Chapter 54: Writing about sport

This is the second of three chapters on the coverage of sport. In the previous chapter, we looked at how to plan for good sports coverage in your newspaper, radio or television station and how to gather information. In this chapter we discuss how to present sports news and results. In the third chapter we examine the challenges of different media.

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In Chapter 53 we listed the areas which need to be included in the content of sports pages. Let us now consider each one in turn, and think about how to gather and present the information in the best way for the reader or listener.

Results

You will receive the results from the correspondents you have organised, and from your own sports reporters.

As we have already noted, for minor sporting events it may be sufficient just to publish or broadcast the result.

With a couple of paragraphs of report on top, the results of a local basketball league could look like this:

League leaders Club Sportif scored a century of points against village side Tanolu in this week's Efate Basketball League matches.

Masel Manua's personal tally was 38 points, his best ever for the club.

RESULTS: Club Sportif 104 Tanolu 38, Montmatre 73 Eton 56, Pang Pang 61 Wesley 58, Brigham Young 82 Mele 54, Ekipe 48 Onesua 46, Emua 66 Erakor 62, Epule v Matarisu result not available.

For more important sporting events, though, there must also be a report. In this case, the result should still be carried, clearly presented at the beginning of the report. On radio, this means announcing the result first, and then having a match report from a correspondent. In a newspaper, it means publishing the result at the top of the report.

Different kinds of sport need their results to be presented in different ways. There are three categories - sports for which a simple score (perhaps with scorers) is enough; sports which require details of many performances; and tournament results.

Simple scores

For many team sports it is enough just to give the basic score at the top of the report. The sports in this category would include soccer, rugby, basketball, volleyball, hockey and netball. The result might be presented like this:

Navua  1      Nadroga  2

Result like this can be added to by including scorers. This can be done if the match is considered to be slightly more important than the average:

NAITASIRI NORTH  12                   RA  6

Tries:                                             Penalties:        
Nakailagi, Vunakece,                       Nacama            
Narawa            
Performance details

A number of sports require detailed results, including performances by a number of individuals. This includes team sports where the team performance is the total  of the  individual performances - like cricket or baseball; team sports where the team performance is the total of a number of groups' performances, like lawn bowls; and sports where a large number of individuals compete against each other in a series of events, like athletics (track and field) and swimming. In each case, the results are too long and complex to be carried at the start of the report, and would usually be published at the end of the report or - for a very important game - in a panel beside the report. It is extremely difficult for radio to give results as detailed as these, without boring most of its listeners.

Let us take an example from each of these groups.

For a cricket match, there needs to be a complete score card, including bowling figures:

GORDON First innings

L.Leke c Tomausi b Ching 
Y.Rafa lbw b McIvor
J.Neumann c Oala b Ching
A.Matane b Nula 
R.Kennedy st Tomausi b Oala
P.Samari lbw b Oala
T.Temo lbw b McIvor 
A.Leke b Ching
B.Sibona c Tomausi b Ching
T.Leke not out 
S.Manau b Ching 
Extras (2nb,2w,4b,7lb)
TOTAL 

 

18
62
7
9
34
16
49
8
0
11
0
15
229

Fall of wickets: 1-36, 2-49, 3-68, 4-122, 5-134, 6-154, 7-172, 8-229, 9-229
Bowling: McIvor 14-2-35-2; Ching 17.2-4-47-5; Nula 15-2-44-1; Oala 21-8-39-2; Suk 8-0-53-0.

TOKARARA First innings

W.Helalo not out
S.Pugh b T.Leke
L.Bill c Sibona b T.Leke 
A.Maki c Neumann b Manau 
J.Suk not out
Extras (lb1)
TOTAL (for 3 wkts) 

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-3, 3-14.

 

21
0
1
5
7
1
35

In bowls, a match may consist of several games between groups of people, each called a rink. The score of all the rinks is added together to give the final result. So, you will want to give the team result first, followed by the score of each rink:

Triples: Lae beat Popondetta 136-114.
(Lae scores first) Rink 1 21-15, Rink 2 18-17, Rink 3 19-23, Rink 4 38-18, Rink 5 16-20, Rink 6 24-21).

For an athletics meeting, readers will want a full list of the results of all events, plus the times or distances of each successful athlete.

You will need to decide whether to give just the winner of each event, or the first three, or the first six, or whatever. The first three is a normal number, following the tradition in the Olympic Games, in which the first three each receive a medal:

100m: 1 E.Arakua 11.4sec; 2 J.Keae 11.5; 3 W.Vui 11.7.
200m: 1 P.Maraleu 22.5; 2 R.Lemeki 22.8; 3 D.Marru 23.2.
400m
: 1 I.Popek 50.4; 2 M.Namun 53.7; 3 J.Rombok 53.8.
800m: 1 R.Eava 1m55.7; 2 K.Ng 1m56.1; 3 I.Popek 1m56.2.
1500m
: 1 R.Eava 3m56.4; 2 S.Lessi 3m59.9; 3 H.Manalo 4m00.4.
5000m: 1 R.Dalaweta 14m46.2; 2 J.Umpa 14m54.8; 3 J.Kelau 14m58.1
110m hurdles
: 1 B.Pagal 14.7; 2 W.Takira 14.9; 3 P.Miria 15.5.
High jump
: 1 K.Natera 2.03 metres; 2 R.Rarua 1.99; 3 J.Araua 1.87.
Long jump
: 1 W.Vui 7.34; 2 D.Gukain 7.09; 3 B.Buka 6.98.
Triple jump
: 1 B.Buka 14.97; 2 K.Ogil 14.12; 3 B.Manga 13.94
Shot
: 1 R.Banz 19.11; 2 T.Murphy 18.93; 3 S.Gahuko 18.79.
Discus
: 1 R. Banz 59.26; 2 S. Gahuko 57.87; 3 D.Lavi 57.40.
Javelin
: 1 S.Begri 71.66; 2 T.Spia 71.38; 3 B.Tromwe 70.55.

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Tournaments

Some sports are typically played in a tournament. This can mean a succession of individual matches, after which the loser is eliminated and the winner moves on to the next round to meet another winner; tennis, table tennis, badminton, squash, boxing and fencing are often organised in this kind of tournament. The other kind of tournament is where scores are accumulated over several rounds of competition, like golf.

In either case, the tournament may last for several days. In a weekly newspaper, you may be able to carry the results of the whole tournament in one issue; in a daily newspaper, you will need to carry the latest results each day. Let us look at an example of each kind of tournament, starting with tennis, in which there may be matches of different rounds taking place at the same time:

Men's singles, Round 2: E.Mwesigye bt R.Galama 6-4, 4-6, 6-3; P.Gunning bt J.Ngatia 6-0, 6-1; M.Puyokam bt F.Lee 7-5, 3-6, 8-6; B.Jokio bt F.Fox 6-4, 6-4; E.Thirlwall bt P.Kula 6-1, 6-2.
Round 3: V.Hula bt R.Lobo 2-6, 6-3, 7-5; P.Gunning bt V.K.Singh 7-5, 6-4; E.Thirlwall bt E.Mwesigye 5-7, 7-5, 8-6.
Ladies' singles, Round 1: A.Ho bt V.S.Krishna 4-6, 6-3, 6-3; S.Nausi bt E.Poma 6-2, 6-4; A.Rombuk bt H.Tenanil 6-0, 6-0; N.Srivastava bt V.Ching 6-4, 4-6, 6-4; W.McGrath bt A.Malkoa 6-2, 6-3.

In the results of a golf tournament, it is usual to give the total score first, followed by the score for each round. After three days of a 72-hole tournament, in which 18 holes are played each day, you may publish the scores as follows (note that this is not yet a "result", since the tournament is not yet over: it is called the leader board):

Mazda Classic. Leader board (after 54 holes):
217 M.Somare (72-74-71); 218 K.Mara (73-73-72); 220 K.Chong (71-71-78), R.Diaz (75-74-71), H.Smith (74-73-73); 221 J.P.Dorman (77-72-72), J.Pidik (76-72-73).

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League tables

Arrange for your correspondent to send you a copy of the up-to-date league table with the results. If you have room, you may publish this every week; if not, try to publish it every two or three weeks.

A league table needs to be carefully set out, in columns. It can be in small type, since it does not have to attract the casual reader. A soccer league table might look like this, showing the number of games played (P), games won (W), games drawn (D), goals for (F), goals against (A) and points (Pts):

Suva League: Division One

 

Nausori
Samabula
Lami
Raiwaqa
Vatuwaqa
Walu Bay
Tamavua
Muanikau
Nesese
Namadi

P

8
8
8
7
8
8
7
8
8
8

W

7
7
5
5
4
1
2
2
1
0

D

1
0
2
0
1
4
1
1
0
0

F

19
14
12
20
14
7
6
6
6
2

A

5
7
5
8
13
12
12
14
11
19

Pts

15
14
12
10
9
6
5
5
2
0

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Reports

Whichever sports event you report, you will need to follow the same guidelines.

  • Check the rules and scoring system. The organising body of the sport will probably have a booklet giving the rules; if not, try the public library. Get hold of the rules; read them.

  • Check the significance of the event. A cup final or a title fight is much more important than a contest in which nothing is at stake. The more significant an event, the longer the report should be.

  • If you have to phone copy and don’t have a two-way radio or mobile phone, find a telephone.

  • Find a comfortable place with a good view from which to watch.

  • If you do not know the names of the players, find a printed program (and check for any changes from the printed program) or get someone who does know the names to sit beside you.

  • Watch everything that happens, carefully and dispassionately - you will be too busy to cheer or get excited. Ignore any friends or relatives who try to talk to you during the game. Make notes.

  • Afterwards, get comment from players, coaches or managers - winners and losers.

  • Be sure to mention how the victory was won, important moments, outstanding individual performances, injuries, the size of the crowd and even the weather if it affected the result.

You can now write the report, describing what happened, giving relevant details, and analysing why it happened as it did.

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Analysis and previews

There are two main areas to consider in match previews.

Significance: is a championship at stake? What effect will the result have on the team's or a player's record? Are the contestants old rivals? Is the event specially significant for any participant?

Probable result: what is the relative strength and experience of the teams? How have they performed against the same opposition? Has either improved during the season? Are there new players or have they adopted new tactics? Have they competed against each other before?

Beware! If you predict the result, you will upset the supporters of the team you say will lose. Also, if you are wrong, you look stupid. Do not be eager to predict results. It is better to say that the endless appeal of competitive sport is the uncertainty of the result.

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Sports news

The bigger and more popular a sport or club, the more significance attaches to news stories about it. A club squash player who injures his knee is not news. How the international rugby hooker is responding to treatment for a shoulder injury, five days before a match against Australia, is news.

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Horse racing

A good racing service provides three things - full race cards before meetings; selections of likely winners; and full results.

Race cards

These need to be clearly displayed to provide the following information: time of race; name of race; distance; special category of runners, if any; number of each horse; previous form of each horse; name of each horse; its draw; its jockey; its owner and trainer; the weight it carries; the betting forecast.

Selections

In countries where it is allowed, gambling is an integral part of horse racing, so most people follow the sport in order to bet, and hoping to win. Many newspapers, radio and television stations employ tipsters to forecast winners.

A tipster who can pick winners will attract readers and listeners, especially if he can pick winners at long odds. The racing correspondent needs to study the form of each horse to decide the likely winner - and he will be better placed if he has inside information from owners, trainers and jockeys, too.

Results

These need less space than the race cards, but they also need to be clearly displayed to provide the following information: name of race; distance; winning horse (name and jockey) and its starting price; second horse (name and jockey) and its starting price; third horse (name and jockey) and its starting price; the order in which the rest of the field finished; which horses did not start and which started but did not finish; the distances by which the winner beat the second, and the second beat the third.

Here is an example of horse racing results:

        BRISBANE

1. Athol Mulley 2yo F Hcp 1000m: 1 Swift Minnie (S.Sharman) 6-1, 2 Cameola (W.Moore) 9-2, 3 Prospect for Love (M.Maloney) 7-4fav, 4 Tensity Lad, 5 Lovero, 6 Le Sador, 7 Kaleidoscope. Did not run: Black Chariot. Dist: 1l, short head.

2. George Moore 2yo F Hcp 1000m: 1 Volatile Lass (W.Goodwin) 7-1, 2 Celebes Sea (W.Moore) 5-1, 3 Aureal Lass (N.Smith) 5-2fav, 4 Star Lero, 5 Vice View, 6 Red Marne, 7 Fearless Courage, 8 Demcab, 9 Missouri Burning. Pulled up: Quality Beau. Dist: 3l, 2l.

3. Roy Higgins Mdn Hcp 1350m: 1 Laird of Luss (W.Goodwin) 25-1, 2 Logic Link (R.Setches) 8-11fav, 3 Tambo Lady (C.Barham) 9-2, 4 Willacross, 5 Topak, 6 Jask, 7 Famocham, 8 Sweet Arthur, 9 Mighty Mustafa, 10 Godsarc, 11 Tin Chips, 12 Renewed Ambition. All ran. Dist: neck, 2l.

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TO SUMMARISE:

Give the results clearly

Show how the latest results affect the competition, e.g. with league tables

Report on matches and tournaments as you would news events, with preparation, attention to detail and objectivity

Provide match analysis and previews, but beware of predicting outcomes!

This is the end of the second part of this three-part section on news pictures. If you now want to read on, follow this link to the third section, Chapter 55: Sport in different media

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Index to Chapter 54
  1. Results
  2. Tournaments
  3. League tables
  4. Reports
  5. Analysis and previews
  6. Sports news
  7. Horse racing
  8. To summarise
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