Paragraph of the day

Spencer Hall imagines what would happen if Grantland Rice were to submit his most famous article to a certain future ESPN site.


Thank you for the submission, but we unfortunately will not be able to use your work on our new website. We are looking for voices who echo a tradition of innovative, moving sportswriting that is at once young but timeless, emotionally moving but with a eye towards clinical critique, and infused with a creativity that never ceases in its quest to expand the parameters of sportswriting.

To expand on this, I’d like to just offer a few pointers for you in order to help you in your future work.

Outlined against a blue-gray(1) October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again.(2)

1. Hyphenates are a no-no. Just say “sky.” Shorter is always better. This is always true. Trust. Me.

2. Wrestling references are a little low in the class department. This one is dated, too. When you write for us, think: “Would Malcolm Gladwell know who this is?” If not, don’t include it.

Read the whole thing. This piece echoes something I wrote awhile back about Rice’s work in comparison to popular “sports journalism” and the weirder backwaters found on the internet:

I bring all this out to show the parallels between sort of post-modern (for lack of a better term) sports writing on the internet, twitter, blogs, and the like, and the greatest sports writing ever, which has very little to do with the alternatively obsequious or bellicose 800 word columns and maddening boilerplate recaps we have become accustomed to.

“The Four Horsemen” would not have been published by a reputable institution anytime in the last fifty-years. By modern standards, it is not a very good sports story. It is merely the greatest sports story of all time.

  • Back in the mid-70’s I took a job covering sports for my local daily newspaper. My editor gave me a handout specifying what he was looking for in my stories–and the one line I still remember decades later is “no Grantland Rice crap.”

  • Anonymous

    That’s amazing.

  • Brian

    Most of the reason Rice wrote the way he did is because he had to invent a way for people to pay attention. Remember, back in his day you couldn’t watch games unless you were at the stadium. Sure, you could listen on radio, but only 55,000 or so lucky people ever got to watch Notre Dame play football. Rice was their seeing eye into the game. A sportswriter back then was more of a storyteller and fantasy writer than a journalist, because people wanted him to be. Kind of like hearing someone telling a story of the time they went to a foreign country; do you want the real story or a fantastic tale that lends to the imagination? Now that people can watch games on TV, we don’t need the story, just the facts. We can judge the greatness of the Four Horseman ourselves.

  • Bmalbasa

    Two other favorites:

    Broun, Heywood. “Sport for Art’s Sake,” covering the Dempsey-Carptentier fight.

    Smith, Red. “Thompson authored an unlikely ending,” covering Bobby Thompson’s Pennant-winning homer off of Ralph Branca.

    Both stories utilize powerful metaphors and imagery to engage readers who would never see an image of the event.

    Great writing.

  • Ben

    I got a kick out of this, but I am a bit more optimistic about the site. Hopefully it’s a site that will allow sports writing like this, and get away from 800 word columns. Also, like the two items you highlight, being long-winded and wrestling references, are two of the things Simmons is known for.

  • Somebody submitted a photo by legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson to a flickr group where it was subsequently slated and voted for deletion by the audience.