1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

For review ...

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by Rockbottom, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. Rockbottom

    Rockbottom Active Member

    But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel, 16:7, The Bible, King James Version
    – – –
    It is a blip of a town, really. A hiccup with one blinking-yellow light, we are told, just a tap of the brakes before moving along.
    There is nothing special here. Nothing unique. It is one of a million tiny towns that make up the fabric of a state, a region, a nation.
    But wait, there might be something here after all, something special. Yes, a couple miles before the blinking light on dusty State Road 10 in Marengo County – where simple dreams and long-forgotten sharecropping strands outnumber the meager, dwindling population – there is a sign.
    The sign is remarkable, of course, because it signals perhaps the one and only thing the folks of Sweet Water – population 234 – are exceptional at.
    It reads, simply, this: Sweet Water High School, Class 1A state football champions, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1986, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008.

    Victory Field

    Carved out of the side of a healthy stand of century-old pine and oak trees is a 120-yard swath of green Bermuda grass, the canvas that makes Sweet Water stand out from the rest of the towns in Alabama.
    Offically Nolan Atkins Stadium at Victory Field, this is Sweet Water’s home turf. It is an intimate stadium, with four light standards that have just enough bulbs to make night games visible and purple-and-gold pawprints marking the corner of each end zone.
    What happens here on Friday nights, though, is the real magic. This is where Stacy Luker gathers a few handfuls of teenage boys culled from the surrounding farming and milling families to create a yearly high school football dominance few have seen.\
    The numbers are staggering: Eight state titles, 19 region crowns, and a recent 38-game winning streak that was broken only when three-time 2A champ Leroy came here and clipped Sweet Water by a touchdown. That all from a high school with just 118 students.
    “ ,” says Luker, who has guided the Bulldogs to four of those eight Class 1A state championships.
    While in many respects Victory Field is similar to just about every small-town high school football stadium in the state, it does have some things that make it stand out from the crowd.
    Among them, “The Bulldog Victory Store”, a small metal building in the southeast corner that stocks all manner of Sweet Water-wear. Naturally, last Friday’s 2009 season opener against nearby rival Thomasville, business was booming at the Victory Store – helped no doubt by the new arrival of 2008 State Championship T-shirts, coaching shirts, clocks, bumper stickers and assorted commemorative items.
    It comes as little surprise that business was strong at the Victory Store, even as the sun still splashed across the groomed turf a full two hours before kickoff. Despite a miniscule population, Victory Field was already swarming with fans awaiting the 7 p.m. kickoff.

    Come early, come every night

    Part of Sweet Water’s unique charm is that the bleachers at Nolan Atkins Stadium are just one option – and not even the most popular – to watch the Bulldogs spank their opponents with regularity.
    The chain-link fence that surrounds Victory Field itself is an even more popular destination, so much so that fans cling three- and four-deep to it once kickoff is at hand.
    But not everyone is leaning against the fence itself. In the northwest corner, a couple yards from the scoreboard (which recently needed a second row of signage underneath to accommodate the 2008 state title), sits Leigh Thompson and her family in collapsible chair.
    The 1987 Sweet Water graduate hasn’t been here since the stadium opened at 5 p.m., instead dispatching her daughter, a junior at the school, to sit out the family’s chairs in their usual place minutes after the gates were unlocked.
    We have sat in the end zone here for the past five years, and I have been coming to games since before I started high school,” says Thompson while the Bulldogs’ special-teamers warm up on the turf, wearing undershirts that say ‘Full Throttle 1 SAM 16:7’ on the front and have a simple Bull’s-eye with a ‘4’ in the middle on the back.
    “I reckon the entire town is here with me every Friday night.”
    She isn’t kidding. Most every Sweet Water business shutters as home kickoffs approach, with just the GoCo open down State Road 10 in case travelers not interested in Bulldog football need to fill up.
    Thompson is decked out for the season opener, much like the rest of the Sweet Water fans, in the latest yellow-with-purple-script championship T-shirt, saying “I have four more of them from the past, including one from when I was in school, that get worn during the week.”
    Asked the secret of Sweet Water football, Thompson is quick to answer.
    “Coaching, because Coach Atkins was great, and Coach Luker played under him,” she says. “Those years in between, notice, we weren’t so good. Stacy’s dad is a deacon at our church, and his mom plays the piano. We were happy when he came back (after a five-year stint coaching at Thomasville). He was just OK when he was over there.”
    Thompson’s history at Victory Field mirrors many of the kids nearby who are engaged in spirited pickup touch-football games.
    “Momma, who is 77, was the lunchroom manager at the school and fed the boys each Friday,” Thompson says with a smile. “She would get them good and filled up before each game, and then we would come down as a family to watch them play.”

    Protect the tradition

    The Sweet Water tradition is a powerful one, no doubt. It is one that has certainly won the Bulldogs a couple games merely by blinding teams of better talent by the array of success strewn before them.
    The tradition eminates from the press box, where Jimbo and Amy Ward are preparing to broadcast the 2009 season opener over their 100,000-watt radio station and live on the internet even though, as Jimbo says, “most everyone listening is here anyway.”
    Jimbo is also regaling his fellow press-box workers that the Bulldogs are a staggering 41-2 when he wears his current Sweet Water coaches shirt/khaki shorts combination.
    The tradition eminates from the Sweet Water Volunteer Fire Department, a collection of 20 line personnel and chief Ronnie Bishop – who is exceeding brilliant to set up the department’s annual Boot Drive for the night of the Thomasville game.
    “We set up for Leroy last year, and made $1,200,” Bishop says with a smile as a visitor deposits a dollar bill into his outstretched boot. “You can’t make that doing a barbecue or a fish fry.”
    The tradition eminates from behind the home team’s sideline, where the Sweet Water cheerleaders jockey for space with the football team while leading the reserved-section crowd in cheers – as their pint-sized schoolmates at the K-12 place of learning mimic every move and flip of the hair.
    The tradition eminates from folks like Lynda Joiner (class of 1966), who is cradling her latest grandchild – Sammie Maxwell Walker – on the hillside a few steps from the Sweet Water locker room. Friday was little Sammie’s first Sweet Water Bulldogs experience, as his mother Jennifer brought him to her kindergarten class early so he could see the pep rally, absorb the sights and drool intently as his daddy Chris takes up his customary place at the fence.
    “Oh, he’ll stay up for the entire game, no question about it,” mother Jennifer says as Sammie gurgles in Lynda’s arms. “I can already tell how much he likes all this.”
    The tradition eminates from Stacy Luker, who knows darnn near everybody in the stands, and they know him back. He knows that tonight’s unhappy ending against Thomasville (a 21-19 loss that reverberates around the state more of a statement on Thomasville’s 2009 fortunes and less on Sweet Water’s stranglehold on Class 1A) is a single step on a long journey.
    It is a journey Luker has taken before with this team, a journey that the community takes with the Bulldogs, step by step. It is a journey of success, of affirmation for a tiny blip of a town that does one thing better than anybody else in the state.
     
  2. ringer

    ringer Member

    Just curious...what was the assignment? Is it supposed to be an intro to a book or a self-contained newspaper article? If it's an intro to a book, it's a lot like Friday Night Lights. If it's an article...here are my thoughts:

    Good lead! But where is the reporting?

    Why is the team is so good? Why didn't you talk to the players or the coach or rivals? Those are the people with credibility -- not the lone fan who said "good coaching." It begs explanation. That's the compelling element of the story, not the fans and what's happening at the store and in the pressbox.

    One minor but important thing - you never say what state you're referring to. You could sneak it in here: "2008 XX State Championship"

    Peeve - I'd lose the biblical quote at the beginning. Your lead says the same thing more effectively.

    Hope that helps.
     
  3. Rockbottom

    Rockbottom Active Member

    Thanks for the read ... Let me offer this:

    1. It is a self-contained article, albeit one that came out a few days later. I work for a website that writes a lot about this team ... and I wrote a straight gamer from that night.

    2. The state is self-evident on the site, though you have a QUALITY point that I always overlook.

    3. I originally didn't have the quote, until I looked it up to figure out what their undershirts and helmet logos said. That is the reference point of the quote -- though I probably should have tied that in later on when I referred to the chapter/verse.

    rb
     
  4. KYSportsWriter

    KYSportsWriter Well-Known Member

    But not everyone is leaning against the fence itself. In the northwest corner, a couple yards from the scoreboard (which recently needed a second row of signage underneath to accommodate the 2008 state title), sits Leigh Thompson and her family in collapsible chairs.
    The 1987 Sweet Water graduate hasn’t has? been here since the stadium opened at 5 p.m., instead dispatching her daughter, a junior at the school, to sit out the family’s chairs in their usual place minutes after the gates were unlocked.
    "We have sat in the end zone here for the past five years, and I have been coming to games since before I started high school,” Thompson said while the Bulldogs’ special-teamers warm up on the turf, wearing undershirts that say ‘Full Throttle 1 SAM 16:7’ on the front and have a simple Bull’s-eye with a ‘4’ in the middle on the back.
    “I reckon the entire town is here with me every Friday night.”
    “Coaching, because Coach Atkins was great, and Coach Luker played under him,” she said. “Those years in between, notice, we weren’t so good. Stacy’s dad is a deacon at our church, and his mom plays the piano. We were happy when he came back (after a five-year stint coaching at Thomasville). He was just OK when he was over there.”

    The tradition emanates from the Sweet Water Volunteer Fire Department, a collection of 20 line personnel and chief Ronnie Bishop – who is exceeding brilliant brilliance? to set up the department’s annual Boot Drive for the night of the Thomasville game.
    “We set up for Leroy last year, and made $1,200,” Bishop said with a smile as a visitor deposits a dollar bill into his outstretched boot. “You can’t make that doing a barbecue or a fish fry.”
    The tradition emanates from behind the home team’s sideline, where the Sweet Water cheerleaders jockey for space with the football team while leading the reserved-section crowd in cheers – as their pint-sized schoolmates at the K-12 place of learning mimic every move and flip of the hair.
    The tradition emanates from folks like Lynda Joiner (class of 1966), who is cradling her latest grandchild – Sammie Maxwell Walker – on the hillside a few steps from the Sweet Water locker room. Friday was little Sammie’s first Sweet Water Bulldogs experience, as his mother Jennifer brought him to her kindergarten class early so he could see the pep rally, absorb the sights and drool intently as his daddy Chris takes up his customary place at the fence.
    “Oh, he’ll stay up for the entire game, no question about it,” mother Jennifer said as Sammie gurgles in Lynda’s arms. “I can already tell how much he likes all this.”
    The tradition emanates from Stacy Luker, who knows darn near everybody in the stands, and they know him back. He knows that tonight’s unhappy ending against Thomasville (a 21-19 loss that reverberates around the state more of a statement on Thomasville’s 2009 fortunes and less on Sweet Water’s stranglehold on Class 1A) is a single step on a long journey.
    It is a journey Luker has taken before with this team, a journey that the community takes with the Bulldogs, step by step. It is a journey of success, of affirmation for a tiny blip of a town that does one thing better than anybody else in the state.

    ---
    Changes/corrections in bold.
     
  5. tdonegan

    tdonegan Member

    I like the idea for the lead, but in my personal opinion it would be stronger if you cut out everything before "A couple miles before..." as in:

    "A couple miles before the blinking light on dusty State Road 10 in Marengo County – where simple dreams and long-forgotten sharecropping strands outnumber the meager, dwindling population – there is a sign."

    That lead just sings to me in a way it doesn't as-is, but it's personal choice.

    As to the Friday Night Lights similarity, what feature about small town high school football doesn't come off like FNL these days? Good work.
     
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page