What happens when a story breaks, but you can’t think of an original angle? You copy and recycle. Duh. But what happens when everybody has beaten you to the copy & recycle “10% different article” pipeline? You can’t just languish on Page 2 of Google. You must fight back. You must take a very hard and distinct stance. In sum, you must become a troll. You must spew fire.
And that is why the art of the controlled flame is essential to sportswriting.
The best example of this is the current situation surrounding Bolton player Fabrice Muamba. The player collapsed on the field of play, to the horror of millions of people. News sites regularly updated us to his daily condition, and, within a few days, some thoughtful tributes and reflections sprang forth. In general, a good vibe of empathy floated in the air. Except, of course, for the brilliant trolls that needed to toss some flames to get the hits.
The Muamba backlash was amazing. From a logical perspective, most of the arguments fall apart like a house of cards in a hurricane. Members of the “alternative” media and low rate fanzines wanted to mock the showings of support for Muamba as overblown publicity, yet their own criticisms (being themselves media members, mind you) were magically above and beyond their own criticism. Yet, for the knowledgeable, they raked in the search hits for “Muamba” just like any tactful tribute piece. They also ran a great chance of getting spread around in angry emails littered with complaints about a “lack of tact” and “nihilistic & depressing worldview.” If you cannot copy and kinda change front page news in a few milliseconds, then you must follow the path of the troll.
The best option probably is to ride on the coattails of trailblazing trolls. For example, some idiot student racially abused Muamba on twitter. Thus, one could defend this racist outburst and adopt the “rights in a vacuum” ACLU schtick and talk about the right to free speech, etc. etc.. One could also make similar arguments for the stupid fanzine that shan’t receive a link here but mocked fans in the stands when Muamba collapsed. The troll coattail approach is the best because, when you inevitably backtrack, then you can play the “devil’s advocate” card. You use the first troll as a bodyguard is things heat up, but also get some mad Muamba hits and some mad Muamba-related side story hits. It’s win-win-win. Except for Muamba. And probably the troll. And definitely humanity.
The even better news is that lots of other topics exist for you to troll. For example, heterosexism is totally tacitly accepted in sport yet also totally troll-able. In La Liga, a few months ago Jose Mourinho got caught on camera saying the term “marica.” LGBT folks raised their arms in anger. The Spanish term refers to a ladybug literally, but for several decades has been used as substitute for “fag” or “queer.” Mou did not get punished or even apologize. However, in MLS, a Houston Dynamo player used the term “fag”, a video got posted online, and then he immediately apologized. MLS is currently investigating, but has curiously taken down the clip of the offense. Can you say “pot of troll gold” at the end of the troll-colored rainbow?
You know what you must do. Go forth. Troll. Make an argument for the freedom of hate speech. Better yet, wait for somebody else to defend the heterosexist remarks, and then defend that troll from criticism. It will do wonders for your hit count.