Monday, June 14, 2010

Writing a Ron Cook Column 101

By Finesse

Ron Cook is someone who we all grew up not idolizing.  The only reason that any of us was ever excited to read one of his columns is that he isn't Bob Smizik.  For those of us who follow Pittsburgh sports but don't live in the Burgh, the Post-Gazette is a critical link to the homeland - one of the first bookmarks we hit every morning.

As lucky and proud as we feel to be Pittsburgh sports fans, it also means we have to read Ron Cook's columns.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), Ron Cook is not actually a necessary ingredient to writing a "Ron Cook column."  Instead, all that you need is 25 minutes, 850 words, one statistic, a sturdy question-mark key on your keyboard, and these rules.
  1. Ask as many rhetorical questions as you want
  2. Answer your own rhetorical questions, preferably with as few words as possible
  3. Use more one-sentence (or one-word) paragraphs than multiple-sentence paragraphs
  4. Add/Subtract/Multiply/Divide things that aren't numbers.  Ex. "Marc-Andre Fleury + Evgeni Malkin + Sidney Crosby + Jordan Staal = Stanley Cup"
  5. End as many sentences as possible with the following words: though, right, really, you say, I say, too, actually
  6. Have a consistent "theme" that occasionally appears throughout the article in italics
  7. Start all non-controversial, universally agreed upon points with an affirmative (ex. Yes, Yep, Sure, Of course, Certainly, No doubt)
  8. String together consecutive sentences that are 4 words or less.  Ex. "Accumulate high draft choices. Make smart selections. Have a little luck."
  9. Write sentences without a subject.  Ex. "Be bad for a long time."
  10. Ask/demand the reader to do the following:
    • Tell you something
    • Tell himself something
    • Think about something
    • Remember something
    • Not mention something
    • Not tell you something.  Ex. "You can't tell me that isn't the Big Ten's No. 1 goal."
    • Not get you started.  Ex. "Don't get me started."
    • Not get you wrong.  Ex. "Don't get me wrong."

  11. End one out of every four columns with the phrase, "You don't have to _____ to understand _____."
  12. Start three or more consecutive sentences with the same word.  Ex. "So smart. So steady. So serviceable." [Note the overlap between rules].
  13. Tell the readers something that you just told them that they don't have to tell you.  Ex. "I don't have to tell you whom they're laughing at now."
  14. Ask yourself for your own opinion.  Ex. "Me?"

Read more to see the rules in action...

I wrote this column in 25 minutes.  No joke.

Come on, you can admit it.

You’ve allowed yourself to think about it.

I know I have.  So I bet you have too.

What am I talking about?

How great would it be if the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in the first season at Consol Energy Center?  I can’t think of a better opening to the House that Mario Built than to see #87 hand the Cup off to #66.  Oh, yeah.  That #71 guy, too.

It’s crazy to imagine it, but I think it’s possible.  Look at who the Pens have coming back.  Crosby?  Check. Malkin?  Check. Staal?  Check. Fleury? Ch…

Wait a minute…our first question mark.

Fleury’s performance in the playoffs left something to be desired.  A lot to be desired if you ask me.  He came off an outstanding 2009 playoffs to be, shall I say, shaky at best in the 2010 playoffs.  He had a .891 save percentage and 2.78 goals-against-average.  Hardly Cup-caliber numbers, if you ask me.

What would you do about Fleury?

You’d get rid of him, you say??

I mean, really?

No.  On second thought, I wouldn’t.

Not with so much going for him.

First, he’s 25.  Second, he has the pedigree.  Third, he’s been to the promised land before.

It’s easy to forget that after he got pulled against Montreal.  And looking at how the playoffs shook out, even stellar play from Fleury and the Pens could be lacing ‘em up tomorrow night.  Instead, it’s the Flyers.

Don’t even get me started.

But back to the promised land conversation.  You remember that, right?  It was just last year.  Seems so long ago.  But I remember where I was.  And, unfortunately, I also remember where I wasn’t.

I wasn’t at Mellon Arena.

I wrote last season how great it would be to see the Pens win the Cup at Mellon Arena.  Really, at the time I couldn’t have thought of anything better.  Now?  Yep.  I still feel that way.  Don’t you?

The Pens have had tremendous successes the past twenty-five years, basically since the team drafted Mario Lemieux.  You know him, right?  #66?  Three Stanly Cups (2 as a player, 1 as an owner).  Yeah, I thought you did.

But the opportunity the Pens have never had is a chance to skate with the Cup in the City of Champions (memo to Pirates: you aren’t included).  In 1991 the Pens closed out the Minnesota North Stars in Game 6 in Minneapolis.  8-0.  Wow, still seems unbelievable to write that score down.

I remember at the time some Pens fans were upset.  They wanted the Pens to lose Game 6 so they could win Game 7 at home.  Me?  I’ll take the Cup any day.  But still.  A Game 7 for the Cup at home?  There would be a sell-out, but no butts would be in the seats.  Everyone would be standing.  Even still, closing out on the road was not a bad thing, though.

Like they say, give a team an inch…

Perhaps the best opportunity for the Pens to win at home would have been 1992 against Chicago.  The Pens took a 3-0 series lead into Game 4 and I know at least part of me wanted to see the Pens have to come back to the Civic Arena to close it out in 5.  But, like I said, give a team an inch…

That Blackhawks team had some great players.  Belfour. Roenick. Chelios.  Steve Larmer.  The gritty Dirk Graham as the captain.

Yeah, it would have been great if the Pens won in Pittsburgh, but are you taking that chance?  Not me.

It’s all about that inch thing, remember?

Speaking of inches, it was Fleury who, by a matter of inches saved the Pens in Game 7 on the road against Detroit last season.  The thought at least trickled into your mind before Game 5 last year when the series was tied at 2 that if the Pens won Game 5 they could come back to clinch in Game 6.  But, didn’t work out.  No big deal, though.

Winning at home is great, of course.  But do  you think Detroit would have taken a win in Game 6 of the finals last year to avoid having to play a Game 7 at home?  Seems funny to even ask.  Can’t afford to gamble on those inches.  Just ask the Red Wings.

An inch here, an inch there…

Back to Fleury.  He heard the muffled boos at the end of his terrible Game 7 performance against the Canadiens. Booooo!”

I’m sure he still hears them.

You don’t have to be a native English speaker to understand what that sounds means.

Personally, I think he’ll use it as motivation to come back better than ever next season.  Why do I think that, you ask?

Well, maybe it’s because I dare to dream of a Cup in Consol?

Maybe it’s because no sports championship of any kind has been won in this City since the 1960 Pirates?

Maybe it’s because the fans deserve to cheer on their heroes?

Or, maybe it’s because it just feels right?

Yeah, it just feels right.

Right.  Definitely, right.

What’s that formula again?

66 + 87 + Consol = Champions.

You don’t need to be a math wiz to understand that.


  1. Just heard about this blog! Can I share this with my thousands of facebook friends?

  2. Hahahah...really well done. Eerily similar to so many of Cook's "pieces."