For those of you who turned in after the game ended, an interesting thing happened on the blog after I posted my first version of the story. Let’s just say that a handful of posts on the blog questioned my mental acuity and my fitness to cover the team, in large part because the story did not mention the shot-clock situation that happened with about two minutes left in the game. (I don’t think it’s up anymore, as it has been replaced by the later version.)
In the interest of transparency, and because you might find what we do on our end interesting, I hope I can explain what happened.
Basically, I missed it. Here’s why, and hopefully this comes across as an explanation and not me making excuses:
The first story that I posted has to be filed right as the game ends, or shortly thereafter, before I go to the locker room. It’s called the “running” game story. We write them and post them online immediately to give readers the news as quickly as possible before going to the locker room to get comment. It isn’t meant to be the paper’s final word on a game, but the first edition of the news. Generally speaking, I’ll file a second story, with quotes, which is ideally written with a little more perspective and thought, about 90 minutes after the game ends. That’s called the “write-through,” and it’s the version that goes in the paper (provided the game ends in time) and replaces the originally posted online story.
Given that it has to be written as the game is going on, the running game story is generally not the most insightful account of the game, at least when I write them. A lot of times, running game stories end up being a recitation of plays, but what I try to do (though not always successfully, as we’ve all learned) is provide some sort of picture of why the Hawks won or lost and what that means.
In a game like Wednesday’s, whether the Hawks win or lose isn’t known until the very end. So, Wednesday, I was piecing together a “Hawks win” story and a “Hawks lose” story as the game was finishing. In addition, I was trying to follow the action and take notes. And, the kicker, in this instance, was that I was seated a good distance away from the court with no television nearby for replays.
(This is an aside. Please skip if you’re not much for asides.) I don’t know if you’d call it an inefficiency or ironic, but, at least as I’ve found writing a game story on deadline, I often don’t get a complete picture of what is happening at the end of a close game – which is generally the most important part – because I’m trying to write, take notes and observe all at the same time. I think the best example of this that I can give you is a Tampa Bay-Indianapolis Monday night game I covered in 2003.
It started out perfectly for a writer trying to make deadline, as the Buccaneers took leads of 21-0, 28-7 and 35-14, and I started writing by halftime about how the game re-asserted Tampa Bay as the best defense in the NFL, having shut down mighty Indianapolis in Tony Dungy’s return to his former home.
However, Indianapolis chipped away and finally scored 21 points in the last four minutes to force overtime, where the Colts won on a field goal. As you can imagine, all my material about Tampa’s mighty defense didn’t make the final version.
I don’t want to say I have no idea what happened, but I can tell you I didn’t see much of this comeback, because I was having to write, re-write and re-write some more. I am quite sure my story did very little to capture the essence of the game.
(End of aside)
So, anyway, Wednesday, I flat-out missed what happened with the shot clock. When 6the Hawks called timeout and Mike Woodson argued the call, I was probably using that time to write. As I’d mentioned, there was no television near me so I could follow what was being highlighted on the broadcast and, to make matters worse, I wasn’t sitting next to any other writers who might have clued me in, either. The first I realized what had happened was in the post-game interviews. I am grateful for a lot of people helping me understand what happened.
I imagine if you’ve been to a game, you might have experienced something similar, where you come home, or listen to the radio in the car, and everyone who watched on TV is talking about, “Can you believe what happened?” and you have no idea what they’re talking about because you didn’t have all the replays of the botched play or blown call at your disposal from your seat in the stadium.
If you haven’t, maybe you should look into covering an NBA team. (ha ha)
So, that’s it. I sincerely hope this doesn’t sound like me asking for your sympathy, because that is not my intent, as I don’t warrant sympathy. I get to do something I enjoy (most days) for a living, a true blessing. And I also hope I don’t sound like I’m making excuses, because I don’t think I am. I’m trying to explain what happened.
I’m going to say a better deadline writer – someone who can more efficiently do the multi-tasking required for this particular task of our job – would have caught the malfunction. Hopefully the next time, I will.
Hope all this makes sense.