Monday, March 9, 2009

Martin Fennelly’s Visit: The great stuff in this business is “people stuff”

I’ve never had a healthy relationship with sports. My parents never placed me in such activities- only swimming lessons. Then, I almost drowned during a lesson and never returned.

Now, not only do I not know how to swim, but my eyes glaze over whenever someone attempts to engage me in a conversation about sports.

I’m just not that into it.

You can only imagine how my vision slightly blurred when I heard Martin Fennelly, sports columnist for The Tampa Tribune, was coming to speak to my Critical Writing class.

It’s nothing against him- I just don’t like sports. Nor did I believe I would understand what his columns were about, never having read one.

His visit isn’t what I expected.

Fennelly drew from his great well of experience and shared his stories with us about column writing and his profession.

The sports columnist, who has written for The Tampa Tribune for a long time, touched upon his different experiences writing several columns and his ways of thinking behind his writing.

Fennelly said when he’s formulating a story, he thinks about what would jump out at the reader. I can identify with this writing technique; I also think hard about what is it that I’m trying to say and which angle would jump out at readers. As a columnist, you want to keep your readers engaged.

Through his columns, Fennelly said it always fun to take people to task. He said he wrote a column recently ripping a coach for not being a “people-person.”

It was about Jim Leavitt, the USF’s head football coach.

This story was interesting. What peaked my interest even more is how passionate Fennelly is. He missed an exit arguing with Leavitt. Actually, two.

And he described Leavitt as a “turd-ball.”

“It got very heated, and that’s part of the job,” Fennelly said. “I get to say whatever I want.”

With that said, the columnist profession becomes increasingly appetizing to me.

Fennelly added that he doesn’t dislike Leavitt, however.

“I basically call him a bully,” he said.

Fennelly was friendly and you can tell when he spoke about his column writing, it was from the heart. He loves what he does.

Perhaps the most heartfelt moment was when he spoke about how he first became interested in writing.

His father died when he was 13 years old and after that, Fennelly immediately withdrew in his own head. He filled notebook after notebook of his thoughts.

In high school, he said it was easy to get lost. He began writing for a literary satire publication at school and loved it.

That’s where it all began for Fennelly.

During his discussion, there was some emphasis on “stuff.”

“The great stuff in this business is people stuff,” he said. “Educating and bringing stuff to a level that people can understand.”

And that’s partly what it’s all about.

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