Friday, July 20, 2007

Dead dogs? Wotta riot!

The federal indictment against Michael Vick accuses the Atlanta Falcons quarterback of involvement in:
  • Forcing dogs to fight each other for amusement and betting purposes.
  • Fatally shooting at least five underperforming dogs.
  • Soaking another underperforming dog with water, then electrocuting it.
  • Executing eight other underperforming dogs by hanging, drowning or, in one case, slamming the dog's body into the pavement.
Hey, I don't know whether Vick is guilty. I'd suggest we let the case play out in the judicial system. If he's found guilty, then he should take his medicine (perhaps something involving a breeding stand -- or, as prosecutors are calling it only in the Vick case, a "rape stand"?). If he's acquitted, then he ... shouldn't. (That's how it works, right?)

In the meantime, pretend you're a journalist looking at this story. More specifically, pretend you're a copy editor reading a story about the indictment. It's your job to write the headline. What are you going to say? Whether you believe the indictment or not, it tells a disturbing story if depravity, cruelty and callousness. The charges against Vick and his associates are serious, and millions of people are disgusted and offended by them.

Here's a suggestion from the Los Angeles Times: "Dog days for Vick."

Get it? See, the story involves dogs! So for Vick, these are the "dog days"! It's so clever! I mean, sure, the term "dog days" was coined by the ancient Romans to refer to the height of summer, when Sirius, the Dog Star, was visible at dawn. But forget about all that, because look how funny it is: "Dog days for Vick"!

Here's another funny one, from the New York Daily News: "Dog days looming for NFL, networks." Ha ha!

The Portland Business Journal has a fun "twist" on the story, referring to Vick's relationship with Oregon's big shoe maker: "Nike dogged by relationship wth Vick." That's clever and funny, too! Because as a verb, "dog" means to pursue relentlessly. Such wordsmithery!

Having spent 15 years as a newspaper copy editor, I know that the most important elements of a good headline are cleverness and wordplay. Most readers love a cute headline, even more so if they get to "figure it out." It's like sudoku! Now that I'm out of daily journalism, I want to give a little something back to my fellow rim rats. They seem to have the dogfighting headlines well in hand, so I'll offer some fun and clever "heds" they can use on game stories during the upcoming season if and when another NFL star runs afoul of the law.

Murder, gun(Name) blows away Lions
Murder, knife(Name) carves up Packers for 142 yards
Murder, tire iron(Name) caves in 49ers' skulls
Infanticide(Name) shakes, slams Texans
Rape (Name) bends Steelers over a chair
Statutory rape (Name) takes advantage of Browns
Civil rights violations (Name) lynches Dolphins
Kidnapping(Name) chains up Jaguars in Basement
Indecent exposure(Name) beats off Bears' comeback bid
Terrorism(Name) blows up Jets

If only I'd thought of this back in 1998, in time to write "Oh Baby! Oh Mama! Rae Carruth in driver's seat," with drophead: "Panther conspires to gun down foes in broad daylight."

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