Good sport: why some of the best writing is at the back of the paper

I do love a dropped intro.

I’ve waxed lyrically here before about feature-writing and about the joy of a more imaginative approach to storytelling.

But, although I yield to no man or woman in my devotion to this indirect way of hooking in the reader, I also admit it can be overdone.

For years, Jeremy Clarkson spent three-quarters of each of his car reviews banging on about subjects a million miles from motoring, before eventually getting to his rather laboured point. The same practice has also been adopted by many a Sunday paper restaurant reviewer.

But today, let us salute Scottish sports writer Callum Baird, who – unlike Clarkson – manages to stay the right side of self-indulgence.

In a wonderful piece in the Glasgow Herald (although you’ll have to register to read it all) he weaves Greek philosophy and the Chinese belief system of Taoism into his report of what appears to have been the world’s most boring bore draw.

As Hold the Front Page reports today, Callum’s report of the nil-nil draw between Morton and Airdrie has become an internet hit.

It’s a beautiful illustration of the hidden talents of some of our sports desk friends.

The Bath Chronicle’s rugby columnist, Tom Bradshaw, once referenced both Descartes and the thought experiment Schrodinger’s Cat in a memorable piece that also worked the word pubic into the same surreal paragraph.

I wouldn’t call myself a sports fan – I support Plymouth Argyle, for God’s sake.

But I still devour sports pages for the sheer quality of some of the writing to be found there.

Columnists such as the much-missed Simon Barnes and Martin Samuel always have something to say which resonates beyond the field of sport.

And in the region in which I work, Tom, Steve Cotton and Mike Brown don’t just report on rugby – they analyse it, comment on it and explain it.

As always with the best writing, we often see the world in a new light as a result.


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