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What sells and what what doesn’t when writing about the NFL

Writing the Pittsburgh Steelers on a daily a basis can be grueling, fun, intense and mysterious. Anyone who just jumps in and thinks “I can write. This is a piece of cake!” doesn’t have the first clue about what good sports writing or writing in general is all about. I still don’t!!

I have found my drive and motivation comes from writing about something I truly love in the Steelers but I’ve discovered it comes from two other places as well. One, is knowing that I am informing fellow fans and football people and secondly, I like the fact the that when I finish an article, I have no clue how it will be received.

Take for example two recent articles I wrote. One was about Warren Sapp’s constant criticism of the Steelers while the other was a piece on Roger Goodell’s intention for NFL stadiums to be more like European soccer stadiums.

I was proud of both pieces and even sent them over to our friends at ESPN 970 for their sports bloggers page but what I found interesting was that one of these articles was viewed over 6,000 times while the other has not yet hit 1,000.

Criticizing the people who criticize the Steelers is something I will always do unless that criticism is valid and warranted. Otherwise, I will come after you as I did with Warren Sapp. Like I said, it was a nice article but nothing I was going to have up for a Pulitzer.

With Goodell, a frequent target of mine for numerous reasons, I thought to myself, “This is the rant that will draw serious attention. This guy is destroying everything I love about professional football and I know others feel that way too.”

I came up from the “Fortress of Steelertude” where I ply my craft and told my wife how excited I was about the Goodell piece. People throughout the country would read this and rally behind it and condemn Goodell for this ‘wussification’ and globalization of our proud game. It was only a matter of time before ESPN or Sports Illustrated called. I could feel it….

It does not take a PhD to figure out that the article on Goodell was NOT the one with the 6,000 plus hits. It was the one on Sapp and as I reflected, I figured out some things. First of all, while getting a call from ESPN or SI.com or even the local fish wrap would be great I really didn’t think I was going to create that much interest but I really did think the Goodell article was something special so I chalked it up as a learning experience.

What I realized is that certain names, certain terms and specific topics have power. It’s the society we live in and although I thought one was better than the other, I realized what grabs attention much more so than I ever realized it did. While information and learning something new stills sells and attracts readers, people like their dirt and they like their controversy. I get that now.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing rants and generically informative pieces because they have their place and they have their audience. I’m not going to fall into the trap of going all ‘tabloid journalist’ though either. When the time comes, I will know what to write and perhaps most importantly and I’ll be able to do it better.

I love, I mean ‘love,’ writing about the Steelers and the NFL. I’ll never stop especially now when I know what sells and what doesn’t.

Oh, Waren Sapp still sucks and Roger Goodell is in over his freaking head.

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