ROLFEMAN REMINISCES: HEADS UP! PROOFING SOME MEMORABLE HEADLINES (2020-04-27)
Working for an evening newspaper had its pros and cons.
Advantages outweighed disadvantages: No hurried rush, no midnight or 1 a.m. deadlines, which means more time for game coverage, gathering information and mapping out layouts for the next day's pages.
And, more time to have greater in-depth content than the morning publications.
Heading that list was headlines. They may not make or break the story, but they sure can grab a reader's interest and attention.
In sports, we prided ourselves on catchy headlines.
Several of the ones I have not yet forgotten:
A SITE FOR SOAR EYES
This was my tricky attempt to play off the old saying, "A sight for sore eyes," in reference to a story on Harris Hill, home to the National Soaring Museum up on the hill overlooking Big Flats, New York.
ONE 'FELL' SWOOP
We must give credit where credit is due. This was a combined masterpiece, thanks to Waverly Wolverine swim coach Dave Mastrantuono, known to some as "The Master."
Back then, Waverly traditionally had superb swimmers. It still does today.
Many moons ago, members of one particular family — the Fell brothers — set and reset a number of Waverly boys' swim records. First came Ben, followed by younger bro Pat.
It was after Pat rewrote the Wolverine swim record book in several events in a single meet, that Master and I conspired and came up with the records were broken in One Fell Swoop!
YOUNG ARMS, OLD BATS PACE TIOGA
Ah, the headline that had me gobbling up the Excedrin for a throbbing headache.
It was a small headline — 24-point I believe over a one-column story, but it caused a huge ruckus.
This little beauty literally also got my butt-cheeks chewed out. More than once.
Thought to be harmless, the headline referred to a Tioga Central softball victory. Story background is the Lady Tiger romp was paced by an underclassman pitcher, (thus, young arm) who hurled a mini-gem, and senior sluggers (thus, old bats) who paced the hitting attack.
Young arm, old bats pace Tioga! It seemed innocent enough to me.
The grandmother of one of senior sluggers — one of the "old bats" — obviously did not agree. She called bright and early the next morning, asking how on Earth I had the gall to call her little grand-daughter an "old bat."
In defense, I tried to ration and explain the connection to class rank and seniority, adding it certainly was nothing personal. But she would have none of that.
She scolded me repeatedly, through the phone chewing one cheek, then the other, while emphasizing and re-emphasizing that her grand-baby was not an "old bat."
The scolding went on for probably about 15 minutes. Finally, after I promised with assurance I would never, ever refer to her grand-daughter as an "old bat" the conversation ended, a peace treaty was made and the issue was resolved.
Or so I thought.
Later that night, during the tsunami of phone-in calls, she called back, mildly scolding me while reminding me of my promise. This one only lasted about 10 minutes.
HEADING INTO DARKNESS
Call me weird but to be honest, some of the best headlines for our sports stories were written literally in the dark in the early morning hours at home — not in the office.
When it's going on 2 o'clock in the morning, you're in hyper-caffeine overdrive on pressroom-style coffee, your brain is fried and you need to head home for a couple hours of sleep, you could draw blanks for headlines.
At our bachelor pad, on the nightstand next to my radio — tuned to AM 900 CHML, back then a powerful 50,000-watt Canadian station from Hamilton, Ontario, my home for oldies, Maple Leafs, Tiger Cats and Blue Jays — was a legal pad and a pen.
Sound asleep, I'd awaken suddenly at like 4:10 a.m., with that elusive headline flashing in my head.
In the dark, I'd fumble for the pen and legal pad and scribble it down. Up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for another day, I'd tear the sheet, tuck it in my back pocket and head off to work.
The finishing touches to a hard day's night.