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Column submitted for your approval -- take two

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by RichSuburbNews, Jan 29, 2007.

  1. RichSuburbNews

    RichSuburbNews New Member

    I won't be doing this every week, because who here really wants THAT? But any feedback is good feedback. It's done, but not on the page yet, so if anyone sees anything glaring, by all means yell something:

    Gary Gaines has a secret he’d like to tell you.
    Gary Gaines, for those of you trying to remember where that name seems so familiar, was once the football coach at Permian High School in Odessa, Texas.
    And that’s when it hits you. Mojo. High school kids turned minor demigods, swaggering down the hallways in jerseys as black as oil, perhaps the only thing as important to West Texans as football. Townspeople kneeling at the cross on Sunday and the goalpost on game day.
    Friday Night Lights. The sometimes brutal story of a town in which little united it outside of a football team with a fanatical following. The story that reacquainted football to literary circles and Odessa to people in Seattle and Sandston alike.
    And the story that Gaines will never, ever read.
    “I’m fed up with Friday Night Lights and everything associated with it,” Gaines told a crowd of around 150 people at James River High School last week.
    He’s not foolish enough to ignore the impact the book made, and he’s not above riding the wave that it and the subsequent movie and television series have created. He’s on the speech circuit, represented by an agent, and he’s willing to discuss his four years at Permian to whomever wants him to appear. That includes James River junior Coleen Maccabe, whose letter triggered his first trip to Virginia.
    Ask him about football culture. Ask him about what sports can do for a teenager. Heck, ask him about people who starred in the book, like Don Billingsley and Brian Chavez and Boobie Miles.
    Just don’t ask him about the book itself. He hasn’t read it, and he never will.
    “I could never make myself read it,” Gaines said. “We can laugh about it now, but it sure wasn’t funny back then.”
    Not when he came home to a yard littered with For Sale signs after a loss to Midland Lee. Certainly not when those same signs showed up in Brian Chavez’s yard.
    “I went to the booster club,” Gaines recalled, “and told them ‘I don’t mind the signs in my yard, but it’s not right to do it to the kids. And that was the end of it.”
    It wasn’t the latest loss in a slump, nor was it a season-ending loss. The Panthers went 8-2 that year and reached the Group 5A state semifinals, the type of performance that gets 95 percent of coaches in America a better contract or a better job.
    But it was a loss, dadgum it, and that’s not acceptable in Mojoland.
    “When I took over in 1986, there was a low tolerance for not doing well,” Gaines understated.
    Gaines got to leave Permian on his own terms, winning a state title in 1989 before becoming an assistant coach at Texas Tech. Oddly enough, he’s about to make another Odessa-to-Lubbock move 18 years later, taking the Lubbock school district’s athletic director job after two years in a similar post at Ector County.
    He still beats the drum for the power of athletics after 34 years of coaching. But even deep in the hearta high school football country, he’s not willing to preach success at all costs. Even if it means less money in the offering plates.
    “Students [in athletics] learn things that can’t be taught in a classroom; you have to put the two together to make a quality individual,” Gaines said. “If you have to go 10-0 for those traits to come out, it’s not worth it.”
  2. Cousin Jeffrey

    Cousin Jeffrey Active Member

    I would've made a stronger point at his inconsistencies. He says,
    “I’m fed up with Friday Night Lights and everything associated with it." (I love that the crowd numbered at a whopping 150), but he's willing to talk about everything associated with it, just not the actual book. So he's really not sick of it.
  3. moonlight

    moonlight Member

    You hooked me early on, but then I kept waiting for you to come back to the Friday Night Lights stuff. You never did.

    Tell me why he didn't (and won't) read the book. Tell me why he won't talk about it. Provide an excerpt from the book that might explain the so-called pain he's gone through.

    I think this has a lot of potential, but it needs fleshed out.
  4. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    I just keep echoing on these threads, which isn't helpful to anyone, but I'll agree here: The start doesn't match the finish. And I'll submit that a story's finish is the most important part of it, never mind all that lede bullshit that's drilled into our heads.

    It feels like you didn't know where you were going with this one. Make sure you have at least an idea of how you're going to finish before you write word one. And for me -- although I am often alone on this -- a quote finish signals that the writer didn't have anything in mind, or anything better, anyway. Unless the quote is dynamite, a good writer -- and you're a good writer -- should be able to top it with something he's written.
  5. That's good advice. It's easy to forget about the end until you get there and by then you only have a few minutes left. Personally, I prefer to save a strong, thought-provoking quote for the end ... one that sort of wraps up the whole ordeal (you can get them if you ask the right questions during your reporting)... but if I don't have one I'll think of a topper.
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