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Van Valkenburg on the bizarro of Adam Muema

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Songbird, May 23, 2014.

  1. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    He's the San Diego State running back who went missing at combines and pledged his loyalty to a freaker named Lord RayEl.

    Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN wrote a great story on his hunt for Muema. The story starts out well enough, and continues along those lines, nicely written, much crisper and cleaner than other stores I've ready by KVV.

    But then you get to the part that changes the entire equation of the story. KVV latches onto and deciphers a strange clue and runs with it, and that's when the story cuts against the grain in the best of ways. Without that, it's just another "I went on a search for Adam Muema" story.

    I only know Kevin from here and the other funny farm and through a bit of social media. I've read plenty of his stories and always appreciated them on a certain level, but this is my favorite piece by him. I think he took a big step forward in his storytelling abilities.

  2. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks for the link. I wouldn't have read this.

    I thought he did a really good job. He took what the reporting gave him, and he didn't try to do more with it than what he had. I think that would have been the temptation for a lot of writers.

    The thing I found unsatisfying is the obvious -- his inability to get to Lord RayEl and piece together something bigger, if there is a story. I will bet that left him feeling unsatisfied too. But getting what he did get took good reporting and it made for a good story. I thought it was really well written -- paced well and it carried me along easily.
  3. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Whether he intended to do this or not, KVV made you earn the payoff. He easily could have started the story with the braggadocio of finding the clue that led to Muema's bit of gamesmanship but you had to be patient and work your way up to it.

    I suppose not being able to tie it all together with the story behind Lord RayEl bugged Kevin but he reported enough information about the person to add depth about it -- like how RayEl's mom paid for the website etc etc.

    It's more about how he almost missed the biggest clue out there. Unless it comes to bear later, no other writer caught the clue and, more important, re-enacted the moment. THAT'S the beauty of it all. He went back and stood where he was standing when the photo was taken and sleuthed out the rest. Not to mention having the balls to follow it up and put himself at risk somewhat late at night.

    So much of the talk here when it comes to craft includes Gary Smith and his ability to find that "oh shit!" moment. KVV found his "oh shit!" moment and fashioned the entire story around it.

    And he made us work to get there.
  4. H.L. Mencken

    H.L. Mencken Member

    First person. Necessary in this piece?
  5. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Definitely. The text conversation was an indispensable piece, especially the "I can see you" moment from Pro Day.

    "Told a reporter" always sounds ridiculous to me, and it would be especially so here.
  6. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    I agree with LTL. Staying out of first person is a good starting point. But then you have to be ready to use it if it looks unnatural the other way.

    Thought this was an outstanding piece.
  7. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    This person wonders if Muema played the game with other reporters who simply didn't put 2 and 2 together.
  8. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Indisputably it is.
  9. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Raw Story has an update as of today. Muema says he's never talked to Ray-El. Well, of course not. It's more of a fraud than a cult.


    I think it's enormous waste of time "looking" for Ray-El in the context of this story, unless ESPN wants to pay a hacker money to find him. Pretty obvious he's a scam artist.
  10. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Maybe he's related to Antwaan Randle El.
  11. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    One criticism I heard about this story today is that it doesn't mention mental illness. It's clearly shaded within the story, but not explicitly stated. Should it have been? Legally can you suggest someone is suffering from schizophrenia without any medical diagnosis to back it up?
  12. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I wrote the piece, btw. In case that's unclear. Just throwing it out there as a discussion point. Any criticisms are welcome.
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