So earlier today my pal Mike Lewis steered me toward Tom Friend’s fantastic ESPN.com profile of William (The Refrigerator) Perry and his battles with alcoholism and, well, life.
Trust me—read this. It’s dazzling. And heartbreaking.
I don’t think I’ve ever met Tom, but I’m a big fan of his writing and his work. I also think he’s the perfect example of what’s right at ESPN.com—and, on the flip side, what’s wrong.
Friend is terrific, as are a whole bunch of the site’s scribes. Howard Bryant is as good as they come. Amy Nelson can bring it. So can David Fleming, my old SI colleague. But for some reason, ESPN.com puts a ton of money into its scribes and far too little into its editors. Wait—lemme elaborate. I’m sure the editors at the site are good and qualified and strong. But what drives me crazy is the high number of ESPN.com features (not columns) where the writers insist on placing themselves in the midst of the pieces.
I get it. I get the temptation. I’ve certainly fallen for the temptation. But, come day’s end, it’s a device I dislike; often lazily done and often transparently arrogant. Whenever I read such pieces, I think, “Bud, you’re not the story. Your journey is not the story. You might think it’s the story, and your editors might lack the guts/knowledge to tell you otherwise—but it’s not. It just isn’t.”
I’ve been reading Friend for a long time. He clearly knows how to weave a narrative without feeling the need to use “I” or “me” or “Tom.” That’s one of the reasons he’s great, and one of the reasons he has a follower for life.