Home > Journalism, Language > Sentence of the Week

Sentence of the Week

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

[Laura Morton for The New York Times]

I’m still catching up from a large backlog, so this is really last week’s sentence of the week. I reserve the right to write about the sentence of this week. And the winning sentence is actually a perfectly fine sentence. Its failing is a matter of context.

On to the winner. NYT sportswriter Pete Thamel had a piece in the Sunday sports section a week ago about Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck, as you may know, was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in the fall. It was widely expected that if Luck chose to leave Stanford early, he would be the #1 pick in the NFL draft, well ahead of the Heisman winner, Cam Newton. But Luck chose to stay at Stanford for another year, both to play one more year of college ball and to continue enjoying student life at Stanford.

Thamel’s article is a good one. In a short amount of space, he lays out the issues well and you leave liking Luck. (A little alliteration there!) But there’s this puzzling passage, maybe the result of some combination of re-writing and careless editing:

Although Luck’s mind was essentially made up [regarding staying in school], he turned to someone outside the family. With his feet shaking nervously, he called Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who stayed at Tennessee for his senior year instead of entering the 1997 N.F.L. draft.

Luck recalled that Manning told him, “If you’re not ready to move on with life, it’s the best choice.”

Manning advised him to never second-guess his decision or worry about injuries. He added that his senior year had helped him be better prepared to turn the corner in his second N.F.L. season, when Indianapolis improved to 13 victories from 3 the previous season.

Luck also received texts of support from a former N.F.L. teammate of his father’s, Archie Manning, whose sons Peyton and Eli faced the same decision.

That last sentence is the winner. Um, given the three paragraphs that preceded it, don’t we know already that Archie’s son faced the same decision? Or did we need a reminder?

Well, as I say, maybe it’s just a slip in the editing process. But it made me stop and re-read the passage to make sure I was following the logic of the article.

Alas, further down the article, there’s what now seems to be the obligatory mention of that notorious war criminal, Condoleezza Rice. Is it no longer possible to write a piece about Stanford without mentioning her, or to televise a Stanford sporting event without panning over to her in the stands? Had anyone ever heard of Stanford before she left to join the Bush administration? It would seem not.

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Categories: Journalism, Language
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