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Football column/feature

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by ccraker, Sep 22, 2007.

  1. ccraker

    ccraker Guest

    Any feedback would be appreciated. I struggle with columns and tend to make them into feature stories, rather than true columns. So any advice would be appreciated.

    Edit: You are right Ty, this is more of a feature. Could the workshoppers please critique it like a feature? Thanks.

    William Moss might be crazy.

    Or he might be noble.

    Most certainly he is unique for moving from the Metroplex to Valentine to coach a sport about which he knows nothing.

    The former police officer of 20 years moved to the small town in Jeff Davis County on a whim and a prayer and has helped revive a left-for-dead football program.

    The Valentine Independent School District hired Moss to restart a six-man football program at the school that last played a game in 1966.

    Moss had been trying to move to a six-man West Texas football school for the past four years, but he could never find a perfect fit.

    Until last summer.

    He went to Fort Worth for the Texas High School Coaches Association’s coaching school and found an ad for a job in Valentine.

    Moss — and only Moss — applied for the job and was accepted at the school.

    The big-city guy with a country twang moved to Valentine for the football — and for the roping and cowboy lifestyle.

    “It is my kind of country,” he said. “I have a bunch of horses, and I love to rope. They’ve got four roping arenas and are building another. There are only 217 people in this town, and we have a roping arena on every corner.”

    Now, he has the task of fielding a football team in the tiny town with a tiny roster.

    “I’ve been praying for something like this ever since I’ve been in coaching,” he said. “I didn’t know nothing about six-man. Now that I am here, I love it. I wouldn’t go back to coaching 11-man for nothing.”

    Coaching at Class 4A and 5A schools did not prepare him for the six-man game.

    Moss was an assistant at Dallas Skyline High (4,593 enrollment), Katy High (2,789) and Pasadena High (2,560) before moving to Valentine, which had an enrollment of 15 at the time of the last UIL realignment in 2006.

    “I have always been an assistant and had lots of other assistants take up the slack for each other,” Moss said. “Out here is like sunup to sundown. It is killing me. It is like farming. You go to school all day and you are still on the farm afterward. I am loving it. It is different.”

    Now, he is trying to harvest some talent from a roster that features nine players in high school and five players in junior high.

    Valentine already is down to eight players after one suffered a broken leg in a scrimmage last week against the Fort Davis JV team.

    Valentine will play its first official game at noon MDT Saturday at El Paso Immanuel Christian. The Pirates have scheduled four games this season but hopes to play a full outlaw schedule next season.

    Despite the small numbers, the long hours and the low pay, Moss and the rest of the ranching community are excited.

    “It is like Super Bowl Sunday every game,” Moss said while laughing. “The reason I laugh is the stands were full of people. Everyone in town was there when we played Fort Davis. It was a hoot. It was great.”

    History Lesson
    >> Valentine has not played a football game since 1966. It is one of three Texas schools that has gone nearly 40 years without fielding a team.
    >> Prairie Lea played in 1957 and then didn’t return until 2002.
    >> Penelope also went nearly 40 years without a team, said six-man football historian Granger Huntress.

    How ‘bout a game
    >> The Valentine Pirates are looking for a JV game for 2 p.m. Oct. 13 for homecoming. Interested schools can call coach William Moss at (432) 467-2671.
  2. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    Re: Football column

    This definitely reads more like a feature story than a column to me and for one very simple reason: there is no opinion in it.

    Columns are written to express the writer's opinion on a particular topic. You do a good job of telling Moss' story, but offer nothing of your own to it. I'm not sure there is any opinion you can express on this topic, but that is what stuck out to me.

    I would turn this into a longer feature and write a column on something that lends itself to expressing your opinion.
  3. verbalkint

    verbalkint Member

    Re: Football column

    This is not a bad start. I don't know how much time you have until deadline, but here are my suggestions.

    - I think you could rework the beginning. While I don't hate what you've done, I think that with some more reporting, you could try to answer the question of whether he's crazy or noble. (Ask him, "Do you think you're crazy, or noble?") Then I think you can take his quote, and your "whim and a prayer" graph, and maybe use them for an ending.

    Instead I think you could start with a moment and report the hell out of it to bring the reader in. Maybe it's him seeing the ad for a coaching job. Maybe him learning how exactly football is played with six people. There may even be something funny in that he was the only one who applied for the job.

    -This column reads a bit like a straight feature. That's fine if that's how you want to go about it, but you can also inject a bit of color. Take a paragraph and describe what this guy looks like, how he dresses, how he keeps his hair/mustache (I just KNOW he has a mustache), how he talks... something that stands out.

    - I like the roping stuff, and I think you could go further with it. How much of his day goes to that? Did he grow up with horses? What is it that he really likes about it?

    Also, I love the graph of his quotes: "It is killing me. I love it." I think that tells a lot about his character - try to either ask directly or report where he got that mindset. Most people follow "It's killing me," with "I'm going to quit."

    (On a side note, was he really using all of those "is"s, like "It is killing me. It is like farming." He seems like someone who would say "it's" more often. If he uses contractions, keep them in the quotes. Helps outline his character.)

    - One style note: you're using a lot of one sentence paragraphs. For me, it's a bit much, and it reads choppy. Use them sparingly, and they'll be more effective.

    - My last thought would be that no one does 20 years as a cop - especially in a metro area - without 2,000 stories. Ask him for one or two that stand out. Then, if you have a minute, call his old department and ask to speak to someone who worked with him. That'd be another good way to get an idea of what this guy's really like. (Maybe something ties in with the "crazy or noble" theme.)

    Anyway, it's good. I just hope you have a couple days to flesh it out and take it deeper. Good luck.
  4. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest


    Thanks, as always, for posting your work with us.

    Couple of quick thoughts this morning:

    - Not nuts about "whim and a prayer." Too punny, draws attention to itself, and doesn't make much sense when you pause to consider it.

    - As I always do, I'm going to ask you this: What does this fella look like? There's no physical description of him at all, and there's plenty of room for one. Also, based on his quotes, he sounds like a hoot - big smile, big personality, etc. When writing features, even short ones, you've got to find ways to convey the subject's personality - and character - through descriptions of their actions. Is he a loud talker? Does he laugh every time he says something? That kind of thing.

    - You never really resolve the issue you pose at the top of the piece: crazy or noble?

    - Which leads to my next point, which is this: The piece doesn't really have an ending.

    - The solution to which is elegance itself: If you ask a question, or pose a riddle, at the beginning of a short feature, answer it at the end of the story. Two birds with one stone.

    Thanks again for sharing your work with us. Hope this finds you well.
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