Sunday, January 30, 2005

Active vs. passive

A regular asks me about the use of active verbs vs. passive. My response is that active is usually better, less wordy, paints a better picture and lends itself to sports, which is active by nature. However, Roy Peter Clark talks above active vs. passive in this piece, writing tool No. 39 of 50. He notes that sometimes, passive is the way to go.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Sportswriting: Alive or Dead?

A potentially lively thread is under way on, called Sportswriting: Alive or Dead? I think it has potential. Then there's the ongoing pissing match between the anonymous BigDog and the decidedly not-anonymous Jason Whitlock on this thread. I'm with Whitlock for the most part, although I'm not sure it's the race card as much as JW simply did something once that really pissed BD off, for some reason.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Westword's look at Thomas George

Westword looks at thoughtful new Denver Post columnist Thomas George in this piece. Thomas lauds the "real journalism" practiced in the Times sports section, while noting that some fans want more "meat and potatos." (I've always kind of wished they'd look that way a bit more.) He also says after commiting to increase sports coverage, there's been a "turn back" toward national, international and local news at the NYT recently -- but says that had nothing to do with his moving on to Denver. "I have nothing but the greatest respect for the fine-quality journalists in that building," he says.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Writing Tool #40: The Broken Line

Roy Peter Clark talks about stepping away from a narrative story for a moment and offering some insight or analysis in Writing Tool No. 40 of 50. At it's simplest, this is the world-famous nut graph, but it's more subtle than that. The need to have it -- or not have it -- is part of the discussion when it comes to this story we talked about below.

Columnists as we knew them gone?

I'm a day late with this -- golf yesterday -- but Stephen Rodrick has an interesting take on the state of newspaper columnists in a column on Tuesday. There's a sentence that places the blame squarely on ESPN, but it does go beyond that. Part of me completely agrees with him on the endangered species status of "traditional" newspaper columnists; unfortunately, I can't shake the concern that this simply makes me -- and him -- a dinosaur in a rapidly evolving media world.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Farewell column

This has nothing to do with sports, but there's a little debate going on as to whether this column was appropriate or creepy or what. It's a column that appears after the columnist's death. A true farewell.

For whatever it's worth, I liked it, alot, and I liked that the paper didn't give it some big fancy special presentation or whatever. He said goodbye in his last column. The ultimate goodbye.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Question about a great story

I have some mixed thoughts on an excellent Eric Adelson story in ESPN the Magazine. The saga of Rick Lopez is a compelling, tragic one. I recommend the read. But I just ask: Did the reader deserve a little more foreshadowing of where this story was heading, or is the straight narrative compelling enough as is? Is making the reader go the distance to see how it ends OK, or should a hint have been provided, a graf or a even sentence.

Maybe it's enough knowing -- as is clear when you start reading a this kind of piece -- that something bad's going to happen without spelling it out.

But I'm not sure.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Questions, topics?

Anything in particular anybody wants to have hashed out in this forum? Post a comment below. Or e-mail me. I'll rotate this inquiry to the top from time to time.

With all due respect

When I don't have anything profound to deal with or important to link to, I'm going to nitpick sports writing to death. A great story starts with a single nit, or something like that.

Today, we're going to purge your copy of "respective" and "respectively." Simply because this is one of the most unnecessarily overused word forms in sports writing -- or any news writing, for that matter.

Consider this simplest of examples:

"Green Bay's Ahman Green and Pittsburgh Jerome's Bettis led their respective teams rushing."

I see that all the time. Tell me why?

Would any reader think Green led the Steelers and Bettis led the Packers? That they switched uniforms and played for the enemy?

Of course not; "respective" there is the appendix to the body of good writing.

But I'm more radical than this. I think it's never needed, or at least 99.9 percent of the time.

For example, I think "O'Neal and Wade led the Heat in scoring with 33 and 29 points, respectively" is completely unnecessary.

It's parallel construction, two names to two values. Nobody's expecting you to put the two names in one order and the values in another.

"O'Neal and Wade led the Heat in scoring with 33 and 29 points."

Again, respectively is unnecessary.

I maintain it and all its forms are helpful only once out of 1,000 times.

That's all I have for now. I'm going to finish up here and then eventually head for the bar -- respectively.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Baseball bloggers look to the Times

A couple of guys on chat about the Dodgers in an instant message session and have some thoughts on T.J. Simers and Bill Plaschke about 14 IMs down. Thanks to LA Observed for the reference. He doesn't post a LOT about sports, but when something is worth noting, he does.

Catching up

I've been away (well, local but away mentally) for a couple of days playing golf and hanging out. I'm also not so much in the habit of posting here yet.

But I've gotten a lot of e-mail and a lot of interest expressed, so I'll try to do a more conscientous daily job of providing sports writing and editing information here. So keep stopping back. When I get caught up, I'll have something more meaningful here.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Times' 'Hammer Time'

Bill Plaschke does a nice piece on Hank Aaron in today's Los Angeles Times. Feature length personality piece -- his best venue.

Good response so far

Well, I'm getting all sorts of links to click on through e-mail and comments here. You send 'em, I'll link 'em -- assuming nobody sends me a porno link or something.

What this blog is all about will continue to evolve with time, but it's focus, again, is going to be written content, print and on the web. That doesn't mean, though, that our broadcast brethren aren't completely welcome to send me stuff, too.

Thought for the day: Yes, the word "amongst" exists. No, it's not a word we should be using. It's "among." (Remember, in such cases, AP style and common sense dictate you always use the shorter form. )

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Death of a Racehorse

You can't find this online. I'm going to provide it. By W.C. Heinz, in the New York Sun:

They were going to the post for the sixth race at Jamaica, two year olds, some making their first starts, to go five and a half furlongs for a purse of four thousand dollars. They were moving slowly down the backstretch toward the gate, some of them cantering, others walking, and in the press box they had stopped their working or their kidding to watch, most of them interested in one horse.

"Air Lift," Jim Roach said. "Full brother of Assault."

Assault, who won the triple crown ... making this one too, by Bold Venture, himself a Derby winner, out of Igual, herself by the great Equipoise. ... Great names in the breeding line ... and now the little guy making his first start, perhaps the start of another great career.

They were off well, although Air Lift was fifth. They were moving toward the first turn, and now Air Lift was fourth. They were going into the turn, and now Air Lift was starting to go, third perhaps, when suddenly he slowed, a horse stopping, and below in the stands you could hear a sudden cry, as the rest left him, still trying to run but limping, his jockey -- Dave Gorman -- half falling, half sliding off.

"He broke a leg!" somebody, holding a binoculars to his eyes, shouted in the press box. "He broke a leg!"

Down below they were roaring for the rest, coming down the stretch now, but in the infield men were running toward the turn, running toward the colt and the boy standing beside him, alone. There was a station wagon moving around the track toward them, and then, in a moment, the big green van they call the horse ambulance.

"Gorman was crying like a baby," one of them, coming out of the jockey room, said. "He said he must have stepped in a hole, but you should have seen him crying."

"It's his left front ankle," Dr. J.G. Catlett, the veterinarian, was saying. "It's a compound fracture, and I'm waiting for confirmation from Mr. Hirsch to destroy him."

He was standing outside one of the stables beyond the backstretch, and he had just put in a call to Kentucky where Max Hirsch, the trainer, and Robert Kleberg, the owner, were attending the yearling sales.

"When will you do it?" one of them said.

"Right as soon as I can," the doctor said. "As soon as I get confirmation. If it was an ordinary horse, I'd done it right there."

He walked across the road and around another barn to where they had the horse. The horse was still in the van, about twenty stable hands in dungarees and sweat-stained shirts, bare-headed or wearing old caps, standing around quietly and watching with Mr. M.A. Gilman, the assistant veterinarian.

"We might as well get him out of the van," Catlett said, "before we give him the novocaine. It'll be better out in the air."

The boy in the van with the colt led him out then, the colt limping, tossing his head a little, the blood running down and covering his left foreleg. When the say him, standing there outside the van now, the boy holding him, they started talking softly.

"Full brother of Assault." ... "It don't make no difference now. He's done." ... "But damn, what a grand little horse." ... "Ain't he a horse?"

"It's a funny thing," Catlett said. "All the cripples that go out, they never break a leg. It always happens to a good-legged horse."

A man, gray-haired and rather stout, wearing brown slacks and a blue shirt walked up.

"Then I better not send for the wagon yet?" the man said.

"No," Catlett said. "Of course, you might just as well. Max Hirsch may say no, but I doubt it."

"I don't know," the man said.

"There'd be time in the morning," Catlett said.

"But in this hot weather --" the man said.

They had sponged off the colt, after they had given him the shot to deaden the pain, and now he stood, feeding quietly from some hay they had placed at his feet. In the distance, you could hear the roar of the crowd in the grandstand, but beyond it and above it, you could hear thunder and see the occasional flash of lightning.

When Catlett came back the next time he was hurrying, nodding his head and waving his hands. Now the thunder was louder, the flashes of lightning brighter, and now rain was starting to fall.

"All right," he said, shouting to Gilman. "Max Hirsch talked to Mr. Kleberg. We've got confirmation."

They moved the curious back, the rain falling faster now, and they moved the colt over close to a pile of loose bricks. Gilman had the halter and Catlett had the gun, shaped like a bell with a handle at the top. This bell he placed, the crowd silent, on the colt's forehead, just between the eyes. The colt stood still and then Catlett, with the hammer in his other hand, struck the handle of the bell. There was a short, sharp sound and the colt toppled onto his left side, his eyes staring, his legs straight out, the free legs quivering.

"Aw, ----" someone said.

That was all they said. They worked quickly, the two vets removing the broken bones as evidence for the insurance company, the crowd silently watching. Then the heavens opened, the rain pouring down, the lightning flashing, and they rushed for cover of the stables, leaving alone on his side near a pile of bricks, the rain running off his hide, dead an hour and a quarter after his first start, Air Lift, son of Bold Venture, full brother of Assault.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Poynter cites NFL injury project

Poynter's Al Tompkins takes a look at the work done by Carl Prine in Sunday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review concerning NFL injury trends. Appropriately linked to all of the cited material.

Welcome Orphans

It's not very functional, but for now, if any refugee wants to communicate something of interest, go ahead and post a comment below. It's going to be hard to do topics, but give it a shot. Remember, if you don't want to register, you need to sign your post. Otherwise, it will just read "anonymous." Just note, the purpose of this blog-in-progress isn't to be anything like the message boards; once they're up and running, that's the place for running messages, although comments to posts here will always be welcomed and encouraged.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Good writing from Poynter

I'm going to link to Roy Peter Clark's writing series a lot on here, assuming they don't complain. Here's No. 39, on verbs. It notes that while active voice is often better, there are certainly places for other verb types, too. He breaks it down, and there are links to the first 38 parts as well.

Bloggers welcome

One thing I'm going to link to here is sports blogs. No judgments (although I'll consider matters of taste). Send me an e-mail if you want to be included

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


I'm going to try to get something started here. We have a lot of interest in "self-improvement" threads on, and obviously, we want to continue them. I'm just going to make this a clearinghouse for writing and editing resources on the net. If you want to send things to me, do so here. Let's see how it goes.