Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bob Lobel: The Power of Headlines

By Bob Lobel (@boblobel)

There is something special about headlines. 

Headlines were Twitter before Twitter. Headlines are critical to the success of whatever follows it in whatever publication that depends on them for survival. I think that, whenever possible,  headlines should be sarcastic, outrageous and funny, but factual.

Creativity lurks behind every great headline, though there are very few that measure up to the “great” label. It seems to me one of the greatest jobs in the world would be to sit around a newsroom with three to five people and brainstorm headlines. Laughs would abound, tears always solicited.  Not always happy tears. There is actually so much bad stuff happening that funny, clever and memorable ones are becoming a lost art. 

A truly great headline by my own definition would be one that stays in your memory bank long after you have forgotten your home phone number. To do this, there has to be a story to write a headline about. This past weekend was low hanging fruit (which, under the right circumstances, would be a great headline unto it self). I just have to make it work… Maybe later.

The so called low hanging fruit this weekend was Jonas Gray of the New England Patriots. He had a day for the ages Sunday by coming out of obscurity to star for the local team. Not Brady or Gronkowski or Edelman, but Jonas Gray. 

Put his 199 yards gained back to back and we have the “long Gray line.”  We have the end zone becoming the “Gray zone.” The NFL red zone would be the “Gray zone" for a day. Or “Gray area” or the best one  would be something like the “Fifty Shades of Gray.” 

My favorite  would be the “30 runs of Gray” or  however many times he carried the ball. Actually, many people would choose a Claus Von Bulow headline from a Boston tabloid covering his wife's murder trial,  “Claus is a louse.”  Thats buried deep in the memory banks.  

However, my favorite was fairly recent. The Costa Concordia cruise ship was steered onto some rocks by the captain of the ship.  Sadly there were a number of deaths and some very bad post collision actions by the crew.  Most notably, the captain, who is usually supposed to go down with the ship, was seen in a life boat not long after the grounding. Saving himself for future cruises, no doubt.

Well the best headline writing newspaper day to day is the New York Post. No one is in second place. The New York Post in my favorite headline of all time used just four words to describe the captain in bold front page print: CHICKEN OF THE SEA. 

I still smile even as I write that. Clever and so obvious, it just works. 

Jonas Gray made headline writing a challenge this weekend. It was too easy to do a regular reference. Clever was the challenge of the day. It's obvious the headline to be written about the Patriots in the first half of this season is, "from the outhouse to the penthouse.”

A well used phrase that does a very good job in describing what has gone on in Foxboro. So what to expect now? How good are they? Did you really expect the DEA to find any evidence of drug abuse by team doctors in their so called unannounced inspection of six teams this past weekend? 

Message to docs and trainers, leave the pills at home or in the glove compartment or wherever you stash them. With six teams getting hit with surprise inspections, the rest of the teams are now on notice that their turn is coming. Getting caught now would be about as stupid as possible. 

Again, is this the week that Adrian Peterson makes his shameful return, or Ray Rice signs on to help some struggling running team like Denver or Indy get to the promised land?. At least the Patriots don’t have that to worry about now.  We have “Gray matter" and that’s all we seem to need.

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