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Your opinion on my latest column...

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by SuperflySnuka, Feb 1, 2007.

  1. Any thoughts? I appreciate the feedback... ???


    Two men.

    Two athletes.

    Two champions.

    Their names are Tiger and Roger, but they might as well be Death and Taxes.

    For on Sunday, their victories were just as inevitable as the Grim Reaper's and the IRS'.

    In two sports that are defined by their champions - golf, with Nicklaus, Palmer and Hogan, and tennis, with Sampras, Laver and Borg - Tiger Woods and Roger Federer again displayed the greatness that has defined their careers.

    And they did so with striking similarities.

    Woods went into the final round of the Buick Invitational in nearby Torrey Pines down two strokes to a pair of PGA rookies: Brandt Snedeker and Andrew Buckle. Up two on Tiger, though, is like being down two to anyone else, so it's no surprise the rookies faded away. Prowling up the front nine, Woods cast a bigger shadow than the sun.

    You hope he's not there, you pray he's not there, but, sorry, he's there.

    And there he was again on Sunday, carding a final round 6-under 66, doing just enough to win his third straight Buick Invitational, and seventh straight tournament overall, just four short of the record sent 61 years ago - 61 years! - by Lord Byron Nelson.

    Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Federer went about business as usual. For Federer, it's a monopoly. He cruised through his Australian Open final, defeating Chile's Fernando Gonzalez 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4. The win was his 10th major championship, putting him in the elite company of all those greats mentioned earlier.

    And his 10th might have been his most impressive.

    Federer won 21 straight sets in his seven Open matches, becoming the first player to sweep a major since Bjorn Borg in the 1980 French Open.

    Like Woods, Federer did his dirty work with scarce emotion. Only when the final point was scored did the 25-year-old Swiss star allow any feeling to set in, dropping to his knees and letting out a yell.

    It's that quality that sets Woods and Federer apart from their competitors, the ability to maintain an even keel when a drive lands in beach or when a second serve finds its way a half-inch past the back line.

    But it's another quality that puts Woods and Federer in the company of greatness.

    The two share a will to win unparalleled in sports - unless you consider poker a sport, in which Phil Ivey would take the shirt off your grandmother's back. Spectators haven't seen this since Michael Jordan was in his heyday, but with this kind of competitiveness, maybe you have to go all the way back to Napoleon.

    But even Napoleon lost at Waterloo.

    I'm not so sure it would have happened to Woods or Federer.

    They're just too good, and some things are just inevitable.

    Like Death.

    And Taxes.

    XXXXXXXX is a journalism senior and editorial adviser for THE XXXXXXXX.
  2. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Superfly, it was a good effort. Thanks for posting. If you're just a college senior, then you're off to an excellent start.

    Just a couple things:

    -While death and taxes seems like a logical comparison, and feels like a good way to bookend an article, just understand that saying something is as steady and as predictable as death and taxes is something of a cliche'. That doesn't mean it's bad, it just means it's overused. As writers, we use cliches because they're comfortable. They're something we've heard before, so it feels like it's clever or interesting. Instead, too often, it's something that reads like it's predictable. What if, instead of death and taxes, you had said that Tiger and Federer are as relentless and as cold as an Alaskan winter. Or something like that. (Similes aren't my strong suit.) You clearly know how to frame a column, now as a writer, try to think outside what's comfortable and stretch your legs. Jim Murray, one of the best columnists ever, wrote once that Elgin Baylor "was as unstoppable as a woman's tears." That was fresh and beautiful because, as a reader, you'd never heard it before, but you exactly what he meant when you read it.

    I think you did a nice thing by pointing out that Tiger and Rog both go about their business in a cold, emotion-free manner. I knew that, but when I read it in your column, I realized I hadn't thought much about that similarity. I might have almost led with that. Think about this too: The best columns provoke emotion in the reader. The reader might completely agree with what you're saying, or completely disagree, but either way, you want them to be riveted by your argument.

    Instead of pointing out that Tiger and Roger are so similar, so dominant, just as an exercise, think about what this column might have looked like if you'd taken the approach that their cold, emotionless style is bad for their sport. That sport, at its essence, is about flair and excitement, that the joy we get from organized professional competition comes from watching life's heroes and villians battle for glory, and the chance to hear their names echo throughout history. Tiger and Roger, while athletically and artistically brilliant, make Bill Gates and Al Gore look flamboyant. Doesn't their perfection, and their corporate, cookie cutter, approach take some of the fun out of sports? How much more fun would tennis be if Marat Safin, not Federer, were the best player?

    Or, flip the argument around. You could argue that with all the showboating, the arrogance, the emphasis on drama queens and theater, we've forgotten that greatness is sometimes just a stone-faced guy taking his stick and hitting a ball again and again, making it do magical things that say more about him personally than his own words or facial expressions every could. As human beings, we like to see athletes dominate because failure reminds us too much of our own limitations.

    Columns work best, in my opinion, when they try to say something. When they make you think about an issue differently. Will we ever know how good Roger and Tiger really are if they never have someone to come along and push them they way Agassi pushed Sampras and Watson pushed Nicklaus? Or is Andy Roddick the modern day Jim Courier, and Federer is simply so good, that Roddick will never get the chance to be Courier because he just so happened to have been born in an era when the greatest man to ever pick up a racket lived?

    I think you have a good base, and your instincts and writing style are good, and now you can take it to the next level. Read what Bill Plaschke does, or Jason Whitlock, or Mike Wilbon, or Sally Jenkins, or Mike Bianchi. All of them take strong positions, and try to further the debate, even if they purposely take a devil's advocate stance just to make people think about an issue differently.

    I liked your line about Napoleon.

    Thanks again for posting.
  3. Those are great comments, DD. Very sound advice on how to make a serviceable piece great.

    What a thoroughly useful, thoughtful, thought-provoking discussion so far.

    Am I on the right board?

    PS. DD: "Play in the dirt, you get dirty."
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