IMHO: All Your Sports News, Condensed to Four Words

  • Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving during the first quarter of a preseason basketball game in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 10/19/2018 12:10:12 AM
Modified: 10/19/2018 12:10:24 AM

Chances are you’re reading this because of the headline.

Good headline writing takes skill. Editors have a very limited space to convey to a reader the essence of the copy to which they’re trying to draw attention. If done right, they’re telling you that there’s a good reason you’ll want to devote whatever time it will take you to read a story, and they’re doing it with just a handful of words.

It’s a pitch no used-car salesman could ever conquer.

As such, I find headline writing to be a fun challenge, one in which I get to employ my not-so-exhaustive knowledge of English — or a smattering of other languages, such as French, sarcasm, gibberish or malarkey — to do my sell. The news folks have to play it straight.

Sports gets a little bit of leeway; I’m not beyond flinging a bad pun into a headline if it draws your eyes to the newspaper. (My colleagues will agree that’s no idle threat; I keep a rimshot app on my office computer for such occasions.)

To illustrate my point, I’ve gone over the sports news of the past couple of weeks — some local, some way out there — and have written sample headlines for each, with a four-word limit. Kids: I’m a professional, so please don’t try this at home.

(Note to boss: I really wouldn’t use these headlines in print ... probably.)

News item: Brock Holt produces the first cycle in postseason baseball history to lift the Boston Red Sox to a 16-1 clubbing of the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

Headline: Welcome to Spankee Stadium

News item: Dartmouth College football team runs for 347 yards in 41-18 road rout of Yale, then hammers Sacred Heart at Memorial Field, 42-0, to hit the midpoint of the Ivy League season with a 5-0 record.

Headline: When’s the Princeton Game?

News item: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones publicly criticizes embattled coach Jason Garrett for punting from the offensive side of midfield during an overtime loss to Houston, saying, “It’s time for risks at that particular time.”

Headline:Fermez la Bouche, Jerry

News item: Patrice Bergeron scores a hat trick, adds assist as Bruins double up Ottawa, 6-3, in their NHL home opener at TD Garden.

Headline: Hat Fits; Wear It

News item: Momentum builds for an NHL expansion franchise in Seattle, where officials have unveiled plans for developing a new arena that could host a hockey or NBA team.

Headline: Quebec, You’re Being Hosed

News item: Disgruntled Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler wants out of Minnesota, putting coach and owner at odds over his NBA future.

Headline: This Butler’s Doing It

News item: After two-hour delay, NHIAA is forced to cancel Division III boys team golf championship because of heavy rain and unplayable conditions at Laconia Country Club.

Headline: Lift, Clean, Place? Squeegee

News item: Yankees slugger Aaron Judge trolls Red Sox by playing New York, New York on boombox following ALDS Game 2 win at Fenway Park; team then loses next two games and series.

Headline: Karma’s a … Naughty B-Word

(Alternative headline: Stick to Pepsi Commercials)

News item: Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving tells science teachers he’s sorry for his past remarks advancing false theory that the Earth is flat.

Headline: Kyrie Submits Roundabout Apology

News item: NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes announce plans to honor their Connecticut legacy by wearing vintage Hartford Whalers uniforms during two regular-season games, including one in Boston.

Headline: Ain’t Easy Needing Green

News item: Kevin Tway gets first PGA Tour win at season-commencing Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.

Headline: Wake Me at Augusta

News item: Major League Baseball absolves Houston Astros after investigating claims of cellphone-aided sign-stealing in playoff series with Red Sox and Indians.

Headline: Belichick Available for Consultation

News item: Flavor-of-the-month quarterback Pat Mahomes impresses in 352-yard, four-touchdown passing performance, but Chiefs lose their first NFL game of the season, 43-40, at New England.

Headline: Nothing to Reid Here

News item: Columbus Crew reportedly saved from move to Austin as Cleveland Browns-owning Haslem family joins group seeking to keep original Major League Soccer franchise in Ohio’s capital.

Headline: MLS Does Texas Two-Step

News item: New Alliance of American Football announces inaugural season to start the week after NFL’s Super Bowl.

Headline: Don’t Make USFL’s Mistake

(Alternative headline: Thankfully, Trump Isn’t Owner)

News item: Sports editor can’t separate himself from keyboard, struggling for creative way to end column on headline writing.

Headline: Somebody Brought Donuts? Great!

(Note from boss: Fennell Swings and Misses.)

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Greg Fennell can be reached, dusting powered sugar off his shirt, at or 603-727-3226.

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