Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Really nice column, chance to make an elementary point

Joe Posnanski writes a really nice piece connecting the election of Barack Obama to Posnanski's relationship with Negro league player Buck O'Neil. It's posted on the message board, and one of the posters rightfully praises the last paragraph. Here are the last three:

He could not get enough. He spoke in classrooms and chatted with people at ballgames and went up to complete strangers in restaurants and at airports, and he believed in this America. It isn't perfect, of course, nothing close to perfect, and there's always a lot to do. Buck said that plenty. But, more, much more, he said: "Look how far we've come. Look how much we've grown. Look how much closer we are."

"How old are you?" he asked me once along the road. I told him.

"Just think," he said. "You will live long enough to see a black president."

OK, this should be an elementary point, but it's all too often missed by writers, particularly younger ones. Forgive me if it's elementary to you.

The last paragraph is great. But would it be as great if written like this?

"Just think. You will live long enough to see a black president," he said.

The answer, of course, is no. Ending a story or column on attribution just leaves it flat. Kills the mood.

I rarely deal in absolutes when it comes to writing, but this is close for me. Never end a story on attribution. Even something as short as this:

"And that," he said, "is that."

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