IMHO: The world of sports boiled down by trite headline writer

  • Greg Fennell. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 6/15/2019 10:01:35 PM
Modified: 6/15/2019 10:01:33 PM

When I took my first journalism class back in high school, our teacher occasionally put us future ink-stained wretches through an interesting and thought-provoking exercise.

She’d come to the room carrying copies of that day’s New York Times, New York Daily News and New York Post, and we’d have to find the same story in each paper and compare. She used to say you needed a college-level education to read the Times but only a sixth-grade reading level for the Daily News. That in itself was nothing — she cracked that a first-grader could tackle the Post.

Anyway, the differences were no more evident than in the headlines. The Times wrote for substance; the Daily News, and particularly the Post, wrote for brevity and impact. Say what you will of the latter two — I gravitated toward Newsday during my Long Island college days anyway — but they certainly were creative.

I guess this is a long-form way of saying tabloid journalism influences my headline writing today. I enjoy what we in this biz call a good hammer head: a short, declarative line of as few words as possible to sum up what you’re about to read in a means that catches your eye quickly and make you want to continue. (My amendment: Puns welcome.)

As I’ve posited before, I believe any story — particularly any sports story — can be boiled down to a four-word headline. When last I tried this gimmick, the newsroom editor at the time rolled his eyes and panned it. Still, it ran. And he’s since retired, so nyah.

I’ve accumulated sports news items from the past few weeks, both local and otherwise, and given them the four-word treatment. Remember, kids: Don’t try this at home unless you own a good dictionary, an attraction to bad puns and an aversion for split infinitives. Without that, you may experience a level of ridicule that I wouldn’t want you to be exposed to.

(Wink, wink.)

Story: United States opens Women’s World Cup group play with 13-0 rout of Thailand.

Headline: Americans Are Thai Breakers

Story: White River Valley School, born from a state-forced merger last year, wins VPA Division III baseball and softball championship in the span of six hours to cap district’s first sports year.

Headline: WRV = We’re Really Victorious

Story: Scores of Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup Final games with St. Louis: 4-2, 2-3 (OT), 7-2, 2-4, 1-2, 5-1, 1-4.

Headline: Two Minutes for Whiplash

Story: Woodstock High girls tennis team caps 49-1 run over past three years as Wasps win their third straight VPA Division II state championship, 5-2, over U-32.

 Headline: Don’t Mess With Nest

(Alternative Headline: Games, Sets and Matches)

Story: The United States Golf Association, willing to try anything to avoid the foibles of past few U.S. Opens, brings the event back to old favorite Pebble Beach.

Headline: No Stone Left Unturned

Story: Hartford High’s Abayomi Lowe and Kennedy Mullen both win four events at VPA Division II state track meet, leading their respective teams to third-place finishes.

Headline: The Fourth’s With Them

Story: After claiming Indianapolis 500, driver Simon Pagenaud opts not to take traditional winner’s swig of milk, instead pouring a whole bottle over his head.

Headline: Cleanup on Pit Road

Story: Winter damage to four greens forces organizers of the Vermont Open golf championship to move tournament from Lake Morey Country Club in Fairlee to Woodstock Country Club this week.

Headline: Lift, Clean and Relocate

Story: FIFA comes under criticism for claiming a lack of available tickets for the Women’s World Cup as first-round matches reveal swaths of empty seats across French stadiums.

Headline: Yellow Card for Lying

(Alternative Headline: You’re Missing Something Special)

Story: Lack of progress from injury sends Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia to 60-day injured list, leads to contemplation of retirement.

Headline: In Kneed of Knee

Story: National Football League leaders think 18-game regular-season schedule in exchange for reduced preseason not a completely dead issue, despite past opposition from players.

Headline: CFL Does; Can’t You?

Story: With chance to earn first championship, Toronto Raptors lose NBA Finals game 5 at home to defending champion Golden State Warriors, 106-105.

Headline: Calling 1-800-MAPLELEAFSFOLD

(Updated Story: Raptors claim NBA crown with 114-110 win in Oakland, Calif.)

(Updated Headline: Wisecracks Have Expiration Dates)

Story: With four-set win over Dominic Thiem, Rafael Nadal’s 18th Grand Slam tennis title is his 12th on French Open clay.

Headline: Spaniard Owns Dirty Dozen

(Alternative Headline: Stole That From AP)

Story: Accustomed to grass surfaces, Red Sox and Yankees will play games in London later this month on artificial turf field.

Headline: Brexit Joke Here, Anyone?

Story: Sportswriter’s lame attempt at witty column is getting too long, new newsroom editor says.

Headline: Curses! I’m Foiled Again!

Greg Fennell can be reached, muttering at his keyboard, at or 603-727-3226.

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