How to Improve Your Think Piece on How to Improve the Pro Bowl

The “bye” week between the NFL Conference Championships and the Super Bowl is the driest period in the sports commentary year.

You see that? Opening with a fundamentally incorrect statement is a tried-and-true method–popular among graduates of the Jay Mariotti Academy–to hook the reader. It’s tough on writers, because there are times of the year when sports blogs don’t need to exist, but readership quotas still need to be met. And frankly, the quality of sports blogs has been declining since the days of dial-up Internet. That bait-and-switch I pulled in the first paragraph–the Mikan Drill of bad sportswriting–simply doesn’t play anymore.

But as a veteran of stupid writing, I’m not willing to stand idly by and watch as February sports blogs get decimated by outside topics like “politics” and “Iowa.” No, it’s time to admit we need to shake things up: it’s time we remake the standard think piece about how to tweak the Pro Bowl.

Here’s what I would do:

Write a Nonsensical Listicle Instead of a Real Article

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If you try to make it resemble an actual article with forethought, sequencing, and high stakes, you’ll struggle to keep the attention of readers. Quite simply, those characteristics aren’t what Pro Bowl writing should be about. Instead, turn the article into a series of complete non-sequiturs that allow you to showcase your myriad “talents” as a sportswriter. Want to lament the institutionalization and fetishization of the forward pass in a meandering imitation of David Foster Wallace? Awesome! Feel an Olde Englishe Digressione on Theodore Bridgewater bubbling from the depths of thine loins? No worries! Just put up some bolded barriers in your article as needed, and let yourself go.

Fine Editors for Not Showing Up

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When you’re trying to write the definitive treatise on a completely inconsequential all-star event, you need everyone at the top of their game. The fact is, the readers want the best of the best from the editorial staff–they want to see a piece that was savaged on the chopping block by Arianna Huffington, or one with tertiary sub-arguments tastefully expounded upon by Marty Baron. No one wants to watch some Jameis Winston-level editor scrambling away from a misplaced modifier, just because the big guns couldn’t be bothered.

Earlier, I referenced George Mikan in a post that’s fundamentally focused on football. Were this piece an honest-to-God Pro Bowl bashing, it’d be fair to demand that my editor forfeit his paycheck. Such blatant sloppiness just seems disrespectful to the readers.

Move the Post to a Different Part of the Year, Because What the Hell? 

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Look, February’s just not a fun time. Winter is far from over, the economy is grossly unstable, groundhogs are relevant, etc. The last thing people need to hear–even if, in their heart of hearts, they know it’s true–is that the Pro Bowl is yet another broken American institution. The post, if published in February, will get buried in the emotional tumult.

What makes a lot more sense is to run your Pro Bowl post in, like, May. Why? Because that’s a different month, a theoretically sunny time that’s filled with positive vibes. As Jane Austen (probably) once said, “People in a good mood are just waiting for some reason to be pissed off.” Your post outlining the ridiculous irrelevancy of this game can be that reason.

Include Some Insane Novelty Act That, While Making No Sense Whatsoever in the Context of a Football Blog, Will Almost Force People to Read It

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At a certain point, though, you realize you’re facing an uphill battle. You’re trying to rail against a game with all the pageantry and aura of a trip to TJ Maxx, a game so depressing that Jeff Blake is one of its record holders. In order to get people to click on your post and care about such dry material, you need to throw out the rulebook: you need creativity.

I’m not able to prescribe a failsafe plan here, but the possibilities are endless. You can write something featuring only quotes from Donny in The Big Lebowski. You can write an incongruous think piece about your interview with a notorious Mexican drug lord and murderer. You can even do something with no writing at all: you could post a video of John Rocker commenting on the Constitution, or make a documentary about Riley Curry. These things have nothing to do with the Pro Bowl, but if you’re at this point in the article and still looking for advice on that front, such semantics should not concern you.

Don’t Write About The Pro Bowl

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The final option is that, honestly, none of this has to be written at all. If you end up in such a desperate position where you are considering the Pro Bowl as your muse, you should do literally anything else, rather than forcibly mutating a piece of writing into a vehicle for your poorly conceived, C-minus jokes about Michael Irvin. No one cares about your thoughts on this game or its future iterations, and that won’t change, regardless of how neatly packaged and adorned your post is.

No, you writing about the Pro Bowl–or anything even vaguely related to the Pro Bowl–is just an extravagant waste of everyone’s time. I probably should have made that clear a little sooner.

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Lucas Hubbard is a sportswriter reporting on location from Honolulu. You should follow him on Twitter.

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