Writer's block

Warpath
Posted Sep 20, 2005


It was the win of the century. Which tells you how dry this century has been for the Redskins. And there's little doubt for me: in 12 years covering this team, if this isn't the most memorable win, it's in the top two. I can't think of the other one right now. After three hours of sleep, the first word that came to my mind after a 5:30 a.m. wakeup call (OK, it was the second; an expletive came first) was, ''Unbelievable.''

Endings like this give everyone an adrenaline rush, including the writers. The writers I've been around did not get into sportswriting because they wanted to report on a players DUI. They got into them because, as a kid, they had a passion for sports. Because of games that left them with incredible memories. Like last night.

But it will also be memorable because of what a writer must go through during a Monday night game. Does anyone care' Who knows.

First off, deadlines are a bear because of these games. For me, I had to send a grade box and notes to the Examiner by 11:45 ET. The game story had to be in at 12:10. OK, I said. No problem. But what if the game is too close to call' Don't worry, they told me.

So I turned in the grades, which had F's for both quarterback Mark Brunell and the offensive line. There was a D for the overall grade and a shot at Joe Gibbs and his offense.

Then came the first touchdown.

Get me rewrite.

I turned to a writer and said, ''They can't possibly do this, can they'''

The first touchdown came around midnight and I immediately sent in a new grade for the quarterback, raising him to a D and tweaking some other comments about turning points, etc. All the while I'm polishing my game story, which was written based off a Dallas win. At 13-0, that appeared to be a safe angle.

For a few minutes it didn't appear I'd need to change much else. The Cowboys picked up a first down and then got another inside the Washington 40. Except Flozell Adams was called for a penalty, wiping out the second one. Washington had new life.

And I started to worry about my deadlines and getting my stories in. I'm all for a dramatic finish, but I also know the later it goes, the fewer papers my story gets into.

By now, I started to redo parts of my game story, knowing things could change.

And then came the 70-yard bomb. Which were followed by expletives up and down the press box. It's not that anyone wanted to see Washington win or lose. Reporters don't root, or at least those who are professional aren't supposed to. But now it wasn't just parts of stories that needed to be rewritten, it was entire stories. Editors had to be called several times.

So I hammered away, changing the lead, altering paragraphs to reflect a Redskins win. Then I changed the grades, bumping Brunell to a C+ and altering comments in the grade box. And I changed the wording of the notes. Funny, I have to write something under a header called Difference Maker. I already had Mark Brunell in there, but for the wrong reasons. So I re-worded that.

Just in time for the ensuing kickoff and more panic. And more expletives. Who the heck would win this game' And would anyone read about it the next day'

Now, with major portions of rewriting being done I had to worry about another score, which would change the tone of the story again. Also, some grades would need to change as well.

But, thanks to the Redskins' defense, I could exhale after only four more plays.

I've never watched an ending quite like that one. I've never endured 20 minutes like that as a writer. It's an ending you always want to see; it's not an experience I want to repeat.



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 -by DCProFootball.com  Sep 20, 2005
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 -by DCProFootball.com  Sep 14, 2005
Brunell: It's Time to Get Things Going
 -by DCProFootball.com  Sep 13, 2005


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