There is something about a well-done documentary that moves us like few other forms of communication. About a month ago, I covered the seventh annual True/False Film Festival in Columbia. I always left the venues shaking my head at how little I knew about some things.
On Saturday, I had the privilege of listening to Manuel Scott, a man who has endured far more than anyone I know.
Scott spoke to a group of Columbia teenagers about determining your own fate, not letting yourself become a victim of what you have been given or of how your parents have raised you. He was a dynamic speaker, somehow finding laughter in between talking about how his friend was strangled with guitar wire or how his stepdad was an alcoholic and beat Manuel’s mom.
It’s a story worth sharing and reading. Enjoy.
Roger Federer gliding his hands through his long, black hair, with sweat dripping off of every lock. Camera shots of his wife with her arms outstretched, celebrating another Grand Slam victory for her man. And the Melbourne crowd screaming, thankful as ever for another opportunity to watch the greatest win again, this, No. 16.
The ending to the Australian Open – Federer capturing another major in straight sets – we had seen before. We have watched the much-hyped last match end with a final set of drama even though everyone had memorized the last words of the chapter.
That doesn’t mean, however, that this year’s first major didn’t live up to its reputation of surprising us. It’s just that this year’s surprises weren’t the ones we want to see again.
The first revelation arrived with more confusion than the second. Here was Andy Roddick, a player known for his work ethic and great fitness, reaching for his right shoulder. After losing a set, he even called out the trainer.
We knew of Roddick’s bothersome knees, the injury led him to skip Davis Cup this year, but his right shoulder causing aches, the one in which his livelihood depends upon?
This was not a pestering injury that chose an awful time to reappear. This was a new pain that surfaces when you play tennis year-round with hardly any breaks.
But, to his credit, Roddick stayed in his quarterfinal contest against Marin Cilic, and even turned it into a match, winning the third and fourth set before falling in the fifth.
The second shocker was more of an eyebrow-raiser than an outright surprise. People probably expected Rafael Nadal to retire sometime during the tournament because of his nagging knees. But the knee injury that made him quit against Andy Murray in their quarterfinal was a new discomfort for Rafa, different from the tendonitis that has threatened his career.
Two top 10 tennis players, in skill and in popularity, reduced to mere editions of themselves, far from their best because of injuries. Both Roddick and Nadal might have lost even if they were healthy, but we’ll never know and that’s the shame of tennis’ offseason, or the maybe two months players don’t have tournaments to enter.
In few major events have we seen such glaring reminders of why tennis needs a longer break. Players have publicly complained about it for years, most recently, Roddick, coincidentally.
But how many more top 10 players need to bow out before tour officials to take them seriously? How many more matches will players need to tank at smaller tournaments to conserve their bodies for the Grand Slams before the rules are changed? And how many more careers will be threatened with injuries before the age of 30?
Tennis, like golf, as a sport, is especially afflicted when it loses its stars. The sport aches without its greatest stories, such as Rodick and Rafa. Some of the luster disappears, and tennis becomes even more of a niche activity to the non-participants.
But let’s not let it digress. Let’s fix the problem before it worsens and actually listen to the professionals: create a legitimate offseason.
The last time we saw Rafael Nadal in a Grand Slam, he was being replaced by the man he was supposed to be: a young, aggressive player with a volatile go-to shot that made everyone in the game awe at his skills.
But instead of Nadal ending Roger Federer’s five-year U.S. Open run and adding to his dominance over the greatest player ever, we welcomed Juan Martin del Potro to the New York winner’s circle and crowned him the best contender against Federer.
For del Potro, the 21-year-old Argentine, it was an earlier start to his Grand Slam collection than most had predicted. But, for Federer, it marked a time when someone not named Rafa maneuvered inside his head, disrupting the mental game of the best ever.
This season, no player’s 2010 trajectory could impact the men’s game more so than Rafa – the ripped, 23-year-old Spaniard who owns a 13-7 record against Federer.
If Rafa recovers from the second half of 2009 and intensely competes even with patellar tendinitis hampering him – although he says he’s healthy – he could battle or overtake Federer and Co. for almost every Grand Slam.
We could be spoiled with more classic Federer v. Nadal matches, with greatness trickling out of every shot and every point.
Tennis’s boxer would be back.
But if his knees pester him, if the bandages multiply and the pain increases, the lack of Rafa creates an open race for the titles, or as much of an open race as you can have with Federer still No. 1. Not to say that continued parody would be a bad thing, either, but an injuried Rafa only enhances Federer’s advantage, as we’ve seen.
With almost every other contender to Federer, we can at least pretend to think we know what we’ll be getting this year at the Grand Slams.
Novak Djokovic: a finals appearance, maybe even a title, but no dominating like a healthy Nadal could.
Andy Murray: an early exit, a couple of semifinal appearances and maybe even a final, but probably no championship.
Nikolay Davydenko: a solid three sets. For now, that’s about it.
Andy Roddick: see Murray.
It is del Potro who offers the best chance to replicate what Nadal has done. But to expect del Potro, after one Grand Slam triumph, to ease through the competition as only Nadal and Federer have done of late might be asking too much, too soon.
What Nadal will attempt this year will be something we have seen few times in this sport: a champion trying to rehabilitate his body while playing, and along the way, attempting to reclaim his dominance.
That is fitting, though, because much of what Nadal has achieved on the tennis court we had never seen before him.
With most everyone else this year, we at least have history to help us predict.
But with Nadal, we just don’t know.
Sometimes, in my job, I get to do really cool stuff, like listen to a rock n’ roll band, talk to people about the band and then write about the band. Tough work, I know. Every now and then, it’s fun to cover a featurey or fun story – one not about budget cuts or about a police brief about a robbery. Fun features also allow you the freedom to do whatever you want with the story.
I cherish this freedom. It’s a different type of story, so I try a new technique with my writing in almost every story as well. Plus, the band rocked.
Real people drive great stories. It’s a fact about excellent journalism – it requires real people telling their stories, not anonymous sources or speculation from the news reporter. And people like reading about people. Recently, a slew of real people were affected by budget cuts from the Missouri state government, just as millions of real people have been affected by this recession.
At the computer lab at The Greens at Columbia apartment complex off Clark Lane, school is in session.
Natalie Quade, a ninth-grader, converts cooking data into graphs using Microsoft Excel. Meanwhile, her brother, Ryan, a fifth-grader, silently jots down on a map the locations of landmarks such as the Taj Mahal and Mount Everest. It’s his geography homework through the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program, an online school for K-12 students.
Every Wednesday, the Quade family of Sturgeon studies at The Greens, where the children’s grandmother lives, before running other Columbia errands. Some 1,600 students statewide are like the Quade children: They study and learn through the online program, without a traditional school building or the direct supervision of a classroom teacher.
But come next semester, these students, teachers and parents likely will have to find a new way of schooling. The second semester of the program was eliminated last week as part of Gov. Jay Nixon’s $204 million in budget cuts, which included the elimination of about 200 full-time state jobs and 500 part-time positions.
“I can understand budget cuts,” said mother Carla Quade, a former accountant for the federal government, “but I can’t understand midsemester budget cuts.”
Sometimes, I groan when I first hear of a story. I admit it. I don’t always know a lot about the story when I voice my unexcited feelings, which isn’t wise.
For example, on Thursday, I covered a ceremony about an honor our local circuit court received from the Missouri Supreme Court. I sauntered to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court with the happiness of a fifth-grader walking to his classroom after being banned from recess. Turns out, however, the story was interesting and very newsworthy. And, like the boy banned from kickball, I learned something while indoors.
I love telling a feel-good story. A story about people who work hard and finally get what they deserve. And everything is as it appears. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think journalists love seeing or covering the faltering of human beings. We’re not evil people; we have emotions just like everyone else.
So, when I got the chance to talk to a woman who had three miscarriages, but then went on to have two children of her own, I was excited. I knew it would be a fun, happy story to tell, which is always a welcome change from covering a shooting at Wal-Mart, as I did a few weeks ago….Check out the happy story below.
One of the best things about being a journalist is you get to do so many things you would never do if you weren’t covering it. Prime example, the Boone County Art Show in Columbia a few weekends ago. For some reason, I had never attended the fantastic art show. Then my editor asked me to do a short story the day before it started.
I loved it. It was a challenging story, though, because I easily could have tried to add no life to it. Here’s how I started it:
People entering Boone County National Bank downtown yesterday signed in at the customer service desk, viewed a naked woman with a child on her lap near the mortgage loan office and glanced at a panoramic painting of the Hitt Street parking garage under the “Tellers” sign.
The 50th annual Boone County Art Show has again transformed a place of deposits and loans into a venue for displaying paintings and sculptures.
It’s fun to cover good news. I mean like real good news, such as a person who works hard and receives an award because of his or her diligence. Last week, I got to write about one such occasion. I love these stories that give you the freedom to try new things in your writing while sharing the good news.