Friday, March 05, 2010

Another Writer Uses the "Throwback" Line

First, let's get out of the way immediately that this post isn't an anti-Chase Utley piece. Utley is one of the best in the game and there is no doubt when hearing from his manager and others that the guy has a great work ethic and focus. No, this piece is about cliches that writers fall into all the time. Check out this Mr. Bodley piece about Utley. One line in particular stands out:

"To me, Utley is a throwback, the type of gritty, no-nonsense player from a forgotten era."

How many times as a sports fan have you heard a line similar to that? It is so hackneyed and so trite and yet writers do that all the time. First, there was no forgotten era. Each era is unique and yet the same. Each era contains players and people that work hard and others that just slide by with as little exertion as possible. There are no such things as throwbacks. Every era has guys that work harder than others.

In his career, Jeff Kent was a "throwback." Before him there were others. There are always no-nonsense guys and nonsense guys. For every Jeff Kent, there is a Moe Drabowski. And Utley is not even alone in being the type of player he is. Let's see, there are Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox. That's just two off the top of the head.

The truth is that ballplayers today probably work harder at their craft than in bygone eras. Players train year round whereas in the past, before the big money, players would drive milk trucks in the off season (among other jobs). There is more of an emphasis on conditioning than ever before. Doesn't seem like ole' Mickey Mantle spent much time in the weight room.

And yet, every so often, writers will dust off the old throwback line or phrases like "a forgotten era." As a writer, the Fan can sympathize with Mr. Bodley. Perhaps just a story about how hard Utley works or how he never smiles and always has his game face on didn't seem to have enough zip to it on its own. Or perhaps Bodley should have just trusted his readers to understand what he was trying to say without dusting off the old cliches from the Sportswriting 101 class.

The Fan doesn't mean to come down too hard on Mr. Bodley, who happens to be a very good and very respected writer. But let's put a ban on such cliches okay? The same can be said for, "grizzled lefthander," "scrappy shortstop," "fiery manager" and "runs like a gazelle." Sure as shooting though, the Fan's plucky readers will be searching themselves for when the Fan pulls out the old cliches. Well, you should.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

The only real throwback player I can think of is Roy Halladay. In terms of complete games, he has no equal right now.