Columns can be difficult to write. Writing one from a game on deadline is even more difficult. A sports columnist needs to understand the topic and needs to do the research to prepare for several angles. Then, of course, the columnist needs to write the piece in a compelling manner.
Tom Keller, a columnist for Michigan State's State News, did just that while covering the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament in North Carolina.
Keller focused on the odd pairing of junior guard Drew Neitzel and junior walk-on foward Jake Hannon, players as much alike as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison.
A sports column, in many ways, is a sports news story with an opinion. Too many columnists want to offer their opinions -- and too often these opinions are not informed. That is not the case here. Keller spoke with key people, researched the topic, had a clear working knowledge of the subject, revealed observations, and had a strong news angle. In addition, Keller made some interesting connections through his research, looked below the surface of the game with intellgience, and wrote it all exceptionally well.
Here's the start of his column:
Winston-Salem, N.C. — We knew that for MSU to win in the NCAA Tournament, someone other than junior guard Drew Neitzel would have to step up.
But if you were the one who guessed that someone would be walk-on junior forward Jake Hannon, put the paper down, go buy a lottery ticket, then come back and finish reading. You are obviously channeling some serious clairvoyance.
And here's Keller describing a key moment in the game:
Head coach Tom Izzo pointed down the bench at Hannon, who was hit with a rush of adrenaline and an incessant, overriding thought: Don't screw up."
This a fine example of game column-writing. Keller writes well -- and reports well. I look forward to reading more of this young columnist. Check out his column for yourself.