Writing in a New Year Brendan McManus So it begins. The votes have been counted. All bribes have been accepted. The results are in; Phillipian Board CXXVII is here. Thanks to a few well-timed compliments, numerous large sums of money, and plenty of temporary insanity, I stand here before you a small piece of that new puzzle, the second I on 127 years of Roman numerals, one of three humble sports editors. I guess they thought I’d be useful for a few late-night McDonald’s runs, or maybe even sushi if I’m lucky. They tell me they’ll let me write once in a while if I get all the orders right three weeks in a row, or if nobody else wants to. That’s what happened this week at least. And since I can’t remember McDonald’s meals or even pronounce sushi orders for the life of me, this is probably the only chance I’ve got. I guess it better be good. If The Phillipian is a newspaper, and a newspaper is all about writing, I guess, as a member of the board, I’m supposed to know something about writing. Well, not just any writing, sports writing. It would make sense after they threw me in the sports section, anyway. Luckily they didn’t put me in Commentary or Features, because then I’d really be lost. Sports, on the other hand, aren’t so bad. I mean, I know a few things here and there. I know who Michael Jordan is. I know the Red Sox are from Boston. Hey, I’ve even thrown a ball around a few times. How hard can it be? Sports writing can be easy. Hey, if you play your cards right, it could even be fun. But, like everything around here, there are rules. The Reilly Rules, to be exact. The Ten Commandments of sports writing. The Rules were born from hallowed New York columnist and Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly in the introduction to The Best American Sports Writing of 2002, and shamefully plundered by me, a scribbler of sport for some preppy high school newspaper who thought it was the coolest thing in the world. These are the rules I plan to follow in the one year I have to write in The Phillipian, and hope all CXXVII and beyond will do the same. I might as well give them to you as they were presented to me. You’re much more likely to listen to a pro than to some kid. His words will also make you smile a lot more, too. And one more thing: remember, rules are rules. They’re made by someone else, open to the occasional bend and loophole, and entirely dependent upon your choice to follow. It’s up to you. Enjoy. The Reilly Rules of Sports Writing by Rick Reilly, complete with brief explanations in his own words: 1 Never write a sentence you’ve already read Why write: “He beat the crap out of the guy” when it’s so much more fun to write: “He turned the guy into six feet of lumps”? 2. Get ‘em in the tent Murray used to say, “They’ll never see the circus if you can’t get ‘em in the tent.” 3. Say what you think What good is it to quote five people saying Bubba is fast when you can say it by yourself with just, ”Bubba is faster than rent money”? 4. It sucks before you start Unless you’re Dave Barry or Dan Jenkins or David Copperfield, you’re not going to make Pulitzers out of puke. 5. The interview never ends Follow him out. Watch him drive off. You never know what might happen. 6. Forget cereal boxes More often than not, the best dramas, the funniest scenes, most interesting characters, are places we forgot to go. 7. Death to overwriting! Don’t. Just…don’t. 8. Adjectives and adverbs sorta suck, really If I can avoid writing an adjective, I will…And don’t even talk to me about adverbs. I hate adverbs. 9. Look around, stupid Not to be insulting, but sometimes the best stuff is right in front of us. The only trick is seeing it. 10. Ignore all rules After all, you probably have real talent and will end up making Hemingway look like a guy who writes owner’s manuals for Japanese televisions and will show up someday and take my job. – Rick Reilly Not bad, right? One more thing: if a sinful peasant is allowed to add onto the Ten Commandments of sports writing, I’d like to add an 11th. This is what I told the Phillipian people at least, and that worked miracles. Maybe it will do the same for you. My rule: be passionate. Be passionate about what you write, whether its features, commentary, sports, black-eyed peas, African iguanas, whatever. If you don’t really care about what you’re writing about, it sucks. It just sucks. It’s one thing if you don’t capture the reader’s attention and your work gets tossed aside, but if it actually spears your eyes and cranks your brain to take in your words, there’s a problem. Some guys will give you the bare facts and use perfect, thrice-checked grammar. No personality. No flavor. Nothing. I’m not saying everyone should make up stories and add their own two cents every other line, but come on; this isn’t English class. You can’t honestly tell me you would read your classmate’s English paper in your spare time, so why write like it? If sports are about passion, personality and whatever that exciting feeling is when you don’t know what to expect, the writing should be the same. That’s all I got. Hey, if you would, call me out if I ever stray from one of these rules. It’ll be a favor to both of us. I wouldn’t want to read that garbage either. Maybe someday I’ll have my own guidelines, the McManus Rules of Sports Writing, for some kid down the road. Maybe he’ll look at them and say, “That is the coolest thing I have ever read.” But until then, Upper Management wants a big sushi order– pronto. I’ll do my best to remember it. If I do, maybe they’ll let me write again. Maybe.
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