I’m aware that the football news business is a tough game (says the guy who spent quality “writing time” scouring the Internet for the Balotelli press conference video as soon as he read about it on that bastion of long-form journalism called Twitter), but there should at least be a modicum of respect for things like ‘meaning’ and ‘expression’ even though football is a silly sport played and watched by children.

Having read far, far too many stories of this ilk, you begin to see a pattern. Sky Sports today offers a classic example of the genre. This trick deserves a clever name, and I don’t have one as of yet (do you? Let me know below IN THE COMMENTS). A player makes a comment so banal, so meaningless, it causes the reader pain. It feels like a waste of time even though cognition is phenomenally-speaking instantaneous. So the copy editor decides to sex things up in the headline.

Often the link between the headline and the player quotes themselves are exaggerated for effect, within the basic acceptable boundaries of “truthiness” in sports reporting. Sometimes though, there is no link at all as in the case of Sky Sports’ report on Michael Owen’s fitness.

The headline: Owen – I can fire Utd to title.

Noobs might mistake this for a player quote, but you will notice the sly use of a meaningless hyphen. This is the new make spirit distilled from the player quote wort (that’s a whisky joke for you refined drunks).

Compare to Owen’s actual, real live words:

“What I have got to do now is focus on trying to get back fit and sharp and you never know what is going to happen.

“If I can get myself back fit and available, that has got to be my aim just in case I am required.”

So SSN has gone from Owen’s perfectly redundant claim that “You never know what could happen” to “I will fire United to the title”, in presumably Ole Gunnar Solskjær-like fashion. And just watch as the clicks roll in…

Comments (10)

  1. To kick off the search for a technical term, how about “lying”?

  2. That headline was so amazing I actually stopped reading this post to go that website. Breathtaking. I only returned after accidentally clicking the “back” button on my browser.

  3. Nothing to worry about, exaggerating is the emblem of journalism. I am from China. This phenomena are more of a epidemic in China. People are used to it. I just click the news I care, no matter how catchy the title is.

    Ready to head to Syracuse Newhouse to have my journalism graduate study this summer. Great write up Richard.

  4. Whithall – I Should Write For Sky Sports News

  5. What’s with those sports bras you see teams wearing in training?

    • Owen definitely looks flatter than a surfboard. Unless his pecs get better, he’s going to sip further behind Rooney-Wellbeck-Chicharito-Berbatov

  6. the highlight of that useless sky sport article are the user comments completely trashing micheal owen.

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