SI = Baseball journalistic hegemony

verducci

I laughed at loud this morning when I read an article by the above-pictured Tom Verducci in my Sports Illustrated magazine (who knows why I still keep the subscription when I can read it online) about the Boston Red Sox championship.

SI journalists are SO TALENTED and well-read and able-to-make-analogies-from-any-walk-of-life incredible, and that makes their stories so rich and (I’m not overstating this); life-giving. The power of good journalism is the ability to draw the reader out of their life into the world of the story the journalist is trying to convey, and that almost cannot take place in the ten-second soundbites of our modern newspapers and magazines; unless the publication makes a commitment to an extended story. Whereas SI is kind of schizophrenic with this because the magazine is chock-full of little snippets to pander to our felt-needs, they seem to carry a significant commitment to articles long enough to develop a story that pulls the reader into its world. They did this for me with their Randy Shannon article a bit ago, they did it with the at-the-time mystifying-yet-awesome National Geographic-like article on great white sharks in the Farallon Islands (I found out later, the book was written by a former SI Women editor…classic case of throwing a friend a bone), and they did it with this simple article. And by they, I mean Tom Verducci.

Here’s some CLASSIC quotes from the article;

“The world championship is all of it: the commitment to player development, the obsessive devotion to detail, the fluorescent-bathed nerds who break down statistics and video as if they were the Dead Sea Scrolls, the small army of scouts, the bad dudes — yes, especially the bad dudes — who wear the Boston uniform and strip the will from their opponents one grueling at bat after another. The entire thing is a giant Jenga game; remove any one of the interlaced blocks and the whole damn tower might topple.”

“The Red Sox expected to win? Talk about putting a Bucky Bleepin’ Dent in conventional wisdom. These are not your father’s Red Sox.”

This one’s great;
“But its most amazing achievement is this: It has supplanted the Calvinistic, multigenerational dread of Red Sox fans with the sunshine of optimists. Boston, which once made a gruesome art of losing, now almost always wins the Big One.”

“When the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, church bells rang out across New England and people rushed under a full moon to the gravestones of their deceased loved ones to pass word of the championship. The Nation enjoyed one big cathartic cry. Funeral parlors braced for a boom in business, the now-I-can-die-in-peace crowd suddenly mortally tranquil. This championship carried a lightness of being, a baggage-free, hedonistic escape. Behold the sated, if spoiled, Red Sox fan, a species not seen on the planet since Babe Ruth wore the Sox uniform in 1918, the last time Boston won a world title so close to a previous one.”

“Ellsbury batted .438 in the World Series, and in Game 3 he joined Joe Garagiola (1946) and Fred Lindstrom (1924) as the only rookies to get four hits in a World Series game. He and Pedroia, a 2004 second-round draft pick, combined to reach base 16 times in the four games. They are emblematic not only of a generation of Red Sox players that knows nothing about an 86-year curse, but one that also treats hitting as a kind of a martial art, employing a wicked combination of Zen-like patience and blunt-force trauma.

This is journalism as art, folks, even if some journalists at times fall flat on their face in trying to be too pithy (*cough* Gennaro Filice *cough* example quote in first paragraph in article here). And art is what our mechanistic, utility-driven, sound-bite society needs. Spaces to take a breath (or lose our breath) in encountering beauty and depth. Don’t give up, SI. And thank you, Tom, for helping me take a breath from the humdrum with your gift.

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