until Texas vs Kansas

Wednesday, November 2


Writing 101

We don’t do this very often at ATL, but this article is just so irritating that we can’t resist. There are plenty of blogs out there that terrorize journalists’ every word and sentence, and while we don’t jump in that fray too often, this time it’s warranted. Yesterday I came across this article by Michael Corcoran of the Austin-American Statesman. And it’s absolutely brutal. Perhaps the worst column I’ve ever read, in fact.

The worst part of it is the literally countless analogies and similes the guy tosses out there, most of them truly miserable. A few examples:

“Huddled around a second-floor TV like seals around the bucket at feeding time.” (You're trying too hard!)

“A holding penalty turned a Billy Pittman score into a David Pino field goal faster than Divine Brown lowered Hugh Grant’s stud status.” (Are you serious?!?)

“Being down 28-12 against OSU is like being up two touchdowns against another rteam. They give up bigger leads than Tom Cruise passing on Titanic.” (No. You. Didn't. Wow.)

“Going for a VY pump fake when he’s rolling out is like buying Love You Long Time” (Stop, Michael, stop!)

“Nice-guy Brown and the cocky flashpot Young go together like Mack and cheese.” (Ew...)

Bear in mind that he gets all these in to an 800 word column. By the end of it, you’re pretty sure you just read Dennis Miller’s 9th grade sports journalism assignment. There is a time and a place for dropping in clever little similes and analogies, but that’s what Corcoran doesn’t get—that there needs to be timing. He just tries to think of as many as he can. It’s hard enough to pull off a Dennis Miller style piece in the first place, and even Miller falls flat on his face from time to time. The lesson: pick your spots.

It’s not just the brutal analogies, either. Corcoran further hacks the column up by changing everybody’s name a hundred times, into whatever stupid pun he can think of.

Donovan Woods of Oklahoma State, who caught the deflected TD pass, is changed to “DeFlecto Woods”

He refers to Oklahoma State as “Choke State” and “The Stillwaterboys”

Vince Young is referred to as, gulp, “SecretariYoung” and “El VinYo” (He should be fired for both of those.)

Seriously, if you’re reading this and have any occasion to write—especially if you’re a blogger—please take a moment and read this guy’s column. It’s full of horrific clichés and is painfully over-written, and it provides a great lesson in the dangers of trying to be too clever.

Let me conclude by noting that there are plenty of truly wonderful writers out there that know how to do this stuff. Looking for some humorous witticisms and off-beat references? Check out
EDSBS—they do it right. Want to learn how to appropriately time your clever references? Check out the MGoBlog—Brian knows when to be funny and when to just give information. Trying to learn how to be both funny and concise? Nobody does it better than Warren at RJYH.

We don’t profess to be the best writers on the face of the earth here at ATL, but please, please, please: if you ever catch us writing something this painful to read, tell us. And maul it. Viciously. Thanks.


I think it must have been "Simile and Metaphor" day at his ACC class.
Boy you pounded him like Ron artest to a Detroit fan.
Take anything this guy says lightly, he's a complete idiot as you can already tell. I really can't understand why they let him write, he hates everything, kinda like Mikey! (couldn't resist)
It never ceases to amaze me that Corcoran still gets a check from AAS after all these years. Several years ago I swore I would never read another of his hack articles again, and it looks like I did the right thing.
AAS has long been one of the worst newspapers around, with one of the worst sports staffs around. It's the SAME cast of characters from when I was growing up 15 years ago. Bohls, Haliburton, Riggs, Cantu, Corcoran - they all sucked then, and they certainly haven't improved. The very fact that they're STILL there 15 years later is testament to the paper's indifference toward improvement. They are the worst kinds of journalists; content to sit at a dumpy paper pumping out dumpy content.

With all the information available to people on the web, it's a wonder anyone subscribes to the paper at all. The death of the Statesman can't come soon enough. Proof positive that we need legalized euthanasia. Somebody, please, put them out of their misery.

"When it looked like UT would get that TD back on the next drive, a holding penalty turned a Billy Pittman score into a David Pino field goal faster than Divine Brown lowered Hugh Grant's stud status. (oops, should've checked the expiration date on that reference: "Do not use after July '98.")"

I mean, aren't there laws against writing something like that? Just dreadful.
I first noticed earlier this year that Corcoran was covering sports. I thought it must be a mistake so I checked back a few times. I even tried to read a few of his football articles. Bean found a partiularly bad one, but the rest are nearly as terrible. Bohls is bad but at least he makes valid points sometimes.
Corcoran should go back to mining high school talent with "Da Bomb Squad".
It could be worse--they could have John Kelso writing sports. He would regale us with knee-slapping yarns about South Austinites doing funny things like drinking beer and yelling at the TV during football games. Though the article posted did completely suck, Corcoran is at least capable of decent writing (he's had long-form music journalism pieces included in the past two years' "Best American Music Writing" anthologies), which is better than most at the AAS. (It says something about your paper when your most accomplished journalist is your political cartoonist.) Unfortunately it looks like Bohls taught Corky to write using the hack sportswriter Golden Ratio: 3 irrelevant pop-culture metaphors for every 1 observation about sports.
Wow...I mean...wow. You know, sometimes I wonder whether or not I should drop out of law school and pursue writing, because it's something I'm far better at. And then I see ass clowns getting paid to write stuff like this. It's hopeless. I'm about as disillusioned as a goth kid buying "Cypress Hill III: The Temples Of Boom," only to find out is skips during "Illusions"! That's the spirit!
Thanks for the kind words. Our question is: in an age of blogs, why have a sports columnist at all? Wouldn't hacking his salary and allowing free, unsolicited content that was edited down to a single column be more interesting than asking for one person to crank out the same shit over and over again? Hell, without the editing, most of the things that land in an ombudsman's inbox carry more weight and intellect than anything Skip Bayless has ever written.
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