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WMTPG, Vol. 6: Randall Patterson's The Trophy Son (aka dealing w/ crazy parents)

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Double Down, Jul 8, 2014.

  1. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Greetings, salutations, etc.

    Let's soldier on here with another installment of What Makes This Piece Good. If you missed previous installments, they are linked below.

    1. Buster Olney on Mariano Rivera's cutter.
    2. Mike Bianchi on Dale Earnhardt's funeral.
    3. Sally Jenkins on Kwame's Brown's rookie year.
    4. Selena Roberts' Knicks/Heat playoff gamer
    5. Rick Reilly writing around Patrick Ewing

    Once again, we offer up the usual caveats to these threads: The business is rough, jobs are scarce, the traditional path toward your dream job likely doesn't exist, get the eff out while you still can, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    That said, if you're breaking into the business or you're still hoping for that big break to come, there is a chance you might have to deal with — to put it delicately — difficult parents while covering preps. Even if you're covering colleges, or you don't really cover preps that often but you believe you're writing about the next LeBron James, you might have to deal parents who are kind of crazy. It's not very fun. We've had thread and threads devoted to how to deal with the phone call that comes and someone on the other end is claiming you ruined their son's or daugther's life.

    Randall Patterson, who spent many years writing fascinating stories (most of them about crime) for The Houston Press, tackled this subject in an incredible way back in the early 1990s, writing what remains one of my favorite stories ever written about a high school athlete.

    It's called The Trophy Son. If you've never read it, or even if read it years ago, I hope you'll give it a chance because I think it's a beautiful example of journalistic restraint; an example of how to write about difficult people in a way that seems nonjudgemental, letting their own words and anecdotes do the work.

    Then afterward, hopefully we can talk about: What makes this piece good?
  2. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    Holy shit, that was great.

    Pain. Death. Agony. Tragedy. General weepiness.

    Tremendous. All of it.
  3. I love this ...

  4. amraeder

    amraeder Well-Known Member

    Haven't had time to read through all of it yet, but really enjoyed this detail:
  5. albert77

    albert77 Well-Known Member

    Liked the matter-of-fact way he let this family hang themselves. However, it seemed to just sort of end abruptly. Also, I would have liked to have heard more from the football coach about the kid. Because it sure sounds like there was at least a little substance to the family's claim that he had it in for the kid. Not enough for a federal lawsuit, obviously, but there did seem to be some sort of animosity from the coach toward the kid, well before it went toxic. Of course, he may have also detected the attitude of entitlement that this whole family exhibited and tried unsuccessfully to handle that with the kid. All in all, though, a pretty solid read.
  6. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    This story calls for a "Where Are They Now?" follow-up. What a soap opera.
  7. hondo

    hondo Well-Known Member

    I tried to find stories about the resolution of the law suit but saw only a 2007 reference in Street and Smith's biz that it was tossed out. Would love to read a news story after it happened. Those are some very disturbed people, especially the mother. I'm not being frivolous in saying this but I know relatives and friend who have gone through the death of a child way better than this twit did because her baby got benched.
    I agree with how the story was written. The parents hung themselves so many times by their owns words and paranoia that it was only necessary for the author to put it in print, with no editorial comment.
  8. hondo

    hondo Well-Known Member

    Texas high school football coaches don't have animosity to kids who can play. They'd throw an escaped serial killer in there if it could help them win.
    As to his baseball ability, the parents were bragging about his 85 mph stuff. That doesn't get you in the rotation at TCU.
  9. albert77

    albert77 Well-Known Member

    Don't disagree. That's not unique to Texas; that's universal. It just appeared to me that the coach came into the kid's junior season -- when they were playing for keeps -- with a considerably more hard-nosed attitude than the kid had been used to. The kid couldn't handle the pressure, started making mistakes, it just escalated and got personal from there. And you're right about the fastball; 85 won't get you to D-1 unless you've got a really good breaking ball to go with it.
  10. hondo

    hondo Well-Known Member

    Pretty soon there will be lawsuits demanding the curve ball be outlawed because their baby hammered the fast ball all over the place in Little League and people told the parents the kid would make it big. But when he got to high school, the SOBs started throwing the benders and that's all she wrote.

    As an aside, one of my favorite baseball lines symbolizing a prospect going to the low minors and finding out it's a different world: "Dear Mom ... they're throwing curveballs. Be home soon."
  11. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    That was fantastic.

    I wonder how the parents took it. My guess is they saw themselves in the best light, as crusaders for justice. And if so, that would be part of the genius of the story.
  12. This story made me think of one that I heard from a college coach a decade ago.
    Woman called his secretary to give a tip about a player they "might want to scout" because "he deserves a scholarship." The secretary politely explained that coaches make decisions, but they might send someone to scout the kid's HS game. That led to this exchange:
    "Where does he play his high school ball?"
    "Oh, he doesn't play in high school."
    "Well, he must be in junior college. Which one?"
    "Oh, no, he's not in college yet. He's the best player in our church league."
    Loooooooong pause as the secretary doesn't know how to proceed.
    Then, the mom says, "And, I'm sure the coaches will want to see him play. He's a 6-footer!"
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