Looking back

The professional athletes we cover are often asked to rehash and re-examine their mistakes. Even if they’re small ones. Tiny ones. Insignificant ones.

Maybe writers should, too.

Yesterday’s SI.com profile of Macho Man Savage‘s baseball career received a ton of positive praise, which is very gratifying. But, like a ballplayer who misses a sacrifice bunt, there are small elements I wish I could take back. For example …

• In the second paragraph, I wrote, “The boy had a dream, after all.” I hate “after all.” It’s supposed to be conversational, but it’s actually not. It’s just a cliched fill-in we writers use at 4 in the morning, when we’re struggling and a tad lazy. I used to whip out “after all” a lot when I was in college, finding my voice. That was 16 years ago. No need.

• I called him “Randall Mario Poffo.” His brother Lanny (who loved the story) told me late last night that Randy was his actual name. Damn Wikipedia (which I almost never rely on, but did late on deadline).

• “Was Randy Poffo the greatest athlete Downers Grove (Ill.) North High had ever produced?” Lately I’ve been using waaay too many questions as segways. Bad.

• This (With the local reputation as a winner, a player with power to all fields and a cannon of an arm from behind the plate, a future in pro ball seemed all but inevitable) is a dreadful sentence. Want it back.

• In the second section, I used “Randy Poffo” in back-to-back sentences. No need. Fatigue, I’m guessing.

There’s a bunch of other stuff. One interesting debate the wife and I had. Lanny was very emotional about Yankee Stadium holding a moment of silence for Randy, with his image on the scoreboard. He said, “I feel like he finally made the major leagues.” As soon as the words left Lanny’s mouth I thought, “Bingo—instant ending!” Excitedly told the wife, and she said, “Sorta cliche, no?” And it is, well, would be, if I’d said the words. But Lanny did, and I felt the sentiment was real. However, I wound up not concluding with it, because I thought I came up with a more original way.

Anyhow, there you go. Warped thinking from a warped scribe.

PS: Final thought—the positive feedback means so much, I can’t even explain. It really does. People send negative stuff all the time. So when you hear “Good job,” it’s very significant. So … thanks.

7 thoughts on “Looking back”

  1. You are a much better writer than he is at this point, but some of those are Rick Reilly ticks. The difference is that you used them in one piece, and he used them in every piece. Don’t beat yourself up – this was a great piece. Looking forward to the next one.

  2. Jeff- I loved the piece. For me, learning about his love for baseball made him transition from cartoon character to real person. Your all-nighter was definitely worth it!

  3. I have to agree – it was great piece. The fact that it was cobbled together at the last minute makes it an even better piece.

  4. If I may, it would have nice to include Lanny’s words at Yankee Stadium, cliche or not. Your ending was fine. A good piece.

  5. Great piece, but your idea for the ending with Lanny’s words would have had more emotional resonance. Sorry, but there it is.

  6. Since we’re correcting small, tiny, insignificant errors: You don’t like using too many questions as “segues.” A segway (actually, Segway) is one of those stand-up vehicles that cops ride in airports.

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