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Gary Smith on Gene Upshaw

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sirvaliantbrown, Feb 5, 2008.

  1. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/football/nfl/01/31/upshaw0214/

    I didn't have a problem with the standard-stylized-Smith "ghosts" stuff - as usual, it was confusing at first, easier (and quite interesting) a little later. I just wasn't sure - coming in knowing little about this debate - why Upshaw was treated so sympathetically. Why was every anecdote relayed through the filter of Upshaw's point-of-view? Why did Upshaw get quoted in paragraphs while the retired players got quoted in sentences?

    Got me thinking about Smith's masterful (long-ago) story on Richie Parker, the high school basketball star who became a pariah after he was convicted of a sex offense. In that one, Smith switched from POV to POV, letting each of the controversial actors involved in the saga explain themselves at length. By the end of the story, the reader had both a new appreciation for the complexity of the issue and simultaneous sympathy and contempt for most of the people involved. In this one, Smith seems to want us to be sympathetic to Upshaw - but by appearing to short-change Upshaw's opponents, he makes us skeptical instead.

    I don't know: seems like he used a Biography of Fascinating Person story template instead of the Controversial Issue Involving Well-Meaning But Flawed People one he used for the Parker story - which, I think, is the one that would have been more appropriate here.

    What do you think?
  2. Parker story was his best ever, imo. Radio second.

    This felt, like you said, an attempt to sympathize with Upshaw. Eh.
  3. The Parker story was remarkable, I agree.

    One more thought on this one: I think it was so unsettling because it seemed like an opinion column disguised as an in-depth feature.
  4. goalmouth

    goalmouth Active Member

    When we look back at this era of SI and laugh -- and we will laugh -- Terry McDonnell will be remembered as the editor who did what no other could do: make Gary Smith look like a hack.
  5. While we danced on the Patriots' grave!

    You sure like hyperbole, don't ya?
  6. DisembodiedOwlHead

    DisembodiedOwlHead Active Member

    Hated the use of first person in this story and found it unnecessary.
  7. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I found the beginning confusing. Gary Smith has dreams about Gene Upshaw? Or was that something else? Meat of the story was good though. It's amazing how one ex-player has so much power.
  8. Cousin Jeffrey

    Cousin Jeffrey Active Member

    I didn't find it that sympathetic to Upshaw. The fact that he led with the players' complaints sets an argumentative tone. I think he did a good job of showing that Upshaw is not a simple villain, and there's no proof that he is. The whole situation sucks, for sure, and the older players are getting screwed, but it's not as if Upshaw is the sole reason. i liked the story a lot; not his best, but he's certainly no hack here.
  9. Is he writing more often than he used to? Seems like it.
  10. goalmouth

    goalmouth Active Member

    Reread my Patriots thesis. I said they'd come back to the pack. I stand by that.

    As for the Upshaw piece, compared to what I grew up reading, McDonnell has succeeded in his plan to turn SI into a lockerroom version of People. And if a writer such as Smith lies down with dogs, every once in a while he'll get fleas.
  11. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    Perhaps Upshaw is deserving of a little more sympathy than what people were willing to grant before (which is to say none).

    Efforts have been made for former players. Many screwed themselves in years past by refusing to take a hard line with owners (because of the short shelf life of their careers). Many screwed themselves by taking benefits as early as age 45 (and destroying their chances at disability). And, finally, it's unrealistic to expect a generous pension for work service that is a tiny fraction of the average worker. I know the old '72 Dolphins are panned on here a lot . . . but take a moment and see what they did with their lives after football. Very impressive.

    To satisfy the former players, Upshaw would have to literally ask current players to give up some of their money and just hand it over to the retired players. Wonderful gesture . . . but what other profession would ask its current employees to do this? And what would your reaction be if your bosses told you that X% of your income was going to be put aside for someone who left the newspaper business in 1972?

    Oh, and a memo to Gary Smith: It's Gale Sayers, not Gayle.

    If the Dwarf or Loopy had made that mistake, we would be on page 38 of this discussion by now.
  12. That comparision isn't valid because our profession isn't as physically taxing. That's a whole other world in the NFL. There have been studies upon studies about long-term health problems from playing pro football.
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