Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Frank Deford's "The Rabbit Hunter"

I recently read Frank Deford's 1982 Sports Illustrated article, "The Rabbit Hunter,"which, at the time, was one of the most intimate (sic) discussions of NCAA basketball coach Bobby Knight.

Whereas my prior inclinations towards and thoughts of Bobby Knight were that he is a nihilistic, bullying, profligate, Napoleon-complex of a man whose credentials are inflated beyond pacification, I left Deford's article maintaining my beliefs, but, if anything, I gained a slight understanding of the roots of his cynicism and immorality.

While Deford is the writer I long to become, this article failed in succinctly presenting his research and anecdotal evidence in that its organization is reminiscent of a failed high school journalism exercise. His piece is divided into six sections, whose titles are less meaningful than his rationale for the organization scheme. As a means to improve the article, to begin with, the piece should have not been separated into sections, but rather presented in a hybrid-chronological order.

If I were to reorganize the piece, I'd present the piece in chronological order with, brief, flash-forwards as a means to portray how his past has shaped his personality.

I don't believe that Deford's greatest shortcoming here is in the organization of the piece, but rather in the way he uses evidence, quotes, and his own personal anecdotes to present a picture of Knight. It's often difficult to discern whose point of view Deford is using and, when you can, its virtually impossible to separate the most logical depiction of Knight from the emotional. While journalism, obviously, is an exercise is presenting facts so that a reader may form his or her own opinion on the matter, journalists often need to present some form of individual analysis; readers grow to trust individual journalists' judgements.

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