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The tragic story of Earl Badu

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JackReacher, Mar 15, 2013.

  1. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member


    Tremendous piece on former Maryland walk-on Earl Badu, someone you've probably never heard of. I hadn't either until now. Some really powerful detail in this story.

    Very sad.
  2. I read this earlier.

    I was stunned that a doctor - OK, a chiropractor - would hand over $300,000 to a 27-year-old, who no background, to invest in a wireless company.
  3. VJ

    VJ Member

    I had serious issues with this story. There are so many unanswered questions I wonder why they felt the need to publish now instead of waiting a few months and hopefully getting cooperation from the booster or the family. Instead the story becomes how Badu's suicide affected the author and about suicide in general. There are 10 years of this guy's life that are completely unaccounted for. Nobody knows where the money went. It just becomes a collection of the author's thoughts and very secondary sources.

    I can't help but think if there is patience and eventually the family or boosters talks, the story becomes infinitely better and you can tell the story of this guy's life without the huge gaping holes. I knew this story going in and I'm not left with much more information than I had going in.
  4. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    That story sucks. The writer put the focus on his own reporting rather than the story itself, which sometimes works. But here his reporting was abysmal. No one of relevance talked to him. Real reporters know how to approach people in such a way that allows them not only to talk when they didn't think they wanted to but to really open up in these situations.

    The most interesting part was the money from the booster, but he seemingly stopped reporting out that side once his interview request was declined.

    One of my biggest issues with this entire story and its packaging is that Earl Badu absolutely did not make one of the 100 most important shots in Maryland basketball history. Andre Collins made the last bucket at Cole Field House, and I'm not even sure that would rank in the top 20. Yet the first 500 words are about this game that Badu played a completely irrelevant role in because, well, otherwise how would we care about a person whom we are given no substantial details about because the reporter's best (and only substantial) interviews came with two people who knew Badu for the last minute of his life.

    The focus on the societal issues at play hit the reader over the head with a blunt instrument. There was little depth to it. Talking to experts doesn't provide depth. We don't know the experts or their pedigrees. Why did Earl Badu commit suicide? Maybe we would have an answer if the reporter had talked to anyone who actually knew Earl Badu.

    And the writing wasn't good. There wasn't any memorable phrasing. He was straining with all sorts of lines. The second person was horrible and hackneyed. Don't tell me what I thought, not about a subject as important as suicide.

    Long-form sports writing is being watered down.
  5. dreunc1542

    dreunc1542 Active Member

    I agree with VJ and Versatile. The use of second person, in particular, bothered me a lot. I initially thought he was just doing that for the opening section, and couldn't believe he kept using it through the whole thing.
  6. Well stated.

    And this bothered me as well.

    The hook of the story - the lede and the headline - was the this guy was the last person to score at Cole Fieldhouse (not really a big deal anyway, but whatever) To hit a "famous" shot" .. except that he wasn't.
  7. JCT89

    JCT89 Member

    Glad I'm not alone in really disliking this piece.

    Chris Mottram and some of the other SB Nation guys hyped it up as one of the best pieces of sports writing in recent memory, but it was incredibly overwritten. The reporting was abysmal. This story could have been really great, but if no one is willing to talk then what is the point of publishing?

    Earl Badu isn't a well-known name. There isn't this huge market demanding a piece on his life. There was absolutely no reason to rush this half-assed, hackneyed piece out.

    YGBFKM Guest

    Maybe it's me and my historic lack of patience, but I've tried to read a few SB stories recently and I can't get past how much they are overwritten. I appreciate the desire to write long form, but I get the sense we're soon going to be unable to make a point in less than 5,000 words.
  9. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    It's not just you. SB Nation Longform has been utterly unimpressive. The field is getting watered down to the point where it's difficult to find the good stuff. Editing has slipped dramatically.

    I'm thinking I should start a blog called Mediumform with a bunch of 500-word essays and features.
  10. racingwriter427

    racingwriter427 New Member

    Let me state that I'm on the SB Nation Longform roster, so I'm obviously biased. But I think the critique of this piece has been way too harsh. The last few grafs just completely knocked me on my ass. Second person worked for me. Maybe the lede was a little long. But a lot of exposition was required. I didn't know who the guy was. (And does it really matter that he was just a benchwarmer, and that the shot he hit wasn't in any way famous?)

    And as far as the parents or anyone else not talking to him, what's he supposed to do? Let it sit in the can and watch someone else write it? Circumstances might've changed in a year or two, and the parents might have changed their minds, but that's a LONG time to leave something like that on ice. The story was dripping with heart and passion. There was clearly a fire burning inside him to tell it. I'm all good with him doing so - even if he couldn't get everybody we wanted to hear from.
  11. PaperClip529

    PaperClip529 Active Member

    This excuse works with Deadspin's Teo story. I just don't buy it for a story about an irrelevant back-up and his September suicide.

    I also hated the ending. Seemed really creepy to me.
  12. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Oh, boy. Let's see.

    Every criticism has come with specific complaints. You put your work out there, expect it to be criticized. It's no different from making a movie or TV show. I could have been much harsher. I was last night, when I first read the piece. The story is getting rave reviews from some people, as JCT89 pointed out. Do you want to tone down the praise? Everyone is free to express opinion as they like. If a story takes up 20-30 minutes of my time and sucks, I'm going to call it on it.

    The last paragraph was the best in the story, by far. It's probably why people left the piece feeling as though they had read something much better than they had. The second to last paragraph was completely fabricated. It was conjecture. He has no idea if Badu spent his youth "hanging his head whenever he flings an airball over the fence." He might if he had, you know, any details on Badu.

    You're entitled that, absolutely. It worked for everyone who praised the story.

    The exposition in the lede wasn't about Badu. It was about Cole Field House and Maryland basketball and the last game, in which Badu got very little playing time and did not make the final shot.

    Given that the entire story is built around this one moment, it matters quite a bit. The story was developed around his one moment of glory, only it wasn't a moment of glory. I hope Andre Collins reads this shit and gets pissed off.

    Who was writing it? This is not a relevant person. This is not a timely story. There's no reason to think the competition was breathing down his back.

    This is the worst. Just the worst. If you are "dripping with heart and passion" (and dear lord, that's an SB Nation Longform phrase), write fiction. There is no interesting new information in this story. None. The reporting was garbage. You're trying to tell someone's story. This story does a great disservice to Earl Badu and his legacy because of the many holes. We have no idea how anything happened. How can you write this story without the back story on the debt? How can you write it without finding out about how he's spent his past 10 years, really, about who he's left behind.

    The story read like a chronicle of trying and failing to write an obituary.
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