Thursday, October 30, 2014

Breaking Down the Red Cross's Response to the Damning ProPublica Report of 10/29

As someone who served as an Americorps volunteer with FEMA in the five months following Tropical Storm Sandy, the waste, mismanagement of resources, inadequate treatment of volunteers and prioritization of "looking good" over "doing good" described in ProPublica's article is completely unsurprising. FEMA was guilty of all of these sins, so it is not surprising that FEMA's close partner organization is also guilty of those sins.

When a large organization is guilty of bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, the last thing you would expect them to do is make a honest accounting of their sins and own up to what went wrong. The Red Cross, in this respect, is no different from any other agency that has been caught out.

Let's parse their anodyne, noncommittal, deeply outraged response, shall we? Actual lines from the press release (which is here) will be in bold, commentary in regular text.

It is regrettable

Translation: We wish you hadn't aired our dirty laundry.

that ProPublica and NPR have used the two-year anniversary (sigh) of Superstorm Sandy's landfall to paint a distorted and inaccurate picture of a Red Cross response that helped tens of thousands of people who urgently needed our services with hot meals, shelter, relief supplies and financial support.

No doubt the Red Cross did indeed do this. ProPublica even mentions in its article that the Red Cross, when challenged, likes to throw out huge numbers of people it says it helped--and that shouldn't be discounted or underplayed. At the same time, doing a lot of things right does not obliterate the things they did very, very wrong--like allowing sex offenders into childrens' play areas, for example, or wasting 30% of available meals ostensibly for disaster survivors. Just because you did a lot of good is not a valid argument that you didn't also do some bad. It's more a PR shield than an actual response--note that their objection is to "the inaccurate picture" painted--and the Red Cross doesn't respond directly to most of the specific charges from ProPublica.

Our mission is to alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies, and that alone is what guided our service delivery decisions during Sandy and during every emergency. [Italics theirs]

This is the exception. They say this so boldly--alone--but then why is there an internal Red Cross document that alludes to Red Cross Headquarters "diverting assests [sic] for public relations purposes"? Why is there an email from a Mass Care officer, a guy on the ground, from 11/18/12, reporting that 15 of 37 trucks were diverted at one point for public relations purposes? Not responding directly to these pieces of evidence--which come, again, from within the Red Cross--seems a lot to me like the "ignore it and hope it goes away" approach to PR, which is an idiotic way to approach the problem. Repeat after me: The existence of the ProPublica article is not a PR problem that you have to solve. The problems within your organization that lead to poor service are the real problems that you need to solve.

We are proud of the work of our 17,000 Sandy workers – nearly all of them volunteers– who served more than 17.5 million meals and snacks, distributed 7 million relief items, and provided 74,000 overnight stays in shelters. Two years after Sandy’s landfall, the Red Cross has spent or committed to spend $310 million, which is 99 percent of the $311.5 million raised for our Sandy response. 

Yes, true, but how much was wasted? And given the Mass Care officer's testimony that 30% of meals were wasted, one wonders if that 17.5 million number covers meals actually served, or merely the total number of meals ordered, without accounting for waste and inefficiency? How do situations like the one described in the article, where a Red Cross kitchen serving 22,000 meals was ordered to scale up to 220,000 the next day, count? Would you count the number of meals that actually made it into the mouths of disaster survivors (something like 70,000 Danishes delivered, half of those wasted, according to ProPublica) or would you ring up 220,000 on your balance sheet and say you did that? This is a real question because the internal report revealed that the size of the disaster "crippled" the Red Cross's ability to tabulate what it had accomplished, and apparently the Red Cross is unusually opaque when it comes to telling the public how it actually spends its money. That $310 million that was spent lost some percentage to administrative overhead and waste, but it's impossible to tell how much from the numbers they provide the public.

And our surveys show that the overwhelming majority of the people we served had a positive experience with the Red Cross and the services we provided.

Will you make those surveys, or aggregated numbers from them, available to the public? What was your surveying methodology? Who was asked, and when? Is it possible that survivors rated you well on the whole because you fed and sheltered them during and after the storm, but nevertheless had concerns about your management? What is an "overwhelming majority", on a percentage basis of the people asked? Do the surveys contain leading questions? Is there a place for survivors to provide suggestions, and have you taken those suggestions into account? Again, as a random schmuck, I have no reason to reflexively believe you when you're in full cover-your-ass mode and won't make the details that back up what you're saying available to me.

In the chaotic first few hours and days after a disaster, it is impossible to meet every need, especially on a disaster as big as Sandy. When problems occur, we try to fix them quickly, and we always strive to do better. 

This is true, and should not be underplayed (although that is their job). But there is a difference, as my fellow FEMA Corps members and I learned in the FEMA response, between problems that are inherent to the crazy post-disaster environment and problems created by bureaucratic mismanagement, lousy priorities (I point again to the food trucks diverted for photo opportunities), and infighting. I'm glad that the Red Cross says it fixes problems, but since it has not acknowledged in this release that any of the problems outlined in the article actually exist, that tends to make me pessimistic about whether those problems were actually fixed.

As we do with all major disasters, the Red Cross proactively sought feedback from hundreds of volunteers, staff and others as part of a thorough review of its response to Sandy. Based on that feedback, and our own evaluation, we implemented changes to continuously strengthen our service delivery. 

'Continuously strengthen' is such a mealymouthed phrase; it describes fixing problems without ever acknowledging that there were problems that needed to be fixed. I don't have much to say about this part; it's simply impossible to judge its veracity until the next major disaster. It is possible that the Red Cross made some changes, as the internal review conducted away from the cold light of the press was far more honest and candid than the Red Cross was willing to be in this release. However, when the first item on the list of "Hinderances" [sic] is the Red Cross National Headquarters, whose sins include "Direct involvement in Service Delivery decisions without local understanding" and "Diverting assests [sic] for public relations purposes"... well, I don't feel like the public has much reason to be optimistic. If the senior leadership is part of the problem, what are the odds that they spontaneously became part of the solution without any outside pressure to change, up until this point? It smells to me like there's plenty of work to be done here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brave Crusaders and Amoral Idiots

I have not seen very many Hollywood movies about the days of slavery, or the days of the civil rights movement. The only one I've seen recently is Steven Spielberg's Amistad, where the focus of the movie is the legal question of whether rebelling slaves aboard a slave ship can be legally considered people. Of course, the good guys win, against great odds. But what struck me most about the movie was the character and tenor of the opposition. To the early-21st-century white liberal viewer, like me, they appear hopelessly backwards. Their arguments don't make sense. There's nothing they can say that would make their side of the case, denying legal personhood to rebelling slaves, okay.
Immediately after the movie, I wondered what modern-day issues of civil or women's or sexual rights are going to look equally one-sided in the Hollywood movies of fifty years from now. I feel like it's common among my friends to look forward and say "Well, the people fighting gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. Boy, aren't they going to look like idiots in a generation or two". And they probably are.
Something that's been on my mind for a few days, though, is the opinions of the other side. By virtue of being young and liberal and socializing mostly with young liberals who share my views, I don't often run into anybody who disagrees with me on issues like 'Should gay people be allowed to get married?'. There was a column, however, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, right after the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeals of several states whose bans on gay marriage had been struck down. The column was by a supporter of the bans, and you can read it here.
I disagree completely with this column, but that's not why I'm posting it. For the first time in a considerable time, I was reading the genuine, unfiltered opinions of The Other Side. And for the first time in a considerable time, I began to understand why they believe what they believe. You read through the column and see lines like these: "Marriage is not a creation of the state — it existed before the state. The state appropriately seeks to protect it. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and it matters to the state because that's the only sexual union naturally capable of producing children — Wisconsin's future taxpayers, workers, leaders and more."
Again, I'm not arguing in favor of this statement. I disagree with it. I believe marriage is a human institution created for human reasons, and it is up to humans to decide when to change the laws that govern us; I also believe that the state does not have a compelling interest in regulating marriage, as expressed by the judge who rejected the State of Wisconsin's arguments on those grounds.
But I read that paragraph, and I read that column, and for the first time in a considerable time I began to understand the internal logic that goes into the arguments with which I disagree. Of course if you believe marriage exists above the state, you disagree with a legal effort to change what it means. Of course if you genuinely believe that kids are better off with one man and one woman as parents, studies be damned, you'll structure your beliefs based on that. That's why the author believes what she believes, and that is where the opposition comes from. It's a popular pastime among liberal columnists (well, columnists on both sides, really) to pick at the underlying reasons why people believe what they believe; well, conservatives are afraid of change, so of course they oppose gay marriage. Well, liberals can't rely on themselves, so of course they support big government. It's a popular sport. This is something different: actually trying to understand why the opposition believes what they believe.
It's fair to say that I'm too far removed from this issue and too dispassionate about it to really hold this view. After all, if the state restricted my right to marry, or sit at a lunch counter, because of my religion or skin color, it's fair to say I'd be less interested in understanding why the Other Side believes what they believe, and more interested in overturning the real-world consequences of those beliefs that interfered with my life.
But this is important because, regardless of the Hollywood version of events where the Amistad opposition is reduced to helpless flabbling and eventually melts into the background while John Quincy Adams orates magnificently about the rights of man, there is always going to be opposition to what we like to call "progressive" social changes. There are always going to be people who dig in their heels to it, based on tradition, religion, or some other reason. I was just reading the Supreme Court decision in a case called Lombard, et al. vs. Louisiana, a civil rights case from the sixties, involving the state of Louisiana trying to punish four activists (three black, one white) who sat at a whites-only lunch counter and asked to be served. The opinion, authored by Chief Justice Earl Warren, contained the following quotes from Louisiana authorities:
"The Superintendent of Police issued a highly publicized statement which discussed the incident and stated that "We wish to urge the parents of both white and Negro students who participated in today's sit-in demonstration to urge upon these young people that such actions are not in the community interest. . . . [W]e want everyone to fully understand that the police department and its personnel is ready and able to enforce the laws of the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana." 2 On September 13, [373 U.S. 267, 271] four days before petitioners' arrest, the Mayor of New Orleans issued an unequivocal statement condemning such conduct and demanding its cessation. This statement was also widely publicized; it read in part:
"I have today directed the superintendent of police that no additional sit-in demonstrations . . . will be permitted . . . regardless of the avowed purpose or intent of the participants . . . .
. . . . .
"It is my determination that the community interest, the public safety, and the economic welfare of this city require that such demonstrations cease and that henceforth they be prohibited by the police department." 
After Lombard, et. al. won the case, these people didn't just go away, right? That's the Mayor and the Superintendent of Police. The Mayor was a three-time candidate for Governor of Louisiana; the Superintendent of Police was active in public life for decades afterward, eventually becoming a member of the New Orleans City Council. You read a retrospective like this about white parents rushing to pull their children out of newly integrated schools. The parents didn't just go away when the court case was won, right? They presumably were still out there, grudgingly living with the new reality, fighting tooth and nail every change for the betterment of black New Orleanians. 
Community interest. Public safety. Economic welfare. There are always going to be these kinds of respectable veneers for racism, sexism, religious discrimination, and all the other evils. I'm suggesting that without giving in to those evils, it is worth our while, once in a while, to shed the Amistad perspective of the progressive liberal side of things as brave crusaders opposed by amoral idiots and adopt a perspective of people opposed by other people who happen to be wrong. I truly believe that the way to change peoples' minds is to understand what they believe and why. Only then can you effectively argue against it. It's so much more effective than just yelling at each other. Remember, the Other Side thinks you're crazy, too, and they're not going away. They don't shamefacedly walk offscreen at the end of the movie and disappear forever. They're going to keep resisting and resisting and resisting. If your view is that they're all hopeless old lunatics and eventually they'll all die and young liberals will reign supreme, well, that's great. In the meantime, they're going to be here, and we might as well try to understand what they believe. Not, for the umpteenth time, because we agree, but because "it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it", as the quote attributed to Aristotle goes, and because understanding the Other Side's views will help you engage with them and hopefully change them. That's how you move beyond partisanship, that's how you get off cable news and late-night television, that's how you get people to talk to each other, that's how you change minds.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Packers-Lions Tape Tales: One Personnel Package to Rule them All and Other Stories

Once upon a time, Mike McCarthy used to be known as the king of swapping out personnel to find the most advantageous matchup; he'd go with an inverted wishbone, two-fullback look one snap, and split four wides and a TE out on the next snap. At least against the Lions, those days seemed to be over with. Except for a brief period in the third quarter when they went with four wides, the Packers ran their three-WR, one-TE, one-RB package exclusively. Not once did anyone go in motion before the snap, Cobb was always the slot WR and was never alone on a side, and the main variation seemed to be whether the TE was split out or tight; it was almost always shotgun. No two-TE sets, no fullback on the field (kuuuuuuhn?), no bunches or stacked WRs, nothing. I mention this not as a criticism necessarily--after all, if it worked, who would complain--but it was very jarring to see on tape.

-Speaking of the offense, there was much blather this week about Rodgers focusing too much on Nelson, but I really didn't see that on tape. He was targeting Quarless and Cobb with decent results right up until the bitter end.

-Ndamukong Suh, he of ill fame, *abused* Lang and Linsley inside. Another much-ballyhooed topic this week was Lacy and his lousy 3.1 yards per carry. Well, a lot of those runs were out of the shotgun, and I counted three times where Lacy wanted to take it straight upfield but Suh had destroyed Lang inside--and I mean destroyed; the first time it happened, Suh's initial punch turned Lang completely around, putting him perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. When that happened, Lacy inevitably bounced it outside and got strung out, since he lacks great speed, and smothered. This happened to Harris as well. Starks seemed much better at picking his way through trash and turning upfield, perhaps because he committed to the inside runs more beyond the initial read.

-The Packers ran some really weird blocking schemes in an effort to control Suh, Nick Fairley and their comrades. Here's an example. First and 10 in the first quarter.  Ezekiel Ansah is the RDE, Fairley the RDT. Opposite them are Bakhtiari, Sitton and Richard Rodgers, tight to the line next to Bakhtiari. At the snap, Sitton immediately pulls to the second level, Rodgers takes the DE, and Bakhtiari turns and blocks Fairley from the side as he flies upfield, effectively trapping him out of the play. (The play went south because of Suh's crushing Lang as previously mentioned, but that had little to do with this blocking pattern.) The Packers pulled Sitton, Lang and Linsley quite a few times, mixed in cut-blocks on passing plays, and once double-teamed both Suh and Fairley while leaving Ansah unblocked (which somehow worked). It looked like a lot of time and effort went into controlling Detroit's defensive front, but with one TE and no FB, I saw a lot of DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch flying into the line and getting past a guard or center whose job it was to deal with him. Corey Linsley, bless his heart, looked very unaware on the second level when trying to pick up LBs.

-I think we get spoiled by Rodgers’ ability to make something happen outside the pocket; usually, it’s a first down to Cobb or some other big play. Today, Rodgers always seemed to be facing very tight coverage when he rolled to the right, and ended up throwing into coverage or throwing it away. I think this was because of the ubiquitous Suh and Fairley, who several times shot into the backfield on passing plays and forced Rodgers to move sooner than he’d have liked to. Because the receivers didn’t have as much time to lose their coverage, as they usually do on a Rodgers rollout that takes 4-5 seconds to develop, the rollouts didn’t look nearly as good.

-On defense, the Packers had no answer for Reggie Bush. Whenever the Lions wanted Bush, or third-down back “The Chronicles of” Theo Riddick, the back would circle out of the backfield, wide-open, and catch the ball for an easy five yards before the CB or S wrapped him up. The Packers’ ILBs were either too slow to get over to Bush from the middle of the field or were looking at beautiful butterflies, but almost every time the Lions tried it, it worked.

-The Lions never had an answer for Peppers. He had several hits on the QB in addition to his sack, all of them after flying around the corner against the Lions’ woeful RTs. He shared partial responsibility for Neal’s sack, forced another two incomplete passes with QB hits, and was as responsible as anyone for keeping Green Bay in the game.

-Two depressing things to close. One: No matter how many Packers are on the field, third-and-short for the enemy always feels like a foregone conclusion, whether they’re running against the nickel or a four-DT line. Two: Tramon Williams and Micah Hyde delivered some solid hits, and the D-line was generally able to cover people up, but man, our linebackers. Neal, Hawk, Lattimore, Barrington: when they’re not bouncing off backs or receivers and letting them churn forward for more yardage, they’re getting driven backwards for extra yardage even when they make the tackle. You watch footage from the 2010 team, like the Redskins game in Week 5: when someone catches a ball over the middle or runs up the gut, they get stopped. It doesn’t have to be a blow-up hit, but the ballcarrier generally stops moving forward when hit. Must be nice to be the Seahawks or somebody and take that sort of thing for granted, because we can’t do it consistently.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sammy Baugh's Weird, Wonderful Wikipedia Page

Sammy Baugh's Wikipedia page has a weird historical quirk--scratch that, a million weird historical quirks. He was a QB, a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1963 and is one of the Redskins' greatest players. But check this out:
-Baugh was a three-sport athlete at TCU, and was offered a job as a football coach at TCU after his senior year. Instead, he signed a minor-league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals before getting discouraged and turning to football. He was then drafted sixth overall in 1937.
-As the sixth overall pick, he got a one-year contract.
-Per Wikipedia, on being drafted by the Redskins, he said "I didn't know what they were talking about, because frankly, I had never heard of either the draft or the Washington Redskins." I will pray every day from now until the 2015 draft that someone says this during the pre-draft craziness.
-He also said this: "I didn't know how much pro players were making, but I thought they were making pretty good money. So I asked Mr. Marshall for $8,000, and I finally got it. Later I felt like a robber when I found out what Cliff Battles and some of those other good players were making. I'll tell you what the highest-priced boy in Washington was getting the year before—not half as much as $8,000! Three of them—Cliff Battles, Turk Edwards and Wayne Millner—got peanuts, and all of 'em in the Hall of Fame now. If I had known what they were getting I'd have never asked for $8,000."
-The government's CPI inflation calculator runs that to about $132,140.00 in modern dollars. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION.
-Playing both ways, he once threw four touchdown passes and picked off four enemy passes IN THE SAME GAME. In 1943, which might as well be 943, he led the league in completion percentage (55.6%), interceptions (11), and punting average (45.9 yards); the top in the NFL in 2013 was 48.9 by a guy who plays in Oakland, so, you know, not bad. He also holds the best all-time single-season average, 51.4 yards.
-On Halloween 1943 vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers, he became the first player to ever throw for six touchdowns; he did it again on "Sammy Baugh Day" in 1947 vs. the Cardinals, amassing 355 yards. In 1947.
-Weirdest of all: he was a five-time All-Star, five-time All-Pro, two-time Player of the Year (some kind of primitive MVP award) and led the league in passing six times, which only Steve Young has ever matched, and is in the Hall of Fame... but only made one Pro Bowl in his career. (It was discontinued in 1942 and revived only in 1950.) Also, the Pro Bowl used to be the defending champions against the rest of the league's all-stars, which, why can't we have that nowadays????? That'd be amazing!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Short, Wonderful History of the College of Wooster in the NFL

·       On a whim, I decided to see if any Fighting Scots have ever played in the NFL. The answer is yes: six of them, four in the league's early days. Hank Critchfield, a 5'10", 207-pound center, played for the Cleveland Indians in 1931. Wilson "Willie" Flattery, a giant for his time at 6'0", 220, was a two-year guard for the Canton Bulldogs in '25-'26. Johnnie Layport, a preposterous 5'9", 170-pound guard/tackle, actually switched teams in his three-year career; he spent 1924 with the Columbus Tigers, and 1925-26 with the Dayton Triangles. 

      Ben Roderick, who was born in the nineteenth century and attended Columbia and Boston College along with Wooster, played for four teams as a 5'9", 175-pound FB/HB/QB. In 1923, he played four games apiece for the Buffalo All-Americans and the immortal 11-0-1 Canton Bulldogs, who won the championship that year. (The 1972 Dolphins can suck a dick: the 1920, 1922, 1923 and 1929 (Packers!) champions were all undefeated.) After two years away from football, Roderick returned to the Bulldogs in 1926 before playing a final season for the Buffalo Bisons, surely the worst team name in NFL history, in 1927.
Dan Callahan was the only Wooster player to grace the major leagues between 1931 and the glory days of the 1980s, playing one season as a 6'0", 230-pound guard for the New York Titans under Sammy Baugh.* But he was merely setting the table for--are you ready?--the legend of Blake Moore.
Feast your eyes upon him. Blake Moore towers above the greats of Wooster football, a 6'5", 267-pound colossus. All men feared him. Defying all odds, he played in 77 games as a guard/center for Cincinnati (1980-83) and Green Bay ('84-'85), eclipsing the careers of his five predecessors combined. But that's not even the zenith of the monumental career of Wooster's greatest warrior. 

E. Blake Moore, giant of the Wooster graduates, has done something no one else had ever done, except for maybe Ben Roderick: he scored an honest-to-God NFL touchdown. Two of them. In each of his years with the Packers, who obviously saw something in him that Cincinnati didn't, he lined up as an eligible receiver and caught one three-yard touchdown pass. Two catches, career, two touchdowns: the greatest ratio in NFL history.
Moore is currently an Executive Vice President at Mackenzie Financial Corporation; he was a history major and fourth-generation Fighting Scot. He went to Harvard Law School after football, practiced law for four years, then became a money manager. He also wrote the world's worst-titled autobiography, Through a Pigskin Prism

*The legend of Sammy Baugh will have to wait until next post.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ruthlessly Editing Tyler Dunne, Part III

I really didn't want to keep doing these, Tyler. I thought you had learned the error of your ways. (You even stopped posting articles for a couple of days, which was nice.) And then you posted your article of 9/2/14, findable here, and made me wonder if the Journal Sentinel even has editors anymore. Here's Part I and Part II

Let's begin. 

Seattle Energy exudes throughout the Seattle Seahawks' practice facility. A glass case holding the team's 2013 Super Bowl rings greets you in the lobby. Loud rap music later blares in the locker room. General manager John Schneider — unlike his former boss, Ted Thompson — bounds off the field as if ready to take a Student Body Sweep Right himself.
(I am forced to admit that your first sentence is not grammatically incorrect. However, it's still painfully awkward to read. A person can exude energy, or a place, but you've written it so that the energy is the subject of the sentence instead of the object. It just looks bizarre. Also, why is the word "later" necessary?)
And, of course, at the podium is Richard Sherman. In pure form.
Through the NFL's obsessive embrace of fantasy football-driven, patty-cake defense, Sherman would seem to be Culprit No. 1. The league is cracking down on illegal contact.
(Would it kill you to say something simply. "The NFL is cracking down on illegal contact in 2014, and it's likely to hit the Seahawks hardest." You don't have to pretty it up with stupid little phrases like "patty-cake defense". News flash, Tyler: newspaper reporters are paid to be clear and concise. You are neither. Why are you getting paid, again?)
Seattle, Sherman says, plays within the rules and always has.
"We're happy the emphasis is there," Sherman said, "because it'll give people less excuses."
And does it affect his style?
"Obviously not."
With that, he snaps his head to a new question. This is the player who has become the emblem of Seattle's rise. The swagger starts with Sherman, the trash-talking Stanford grad fresh off a four-year, $56 million contract extension. When the Green Bay Packers enter CenturyLink Field on Thursday, he'll cast the most intimidating shadow.
(He "snaps his head to a new question"? Think about that for just a second, Tyler. Just think about that. What are you saying? Why is that sentence even necessary? And why isn't the second sentence "Sherman has become the face of the Seahawks" or something like that? It's so unnecessarily wordy, so... clumsy. I don't like the wordiness of "cast the most intimidating shadow", but at least it sort of works. That doesn't.)
From riding that new fine line in coverage to a looming "chess match" with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Sherman is central to Seattle's unparalleled bravado.
"He's had his best camp, his best off-season work. Clearly," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's so disciplined about what he's doing. His attitude has been perfect. He hasn't missed a minute of practice. He's done everything, taken all the reps, done everything we've asked him to do.
"I think he's been his most focused. He's been on it the whole time."
On Monday, Sherman called the practice field a personal "sanctuary." This off-season capped a rise to celebrity status — he checked all the necessary boxes. A new deal. A high-profile Twitter feud (with Arizona's Patrick Peterson). A Madden cover shot. Back to the field, to practice, he said you can "free your mind of all the distractions" and improve.
(It's a little weird that you don't mention the thing that catapulted him to celebrity status, namely the pass breakup vs. Michael Crabtree in the NFC Championship Game and his subsequent interview with some reporter, but I guess that's forgivable--you're only a reporter, you're not expected to know things.)
He's forced to be near-perfect because opportunities on game day are so fleeting.
It can get lonely for Sherman. Lining up at left cornerback for 15 of 16 games last year, Sherman often was treated like Barry Bonds at the plate. Quarterbacks simply walked him, choosing to test other cornerbacks. And blanketing his deep third of the field, the 6-foot-3 Sherman still managed eight interceptions and 16 pass breakups in 2013.
(The Bonds analogy is tiresome, but this paragraph has a deeper problem than that. Tyler, it's 2014, and ProFootballFocus exists. You can't be a football reporter in 2014 and not know about it, right? You can use numbers from that site to bolster the point you're trying to make: that QBs avoided Sherman last year. The number of targets he got and the number of completions he allowed is something you can find out. You don't need something as asinine as "Quarterbacks simply walked him", you can provide data! Why don't you? Hell, for the stats you do use, you could say that that was the best percentage of picks/breakups compared to his number of targets in the league, or something. The resources are available for you to be so much better than this.)
So he has a message to all quarterbacks. Don't leave him hanging.
"I hope I get a lot of action," Sherman said. "Hopefully, teams come at me all the time. It's fun. It makes the game very fun for both teams. I don't expect any of that, though."
Thus, the Richard Sherman-Jordy Nelson duels may be sporadic, if existent at all. Green Bay used Jarrett Boykin on its right side (Sherman's left) most of last season. Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn does expect to see Sherman on Nelson at times because, he said, the Packers "move him around a lot."
Quinn did call this summer one of the best "technical times" Sherman has had since Seattle drafted him in 2011. When opportunities are sparse — and they probably will be Thursday night — Sherman must know when to strike.
"Staying on it, every day, locking out," Quinn said. "You have to stay really disciplined to do that down after down because the one time you 'Ah, I'll just take a shot here,' that's when the bad one happens. So he's been disciplined this training camp."
The last time the Seahawks faced a prolific, no-huddle offense, they embarrassed the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, 43-8, in the Super Bowl. Afterward, Sherman revealed that players were able to jump routes by deciphering Manning's pre-snap hand signals.
In that chess match, Sherman shredded the chessboard before Manning even touched a pawn. This one? In the deafening decibel levels that await, Rodgers probably will be relying on non-verbal (and non-everything) communication, anyway.
Sherman also notes that these are two different quarterbacks.
"It's dissimilar because the offenses they run are a little different," Sherman said. "Obviously, they both get the ball out quickly. I think Aaron is more dynamic in his movement and being able to get out the pocket and be able to step up or step through, and create more time for his receivers to get open.
"Peyton," Sherman continues, snapping his fingers, "makes his decisions and he's going. He takes his hitches and he's getting the ball out. He's not going to scramble and try to create more time. So I think they're different in that respect."
(It's the little things, but you're so shitty at the little things, Tyler. A minute ago, we were in the past tense. Now we're in the present. Why? It was the same interview.)
Bank on Sherman, right cornerback Byron Maxwell and nickel cornerback Jeremy Lane staying aggressive.
In one Monday sequence, Carroll praised his players for consciously adjusting to the league's points of emphasis, for taking it "right to heart." And moments later, there was Sherman saying, "We didn't change anything. We were playing by the rules before, and we continue to play by the rules."
Either way, officials will be watching. Rodgers jokingly told Ed Hochuli's crew early this summer in Green Bay that they'll need them Week 1.
Two years ago, the Seahawks cornerbacks bullied Green Bay's receivers in the first half. They tested the 5-yard limit Hochuli vowed this summer officials would crack down on.
(Vowed is nearly as bad as "insisted", your favorite word, but at least it accurately connotes the intent of Hochuli. You're doing decently well... although, on second look, your second sentence is pretty awkward.)
Don't expect any attitude adjustment here.
Cliff Avril's eyes scowl in semi-disgust. No, the Seahawks won't need to tone anything down.
(And then, this. You have this annoying habit of assigning agency to things--great plays from Part II, energy in the opening paragraph, now Avril's eyes--that don't have agency. The eyes did not decide to do anything. Why on earth not "Cliff Avril scowls in semi-disgust?")
"They made these new rules to slow us down and guys have adapted and gotten even better," the defensive end said. "I don't think it'll slow us down one bit. You want to be aggressive. You want to make the plays you're supposed to make.
"Hit the people you're supposed to hit as hard as you can."
Again, Sherman will be the one leading the movement.
(Tyler, this article is okay. It has, for you, a pretty small number of errors. I previously reviewed a Packers Plus column and an extensive feature story on Myles White. This is a more typical pre-game story, so you're more bound by word limits and less free to gallivant through the phrasebook of clichés and hyperbole that I imagine you must have. But it isn't good. You use eight words when five would do, hype up everything you can, confuse tenses, fail to make use of helpful resources, and write poorly. Where are your real editors? Am I the only one that sees this crap that you do? Seriously, the tenses thing is the kind of error that editors are paid to catch. What is the review process like at the JS these days? Does anyone look these things over before you submit them? Are they inured to your errors?
I realized today why your over-reliance on clichés bothers me so much. I mentioned in a previous post that instead of reporting what you see, you draw your own picture and invite the reader to see that... with the implication that your own picture rarely corresponds to the things that are actually happening. Thinking about the implications of that is kind of appalling. Take the sentence from your last article, "White pretzel-knots a cornerback". We are presumably supposed to infer that White metaphorically tied him in a knot, i.e. confused him. But the words you used bear no resemblance to a thing that happened on the field--say, Myles White cut inside, turned the cornerback around, then cut outside and ran up the sidelines, leaving the CB in his wake. You're not describing the actual play in a way that gives us any indication of what happened. Instead, you're summing up the play with an image, from which we're supposed to guess at what happened in the actual play. Your use of metaphor doesn't make the events you're describing clearer for the reader, it makes it harder to understand what happened. And it's maddening because only you have the perspective--you were right there and you were watching--to show us what actually happened. We rely on you, especially for something like a practice that most people can't physically see, and when you describe something obtusely or confusingly it lets the readers down.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ruthlessly Editing Tyler Dunne, Part II

This morning, Tyler had a long, detailed feature story about receiver Myles White. Last year, he wrote a similar story about Eddie Lacy and Hurricane Katrina. Whether Dunne picked these assignments or they were handed to him by an editor, there's no shortage of pathos in his football coverage. Based purely on the subject matter, these are tight, compelling stories. 

I just can't get over Dunne's awful writing. Maybe I should be looking at the proverbial trees less and the forest more, but I can't, so here's Part 2. (#1 can be found here.) For brevity's sake, I'll highlight the flaws in-text as much as possible. The most common ones tend to be unnecessarily stacking words for emphasis ("Hands clasped, Myles White never flinches, stutters, second-guesses, laments"), hyperbole ("maddening asylum of stress") and things that just sound idiotic ("White pretzel-knots a cornerback"). Here we go. 

Green Bay — A sliver of the tattoo is visible, the word "ashes" piquing your interest. So Myles White lifts his sleeve to reveal the art in its entirety.
There's a phoenix inked across his right armwith [sic] the words, "Up From the Ashes."
(Teachable moment time. What is the phoenix doing? What does it look like? Describe it, beyond the bare fact that it's a phoenix. It's characteristic of Tyler that he doesn't help you see the things he's writing about: you see the gaudy image he chooses to produce. Also, whose interest is it piquing? The reader's? Dunne's?)
In Greek mythology, the phoenix burns, turns to ashes, is reborn and flies higher, stronger than before.
"This is my pain tattoo after I got in trouble," White says.
From Michigan State to Northwest Mississippi Community College to Louisiana Tech, White landed here, on the Green Bay Packers' deep wide receiver corps. White hopes he's reborn, rising. He's one of hundreds of NFL players on the "bubble," a maddening asylum of stress. There are nearly 2,900 players in the NFL during training camp. After this weekend's roster cuts, only 1,696 will remain.
The month of August decides their fate.
(A bit melodramatic... okay, really melodramatic, but this isn't that bad. Numbers are good.)
So this month, where each practice is a mini job interview and stress runs high at Ray Nitschke Field, the Journal Sentinel tracked Myles White's fight for a roster spot.
The day after Green Bay's first preseason game, Aug. 10, at Tennessee, White pulls his black Camaro into the Chipotle Mexican Grill parking lot off Oneida St. Windows tinted. Hip-hop pumping the bass. Unlike his peers on the edge, White is illuminating. He emerges with a megawatt grin immune to the high stakes ahead.
(We've talked about this, Tyler. When in doubt--and you should be in doubt far more often than you are--use the simpler, clearer language to convey what you want to say. Study Lori Nickel, who does this far better than you do. This isn't all that bad of a paragraph; for once, your technique of using short, punchy sentence fragments works for you, with "Windows tinted" and "hip-hop pumping the bass". But the "illuminating" and "megawatt grin" just doesn't flow for me. I'll admit that's borderline.)
In line, he orders a burrito, asks for vegetables, for it all to be double-wrapped — "Picky!" the woman across the glass jokes — and then takes a seat against a back wall. Customers come and go. Nobody acknowledges White, the 6-foot ½-inch, 192-pound wide receiver in his second Packers camp. He blends in.
He refuses to sweat this summer out, chooses not to stress during the most important month of his football life.
(Do you need both "refuses to sweat this summer out" and "chooses not to stress"?)
"It's in God's hands and Ted Thompson's hands," White says. "Whatever they decide to do is what they decide to do."
Yes, God and Thompson are synonymous this time of year in Green Bay.
About 20 minutes into the conversation, Randall Cobb appears. On the phone, clutching his Chipotle bag, Cobb gives White a quick dap and exits. This is the player entering a contract year, one season away from a set-for-life, multimillion-dollar deal. This is the player Myles White aspires to be, the one he tries to emulate.
(I was kind of disappointed by this. Your last sentence implies that there's some connection between the two deeper than 'White wants job security that Cobb has', but Cobb's never mentioned again in the article.)
"All the time," White says. "All the time."
First, he must make the team. And that is a process.

1:30 p.m., Aug. 10

Chipotle, Oneida St.

The Zen never wavers. Hands clasped, Myles White never flinches, stutters, second-guesses, laments.
(Ughaaaargh. First of all, do you really need all four of these? Secondly, isn't "The Zen never wavers" a fifth one, except that it's deliberately incomprehensible? Thirdly, would it kill you to use "or" instead of a comma once in awhile?)
Never mind that Riverside Place in downtown Green Bay is booting him out of his apartment on Aug. 31. They want to sell his unit as a condo. Never mind that final cuts are Aug. 30. Never mind that his son, here with him in Green Bay, turns 2 years old on Sept 1.
(Why wouldn't he mind?! These seem like consequential things!!)
Very soon his life will take a very new direction. He'll either have a future in Green Bay or be dusted off to Austin Straubel International Airport.
The day after Green Bay's preseason opener, White insists he's in a place of peace. He will not live on edge. Not here, not now. Eating lunch after a morning workout, White is "chill" personified. He lives in the eye of the camp storm. Through a monsoon in Nashville, Tenn., during the first preseason game. through all the camp chaos, he promises to remain calm.
(Tyler. Buddy. Stop using 'insists'. It drives me crazy. It's one of your smaller stylistic flubs, yet one of the most aggravating--you approach it like you're trying to prove him wrong! Look at your previous paragraph. 'Oh, he has all these reasons to be worried, but he insists he's fine!' Nobody just says anything in your world, they have to insist on it. Again, it assigns intention where none existed. Also, I've highlighted in red the places where you say the same thing, 'White is staying calm', five separate times. Which, if we're keeping count, means you've said THE SAME THING, TEN DIFFERENT WAYS, WITHIN FOUR GRAFS. JESUS GOD, MAN.) 
Everything in his past, he explains, has culminated in this phoenix rising.
Start with the weekend of Nov. 21-22, 2009, in East Lansing, Mich. A college fraternity jumped one of his teammates at a party, the players sought retaliation and, as White says, "things escalated." A brawl ensued, the players overwhelming the frat members. That same weekend, White was charged with public urination in an alley outside a bar.
Michigan State promptly suspended White indefinitely. The school his father ran track for, the school he loved as a kid in Livonia, Mich., did not want him.
(I want to know more here--what did White do in the fight? This could be hard to find out, or you could ask White.)
"I felt lost," he says. "I didn't know what I was going to do."
He picked up the pieces at a junior college, clawed his way back to Division I at Louisiana Tech, had a son and latched on as an undrafted rookie in Green Bay last summer. Cut, White made the practice squad, was called up midseason and caught nine passes for 66 yards.
(This is ambiguous. When did he have his son? At Louisiana Tech or in Green Bay? Tell me how it's possible to tell from that sentence.)
Now, it's about making the 53 outright — nothing less. With his life, his son's life dependent on every practice, White will not stress.
(Firstly: Remember that about the 53. We'll come back to that. Secondly... "his son's life dependent on every practice"?! I mean, there's hyperbole, and then there's hyperbole! Is his son going to die if he doesn't make the team?! That's what "life dependent on" means, right?! Did they change the rules while I was away?)
A year ago, he was a mess. One dropped pass, one mistake would ruin his day, his night, linger on and on. "Haunts you," he says. Awake at night in his St. Norbert College dorm room, one thought ran on repeat in White's mind — "Man, I'm about to be cut."
(This paragraph. Just... this paragraph.)
He calls it a healing process, and it's something every bubble boy fights.
("Bubble boy?")
"After practice, you're pissed off," White says. "You're, 'Damn man, I had a bad day.' You're sulking. Then, there's another stage where you're like, 'All right. I'm ready to go tomorrow. I'm going to make sure I clean it up tomorrow.' Then, you're so anxious for the next day, you're like, 'Man, I can't get through today because I'm more worried about tomorrow!'"
In Year 2, White is avoiding this trap. So far, he can do no wrong. He knows the offense; he survived the Aaron Rodgers death stares. He transformed his body, gaining 12 pounds. Taking the advice of Edgar Bennett, his position coach, White ate all off-season. His goal was to carry a snack at all times, to never feel a pit of hunger in his stomach.
(I get the feeling that there's something interesting here buried beneath the dross, but I can't see it. "Taking the advice of Bennett... White ate all off-season." Besides the hyperbole of "a pit of hunger", is this different from the normal offseason where he doesn't eat and lives on air?)
Sure, White always possessed top-end speed — from challenging family members to $20 races as a kid to clocking in at 4.42 seconds in the 40 at a chilly pro day — but cornerbacks suffocated him at the line of scrimmage. Contact was his kryptonite. Camp is now two weeks old and White is clearly a reborn receiver.
(Hyperbole and a Half would be proud. Also, nice job sticking to your phoenix theme with "reborn".)
Jared Abbrederis tore his ACL. Chris Harper rides manic highs and lows. Jeff Janis is having trouble breathing, let alone practicing, through shingles. The chiseled Kevin Dorsey is shaping up as White's No. 1 competition. One moment, White pretzel-knots a cornerback off a receiver screen. The next, Dorsey rips away a touchdown in the end zone.
(It'd be nice to know from whom Dorsey "rips away a touchdown", because without that information, that's just an awkward sentence.)
Yet, White isn't keeping Dorsey in his peripheral vision. He's only worried about his own game, his 0-to-60 acceleration that's a gear above everyone else.
(This isn't a bad thing for some people, but I just hate the "0-to-60 acceleration". The man isn't a car, and you don't need to reach for a cliché to describe his physical talent--use your words!)
Smiling, stirring his drink, White says he's the fastest wide receiver on the roster.
"Yeah, I mean, me and Janis," White says. "Everybody has their input, says what they want to say, but me personally I feel like I'm the fastest."
Janis is a total unknown. But the kid from Tawas City, Mich., population 1,795, he's told, is fast.
(Reread that second sentence to me out loud and tell me if it flows. How about... 'But he's told the kid from tiny Tawas City, Michigan, is fast.')
"He's fast, he's fast," White says. "He's from Michigan. So I always give him a hard time that, 'If you were fast, I would have known about you.'...He's wayyy up there."
As Aug. 30 creeps closer, White must prove he can now win the contested catch, the 50/50 ball. One free play at Tennessee could've been White's shot, but Matt Flynn's long ball fell short.
"I'm dying for it to come," he says.
Playing wide receiver is funny. Want to take over a game? Want to get your Kobe Bryant on? You can't, you wait. This reality used to drive White mad. In high school, he'd be in the ear of his twin brother, the quarterback, shouting, "Throw me the damn ball!"
(This could be condensed to "You can't stand out if the QB doesn't look your way", or something similar.)
Now, he doesn't clap his hands, yelp mid-route, badger the quarterbacks. White realizes more opportunities will come. Camp is a marathon. There will come a moment, a day, a play, he says, when he must "put my name in the hat."
(Let's say things, speak, construct verbiage three times in the same sentence, word-string, meaning flow just for the fun of it. You'll see how annoying it gets really, seriously, quickly fast.)
So far, so smooth.
"I control what I can control," White says. "If I do that well, it will all take care of itself."

2 p.m., Aug. 14

Packers locker room

Myles White must understand each cornerback. Each one has his own style, flair, combative instinct. And White counterpunches accordingly. First, the most annoying draw in a one-on-one setting.
"I know he's going to be patient," starts White, sitting in his locker. "He's going to clutch and grab."
Walking by, Jordy Nelson eavesdrops.
Yes, Jarrett Bush.
"It's worked for him!" White speaks up. "That's why he's a 10-year-plus guy."
Sam Shields? "Fast. Just fast, man. You know when you have a vertical route, he's going to be right there with you every step of the way."
Tramon Williams? "Quick and smart. Knows football like the back of his hand. Knows how you stem and how you position your body."
Williams also is down to rumble. We've reached the point of camp where the Packers are sick of each other. Sick of the extra shove downfield. Sick of the jawing from the sideline — Jamari Lattimore running his mouth, Bush antagonizing.
(That actually works decently well, the "sick of" things, at least until you stop describing things. What does Lattimore say? How does Bush antagonize people? Put me there! Describe the scene! Show me, don't tell me! In an ordinary newspaper article, it's understandable to some extent if you don't have space to describe a scene, but a) good reporters can and b) this isn't an ordinary article. You have at least a thousand words to make your point. Use some of them to show the reader what's happening.)
Of the seven scrums, White's is the best. In 7 on 7, he clings to Williams downfield. Williams' temper boils and the two begin striking each other in the sternum.
White calls it big brother/little brother banter. His girlfriend and Williams' wife have known each other for years; their kids play together. But for this brief moment — Williams' arm lodged up into [under] White's chin; Rodgers later referring to White as "Myles Mayweather" — they're not friends.
(This is a good, powerful paragraph. That's showing! The arm under the chin--that's great!)
It's easy to rip through the first weeks of camp like White did.
Now, it gets difficult. That shove of Williams carried extra vinegar after a drop White had on fourth down the drill prior. White cursed and stared at his hands in bewilderment. Elsewhere, Janis is emerging. Fast. The circus, diving receptions are stringing together in highlight-reel fashion.
(You're so... breathless. I always come back to that word when trying to describe you, Tyler. There's no time to think in your writing. Sometimes it kind of works, like this paragraph. It makes sense in the larger structure of your story. You're taking a snapshot in a longer story, so the quick, punchy sentences kind of make sense. But then you have a sentence like the highlighted one. It's like you use words as bludgeons, not descriptors. Not to mention that the receptions are stringing themselves together, because they are sentient somehow. Would it kill you to replace "the" with "his"?)
In an interview room at Lambeau Field, Edgar Bennett takes a step back to demonstrate what went wrong on White's drop. Hand placement? Check. Thumbs together? Check. Above the waist? Check. White, he says, forgot to look the ball all the way in. A WR 101 cardinal sin.
(How could anyone possibly... that's two clichés in five words, and the whole thing is only there for emphasis. It doesn't say anything new.)
"It's all about looking the ball all the way into the tuck," Bennett says.
Rodgers is the stickler about mental errors, for wide receivers needing to know precisely where to be and when. Bennett is the stickler about physical errors, for ball security. These are the two people White must impress most.
The coach did see how White responded. He loves "Myles Mayweather."
"No. 1, Myles is extremely tough," Bennett says. "One of the toughest guys to come into that room, no doubt about it. Love his attitude. And he was fundamentally sound. He kept his hands inside. He accelerated his feet on contact. And he finished. That's football."
White's confidence is sky high. His temperament, loose. His speed, still ankle-breaking evident. He shakes off the drop, saying "I don't dwell on it. I move on." But a subplot has emerged.
He wears No. 83.
(Ankle-breakingly? At least have the right conjugation for your hyperbole. Don't you have an editor for this kind of thing? Also, are you being intentionally confusing with your last two sentences? You haven't actually told us what Myles White's number is, or Janis's. For all I know as the reader, White wears No. 83 and this makes no sense. You so often refer to the prevailing narratives in the Journal Sentinel in your articles, forgetting that not everyone is going to read every article and know who or what you're talking about. It's unforgivably sloppy.)

6:30 p.m., Aug. 16

Edward Jones Dome

After the game, helmet in hand, there's no one to greet at midfield. Myles White wanders through the mass embrace of veterans alone, in slow motion, uncertainty plastered across his face.
He skips into a slight jog through the tunnel, through a dying "Go Pack Go" chat, inside the visitor's locker room and — for the first time all summer — you see concern. Today, White is ripped out of that eye in the storm, right into the Jeff Janis cyclone.
Lights and cameras engulf the seventh-round pick from Saginaw Valley State as he breaks down the 34-yard touchdown that might've sealed his roster spot. Wheels like these don't sneak onto a practice squad.
Across the room, White sits in his locker for 10 ... 11 ... 12 cold minutes. He stares at nothing.
Speed? To White's left, Davante Adams is gushing over Janis. They call him "V12," Adams explains. Janis, not White, is the one with the Lamborghini-powered nickname.
(This is really powerful stuff. It really puts the reader there. It makes you feel White's shock, like you're on Hard Knocks or something. It also highlights the dark side of the narrative: everyone, including you, Tyler, was fawning over Janis in the week after the St. Louis game. It's pretty powerful seeing the converse of that: when someone wins, everyone else loses. All the highlighted hyperbole is still there, but it sometimes helps you make a point or be more colorful. It's using it all the time that's the problem. Also, you meant 'chant', not 'chat', I'm guessing.)
White finally saunters to the showers, returns and breaks down the plays that got away. This was nearly hisday [sic]. Moments after St. Louis' Cody Davis broke up an in-and-out pass intended for White, he exacted sweet revenge. On third and goal from the 4, White burned Davis to the corner and adjusted beautifully for the touchdown.
Arms outstretched, swagger turned on, he fell flat on his back to celebrate his first NFL touchdown.
One flag for unsportsmanlike. One flag for illegal hands to the face on Corey Linsley. No touchdown.
A ticky-tack flag on a rookie center who had nothing to do with the play costs White. He's not sure if this play will resonate upstairs.
"I don't know," White says. "I try not to think about it. I think I left some plays out there I should have made. I had an in on the first ball that was thrown to me and even though he was draped on me, if I want to be the player I know I can be, I have to make that catch. You can't rely on the refs."
More than the touchdown, that third-and-8 drop in the first half is on his mind. That was the challenge he wanted. White ran an in route on Lamarcus Joyner and the Florida State rookie was all over him. Arm bar. A clutch. A knockdown.
White knew this was the moment of truth Edgar Bennett was waiting for, the contested catch. In his Michael Johnson Performance hoodie and fluorescent green shorts, White slips socks into sandals. He stands up and leans an arm against his locker.
(Great description. Seriously.)
The Janis Show is now must-see TV.
"He's a fast guy," White says of Janis. "He hit the corner, and he's fast. Decisive. Proud of him."
Five? Six? Who knows how many wide receivers the Packers keep. All White knows is [that] the competition is ramping up.
"To each his own," he says. "However you handle it, handle it. You have to make a play. The bar has been set."
He takes a deep breath, smiles and reflects on a play he can build on. With 57 seconds left at this hollow, lifeless, ghost town of Edward Jones Dome, White did race downfield to tackle the punt returner for a 5-yard loss...before promptly all-out sprinting off the field in elation.
No one called him "V12" after that play, no one gushed. On the sideline, teammates chuckled, hardly acknowledging White.
(You're doing so well, don't screw it up now)
But it's something. White recalibrates to his state of chill, fully aware that Janis officially raised the bar.
"And it's always going to be raised," he says. "That's where good teams keep taking a step up and forcing players to rise to the occasion."

5 p.m., Aug. 21

Packers Heritage Trail, downtown Green Bay

"Hut ... Go! ... Hut ... Go!"
These are the only two words Mychael repeats for a half-hour. These, and a high-pitched "Daddy!" At the Packers Heritage Trail off Washington St., the 23-month-old repeatedly drops into a 3-point stance and sprints into his dad's bear hug of a tackle.
Between bronze statues of Paul Hornung and Johnny "Blood" McNally, the little guy in the frizzy brown 'fro and short-sleeve denim shirt is easily the cutest thing this side of the Fox River. Climbing, crawling, dinging his head on the one of the statues, he squeals and cries and laughs all while fixating his eyes on his dad.
(This could maybe be two sentences, "fixating" could be "fixing", but you're on a roll, Tyler.)
The fact that Mychael is completely reliant on him, on this summer, could cause insomnia, 24-hour stress.
"I try very, very hard not to think about that," White says.
Instead, all summer, he says Mychael has liberated his mind. Frees him from games like St. Louis. Last summer, his son was 1,100 miles away. His girlfriend, Shavonda, flew up for the Family Night practice. Other than that, White was alone with his thoughts and that, he admits, can be a dangerous place.
(Watch out for sentence fragments.)
He needed Mychael; Mychael needed him.
Mychael has no clue that Dad could be cut in eight days, no idea their lives could change with one phone call.
"That's the beauty of it," White says. "He doesn't. So he doesn't treat it as such. He knows I go to work, I go play football and I come back. And I do the same thing over and over every day.
"Don't get me wrong. This is very important to me. But the most important thing to me is being a dad, being a supportive father to him. That's No. 1."
White has known Shavonda for 3½ years. They've stayed close. Oh yes, White was nervous when she first had the child. He was only 22 years old. He specifically remembers one day, one month into Mychael's life, when nerves consumed him.
(Ohhhhhh. Tyler, you were doing so well!! What does "They've stayed close" mean? Are they together or not? Why the "Oh yes"? What the heck happened on that day when "nerves consumed him" (like cannibal worms)? You don't say! Tell us! Gah. Everything about this paragraph is shit.)
Right then, Mychael became his life. He decided to attack fatherhood "head on."
Right here is the No. 1 reason Myles White is so relaxed this summer. All summer, he squeezed in father-son time between leaving the office and reporting to the dorms. Now, out of the dorms, they have even more time to play on the mini basketball hoop and throw the Nerf football around. Mychael usually puts on Dad's 2013 game helmet and pretends to be a player.
(Minor thing, but this doesn't have to be awkward. Even "now that he's out of the dorms" would make this flow better.)
And even with Mom around, White changes diapers. The key to a successful diaper change?
"You've got to get him to sit still, sit still."
White looks over to his son. He's now waddling at warp speed.
"He doesn't stop moving," he says, smiling. "He doesn't stop."
A year ago, Shavonda fielded the nightly phone calls from Myles. This summer, she sees the difference.
"Yes. Yes," she repeats. "He definitely has a much, much different mind-set than last year. When it came down to crunch time last year — the last two weeks of this time last year...."
Her voice fades, disappears. Stressful?
"Yes, yes."
White's confidence rebooted this week. Inside the Don Hutson Center, his post-corner cut froze Casey Hayward like one of these statues. And on back-to-back days, Janis steamed Rodgers by running the wrong route — to which White told Janis on the sideline, "You have to relax. Just focus."
The scene hints White still has an edge. In experience, in playing up in Rodgers' demanding stratosphere.
Says White, "I feel like I'm at the point where I understand what he wants on a certain route, or where he wants to go with the ball."
Holding his son, he walks down Washington St., toward his apartment complex. They'll grab dinner and then White is off to the Radisson team hotel. The Packers play the Oakland Raiders tomorrow, another opportunity.
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and second-rounder Davante Adams are all locks. After St. Louis, the green-as-grass, yet gazelle-fast Janis is a front-runner at No. 5.
Do the Packers keep six receivers? That number could be the single force that cracks White's cool. Mention "five or six," and the girlfriend's eyes dart toward White.
(She has a name, right? Shavonda?)
"I don't know what they're going to do," White says, briefly opening his vault of uncertainty, "if they keep five or six. Whatever they decide to do, hopefully I'm in the mix. That's what it comes down to.
"If I'm not, I just have to pick up the pieces from there."
Hand in hand, they all walk away. Time is ticking.

11:45 a.m., Aug. 25

Ray Nitschke Field

Today, Myles White's last stand begins. Today, is a practice from hell.
(This is a little thing, but cut that stupid comma! By now I'm almost as mad at your editors as I am at you.)
In the red zone, blanketed by Jarrett Bush, White drops a pass. On a deep cross, with a step on likely-cut Ryan White, he extends one arm and drops another. As the dark "Say I Won't" by LeCrae blares during a TV timeout, White stands motionless. Helmet under his arm, that look from St. Louis returns. That look of doubt.
(Oh my God. Again with the melodrama.)
Next up, on the scout team, White all-out dives for a deep ball...and it grazes off his finger tips. Mud now covering his jersey, he can't even cut out of his break the next play. He slips, falls, a future now obviously in doubt.
(Fingertips is one word. "All-out dives" is awkward. Your last sentence just sucks.)
Slumped inside his locker afterward, White is visibly dejected, emotional.
He snaps his blue-and-white socks with force repeatedly, slips them on, and pulls a white long-sleeve Louisiana Tech shirt over his head. Today is essentially the Packers' final training camp practice before the final exhibition game.
His theme of 2014 — relax finally is damaged.
(Is finally damaged?)
"I let things get to me," White admits, "that I shouldn't have let get to me....I let things pile up that shouldn't have piled up."
White did cradle two touchdowns in the corner of the end zone, even if one was bobbled. He clings to no silver linings this day.
(Melodrama. Melodrama.)
"I shouldn't have let it get to that point," he says, blankly.
No, this wasn't the same wide receiver embarrassing cornerbacks the first three weeks. Right up to now, White had done such a masterful job of blocking everything out. Teammates see it. Tight end Jake Stoneburner, also a second-year pro on the bubble, heard White's "control what you control" drumbeat himself.
Yet the two took polar-opposite approaches all summer.
Whereas White finishes practice and removes himself from the game by playing with his son, Stoneburner calls his dad and analyzes practice. He prefers the stress, living on edge.
"For me," Stoneburner says, "the stress brings out the competitive 'I've got to get this done. Or else.' It keeps it more cutthroat for me."
Now, down the stretch run, Stoneburner is hot. Responding. Prod White about the life ramifications of a sink-or-swim summer and he reiterates the power of letting go. Not Stoneburner. He calls it "fighting the unknown." And, frankly, he says, it "sucks."
(As a runner, "down the stretch" and "stretch run" are two different phrases. Putting them together doesn't add emphasis, it makes it baffling.)
"You're like, 'Am I going to go through all this for nothing? And end up back at Columbus, Ohio?'" Stoneburner says. "That's pretty stressful. I won't lie, especially these last 10 days. Just because you know it's getting close.
"Who knows what's going to happen? Yeah, it's your life. It can turn in a second."
White has thought about life after football. One minute in the spring he was racing Johnathan Franklin (the only player to ever beat him), the next Franklin retired with a neck injury. Whenever this dream fades, he'll teach and coach.
(One, awkward sentence. Two, will White or Franklin "teach and coach"? Or both? You said "Franklin retired", then left the "he" in the next sentence ambiguous.)
Interlocking his fingers in thought, his voice picks up, as if realizing the dream's not dead yet.
"It was one of them days where everything is just not going your way," White says. "You have to fight through it. Go back to the fundamentals. That was the type of day it was. Hopefully, I didn't hurt myself too bad.
"I'm kind of going back into that zone. It's out of my control."
Asked once and for all why should the Green Bay Packers keep Myles White, he points to the film. Hopefully, White says, the "tape shows it."
It didn't today. In 20 minutes, White will review the practice tape with Bennett. He knows the scolding that awaits. And later in the day, after that meeting — in the same room Bennett broke down White's mid-camp drop — the coach is told that White was torn up over his practice.
(I'm not a big fan of removing the reporter from the story, especially in a story this long, but that's a legitimate stylistic choice.)
The mild-mannered Bennett is curt.
"He should be," the coach says.
"When we're fundamentally sound, we make plays. When we're not fundamentally sound, there's a drop-off. We can't play, we don't operate at that level. That's unacceptable. It just can't happen."
Technically, yes, the Packers could now keep White on the practice squad. But that's not what he worked for, that's not what was on his mind those grueling training days in Dallas.
(We come back to it at last. YES. JESUS CHRIST. THIS HAS BEEN THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE ENTIRE STORY. All that "keeping five or six" stuff, the all-or-nothing tone of the entire piece, it's not actually true!! Why isn't this way up at the top of the story? It's not all or nothing! He can stick on the practice squad! If he gets cut, it really isn't the end of the world! It is unbelievable that you waited this long to mention this REALLY IMPORTANT THING!!) 

(EDIT: Also, I had a nagging suspicion that was confirmed when I reread this. What the hell "grueling training days in Dallas" were those? This is the first time 'Dallas' has appeared. You mentioned that Shavonda and Mychael were "1,100 miles away", but didn't say where that was. And there was no prior mention of White's offseason work. All I can think of is that the Dallas sentence made sense in an earlier draft of the piece, when there was a part about Dallas elsewhere in the article, but that got cut and you forgot about this part (or your editor did). Again, this is maddeningly sloppy. How a professional writer can screw as many things up as you do and still have a job is beyond me. I'm done with this article. You are awful at writing.)

Two years ago, Jarrett Boykin finished off Tori Gurley (since cut by his eighth team) and Diondre Borel (now out of the NFL) with a breakout fourth exhibition game. "Wow," White cuts in, unaware. Last year, Jeremy Ross earned a spot in the fourth game. He still has hope in the form of Thursday night, a chance to convince Green Bay to keep six, to keep him.
No, White has never experienced a month like this.
In basketball, the Myles White equivalent could play in Europe, could latch onto an NBA Developmental team. In hockey, in baseball, there are minor-league options. In football, you make it or you don't.
Thursday's exhibition finale is White's final job interview.
And then Saturday morning, he'll turn on his cellphone and wait. The Packers will either call and ask him to turn in his playbook. Or not. Silence is a beautiful thing on cutdown day.
White dries his face off with a towel. Leans forward.
This is it — the phoenix's final chance to rise.
"You try to throw your name in the hat and whatever happens, know you did your best. You did your best. You let it all out. Maybe it wasn't good enough.
" very, very cut and dry."