Why Art Thiel is The Goods
A common criticism of blogs is that they focus too much on the negative, particularly as regards local media. While I’m loath to challenge this well-deserved reputation for curmudgeonry, people need a change of pace every now and then. Just ask Jamie Moyer.
For today’s edition of “up with people,” I want to offer today’s Art Thiel column as an example of what make the P-I’s ace a columnist of first order. It’s more than just his engaging prose; when taking snapshots of the sports scene, Thiel is an expert about changing your eye angle through creative lens placement.
The top story of Mariner camp so far has been Felix Hernandez. Beat reporters are also closely following the expensive offseason acquisitions, Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre.
So what does Thiel do? He writes about Wladimir Balentien.
Too many columnists hop eagerly onto the news of the day, either parroting the established line or taking an obviously contrarian stance. Nuanced thought is rare, in print and in society. It would have been fairly easy, to take an improbable example, for the top columnist at a major daily to use a recently settled lawsuit as an opportunity to churn out 15 inches about how Rick Neuheisel is less than honest. Luckily, no one in our media market would take such an easy way out.
There’s a famous Jimmy Breslin column that is still taught in journalism school a generation later. In the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, media professionals scrambled to interview those close to the deceased commander in chief, or world leaders, or prominent social figures.
Breslin interviewed, and wrote an entire piece on, Clifton Pollard — the man who dug Kennedy’s grave. The result was work that was unlike anyone else’s.
It’s true that not every column should be an off-the-beaten track bit. The day to day commentary is important. It’s also true that a less skilled writer might have turned the Balentien piece into a snoozer, at least for non-baseball junkies. With Art Thiel, you get a heady mix of informed comment and roadmaps to unturned stones.
We’re lucky to have someone with Thiel’s skills writing for us, uncovering the intriguing details of a young player’s life — even if he did miss the chance to mention Balentien’s skills as a barber. Hey, nobody’s perfect.
Hope that last sentence adds enough snark so they won’t revoke my blogger card.