A lousy top to a story

Want a way to bore a reader out of the story?

Try this lede from today’s New York Times (written, it appears, by long-time former USA Today sportswriter Tom Pedulla):

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Linebacker Garrett McIntyre exuded pride as he assessed a seven-year professional football career that has taken him to two countries, three leagues and six teams.

“I guess it’s a journeyman’s kind of career that I’ve had,” he said after Wednesday’s practice with the Jets.

Although he has bounced around far more than he would have liked. McIntyre, 28, never loses sight of the big picture.

“I love to play football, and I love to get paid to play football,” he said. “I play a kid’s game and make a living at it.”

Let us count the sins.

1. The lede graf has an unsupported characteriation in it — “exuded pride.” That is telling, not showing. Were McIntyre’s shoulders back? Was his voice defiant and loud?

2. The first quote should do two things: It should be a whammy quote, the kind that sparkles. And it should support the statement made in the preceding paragraph. “I guess it’s a journeyman’s kind of career that I’ve had,” does neither. The quote is boring and says nothing. Worse, the presence of “I guess” doesn’t hint at pride; it indicates a lack of confidence in the statement. An argument could be made that it contradicts the lede graf.

3. The fourth graf, a quote, also has content that contradicts the “exude pride” statement.

It’s a failure of writing, but it’s also a failure of editing. How could someone let this story go untouched?

Ironically, Padulla nails the “details drive the narrative” thing in grafs 5-7:

Not that anything has come easily. McIntyre was a walk-on at Fresno State before he earned a scholarship. He was not drafted in 2006 and signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. He stuck with them for a month. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals and stayed for six days. The Tennessee Titans claimed him off waivers; he was with them for two weeks.

Then McIntyre joined the San Jose SaberCats before the Arena Football League suspended operations for 2009. He moved on to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League in 2009 and ’10.

McIntrye continued to seek another N.F.L. shot, and it came when the Jets gave him a $15,000 bonus to sign a three-year deal totaling $1.41 million in 2011. He made solid contributions each of the last two seasons and will be asked to fill an unexpectedly large role when the Jets open the season at home on Sept. 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That’s how it should be done. “Not that anything has come easily” is supported by every sentence in the next three paragraphs.

It’s too bad that it’s such a painful read to get there.