The other day I was reading a piece on ESPN.com about an athlete whose career never panned out.
It was very well-written; done by someone I respect and know quite well.
However, it got me to thinking about sports profiles, and how so much of what goes into the especially noteworthy ones is, to be frank, crap.
Let’s put it this way. As I’m writing this post, I’m sitting here in the Panera in Yonkers. I’m wearing a T-shirt, baggy shorts and beach sandals. I often look up at my computer to see what’s going on. If I were writing a lede about the scene, I might go with something like, “The writer sits alone, lost in his thoughts and his past and the scent of sweet bread that oozes throughout the room. Jeff Pearlman comes here oftenâ€”a search for food, sure. But, really, a search for inspiration. For life.”
I mean, I’ve literally written that sort of lede, oh, 50 times. Was I trying my best? Sure. Was I trying to be sincere? Unquestionably. But is it sincere? Fact: It can’t be. I’ve found that, 99 percent of the time, when a man is sitting alone is a restaurant, he’s not searching for inspiration or motivation or any-ation. No, he’s usually either:
â€¢ Checking out the babe in the skirt.
â€¢ Wondering whether his fantasy team is OK.
â€¢ Picking out a wedgie.
â€¢ Thinking about picking out a wedgie.
â€¢ Wishing his boss would drop dead.
As writers, we are askedâ€”ordered, by some unwritten doctrineâ€”to delve into another’s mindset. But it’s a pretty monumental crapshoot, because even if someone literally tells you what’s on his mind, he’s lying half the time. So we guess or research or guess and research, then hope for the best.