Friday, April 24, 2009

"Princeton Wins; Carril Quits"

TigerBlog spent 11 years in the newspaper business, and he rarely if ever found anyone who understood that the person who wrote the story and the person who wrote the headline were two different people. TB has endless memories of people who said that they didn't like the headline, which was actually written by a copy editor who never left the desk.

TB also spent his newspaper summers primarily on the desk, as well as some other nights though the years. The editing system at the Trenton Times back then factored in the size of the headline and how many columns it was supposed to be and then spit back to you whether it was too long, too short or just right. If it didn't fit, you had to constantly adjust the headline until it was right (or close enough). The worst were one column headlines, where nothing creative ever worked. TB has memories of sitting in front of the screen for what seemed like hours trying to get something clever. It either came to you in a flash or wasn't going to happen.

Looking back on those days, TigerBlog can remember some of the better efforts at headlines. For instance, there was the night that then-Phils centerfielder Lenny Dykstra had to fly back from Pittsburgh for an emergency appendectomy. TB came up with a headline of: "Dykstra's Appendix Out At Home," which went over six columns and fit exactly on the first try. The same was true of a headline the day the Eagles brought in two potential placekickers when their incumbent was struggling: "Eagle Kicking Circus Auditions Two New Clowns." Again, six columns and a perfect fit.

OAC Emeritus Director Kurt Kehl, now the Vice President of Communications for the Washington Capitals, was a big fan of headlines that made reference to the picture that accompanied them, something Sports Illustrated did well. TB wrote a feature on Darrell Oliveira, a dominant and somewhat underrated defensive end on the 1995 Ivy League champion football team, and the story talked about how Oliveira's grandfather had taught him to read from the street signs they saw while driving around New Bedford, Mass. The story included a picture of Oliveira as he deflected a pass in Palmer Stadium. The headline: "No Passing."

The Trenton Times headline on the game story from the 1996 Ivy League men's basketball playoff game between Princeton and Penn is a classic: "Princeton Wins; Carril Quits."

Headline writing for the Web is infinitely easier, as the length isn't as important. TigerBlog also believed in his newspaper days that all headlines on college and especially high school stories should include an athlete's name, and that is something that has carried over to for the most part.

Why all of this talk of headlines? TigerBlog has always been fascinated by the idea that every college or pro sporting event gets summed up somewhere (newspaper, Web site, etc.) by a simple headline that it many ways tells the whole story.

Princeton plays baseball this weekend against Cornell, a team with which it is tied for the Gehrig Division lead. Take today's doubleheader, for instance. The teams are going to play for five, six, seven hours. When they're done, it'll be able to be condensed to something like:
"Princeton Sweeps Cornell, On Verge Of Division Title" or "Cornell Sweeps Princeton, On Verge Of Division Title" or "Princeton, Cornell Split, Still Tied For Lead."

TigerBlog also thinks there's a large segment of readers of newspapers and Websites who don't read past the headline. This blog tries to have headlines that leave you a bit confused as to what the story is about, so you'll want to read on.

Event headlines, though, are different. They're clear and consise and fascinating.

So what's it going to be this weekend? "Kovler Scores Four As Tigers Roll" or "Dartmouth Tops Princeton For Second Straight Year?" "Aboff Leads Women's Golf To Ivy Title" or "Princeton Second At Ivy Championships?"

TigerBlog's best headline was after Ryan Boyle scored with four seconds left in the 2002 NCAA quarterfinals against Georgetown. Headline? "Final 0:04."

Not bad, right?


Anonymous said...

What is the explanation for the headline on the story about Ivy sports not scheduling around religious holidays, "Make It A Good One, Strap"?

Princeton OAC said...

The quote refers to a line from the movie "Hoosiers." Strap was one of the players on the team and the son of the minister. Before Ollie shoots his two foul shots in the regional final, Strap grabs Ollie's arm in the team huddle. When the team breaks the huddle, Strap is kneeling in prayer, still holding Ollie's arm. "Make it a good one, Strap," Gene Hackman (head coach Norman Dale) says. The headline refers tangentially to the mix of religion and sports.