easy to read as that road map that got you to the game.
What you will see on the next page is a diagram of a football field on which each play is pictured in graph form with different symbols for each type of action... dashes for kicks...dots for passes...straight lines for runs from scrimmage...zig-zag lines for kick returns...etc.
Confused? It's really not all that complicated.
The home team is O, the visitor (blackened O). Kickoffs, punts and field goals are ---; passes ....; running plays from scrimmage _____; runbacks of kickoffs, punts and pass interceptions ~~~~; penalties /////; first downs +; fumbles and pass interceptions X. Along with each symbol is the last name of the player credited with the gain or loss and the yardage.
It helps to use different colored pencils for each team. Record only one quarter to a page or you will run out of space. Key plays can be noted in open spaces. Be sure to number the periods to avoid confusion. Have your four gridiron sheets laid out before the game.
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