Sportswriting 101

Lipa City, Batangas
December 14, 2013
Sportswriting 101

I’m no writing genius. Definitely not a Pullitzer Prize awardee. Nor a Catholic Mass Media winner like my old friends Francis Ochoa (Dennis Espino days) and Jasmine Payo (John Verayo era) of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, who won an award recently for a front page story on differently able tri-athletes. I strive to be one though, maybe in the future. Meantime, I’m just here writing and writing. And I have been doing this for 17 years now and counting. And yes, I’m still on the learning curve and trying my best to improve my craft. Just what they say, life is a continuous learning process. And one of the best ways to learn is to learn from the masters. So I’m sharing with you another great teaching from The Maestro himself, The Philippine Star sports editor Lito Tacujan. And its about sportswriting. So enjoy.

The way we were
Watching them at work during the Macau saga of Manny Paquiao, one can’t help but marvel at how our Beat had evolved from something ‘manual’ via long distance calls
to state-of – the -art online techonolgy via the internet.
It has spawned social media and completely changed future generations lifestyle and so watching them at work gives one an eerie feeling that he has gone through two lifetimes In our career..
The first was when we were ‘ young and easy under the apple boughs ” and the other when we are constantly be ing overwhelmed by this fast-paced phenom that is completely alien to us but has since embraced its nuances.
Altough the whole gamut of ultra modern Infostructure is literally at their fingertip, does it necessarily mean they can come up with good copies with all the time and technology in their hand?
Or were we better off with the ‘printed word’.
We think the hard way is the better way, better appreciated and felt.
While the sportscribes now would have background, profiles and records thru a simple rap at the keyboard, we would then come to a coverage with notes well researched, tacked in the back pockets. And we would labor thru gathering of stats.
” you take offensive, i take the defensive rebounds, ” ernie gonzales, then with the Express, now with Inquirer, would tell us before a Crisps-Toyota game.
In an out-of-towner, we would wade thru a sea of fans, grab a pedicab and rush to our hotel room, rush a story, rush its tansmittal via long distance, rush a quick meal before finally settling down for rounds of beer, drained but happy over the rush of adrenaline.
And when nearing stupor, the question would finally pop out: ‘What’s your lead?’
We lived and died by our leads, we felt then it was the measure of a sportscribe how he would weave a lead under tremendous pressure.
Surely, thats Journalism 101. That’s the inverted thing they hammered into your brain. But a sports story lead is something else. Its foundation of your entire coverage- it either sizzles or fizzles out.
One remembers a veteran scribe who was so enamored with his lead, he tore up the paper it was written on and put it in his pocket, thenbetter to conceal it from prying eyes.
Have we lost the art of lead writing? Maybe yes, maybe no but thats another posting.
Sports stories are things you dont read and be informed, they’re there to be savored, felt, appreciated, relived the drama, they’re all blood, sweat, etc.. It’s what Red Smith would say opening a vein and bleed through it.
For in the final reckoning, you’re actually ranged against yourself. You dont really write for the readers or heartless editors but for yourself. Bare your soul and be counted.
There would be no high tech gadget, online system.. You’re on you own, facing a blank screen and for this you would be on the same platform the way we were.
Lito Tacujan
Follow Sportsmaryosep on Twitter: @JoeySVillar

(Onyok Velasco answers questions over the phone as scribes and officials share the moment after his silver medal wiining feat in the 1996 AtlantaOlympics-from Lito Tacujan’s photo archives)


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