2018.04.04 Old: And did he ever look back?

What perfect timing for this column of 20 years ago since I just recently took photos of people “breaking ground” for building projects. I encouraged them to keep digging and get the footers poured, but no, it was only the ceremonial thing. 

But I was wrong about the final sentence in this column. I looked back.


It usually happens when somebody wants a photograph taken that just doesn’t seem like it has broad appeal to readers. Or maybe it just doesn’t have broad appeal to me.

At times like that I say to myself, “I’m in the wrong business. I shouldn’t be working as the janitor of a small town newspaper.”

Sometimes the feeling comes when I look through other papers and see all these “firing squad” photos of people lined up against the wall waiting to be shot by the photographer. Often they’re doing odd things, such as passing a check or a plaque without looking at what their hands are doing.

Occasionally they’ll be shaking hands and then they’re suddenly asked to freeze in that position, turn toward the camera and show their teeth.

It’s so obvious this is what’s expected from small town newspapers, so what am I doing here?

And then there’s sports. I was reminded of my shortcomings there this morning when I heard a sports report on a National Public Radio station. NPR isn’t known for sports reporting, although they have some excellent sports features and commentators.

This morning a reporter told about the Utah-North Carolina game, saying that Utah “took a 16-2 lead quickly and never relinquished it.” That sounded good to me, but of course it wasn’t right. You’re supposed to say they got the lead and “never looked back.”

“Never relinquished” isn’t used in sports; “never look back” is always used. Clichés. That’s what good sports writing is all about.

Keith Whitehouse recently sent a primer on good sports writing in the form of a column by Eric “The Metaphor Murderer” LeRoy of the St. Augustine Record. Keith knows sports writers are always looking for new and interesting ways to twist the English language, so he sent the column my way along with a “thinking of you” note.

LeRoy fired a round early in the story (“a game more full of runs than the stockings of a tired streetwalker”) and added this a few inches later: “the disintegration was as subtle as that of a bank manager on cocaine.”

And like the grand finale at the Fourth of July fireworks show, LeRoy really let loose at the end of the Kentucky-Duke contest: “As Vesuvian passions erupted, as a six-year-old death knell burst into jubilant bells, into raving hosannas and Yesses, into probably a collective moment of transcendental peace and quiet, Kentucky had won.”

But that wasn’t the end of Eric LeRoy. There was still the Arizona-Rhode Island game to review, all in the same sports column.

• Arizona, “looking as stunned as a bunch of deadbeat dads tripping over their kids in the doorway.”

• Rhode Island’s mentor “looked like an inmate under a suicide watch.”

• “His team choked away the experience of a lifetime. They’ll be gagging all the way back to Palookaville.”

• “The Rams frittered it away like a butter-fingered fireman dropping the key to a burning door, with shouting voices sealed within.”

LeRoy did it once again in his final paragraph. “And North Carolina won with majestic aplomb. Shammond Williams played like an evangelist strumming a guitar on a moonlit evening: passion soothed to art. Vince Carter was a skyscraper among smokestacks, maybe the key to it all. Jamison? If Michelangelo had carved in choice ebony, Antawn would have been his David, and Mikey would have signed it ‘He Got Game.’”

What a heroic effort. LeRoy must go home at the end of the day completely exhausted.

I’m going home completely sickened, like a weak-stomached word hack in a vomitorium, and I know I’ll never look back again.