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Too hard on the kid? - plus writing critiques

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by Sweetness, Mar 22, 2007.

  1. Sweetness

    Sweetness Member

    Had a lot of people -- many from other schools even -- taken aback by this article. Was it too hard on the kid? If we single a guy out for winning the game isn't it fair and responsible to point out when someone lost the game?

    Plus any writing critiques would be much appreciated. Tear this heap to shreds, please.

    Thanks for your time.

    By John Ryan
    Saturday, March 3, 2007

    OROVILLE -- Paolo Mancasola sat and husked a leaf of gauze from his shin Friday.

    He sat alone.

    Mancasola was the last Central Valley High School basketball player to leave the Butte College locker room.

    A clump of athletic wrap heaped at his bare feet on the cool gray floor. The rest of the team had already cleared out after the 51-47 loss to Durham. Only Mancasola lingered from the Falcons' Northern Section Division IV championship loss.

    The junior shooter sat alone, isolated in pretty much the same way he played most of Friday's game.

    Not even the echoes of Durham's "ball hog" chants stuck around. They left with the Trojans' student body to celebrate the program's first section title.

    Mancasola sat, alone, marooned by a Durham defense that turned nastier as the game progressed, abandoned by offensive teammates who couldn't bail their star guard out of a poor night and cut off by his own inability to get his team involved early.

    Trojans fans picked up on that last trait and gleefully ripped him for it.

    "Jeez," Mancasola said, his voice drained but steady. "I can't say the game was won or lost by the crowd. Normally, after a game like that, if we'd have won I'd tell you 'Stuff like that only makes me want to show them up more, it makes me play better.'

    "It's hard to say that when we lose."

    Mancasola dropped 20 points in the affair, a game high. He missed 69 percent of his shots and occasionally neglected the other four CV guys on the floor to do it.

    Three minutes into the game Falcons coach Kevin Strohmayer screamed "Stop forcing it," as Mancasola tried in vain to slash through the lane on one play and drive the baseline the other.

    He tried to dish off late in the game, after he missed back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers with two minutes left, CV down by two.

    But it came too late.

    In a cruel twist, Mancasola started to get too democratic with the ball when the Falcons needed him to take over.

    He passed up attempts at the game-winner twice and deferred at the precise moment when a basketball team needs its best player to get greedy.

    Instead Derek Downing chunked up a rushed jumper -- hit in the face by a surprise pass from Mancasola -- which sailed wide and cued up a celebration for the team that played the most solid game of team hoops.

    Mancasola doesn't shoulder the blame alone, although Durham's crowd singled him out every time he touched the ball.

    The Falcons were outclassed inside by the No. 2 Trojans (24-7). Durham outrebounded Central Valley 33-19 and shredded the Falcons defense for a series of easy buckets in the third quarter.

    "We gave up a lot of open layups," Strohmayer said. "I think that was the biggest factor in the loss. It was more of a lack of communication and mental breakdowns. We lost track of our man quite a few times tonight."

    The Trojans went on a 14-3 run out of the break to lead CV 38-31.

    The Falcons cut their deficit to one on a putback by Downing with four minutes left. Durham answered with a 6-1 run that Mancasola halved when he drained a long 3-pointer with 3:44 to play.

    The swish silenced the critics until he brought the ball up court on the next possession and put up an errant shot without so much as a feigned pass.

    Mancasola grabbed a defensive rebound, came back down the court and tried it again, with similar result. Then the crowd really jumped on him and the junior appeared to hesitate a little more with each Durham refrain.

    "I've never let a crowd affect how I play," Mancasola said. "I do like to shut them up, though. Unfortunately we weren't able to do that at the end."

    Throughout the postseason CV's had a role player step up in the crunch when it got tight.

    "I thought, as a team, we didn't have enough guys step in to pick it up tonight," Strohmayer said.

    Billy Cochran scored 10 points for CV, Downing and T.J. Carlile each had six points.
  2. PHINJ

    PHINJ Active Member

    Yes, it is too harsh. You can do this at the next level but I wouldn't for a high school game. Plus, using the fans' idiocy to hammer the kid over and over is pretty weak.

    Similarly, using what the coach yelled at the kid in the heat of the moment without getting further comment from him is bad.

    And you know, at this level of competition, games are won and lost by the dominance of one player all the time. If that's the way he plays all the time -- because he is that much better than anyone else -- it's hard to fault him for it.
  3. It's well written.

    And W A Y too harsh. The kid is in high school.

    General rule = kid pays to play or is a true student-athlete (i.e. no scholarship) you don't single out his or her play in the game. There are lots of ways to play a story without bashing.

    If you are dealing with athletes that are paid or that are on scholarship then critiquing play is fair game.

    Use the same rule with coaches. If a high school coach is essentially volunteering, then bashing his in-game decisions is a little suspect. If he or she is paid to coach, then question his or her decisions all you want.
  4. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    "husked a leaf of gauze" ..... NO!

    And, yes, it is way to harsh on the kid...at least the parts of it that I could understand.
  5. Sweetness

    Sweetness Member

    Thanks guys. Appreciate the responses. This one has bugged me for awhile now.

    I still wrestle with that line though.

    If the kid strokes 45 points, 15 boards I'd be all over how much of an effin stud he is. I feel like this was too heavy, but I can't shake the impulse that it's an obligation of journalism to tell the story, good and bad. Perhaps I just failed as a reporter on this one. Needed more sources.

    As I wrote this, though, I couldn't help shake the image of a couple teammates hopping in the car home and bitching out Paolo under their breath.

    Don't I owe it to them to tell it like it was?

    Appreciate your guys' insight.
  6. dawgpounddiehard

    dawgpounddiehard Active Member


    You got some potential there... pretty decent stuff, but yeah, when it comes to HS sports, you have to be extra careful.

    That's not to say leaving out a quarterback's name if he threw a game-losing fourth quarter interception, but raking the kid over the coals is probably not the best idea.
  7. Sweetness

    Sweetness Member

  8. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    Actually, you owe it to your readers not to use phrases like "dropped 20 in the affair"
  9. The stats/game result already does. I think you could have talked about how the fans were getting on the kid without passing judgment on whether they were right or wrong. I would have described the crowd's behavior and allowed the kid to comment on it. I also would have asked both coaches (and maybe a teacher not attached to either school) whether they thought it was appropriate that the crowd was allowed to ride a high school kid they way it did. Is fan behavior an issue in your district? If so, you could have tied this into that issue.

    Always look for the bigger story…
  10. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    Forget the fan behavior...there was way too much about the fans in the story.
    Opposing fans ragging on the other team's star player is not a story unless they become excessively abusive and/or borderline violent. One reference to the "ball hog" chant was more than enough.

    Don't tell me he missed 69% of his shots, tell me what he shot. 69% of what?
  11. dawgpounddiehard

    dawgpounddiehard Active Member

    Sure, these are things you need to watch out for... being a good writer doesn't mean you can turn phrases like "dropped 20 in the affair" or for example: "exploded for 15 tallies in the second half of the contest" Keep that stuff for hairdos on the 11 o'clock news. Simply saying "scored 20 points" is OK because the way you describe a setting or present the game story, analysis and quotes makes a good story.

    I like how you described the scene (aside from the "husked a leaf of gauze"). That's something that will benefit you in the future.
  12. "Husked a leaf of gauze" almost got me to drop the story right then and there. That's horrible.

    All in all, it would be a good story if it was about an NBA game. But at the high school level you just can't heap it on like that. Most prep writers wrestle with whether or not they should include the name of the kid who made the error in the bottom of the 7th that lost his team the game, or the quarterback who fumbled on the goal line. Ultimately, I think those are fair game because you have a responsibility to tell what happened. This is just way over that line. Yes, you're telling the reader what happened, but you're also raking this kid over the coals in the process.

    I'd give it a thumbs down.
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