Here are the winning essays in The Honolulu Advertiser's Sportswriter for a day contest.
Each contestant was asked to write a 500- to 750-word story detailing his or her reasons for being selected as the winner.
One grand prize winner and three first-prize winners were chosen from among 76 entries.
The grand prize winner will get to interview a Pro Bowl player of her choice and see her work published in The Honolulu Advertiser. The grand prize winner also receives media credentials for the Pro Bowl and will watch sportswriters in action. All four winners were given tickets to the Pro Bowl along with assorted prizes and other Pro Bowl privileges.
The top winner and runners-up were introduced during yesterday's NFL Media Luncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Tower. The grand prize winner is Susan R. Shan, an Iolani School junior. The three other first-prize winners are Celia Downes, a Sacred Hearts Academy sophomore; Christa Irby, a Radford High School senior, and Kalani Takase, a Mililani High School sophomore.
Grand Prize winner
Susan R. Shan
A five-year-old girl covered from head to toe in maroon and white stands in the midst of 86,000 fans at Kyle Field. She twists her head in every angle possible, awed by the magnificent showing of Texas A&M football fanatics. She does not realize it then, but the erupting emotions from the fans radiate passion, the source that drives humankind.
From a young age, I realized that football and sports are not just games and fun. Tradition and culture in sports kindle the human spirit. The Aggie football tradition at Texas A&M defines true fans. We never sit during a football game. Each Aggie fan is the 12th man: ready to jump into the game if ever needed. Furthermore, the rivalry between Texas A&M and Texas is over 100 years old. We attend bonfires the night before every football game against Texas. Victory is in sight if the fire continues to burn in the morning. However, Texas A&M fans might very well see a loss if the fire dies out in the night. Two of the strongest traditions have lasted throughout Aggie football history. The fire that burns the night before a Texas game symbolizes the fire that burns within each of us. It gives us meaning in life and drives us to succeed. Sports take on the concept and they are what give many people their source of passion.
Alan Suemori, an Iolani teacher, once told me "Susan, I think you have finally found something that you truly enjoy, something that you are passionate about. Maybe its time you take it to another level and pursue it." Taking it to another level was what I did. Glenn Young, coordinator of the Iolani Classic, asked me in November 1999 to select the all-tournament team. The door of opportunity opened and I stepped through. I had no idea that the premier prep basketball tournament in the nation would thrust me into the journalistic world in the roles of a scout and announcer. The natural rush that I received from watching teams such as Oak Hill, Dominquez, De La Salle, Montrose Christian, and Northwestern brought back flashing memories of the torrent of emotions that I felt when I was five years old in the midst of 86,000 fans. A revelation struck me: I loved it. I love the atmosphere, the people, the attention, the entire package.
However, my teachers could see my passion before I realized it. In eighth grade, I was an avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Rockets. Cowboys play-by-plays and Rockets thriller game summaries filled pages and pages of my journal. My eighth grade English teacher made a comment that I will never forget: "You write about them as if they are your best friends." I eventually realized that I humanize my athletes. I make them as real as you and I, because they are just as real as you and I. Every human being struggles with who he is. Their appearances never tell the whole story no matter what their names are, who their sponsors are, and what kinds of material things they own. There is a story behind each individual. The psyche of an athlete may be the most complex yet. Writing features and discovering who a person is behind the mask is a task that I love. Similar to storytelling, I need to first uncover it page by page, then chapter by chapter. I recently wrote a feature on talented point guard Joel Brown of Northwestern High School in Miami, Florida. I saw his inner strengths and determination that allow him to keep going day by day, despite problems he faced in his rough neighborhood. Being a basketball player is not easy, and Joels story made me realize that.
Each one of us has a story to tell and a lesson that comes with it. Joel Brown taught me beneath the harshness of his life and his playing lie compassion that each human being possesses. Passion drives him to persevere and dedicate his entire being to basketball. My passion for sports and the stories behind them drive me to dig deep into the hearts of the athletes and tell their stories. My experience with the Iolani Classic gave me a taste of the media world. The Sportswriter for a Day opportunity will give me a mouthful.
Sacred Hearts Academy
"It sounded like a "Barbie House" play was being called 36-24-36, hut, hut, HIKE! After being passed a perfect assist, Jones threw the ball to Smith, the power forward, who dashed through the defending back-row specialist and into the end zone, scoring a match point for his team."
Who said girls cant write about sports?
Ever since athletic activities have been recorded, men have done most of the writing. There is a perfect explanation for this domination: men have simply participated in sports longer than women. If a man can write about nothing else, he knows how to report a sporting event in perfect detail, down to the color of each players jock strap.
With this glaring domination over athletics, how are women expected to compete? Well, they arent. Women are often found writing about the more serious subjects money, health, family and how to sew the perfect window curtain.
But as more and more girls join sports teams, there are more women willing to write about sports in order to gain exposure for girls athletics. The popular sports publication Sports Illustrated even introduced a womens magazine, Sports Illustrated for Women. This relatively new periodical, which is published bimonthly, consists almost entirely of women reporters and dedicates its pages to the coverage of womens athletics, health and fashion. Already, Sports Illustrated for Women appears to be popular among sports fans.
Which leads me to why I aspire to be the "sportswriter for a day." Women reporters are becoming increasingly recognized for their ability to write sports articles as well as recipes for the perfect apple pie. As a journalist, I want to be known for writing about topics other than news, features and opinions. I would like to become better acquainted with the finer points of sportswriting and also more experienced in overall reporting.
As the "sportswriter for a day," I will report as thoroughly as possible on the all-pro football player whom I would be assigned to interview. I think that this assignment is a great opportunity to show my interviewing skills and prepare me for future interviews with other well-known persons.
Journalistic benefits aside, I also feel that being selected as the "sportswriter for a day" will teach me more about football. The finer points of football are still unclear to me (why do football players smear black goop under their eye?), and I would like to be able to understand football to the point where I do not have to ask anyone about what is happening.
An additional prize would be the thrill of meeting a real celebrity. Meeting football all-pros in person? While I may not be able to distinguish which players belong to the AFC or NFC, I will likely be able to identify them. And almost any person would be willing to meet a professional football player, even if she has never heard of him before. Being treated as an "accredited member of the media" is another benefit that I look forward to. The only way to learn how to write sports accurately is to get as close to the action as possible, and I dont know of any way closer than being a member of the press.
Finally, if I am chosen as the "sportswriter for a day," I will return the favor by composing a well-planned and entertaining article. I will also integrate my personal style into the interview. Need proof? Looking at the opening paragraph says it all (dont worry, I know more about football than it appears).
Being chosen as the "sportswriter for a day" would not only teach me more about football, interviewing and reporting, it would also set an example for other aspiring female journalist. You dont have to be a guy to write about sports you just have to be dedicated to achieving your goal.
Radford High School
"Why do I have to do this? Why me?" I thought as I trekked across my schools practice football field. It was a Thursday afternoon, and instead of going home and taking a nap like I wanted, I was on my way to interview the Radford Rams Varsity football team. My trouble began earlier in the week, while I was sitting in front of a computer, working on a CD review for The RamPage, my school newspaper. My friend, Sinan, was a bit stressed because as the editor of the sports page, she did not have anyone to cover football. She explained the problem to Ms. Bautista, our advisor, and they began working on a solution to the problem. They asked everyone on the staff if they could cover the upcoming game. Everyone had excuses to offer: "Im not going to the game." "I do not know anything about football."
Ms. Bautista turned to me. "Are you going to the game, Christa?"
I looked up from my work. "Yes, I am going."
"Do you know anything about football?"
I swallowed hard. I knew what this was leading to, but I could not lie. We had just started a unit on football in my Physical Education class. I sighed, "Yes."
"Then can you cover the game?"
I hated football. In my opinion, football was stupid, but someone had to write the article, and I was going to the game. "Yes, I will cover the game." With those words, my arduous task began. I had to cover football.
There I was, walking across the football field. I had practically forced Sinan to come with me because I thought it was her fault I was assigned the article in the first place.We had sat in front of the locker room for what seemed like forever, listening to the coaches yelling at the players in an attempt to motivate them. It was horrible The locker room smelled like must and mildew, and the wind seemed to blow the nauseating fumes right into our noses.
Interviewing the players turned out to be a chore. I had decided my article would focus on the host of new players that had joined the team. They were not very eager to share their stories. I thought the questions I asked the players were relatively easy to answer, but the players seemed to have a difficult time coming up with intelligent responses. A typical interview usually went like this:
Me: How do you like being a member of the Rams Varsity football team?
Player: Its good.
Me: Why did you want to play football for Radford?
Player: Because I like it.
Me: How does Radfords football organization compare to your last school?
Player: Theyre both good.
Player: I dont know. They just are.
Me: What do you think this team will have to do in order to be successful this season?
Player: I dont know. Play hard, I guess.
It was frustrating, but my interview with the head coach was more fruitful. After talking to him, I had enough quotes to write a decent story, but I still had to get through the game.
Game night arrived. After using my press pass to get in free, I, along with a few other people who were taking pictures for various school publications, took my place on the sidelines. At first, I really dreaded standing on the field instead of sitting in the bleachers with my friends, but a few minutes into the game, I actually began to enjoy what I was doing. Even after I almost got hit with the football and several players diving into the sidelines, I still liked being where the action was. I even talked to a cameraman from a local television station, who was also standing on the sidelines. "This kind of work is a little dangerous," he said, as two players landed at our feet, "but it is fun." I wrote the article for the paper, and I wrote another football article for next issue. Both stories were voted the best sports articles by my fellow staffers.
I am glad I was assigned to write that article because that night as I was watching the game, I realized that I wanted to be a sports journalist. I want to open the sports section of a newspaper or an issue of Sports Illustrated and read my articles. Winning the Sports writer for a day contest will help me achieve my goal.
Mililani High School
The Pro Bowl is one of the most prestigious celebrations in the sports world. For someone like myself to even be presented with an opportunity like this is overwhelming. I would be honored and in complete awe if I am to be picked as the winner of a runner-up.
When I first read the rules or descriptions of this contest, I, and everyone else, thought this suited my perfectly. I feel if I were to be picked, I would do the job thoroughly and completely. I know I can do the job, I feel my writing skills and love of sports will make the story more than just a sports article.
I am a sophomore at Mililani High School in central Oahu, and I also work for Hawaii Sports Network. I regularly do well in English and writing courses. I do not simply do the assignments, I always feel as though my work needs to be perfect. Every piece I write represents who I am, and I know that if my writing were to represent the Honolulu Advertiser, I would not make you ashamed.
Hawaii Sports Network is the Web site which I write for, I usually cover the sports teams at Mililani High School. However, during the football postseason I also wrote stories of the Oahu Interscholastic Association and Hawaii High School Athletic Association playoff games. I often stay up into the morning hours to e-mail in my story as soon as possible. However, I will not take shortcuts, I wont be satisfied with anything less than the best I can produce. Ive written well over 30 stories for Hawaii Sports Network, and I still love my work. I do not receive payment for my services, I see it as an excellent opportunity to improve upon my writing.
Ive learned to be flexible because of the job, Ive written game stories, game previews, post-game stories, and player interviews. Also, Ive done many different sports, ranging from football to soccer and volleyball, even cross-country.
Earlier this year, I was also asked by Mililanis yearbook advisor to write two stories about the varsity and junior varsity football teams on campus. One thing I feel strongly about is never making an athlete sound bad. Especially in the high school game, I always try to showcase the good points a player had in their performance.
I feel I have great dedication in everything that I do, no matter how uneven a game may look on paper, I try to make it a point to be there and give that team just as much respect as any other squad.
Also I love sports, and I feel all sports deserve equal attention. Ive always loved sports, and ever since I remember, my dad and I would always go to sporting events together. Whether it be Rainbow baseball watching Corey Ishigo, football; in the days of Michael Carter, or basketball and Tony Maroney, seems like I always hle>