All Is Right!

vince_leapA respectable 12-4 for Week 3. Whew! I was starting to wonder if I’d lost my juice. All is right again in my pigskin prognosticating world. Now if only the brakes hadn’t failed on my pick-up truck! You know she was running great, she just wouldn’t stop.

Neither will my success, I tell you. I’m on a roll, baby! Speaking of rolls, did you see Vince Wilfork’s interception against the Raiders? He flew through the air with the greatest of ease. His teammate Rob Ninkovich said, “I looked up and saw a low flying wide-bodied aircraft over me with the number 75 on it’s belly!” Yeah you did. And your life flashed before your eyes, too. [Note: the picture captures the fleet 'Fork just before landing.]

It’s a good thing that the Pats defense is flying, because Tom Brady and the offense appear grounded. You have to know it’s an early-season thing and they’ll get it in sync, but a couple more games like that last one and fans will be calling for Janeane Garofalo. What? Isn’t that the back-up QB’s name?

Woe is me, however, where the plight of my 0-3 Buccaneers is concerned. Fresh off the biggest beatdown since the lowly Leeman Bennett years, they get to face the Steelers. Oh joy! Our fill-in offensive coordinator (who I think just graduated high school in May) gets to match wits with the venerable Dick LeBeau. I’m going to pray extra hard. I’m gonna remind God that half the Bucs’ roster are Christians. Please, Jesus?

Talking about bad– how about the Raiders? They are so hard to watch the NFL banished them from the continent this week.

Here are my ‘God-save-the-Queen-and-while-You’re-at-it-bless-my-Bucs’ picks for Week Four? Native Americans over Giants (sorry Sarah), Panthers over Ravens, Packers over Bears, Bills over Texans, Colts over Titans, Lions over Jets, Fish over Chips (trans: Dolphins over Raiders), Steelers over Bucs, Chargers over Jaguars, Falcons over Vikings, Niners over Eagles, Saints over Cowboys, Patriots over Chiefs.

And before you write to correct me, I do realize that Dolphins are mammals and not fish. Work with me here; the gag falls apart if I say Mammals over Chips. 

Improving Our Craft

storyAlways on the lookout for ways to get better at what we do, I’m beginning a regular series of posts here that I hope will provide you with some great insights and thought provocation where our craft is concerned. This gem recently crossed my desk. How does the old saying go? If the shoe fits … Drink deeply!

I am forever battling the verb “to have.”
It is an inherently weak verb.
Anytime we use it, there is probably a stronger verb that could be used instead.
“Have an impact” is passive, “make an impact” is active — etc., etc., etc.

It’s also true that the past perfect, which uses “had” (he had gone to England), is almost never necessary in storytelling. It’s almost always entirely adequate to use the plain past tense (he went to England), because we’re almost always telling the events of stories in simple chronological order. Or probably should be.

If you have a long flashback section, you can use the past perfect in the very first sentence, and then switch to simple past tense for the rest of the sentences in the story, because you’ve already established that the events you’re describing happened earlier than whatever you said before:

He was the best student in the entire school.
He had gone to England to pursue his dream of a European degree. (The past perfect tells us this happened prior to the events in the previous sentence.)
He loved his classes. He did well. (Simple past tense; we don’t have to say He had loved his classes. He had done well.)

But once in a while, you really, really need the verb “to have.”
Here’s an example of a place where it was needed, but the writer failed to use it — this is Garrison Keillor, from “Writer’s Almanac,” talking about Samuel Johnson:

“In 1735, he married a widow who was 20 years his senior. He set out to find an intelligent wife….”

Actually, the widow was intelligent, and he didn’t marry her and THEN set out to find an intelligent wife, as this pair of sentences suggests.
The past perfect tense would have solved this:
“In 1735, he married a widow who was 20 years his senior. He had set out to find an intelligent wife….”

H.T. to Doug Brendel for this writing insight. Doug talks and writes. He raises funds. He is a husband, father and an all-around interesting guy. Here’s evidence.

Prophet? Not So Much

darinbut7-9? Inexcusable! But cut me some slack. There was some ‘act of God’ sort of stuff happening out there last weekend. I mean–the Browns beat the Saints? That’s like parting the Red Sea, right there! The Bears won on the west coast? Crack the sky! To recover my reputation I’m going to need Divine intervention.

And so will my Buccaneers this week. In week one they made a 78 year-old journeyman QB look like an All-Pro. In week two the Rams beat the Bucs with some kid off the street. Austin Davis? Didn’t she play Alice on the Brady Bunch? Don’t look now, but Matt Ryan is next to face the Bucs. Although, if the Falcons brain trust has been watching film, they should rest Ryan and throw a practice-squad QB into this one. The Bucs will make him a star.

Hey, here’s a thought: Do you remember when sports commentators were wondering if having Michael Sam on your team would be a distraction? Thanks to Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and a growing-by-the-day list of clowns, we may never hear of Michael Sam again! And you know who else is off the media hook? Since girlfriend/wife/child beating has taken over the airwaves, you haven’t heard another word about the Washington Native Americans name offending anyone. Daniel Snyder is thankful. Seriously, pre-game shows used to run down the injury list; now they run down the arrested and indicted list.

I have to admit I’m a little gun-shy. But let me see if I can pull a rabbit out of my hat. Here are my please-Jesus-help-the-Bucs picks for Week 3: Falcons over Bucs (Jesus said ‘no’), Chargers over Bills, Bengals over Titans, Ravens over Browns, Packers over Lions, Colts over Jags (Indy may rest the team and just send the cheerleaders for this one, and if they do, I still pick the Colts), Patriots over Raiders (with Tom Brady blindfolded and his right hand tied behind his back), Saints over Vikes, Giants over Texans, Eagles over Native Americans, Cowboys over Rams, Niners over Cards, Dolphins over Chiefs, Seahawks win the Super Bowl rematch over the Broncos, Panthers over Steelers, Bears over Jets. And this week’s tie breaking handicap: Over/Under on number of players charged with domestic violence this week ~ 3. Take the over!