My Gift to Football Columnists: The Sports Column Generator

It's the season for giving, and in that spirit I have created something for local sports columnists all over the country. I know it's tough cranking out columns week after week. There are only so many story lines that can be told over and over again. They say there are only seven basic plots in all of literature, so how many can there possibly be in professional football?

Life is especially tough for columnists because so much of what happens on a football field can't be pinned down to any particular cause. A plausible narrative has to be invented and defended. After all, an essay like this doesn't fill up many column-inches:

Localtown, ST -- Sometimes our hometown team has two turnovers, sometimes it has one, and sometimes it has none. Sunday, it had two, one fumble and one tipped pass for an interception, and that's probably why they lost. The end.

Season after season of regurgitating the same narratives must get old, and I'm sure sometimes columnists feel like they could be replaced by a robot. Well, now they have.

My gift to the sports writing profession is the Advanced NFL Stats Sports Column Generator! Are you up against a deadline, but can't think of a hook? Does your editor want you to do another story on the 3rd string quarterback for the Jets? Did you wake up halfway through writing your article and realize it's almost exactly the same as one from two weeks ago?

That's where the Sports Column Generator comes in. Just select the winning team and the losing team from last Sunday's game of interest, plus enter the name of the star of each team, and click Generate. A column worthy of any local paper will instantly appear. If the narrative doesn't quite fit, feel free to hit Generate as many times as needed. There are 6^15 different possibilities! (That's over 400 billion different columns, all created by stitching together the most mindless, inane, football narratives and dumb jock quotes.) You'll be amazed at how well it all seems makes sense. Here's a randomly generated example from last Sunday night's game.

Try it now: The Sports Column Generator.

Merry Christmas football columnists. I hope you have a sense of humor.

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19 Responses to “My Gift to Football Columnists: The Sports Column Generator”

  1. Ian says:

    Example links to localhost

  2. Brian Burke says:


  3. Joshua Perry says:

    You should do this for the TV "Analysts"

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is better than the crap Skip and Steven were shoveling on ESPN first take.

  5. Justin says:

    A little of your PHP is showing at the end. Otherwise, this is freaking awesome!

    I appreciate that ANS has highlighted how cliche the sports media is. Though it is now impossible for me to watch a pregame show without high levels of annoyance.

    But I'm better for it, and I love this site, especially posts like this :).

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is brilliant

  7. Unknown says:

    ... in that it's NOT, which is the point.

    People get paid to write and say stuff this algorithm generates for free. Add up all that pay, it's big enough to constitute a faint blip in the economic background. Factor in all the areas of journalism that are amenable to this (a list which no doubt starts with stock market news but doesn't stop anywhere near there), add up all that people earn in remuneration for all that, the blip turns in an 'industry sector contribution to GDP'.

    On to the two paths: those on the one more traveled will condemn all this narrative generation activity as useless and that people get paid for it a Silly Thing at least headed towards a Bad Thing for Waste. Those on the lesser traveled path will note that removing that blip will damage the economy, perhaps in ways from which it will prove unable to recover. The Grand Solution? As implied in the tool: send all journalists on a quest to find meaningful and productive alternative work, but continue their pay in the meantime, while actually producing 'their' reports from this tool.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The sports journalism consumer will ultimately decide the utility of this tool. Be that as it may, I must confess my sincere admiration as a fellow code monkey. You have inspired me, Mr. Burke.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Further input: final score, scoring in each quarter, and win/loss-record for both teams.

    That would allow even better automatically generated articles. ;-)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Haha this is hilarious! I love the idea. Might want to improve it a bit though, this was one of my sentences, "The debate over whether Tom Brady is truly elite is far from settled, but he made his case forcefully all afternoon."

  11. Brian Burke says:

    Just click generate again...

  12. Ken R. says:

    Football season will be over in 6 weeks. Please, Please create one of these for the NBA so we don't have to read mindless columnist drivel through the basketball season also!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I swear I read one of these in my paper Monday morning...

  14. Anonymous says:

    I didn't know where to comment this but Sproles doesn't show up anywhere for individual player values because he doesn't have 71 carries. He does have 67 catches though and I feel like he really ought to be listed somewhere

  15. Brian Burke says:

    You can find Sproles on the NO team offense page.

  16. Ty Will says:

    You should also add a paragraph including a bunch of bogus psychobabble explanations for why one team outperformed the other such as "they learned to win" or "they are thriving on confidence". For example, this weekend on ESPN Radio Linda Cohn explained that she believed the Packers would perform better in this year's playoffs because they "learned" from their defeat by the Giants last season.

  17. Anonymous says:

    This exact style of writing, but for stock market analysis is eaten up and vouched for by a relative who is a high profile manager at a financial firm.

    When I have attempted to point out to him in the past that it was not actually saying much of anything, he gave me a big speech about how insightful it was and how he makes decisions on that information on a daily basis.

    I honestly had no idea how to respond. So many of the things he really likes are articles that read more or less: "If company X sells less stuff this year, they will make less money". Simply tautological hot air saying nothing.

  18. Jared Doom says:


  19. Unknown says:

    HOw did you do this, I want to do this for my high school

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