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Talk Is Cheap

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"People try to put us down (talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we get around (talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful cold (talkin' 'bout my generation) Yeah, I hope I die before I get old (talkin' 'bout my generation)"
— The Who, "My Generation"

A lot of sports writers/reporters are fat.

They’re out of shape, and most have no idea what it takes to score the game winning touchdown, drop a clutch three-pointer or run out a properly laid bunt. Most sports writers have never played the game in which they’re criticizing the players, accusing them of choking or sucking or both.

Same holds true with a whole slew of journalists/writers — a featured expose on the exploits of the Hells Angels written by someone who barely knows the difference between a Harley Davidson and a Triumph, the dangers of drug addiction laid bare by someone who’s never been addicted to anything or a smartly written piece on gun control by someone who’s never even held a firearm in the hand let alone sent a few rounds down range.

I always thought the great American writer, Hunter S. Thompson had it right, you can’t write what you don’t know about — so dive in, learn all that you can, immerse yourself into your subject and then and only then, write something. The results were typically much more profound then some trite conglomeration of sentences haphazardly sewn together in the form of a missive. Thompson was so good at it, they invented a new form of journalism to describe what he was doing – gonzo journalism. As a primer, go grab a copy of “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72” and prepare to be blown away.

Jumping on to that open rail car and following that train of thought out, I’ve always thought that anyone entering the journalism field should have to do something, anything, else first. Go be a firefighter or a sales clerk. Go work at a car dealership or spend sometime donating your time to a cause you feel worthy. Something. Something to give you some sort of a background beyond the four walls and the monitor in which you sit down to write in so that the next time you’re standing there pencil and paper in hand and dumbly asking “how did that feel” or damning someone’s action, you’ll have a clue to that of which you speak. There’s a reason too many readers think of writers as smug elitists – we are! We go to college, learn how to string some sentences together and then get out there and start doing it with no other background. No idea of the struggles and dangers and dedication of those in which we cover.

But this isn’t some sort of exclusive club where only members of the writing profession can join, otherwise we wouldn’t have to say things like “walk a mile in their shoes before you condemn.” Nope, we as a society just love talking smack about things we know absolutely nothing about. Somehow, bellied-up to the bar, either with or without a few ounces of Dutch courage flowing through our veins, we become subject matter experts on anything and everything lest we seem to be a tatter-head (additions to Webster’s are being made as you read this) for not knowing something.

Here’s a clue, you’re more likely to be thought of as a tater-head for the things you say than the things you don’t … I’m just sayin’.

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About Mr. B

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Benjamin,

    If I can be so bold as to add to your last words, you just said a lot!

    I want to become a writer, and this might sound like a lofty wish, given my education level, or lack of.

    However, I believe that if I hang around here, long enough, then I’ll have something to write about, and I’ll finally know how.

    I’ve walked many miles in all types of shoes, but these are the ones that feel the best.:)

    I’m open to any suggestions that you might have about how I can attain this goal.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    “A lot of sports writers/reporters are fat.”

    So are a lot of football players.

    “Most sports writers have never played the game in which they’re criticizing the players, accusing them of choking or sucking or both.”

    But they have, in most cases, followed the sport on which they report closely over many years, attending games, watching and re-watching TV broadcasts and tapes, interviewing players and coaches and comparing notes with other sports reporters and fans. Certainly it’s not the same as playing, but that kind of experience does give one an intimate knowledge of a sport, and one can accurately be called an expert.

    You can argue that their perspective isn’t, and never can be, that of a player: but who is their audience, anyway? Players – or their fellow spectators?

    I don’t fully buy into this notion that you should only write what you know. If that held true, whole genres of writing – science fiction, for one – wouldn’t exist.

    I’m not saying that a Trappist monk from Belgium could just suddenly write a convincing erotic novel about the harems of Arab sheikhs; but he wouldn’t necessarily have to inherit a skeikhdom or join a harem either.