Sunday, July 30, 2006

Now That's More Like It!

Today I want to tell you about a wonderful article I came across in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Web site, written by D. Orlando Ledbetter.

You can read it in its entirety at:

Let me share the first part of the article with you:

How the Packers can make the playoffs
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/09/06

With Carolina, Seattle and Tampa Bay attracting early attention as the top teams in the NFC, Green Bay needs a few things to happen for them to become relevant again — the return of Brett Favre was central to any title aspirations. An injury-plagued 4-12 season led to the departure of Mike Sherman and the hiring of Mike McCarthy.

"I'm glad for Mike (McCarthy) that Brett is coming back," NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci said. "They signed Charles Woodson. They lost some players, but anytime that you've got No. 4 taking snaps you're going to have a chance."

Here's a look at 10 things that must go right for the Green Bay Packers to reach the playoffs.

1. The return of Favre

(article continues)

The Packers Literary Corner wishes to congratulate Mr. Ledbetter for all he accomplished in just these mere 128 words. If he keeps this kind of terrific writing going throughout the 2006 season, he will certainly be one of the favorites for our Literary Award we will be presenting each month beginning in August. Let’s examine all the things he did correctly from a technical standpoint:

Begin With A Brilliant Title: Sadly, many of his less-skilled fellow journalists can’t seem to use “Packers” and “Playoffs” in the same sentence these days. But here, Mr. Ledbetter starts right out with a positive, forward looking statement that captures our imagination and causes us to want to read more.

Address a large audience: You might be asking why a writer for an Atlanta newspaper would pen an article about Green Bay. The answer is quite simple, actually. The Packers have more fans throughout the United States than any other NFL Team. And you don’t have to take my word for this. Just read the Harris Polls done each year in October that confirm this fact. The author understands this basic premise of journalism and has targeted his article to reach the largest audience possible.

Don’t Live In The Past: He spends only one sentence bringing the reader up to speed on what happened last year, the one that begins, “An injury-plagued 4-12 season.”

Why focus on the dead past when we can concentrate on the bright future instead...

Many of us have a short attention span anyway. Who was it that won the NFC North last year? I can’t seem to recall.

Include Opinions from Experts: The author asked for Steve Mariucci’s comments and put them near the top of the article. Mooch is an authority on the Packers for several key reasons. He was Quarterback Coach with Green Bay in the early years of Brett Favre’s career, and was instrumental in his development, for which Packer Fans will always be grateful. And later on, when Steve coached the 49ers and then the Lions, he got to observe Brett and the Packers up close as they regularly put a whup-ass on his teams.

I employed this same technique of interviewing experts when I co-authored a recent book about the publishing industry, THE MAKING OF A BESTSELLER. Since authors such as Dan Brown and Nicholas Sparks have sold millions of books and I haven’t, I concluded that readers were probably more interested in what authors like these had to say about the publishing industry, rather than 80,000 words about what I thought. It turned out to be a smart move on my part.

Put The Most Important Factor At The Top of Your List: Writer Ledbetter has a list of ten things necessary to propel the Packers to the playoffs, each expressed in a snappy, memorable way such as: “Put Bears in hibernation,” and “Rally around new regime.”

But, #1 on his list is THE RETURN OF FAVRE.

I would argue he could have concluded the article right there.


As you know, The Packers Literary Corner’s highest award in journalism is a
6-pack of Johnsonville Bratwurst and an autographed copy of the Green Bay Packer themed novel, OVER TIME.

For this fine work of sports journalism, Mr. D. Orlando Ledbetter receives:

4 ½ Brats, With Buns, and Gourmet Mustard

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

An Outbreak of Blogarrhea

This Weeks Packers Literary Corner Review:

“Monday Morning QB” by Peter King on

Newspaper and magazine editors have always seemed miserly when it comes to establishing the maximum number of words a writer was allowed for an article, oftentimes to the author’s chagrin. Part of this was due to printing costs (more words, more paper, more cost); part of it was the obvious necessity of making room for the advertisements that paid for the publication; and the third reason for the editor’s sharp red pencil was—to keep writers from rambling.

Many veterans of the print media now pen Internet columns for the free or subscription based sports Web sites. The Internet has unfettered writers from those burdensome word restrictions, however, and now it seems writers can go on…and on…and on…

And it brings up an interesting question: At what point does an article become a “blog”? And at what point do these blogs get completely out of hand, as though they’ve come down with a bad case of blogarrhea?

Today, the Packers Literary Corner is going to review an Internet column written by the esteemed Sports Illustrated writer, Peter King, which appears in the magazine’s Web site,

Peter was one of the first national writers to wisely foresee—and frequently write about--the rise of the Packers’ dynasty in the early 1990’s, after the team and its fans had suffered through two decades of frustration and futility. Peter became an excellent source of information about Brett Favre’s ascent to become the most popular player in the NFL, and was quite enthusiastic about the Packers when they made two Super Bowl appearances in a row. These of course, are all signs of highly skilled writing.

His “Monday Morning QB” column started out to be a concise review of the previous day’s NFL games, with the advantage of immediacy over the articles that would appear in print 5 days later or so in the print edition. Unfortunately, it seems to have become “Mundane Morning QB”, where the theme is: Whatever the hell I want to talk about. Let’s look at his Monday, July 24 column, which weighs in at a whopping:

Three Thousand Two Hundred Fifty-Six Words (and this is the offseason, mind you!) You can check it out at:

In the Packers Literary Corner’s view, Mr. King violates two important writing maxims with his column:

1) To quote F. Scott Fitzgerald “You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.”

2) If it ain’t about the Green Bay Packers, who cares?

And these indiscretions are a shame because his column gets off to a rousing start with a discussion of the hope and optimism that abounds with fans of each and every NFL Team this time of year. This is so true. And as we’ve observed many times, July is the month when the Minnesota Vikings seem to win all of their NFL Championships.

But now, let’s look at a few specific examples of where Mr. King’s trolley gets off the track:

--An uncharacteristic mental lapse where he picks Detroit as one of his surprise teams for 2006. His logic for this curious statement is particularly flawed when he bases it on:

“The Lions' opponents in Games 3 through 10 had these win totals in 2005: 4, 6, 9, 5, 4, 8, 4 and 5.”

Game 3 is against Green Bay, which of course by that time will be on its way to a 12 win season in 2006, so actually the Lions have a tough schedule. Unlike in geology, the past is not always the key to the present in football.

--He has a section titled “Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week”
This should be deleted altogether. It’s not the readers’ fault he doesn’t travel first class.

--His major blunder in this column was under his “Factoid That May Interest Only Me”
His boo-boo here is in the same vein as the B-level TV stars who march out, wag their fingers at us and tells us how to run our lives, dispensing such brilliant advice as: “Spend more time with your kids,” or “Tell your kids to not do drugs” or, “Spend more time with your kids while they’re doing drugs.”

Dang, we’d never have figured that out on our own.

In this case, Peter all but orders us to the theaters to screen the al-goreical environmental film “An Incoherent Truth”. To quote Mr. King:

“This is not exactly the venue to warn the world about global warming, but all you football junkies readying for your fantasy drafts should do one real-world thing in the next couple of weeks: take two hours to see this movie. I'm not saying you'll be glad you did, because it's going to slap you around mentally a bit. But it's something you need to see.”

Isn’t that a just a tad condescending here, the presumption that all we’re doing out there in the non-Eastern seaboard US is “readying for our fantasy drafts?” How absurd. I, for one, am:

a) Leafing through all the NFL logo merchandise catalogs and picking out a predominantly green and gold fall wardrobe.
b) Maintaining a hawk-like focus on the E-bay screen to find the best deals on tickets to games at Lambeau Field.
c) Renewing my subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket.

If Mr. King is really desirous of hopping aboard the Global Warming bandwagon, then he should express the issue in terms that we all can relate to:


That’s enough to give all of us pause, and eventually mend our ways. The only fuel we’d be burning after that is from the Kingsford when we fire up the backyard grill.

So, there’s no need to foul the environment with the thousands of pounds of carbon emissions it would take for all of us to drive our cars to the Cineplex to see a politician’s movie.

--Then, he follows this with a potpourri of trivia called “Ten Things I Think I Think.”
In this edition, these observations include something about an old, old singer named Bruce Springsteen, someone named A-Rod who apparently plays some other sport than football (why?), and some kind of coffee beans from a country we’ve never heard of.


Although most of his column wasn’t that helpful, Peter did have a gem that redeems most of the other stuff, concerning his upcoming tour of training camps:

“A month and 22 team visits later, I hope to be educated enough to tell you who to take in your fantasy drafts. If you're lucky, I won't advise you to bypass Favre for Wuerffel again.”

Way to go, Peter!

As you know, The Packers Literary Corner’s highest award in journalism is a 6-pack of Johnsonville Bratwurst and an autographed copy of the Green Bay Packer themed novel,

“Monday Morning QB” by Peter King earns 3 Brats.

(without the buns)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

When Lindy Gets Windy

This is the time of year when Pro Football preview magazines hit the newsstands. For ten years or so my favorite of these has been Lindy’s Pro Football magazine. This has so much valuable information that I keep referring to it throughout the NFL season and right up to the playoffs. It even has team rosters with comments about each and every player’s performance last season and outlook for the coming year.

Reading Lindy’s is a great way to learn about your favorite team’s opponents and division rivals.

Packers Literary Corner would recommend cutting out two pages from the 2006 edition of Lindy’s, however. Page 101, where editor Howard Balzer gazes into his crystal ball-zer and comes out with some very curious predictions, and page 217, where the magazine attempts to create a numerical score for each team’s component parts—receiving corps, linebackers, etc.—and then an overall ranking for the team’s strength. In other words, a row of little arbitrary numbers is added together create The Big Arbitrary Number. And one is left with the question: How Does This Relate to Winning Games?

If a team shows up at Lambeau Field with a bigger Arbitrary Number than Green Bay’s, should the Packers be frightened? Probably not.

So take these pages with you on vacation in case you need wrappers for freshly caught game fish, and then enjoy the rest of the magazine.

At least they are honest enough to subtitle their Prediction page “Another Chance to Look Foolish.” Well spoken, Howard, as shown below.

Here are Lindy’s predictions for the NFC North:

(First Place) Chicago – If Rex Grossman stays healthy, this could be a special team.

(Second) Minnesota – Brad Johnson brings stability to a team that needs a hug.

(Third) Detroit - Can Mike Martz work wonders with Jon Kitna and Josh McCown?

(Fourth) Green Bay – It won’t be long until Brett Favre wishes he retired.


So, Packer Literary Nation, what’s wrong with this material? Other than the fact that the predicted order of finish is completely upside down from reality and the logic is non-existent, these predictions are slightly better than most I’ve seen thus far in 2006.

In this case, since the author of these predictions, Mr. Balzer, has already suggested they might be foolish, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and just tweak them a little.

Presenting: The Packers Literary Corner Predictions for the NFC North – 2006

(FIRST) Green Bay – It won’t be long (early September to be exact) until the rest of the league wishes Brett Favre had retired.

(Second) Chicago – With a defense as awesome as the Bears,’ who cares if Rex Grossman stays healthy?

(Third) Detroit - Can Mike Martz find alternative employment for Jon Kitna and Josh McCown?

(Fourth) Minnesota – Brad Johnson brings complete immobility to a team that needs to be relocated to Los Angeles.


Remember, this is only Mid-July. The Packers Literary Corner reserves the right to change our predictions somewhat as key information emerges from training camps. For example, it is entirely possible the Vikings might drop a little further in the standings. These things happen.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Reading List for Sportswriters

Last week I said I would graciously recommend a reading list for the sportswriters whose work I critiqued (June 28 post). Here it is:

The ‘Packers Literary Corner’ Reading List for July 2006

Voracious reading is essential to developing writing skill. Here are some books to help football writers improve their minds as they await the start of NFL Training Camps:

Because we should always hone our writing Style: The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

Because most great writers are well-grounded in Philosophy: The Packer Way by Ron Wolf

A thorough understanding of History helps us gain valuable perspective: When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss

Studying Ancient History helps us piece together fragments from the dim and distant past, so let’s go way, way back in time: The
Detroit Lions’ Championship Years
by Edsel Marinelli

Because we need a wholesome activity for the offseason: The Thrill of Recreational Boating by D. Culpepper (with a foreword by his attorney)

Remember what your high school English teacher said: "Don't neglect the Classics!", so we include: Verily, The Bears Still Sucketh by William Shakespeare

Now, let’s broaden our reading horizons with a moody, existential tale from an up-and-coming
New Orleans author: When Rivers Runs Backwards by Drew Brees

Because well-crafted fiction can take us on a suspenseful thrill ride to places we have never visited before: Over Time by Brian Hill and Dee Power

Finally, let’s visit the New Age/Inspiration shelf at the bookstore: Favre by Brett and Bonita Favre

Happy Reading!