Matt Caputo and Tim Gunn

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Tim Gunn is a advisor to the contestants on Project Runway. My wife, who absolutely loves that show, acts as if Gunn is one of the great men of our time. Somewhat recently she uttered to me, “Tim Gunn said something that sounds simple, but it’s really worth living by.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“When in doubt,” Catherine said, “always take the high road.”

At the time, it seemed too simplistic to even note. Like, duh, of course we should take the high road. But for some reason the words have stuck with me. I think about it often, and have had Gunn enter my head during certain mini-junctures of my life. Maybe Catherine’s right—maybe Tim Gunn does personify a certain greatness.

I bring this up because, earlier today, I failed to meet Gunn’s standards. I wrote a post about Slam Magazine, and sort of dogged a story written by a young writer named Matt Caputo, pride of SUNY Purchase. At the time I didn’t think it was a big deal, but Matt was hurt. Actually, it seems, more than hurt. Wounded. We exchanged some angry e-mails, he lanced me on Twitter. The whole thing was stupid. And ugly. And dumb.

And, sigh, my fault.

Taking the high road is hard. R-e-a-l-l-y hard. I work in a business where you are called upon to be critical. Of athletes. Of coaches. Of GMs. And, sometimes, of writers and broadcasters. I’ve done it quite often (some would say waaay too often), and on certain occassions I come to regret my words. This is one of them.

Matt is a strong writer and, by multiple accounts, a good dude. It also turns out that the thing I criticized him for wasn’t actually his fault. So I would like to use this post to apologize to him.

I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, though it may. Too often, I think I fail to understand my voice. I don’t mean to imply—in any way, shape or form—that I am important or powerful or impactful. But I remember coming up myself, much as Matt Caputo is right now, and looking up to guys like Steve Rushin and Rick Reilly and Leigh Montville and Tim Layden. To me, these men were larger than life—they’d written for Sports Illustrated; they had best-selling books; etc. They were my heroes, and had they ripped my work publicly, well, I would have been crestfallen.

Again, I’m not saying I’m Rushin or Reilly or Montville or Layden. But I’m also not naive enough to pretend I haven’t had some success in this game, and that there are probably younger writers who look at my career and, perhaps, think, “That guy’s where I’d like to be.” (Note: You can have my dog right now). But, because I am a bonehead, I don’t usually consider such a perception. I don’t take enough responsibility for the weight of the words on this blog, and I too often forget that, when I throw a dart, it can stick.

Rip away. I deserve it.

9 thoughts on “Matt Caputo and Tim Gunn”

  1. And, why wasn’t the info about the dorm included in the piece?

    Solid article by Matt.

    I canceled my Slam subscription because I tired of the puffy-ness. Matt coulda gone harder on Stanley. I’ll be waiting for the Lorenzen Wright profile.

  2. he blew it Jeff, no need to apologize.

    and if the kid can’t take criticism, especially in today’s blog/internet/twitter age, he’s in the wrong business.

  3. Wow. I was on the fence on this issue today, but stuff like this is one of the reasons why I keep reading your blog.
    Kudos all around.

  4. The Pride of Curry

    Chris,

    My guess is Matt probably either added more about Roberts living in the dorm, but it got cut for space reasons OR he couldn’t go down to Baton Rouge to tour the dorm and give details on it and didn’t want to have to make something up.

    The fact that everyone says it’s not his fault tells me that he may have wanted more put in about Roberts living in a dorm. It’s still a damn good article without that mention.

  5. Heres a story.

    3 years ago I’m rediscovering my love of writing. I read a story Jeff wrote for ESPN about a former member of the Cowboys whose name I can’t recall. I sent an email to the writer, there was praise and I think I criticized something though I also can’t recall what. Day or so later I get a response. Nice enough, not an auto reply, he had read what I said, he responded to it. On a lark I asked this professional writer to take a look at my stuff. Certain I would get no response.

    A couple of days later I get a detailed critique of my sample, real usable notes. I still have the email somewhere. The words in that email helped shed a light on what I needed to work at and also gave me a dose of encouragement.

    Time has past and I’ve emailed Jeff once or twice with a question on process, always got a human, intelligent response that was exceptionally helpful. I’ve grown as a writer in that time I think and I’ve had a pin size speck of success. I’m not where I want to be but I’m a lot closer thanks to a lot of hard work, a lot of trial and error, and some encouragement I received from people like Jeff.

    Just a little contrast in case anyone including Jeff thinks he is a bully on young writers.

    I’m sure Matt Caputo has a lot of pride, and he should, he’s accomplished so much at such a young age. But I don’t view Jeff’s notes as overly harsh and while Matt may feel singled out that can’t be foreign if your name runs atop an article.

    Again, sorry about the excess words.

  6. Jeff –

    Perhaps Matt should be happy that he is even on your radar.

    When I was cracking into the music business, even meeting some of the larger producers and mc’s meant something special, regardless of the meetings outcome.

    Good old constructive criticism. Not neccessarily a bad thing.

    Aaron

  7. “Taking the high road is hard. R-e-a-l-l-y hard”

    No it is not. It’s really just a matter of avoiding juvenile things like name calling and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes when criticizing their work.

  8. Jeff…we’re all entitled to opinions. Matt, as a writer, certainly will share his…and, gasp, he might offend someone.

    Tough shit.

    Grow thicker skin. Deal with it. Maybe there’s constructive criticism in there somewhere. Use the feedback. Don’t cry about it.

    I don’t read Slam and now I don’t care to.

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