Archive for the ‘Leads’ Category

Writers put Giants-Packers game in perspective

January 21, 2008

21giants-600.jpgDoug Mills/The New York Times

It’s clear that new media rules in sports — at least, if you checked out the news organizations covering the NFC Championship Game. Newspapers as varied as Oshkosh’s The Northwestern, the New York Times and the Green Bay Press-Gazette all had audio slideshows, picture galleries and audio or podcasts. Fans could also weigh in on the numerous blogs dedicated to these teams at Newark Star-Ledger, Long Island Newsday, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal . Clearly, fans love this constant flow of information. As a New York Giants fan, I checked nearly a dozen websites last night after the game – and just as many this morning. Give me more news, information, quotes, analysis.

I also love reading leads for game stories, which offer insights into communities the sportswriters serve. No fans embrace their team more than those living in Wisconsin. The Packers are as much a part of their community as city hall and the local schools. As a result, Packers fans are probably more knowledgeable than most. This was reflected in the game coverage of last night’s title game, a 23-20 overtime victory for the Giants. New York fans also appreciate the nuances of sports — and they especially love a great defense. Plus, New Yorkers love big personalities, which is clearly shown in lead published in the New York area. Regardless, the NFC championship was a game that will be remembered for many years for a variety of factors — subzero temperatures, a certain Hall of Fame quarterback facing off against a potential Hall of Famer, hard-hitting defenses, a last-second failure – and, ultimately, redemption in overtime. So many plot twists, so many angles.

It’s challenging to write a game story for an audience that already watched the game. Sportswriters do not want to repeat the obvious, nor do they want to miss the important facts. Multimedia reporting allows layers of the game to be unfolded elsewhere on a web page. Yet, solid writing and storytelling is also required in text. Check out some of the stories writers offered readers this morning.

The Associated Press focused on an individual in its lead, preferring to offer a play on words. Notice that the writer sticks to this angle for several graphs before turning to the rest of the game. Even the lead quote connects to the main angle.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Oh, brother!

Eli, the baby of the Manning quarterback clan, finally has arrived.

And he’s taking the New York Giants on yet another road trip — to Glendale, Ariz., site of the Super Bowl.

Manning repeatedly put the Giants in position to win the NFC championship Sunday, and when Lawrence Tynes came through at last with a 47-yard field goal in overtime, New York had itself an improbable 23-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers at frostbitten Lambeau Field. Now comes Mission Impossible: beating the undefeated New England Patriots in two weeks in a Super Bowl matchup hardly anyone saw coming.

“We haven’t been given a shot, but we’re here and I think we’re deserving of it,” Manning said. “Right now I’m excited as I can be.”

The New York Times waxes a little more poetically, developing scene as a significant actor in this game while also mixing in geographical references and allusions to the weather.

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Under a full moon, a black sky and a crisp and cruel blanket of cold, the Giants stood on the frozen sideline of Lambeau Field, waiting for a rush of warmth.

It came belatedly and unexpectedly.

With one errant toss from a legendary quarterback, and one kick from the right foot of Lawrence Tynes, the Giants sent themselves from the northern prairie and into the southwestern desert, all the way to the Super Bowl.

Tynes’s 47-yard field goal 2 minutes 35 seconds into overtime gave the Giants a 23-20 victory in the National Football Conference championship game. The Giants will next head to Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., where they will be two-touchdown underdogs to the undefeated New England Patriots on Feb. 3.

Newsday’s writer addresses character. He focuses on a moment in the game before tying it in to several related angles, essentially showing how one moment defines both individuals and the team in general.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – As the ball sailed through the uprights, as his and every other Giant’s dreams were fulfilled, Shaun O’Hara thought of one word.

“Redemption,” he said.

That’s for every Giant, starting with coach Tom Coughlin – who needed a winning season to keep his job – down to the players who got smoked by the Cowboys and Packers to start the season, who felt they were written off after allowing 80 points while falling to 0-2.

Last night, Lawrence Tynes joined the group of the redeemed. He missed two field-goal tries with an opportunity to snap a 20-20 tie, the last a 36-yarder as the regulation clock hit all zeroes. But with the help of two more Giants looking to right some early-season wrongs – cornerback Corey Webster and quarterback Eli Manning – Tynes got a third chance. And his 47-yard field goal 2:35 into overtime beat Brett Favre and the Packers, 23-20, to send the Giants to Super Bowl XLII and a date with the unbeaten Patriots 13 days from today. The Patriots are early 13 1/2-point favorites.

“The thing I’m most proud of is the way we hang together and the way we never say die,” said Coughlin, who will coach in a Super Bowl for the first time. “No matter what the odds are, we keep scrapping, we keep working and finding a way to win.”

Two Wisconsin beat reporters focused on ‘dreams’ – how they were dashed Sunday night. In many ways, so were the dreams of so any fans across the state. These leads reveal the relationship Wisconsin has with its team: When the Packers lose, everybody loses. Fans feel this way for many teams, sure, but few teams are as closely connected with their communities. New York fans love their Giants, but they also have the Yankees, Mets, Nets, Jets, Islanders, Rangers — and even the Knicks — to choose from. That’s not the case in Wisconsin.

The Green Bay Gazette reporter carries a single idea — of a preordained season — through to the lead quote, something that usually works well in any game story.

The Green Bay Packers’ dream season, set up so well for a return to the Super Bowl, ended with a major thud Sunday night.

They had so much going in their favor for their NFC championship battle with the New York Giants: The home-field advantage, an arctic Wisconsin winter night and nearly pristine health.

But the Packers, 7½-point favorites over the plucky underdog from out east, were done in by a poor second half, when both sides of the ball faltered at critical times. Their unexpectedly magnificent season ended with a whimper when Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes redeemed himself with a 47-yard field goal in overtime that won the game, 23-20, and choked the life out of the Lambeau Field crowd of 72,740.

So, New York (13-6) heads to the Super Bowl on the back of a 10-game road winning streak to face the New England Patriots. The Packers (14-4), on the other hand, step immediately into the offseason with time to agonize over how such a golden opportunity eluded them.

“It’s very difficult to go out like this,” middle linebacker Nick Barnett said, “especially with the season we had. We didn’t think any other way than going to Arizona. To lose with the home field, in Lambeau, to not be celebrating on that podium right now, it’s devastating.”

The Gannett reporter reveals the mindset of many Packers fans who believed everything was set up for another Super Bowl run. That they lost was inconceivable.

GREEN BAY — Two years ago, it was only a fantasy. Last summer, it was a pipe dream.But the Green Bay Packers were on the verge of a dream come true as they lined up against the New York Giants on Sunday night for a chance to pursue the National Football League grail — the Vince Lombardi trophy.

The dream was left in tatters in the frigid night air at Lambeau Field.

The Giants will go to the Super Bowl, not the Packers.

Lawrence Tynes’ 47-yard field goal less than three minutes into overtime, coming after Brett Favre threw an interception that will likely dominate the winter conversations of Packers fans, gave the Giants a 23-20 victory and the Packers one of their most painful losses in the franchise’s history.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter addresses this point as well, listing all the historical reasons the Packers should have won the game. Even the team’s general manager seems despondent in the lead quote.

Green Bay – The Green Bay Packers, a franchise that had never lost a playoff at home in their first eight decades of existence, have now been toppled three times in the last six years.

Following in the footsteps of Atlanta in 2002 and Minnesota in 2004 at the wild-card level, the New York Giants stormed into icy Lambeau Field on Sunday night like they owned the place and whipped the Packers, 23-20, in the NFC Championship Game.

Lawrence Tynes, a kicker who did not have a single pressurized field-goal attempt in the first 18 games, drilled one from 47 yards 2 minutes 35 seconds into overtime. It sent the Giants (13-6) into Super Bowl XLII against the New England Patriots (18-0) on Feb. 3 and the Packers home.

“All the plans and the hopes we had are out the window,” general manager Ted Thompson said. “It’s a shame. I certainly didn’t think we played our best, and the Giants played very well.”

Like the Newsday reporter, the Wisconsin State Journal writer focuses on a scene, showing something that TV viewers and fans in the stadium would not have known. That’s a great approach for any game story. You can hear the sadness in the voice of the Packers GM. Always tie these scenes back to the game, though, as this writer does.

GREEN BAY — Ted Thompson stood in the middle of the equipment room, stunned. Always adept at keeping his emotions in, Thompson found himself trying to do so at the most painful possible time: Surrounded by 20 or so others — including team chairman Bob Harlan, members of coach Mike McCarthy’s family and a host of staffers and team officials —in cramped quarters.

Watching the disappointment unfold in high definition on a 42-inch Sony flat-screen just off the Green Bay Packers’ locker room, the 55-year-old general manager was dying inside.

He’d just watched quarterback Brett Favre’s pass on the second play of overtime flutter toward the Packers sideline and into the hands of New York Giants cornerback Corey Webster. Four plays later, Lawrence Tynes’ 47-yard field goal just 2 minutes 35 seconds into OT would send the Packers to a 23-20 NFC Championship Game defeat and the Giants to Super Bowl XLII.

”I’m crushed,” said Thompson, who’d been ushered down from the team’s private box on the seventh floor club level along with the others to prepare for what was supposed to be the on-field coronation and acceptance of the George Halas trophy for earning the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl berth.

”A lot of people thought we were a surprise team. We felt we were good enough to win week-in and week-out and have a chance to go play for the world championship. And we’re not going to get to do that now.”

Clearly, there’s no single best way to approach a game story. Here, several seasoned and talented sportswriters took somewhat different approaches in their leads. Yet, they all offer a nut graph early on that offers a key play and the final score. Most of these stories also offer context, telling the reader the winner goes to the Super Bowl – even though that may seem obvious to most fans. Now, go check out the leads in California and New England related to the AFC championship game — certainly, they are just as varied, creative and reflective of their audiences. Make sure you also scrutinize the multimedia reporting, something that is essential to all sports coverage as well.