Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Monday, January 26, 2009
Weak media in the NFL's media week

By Jeff MacGregor
Page 2

To honor XLIII years of frenzied tradition, when more gets written about less than at any other time of the NFL season, I'm introducing these Do-It-Yourself All-Purpose Super Bowl Media Week Player Profile Templates®. These handy blueprints can make life easier for writers, columnists, bloggers, Twitterers, Tumblrs, hacks, flaks, readers, users, fan board posters and content providers of every kind! Save time! Save money! Build profiles of your favorite Super Bowl players right in your own home! Earn additional income! E-Z fun, for ages 10 and up!

Super Bowl Media Center
You won't need the media center this week ... just our handy-dandy do-it-yourself tips.

We begin with The Biggest Secret in Sports Writing™:

1. An Inconvenient (and Unremarkable) Truth

At the core of every athlete profile ever written there is a simple hidden truth: we are all the same. Every one of us shares about 98 percent of the experience, the same blessing and burden, of being human. Strictly speaking however, this is not interesting. It won't sell many newspapers, nor will it generate many page views. And your story will be really, really short.

(Player's name) is just like you, the reader, in most ways. He is unlike you in a handful of others. After all, he is a well-evolved carbon-based life form. Just like you. So he is a catalog of joy, sorrow, hunger, fear, courage, love, thirst, lust, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Just like you. But right now the player is also young and famous and rich and fast and strong. Statistically at least, you're unlikely to be more than one of those things right now.

He grew up somewhere. Maybe it was like the place you grew up. Maybe not. But probably it was. His experiences were a little different. Unless they were the same. Like you, he faced challenges. Some of these he rose to meet; some of these he failed. Good things happened. Bad things happened. Sometimes nothing happened. Maybe someone got sick. Maybe someone got married. Maybe someone got a high groin pull. Maybe someone told a joke once in a tight spot in a big game. Still, there was always the music. And his mother's cooking. Or not. He laughed. He cried. But he was probably always pretty fast, always pretty strong. Otherwise you wouldn't be reading about him.

So he is human. Just like you. He works hard, just like you. He owns a much bigger, better flatscreen, sure. His house is probably nicer. Certainly a better car. More fast-twitch muscle mass. But he is no more interesting than you are. Likely less so because he concentrated his life on getting better at just one thing. But here we are. He is young and famous and rich and fast and strong.

See? So we're going to need to punch things up by emphasizing that 2 percent difference.

2. The Straight Newspaper Player Profile

With newspapers struggling these days, space is at a premium, even for Super Bowl features like these. About 850 words is all we'll have room for. So save the color and sentiment for the top and the bottom of your story. Based on the player's circumstance, first decide if your profile is going to be happy or sad. Suggested happy/sad variations follow.

Birds sing/Sirens wail in the distance. A fat sun/landlady looks down on the lane/alley from the blue sky/fire escape above. A girl in a crisp pinafore/tatters chases a ball/rat with a stick, her friends laughing gaily/all alone. This is small/big town/city America. And for (name of player), (name of town/city) is home.

Times are easy/hard now, but it wasn't always that way.

Insert quote from high school coach or parent here, something along the lines of:

"As bad as things were, he was always fast and strong."

or

"As good as he had it, he still worked hard to be fast and strong."

Now insert 700 words that recap his 2008 NFL regular season, and which explain how helpful his being fast and strong was in getting his team to the Super Bowl. Be sure to back up your explanation with evidence and lots of statistics!

Then insert a second quote from a coach/parent here to reinforce the earlier point:

"This weekend the Steelers/Cardinals are going to find out how fast and strong he is, too."

Finish with a quick brushstroke of color.

That little girl is gone now and the lane/alley is empty. She is home safe and warm, eating cookies in her family's kitchen/has been kidnapped and sold to pirates. As the sun sets/darkness falls like the trapdoor of a gallows on this place, (name of player) is happy/sad to be reminded how little has changed/just how far he's come.

For more on this story, please visit our Web site.

(This directs the reader to the blog where your boss now insists you post the things from your notebook you couldn't get confirmed by more than one source.)

3. The Columnist Player Profile

Being a columnist online or in print is all about having an opinion and getting noticed. So write your profile as in No. 2 above -- but instead of 700 words in the middle backed up by statistics on how much the player has helped his team, you need to insist that the player is a blight on the league and must never be allowed to play again. Back this up with your "gut feeling." Or insist that he is the greatest player at that position who ever lived. Back this up with your "own two eyes." Doesn't matter which. Better still, wait to see what everyone else is writing, then write the opposite. You're a flamethrower! And don't forget to mock the Super Bowl host city!

4. The Glossy Magazine Profile

Begin and end as in Nos. 2 and 3 above.

In the middle though, rather than 700 words on the playing of football, we'll be looking for 7,000 words on One Man's Adventure in the Universe and What It All Means©. To get you started, here are some of the component parts and key phrases you'll need. Assemble them like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. A blank, 7,200-piece jigsaw puzzle. Mix and match! Fun!

Big themes
Loss
Redemption

Lesser themes
Fast
Strong

Hidden themes
Contract year
Shoe deal upgrade

Hometown/childhood comparisons
... like something out of Steinbeck
... like something out of Hurston
... like something out of "Hoosiers"
... like something out of "Max Payne"

Family dynamic
Father absent
Mother sick
Father drunk
Mother absent
Father sick
Mother drunk
Sister sick
Brother drunk
Father sick/mother drunk
Mother sick/father absent
Mother absent/father drunk/brother sick
Father absent/sister sick/mother drunk
Mother, father absent/brother, sister drunk
Mother/sister/brother sick of absent, drunk father
Brother father (priest)/sister sister (nun)
Father/mother/sister/brother all doing well, thank you
Orphan

Key phrases
"Like a kid with his hair on fire."
"Like a cloud in trousers."
"As red as a rich man's barn."
"As tough as a $2 steak."

Key moments
Childhood barbershop mishap
Offseason job at Golden Corral

Popular culture
Young Jeezy/Faith Hill
iPhone/BlackBerry Storm
Escalade Hybrid/Ford F450

Who's to blame
The System
Society
McNabb

Note: To make deadline, you should have started writing this last August.

5. The Sports Blog Profile

• Generic cheerleader photo goes here

We've always liked this guy. Seriously. (Player name) is one of our favorites.

Two year-old player mughsot for DUI goes here, next to unlicensed AP photo of player making great catch/tackle/throw from the conference championship game.

But let's hope playa's yards-after-catch average/sack total/completion percentage is higher in Tampa than his blood alcohol level. Seriously.

Links to TMZ, The Smoking Gun, Fleshbot go here

• Jessica Alba's Caribbean vacation photo goes here

6. Message Board Profile Post

WTF? Dude sucks. Fail troll is fail.

7. Tumblr

Log Quote: "Life is a comedy to those who think, and a tragedy to those who feel."
Log Link: Unicorndrawingswithbigfatrainbows.net
Log Snapshot: Trip to Yellowstone. The one where you're wearing that funny Peruvian hat.
Log Text: Ravi and I are going to miss the game this weekend. We just got a new shipment of willow in from upstate and these baskets aren't going to plait themselves. LOL.

8. Twitter feed

Dude can ball. I'm gettin my sammich on. Ham. Later.

You TV and radio folks are on your own.

Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. You can e-mail him here.