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Football feature (old)

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by wisportswriter, Jun 18, 2006.

  1. Hey all. I like the idea of the WW and hate to see it slowing down lately, so I'll throw one in the ring here.
    Even though this is a bit old (last fall), it's one of my favorites I've done, and thus would be anxious to hear what others think about how it could have been improved.
    Obligatory background: I'm 30, have been in the business for 8 years, and the TH has a circulation of right around 30K. I've previously worked at two weeklies and one smaller (six-day) daily.
    The two kids featured in this story are also from a local HS.

    Brothers together at last
    Finally teammates, Damian and Tyson Droessler joined by guardian angels
    For Damian and Tyson Droessler, the opportunity to play together for the University of Wisconsin-Platteville football team was a dream come true. Four years apart in age and each a star running back at Cuba City High School, the brothers from a family of seven children in Cuba City, Wis., missed that chance as preps - when Damian was a senior at Cuba City, Tyson was still in eighth grade.
    But Damian took a redshirt his first year in college, and Tyson has made the Pioneers' roster as a true freshman this fall, so the two are enjoying one season together on the same sideline and in the same backfield.
    Even when Damian and Tyson were not on the same football field, however, they always had two of their other brothers looking out for them. They can no longer cheer from the stands or offer a postgame hug, but Shaun and Jonas Droessler are nearby nonetheless, angels on Damian's and Tyson's shoulders.
    Shaun and Jonas Droessler both passed away within three years of birth from Krabbe disease, made well-known recently as the illness that afflicted the son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills. Hunter Kelly died on Aug. 5 at 8 years old.
    According to the Web site www.huntershope.org, the home site for Hunter's Hope, the foundation set up by the Kelly family, Krabbe disease is an inherited disorder affecting the central and peripheral nervous systems. Children who inherit the disorder lack GALC, an important enzyme that is needed for the production of normal myelin (white matter). When GALC is deficient, it produces toxic substances in the brain, causing myelin loss, change to brain cells and neurological damage. Progression of the disorder is rapid and death occurs in early childhood.
    Krabbe disease claimed Shaun Droessler in 1982, the day after Damian was born. The Droesslers lost Jonas to the same disease eight years later, when Damian was 8 years old and Tyson 2. Tyson has vague recollections of Jonas' passing - "Just sitting in chairs with him, rocking him," he said - but Damian remembers it all too well. "I watched the whole thing," he said somberly.
    What were two horrific tragedies for the Droessler family now make for a touching and inspiring story, especially when it comes to the two ultra-competitive brothers who can finally call one another 'teammate.' Damian and Tyson both believe that Shaun and Jonas are with them constantly, watching out for them, giving them strength and keeping them safe.
    "I think about them all the time," Tyson said. "Ever since grade school they've always been on my mind."
    Tyson said the loss of his brothers helps him maintain a sense of perspective. "You always try your hardest, but there's always something more important in life," he said. "Even if you lose, the sun is going to come up tomorrow."
    For Damian, knowing Shaun and Jonas are with him means having a sense of security.
    "(As a football player) I'm a reckless kid, but it's almost like I have one less worry," Damian said. "I play every play like it's my last, but inside I know it's not going to end because I have the feeling someone's out there with me."
    And this fall, for the first time, Shaun, Damian, Tyson and Jonas are all together on the same field. It's a safe bet that on Saturday afternoons, Shaun and Jonas shed their black-and-gold - after all, sister Brianna is a sophomore at Cuba City high school and plays volleyball and basketball - and slip orange-and-blue robes over their wings as they take their place upon their brothers' shoulders.
    Meanwhile, Reg and Deb Droessler watch from the stands, proud of their children, both present and angelic. Reg made sure long ago that Damian and Tyson knew that no matter what happened in their athletic careers, they would never be alone.
    "Whenever people would tell me what a good job Damian or Tyson was doing, I would say, 'He should be, he has the capability of two kids,'" Reg joked.
    "But I always told my boys, 'If it ever gets tough out there, just ask for help.'"
    They do.
    "That's who I talk to," Damian said of his two brothers who are departed but never far away, "before every game."
    Shaun and Jonas are there, Damian and Tyson are sure of it - listening, watching, protecting. Whatever the Pioneers' foes throw at them this fall, the Droessler brothers will be ready.
    After all, the four of them are now all on the same sideline, together on the same field at long last.
  2. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Ms Murphy,

    It's close and it's great material. But it isn't until sentence five or so that we hit the late brothers. We have to go through redshirt-whatever to get there. Which might be okay if you're spreading out over 3,000 words or something (but even then I don't think so.)

    Something right up front about: two brothers on the field playing for two brothers who can't watch them. Jesus, you don't even have to name them, just set the scene that way. Sentence two: The two guys on the field. Sentence three: the two who aren't there

    At the end: maybe playing in front of other family members and then hit on the two who aren't there.

    Monday Morning Quarterback your own published stuff. As an exercise try it again. And again. Print it out, cross shit out, block and paste. I do it over and over again--my measure of how close my stuff is to publication-ready is simply how messy the print-out page is. It's all useful.

    YHS, etc
  3. Friend: Thanks for the suggestions. Good stuff.
    And thanks for getting me to rethink writing under the pen name E. Dennis Murphy. (I'm Mr. Murphy. Don't worry, though. My parents' slightly unusual name selection has caused similar misunderstandings for 30 full years now. My favorite two stories: I used to get free samples of feminine hygiene products in the mail, and at my last paper one reader told my SE that he liked that girl who writes for us.)

    Any others have any more thoughts, feel free to add them. I have low ego emissions.
  4. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    MR Murphy,

    Sorry about that. My ex (I like to think of her as the maritial heat) was gifted the name Sydney, so she got all kinds of letters to Mr Sydney Miler. And of course I have a fullblown woman's first name as my family name and that has likewise confusion. I always identified with A Boy Named Sue, which I'm sure you have.

    Your Humble Man-Servant, etc
  5. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

  6. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Thanks for posting WIsport.

    I made some suggestions above, most of which are self-evident. I flipped those grafs in the middle because they were taking the pace out of the story.

    My one big problem with the piece, though, is this: I think it's okay for the subjects to refer to their dear departed as "angels"; and I think you as writer could get away with it perhaps once. But after that, it's problematic. Too sentimental, for one thing. Stories like this need at all costs to avoid cheap sentiment, or they become cloying. It's also kind of presumptuous (at least to a certain portion of your readership, who are going to fret and quibble over whether or not the boys were baptized, which is the only way they could have become angels in most Christian traditions). It's also a tough conceit to sustain.

    Most important: you must never, ever tell me that a story is touching and inspiring.

    Rather, as a writer, it's your job to touch me and inspire me.

    Thanks again. Hope this helps.
  7. Thanks, Mac. Great stuff.
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