Monday, October 31, 2011


Read this op-ed. It is damn-near perfect. I meant read it now. I’ll wait.

Great, right? Here’s why. In 875 words, WaPo writer and Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss destroys the central conceit of “Moneyball,” one of the best sports movies I’d ever seen. Or so I thought. 

“I absolutely hate
the movie 'Moneyball'
and everything it
stands for.” BAM!
Maraniss’ op-ed is a micro-tutorial on how to tell your story in the digital age. He wrote with obvious passion. He used plain words in powerful ways. He took a contrarian perspective and supported his position with facts. And by closing with a poetic observation about life, he made the issue of baseball statistics relevant to me, which—as anyone who knows me will attest—is no mean feat.

I don’t follow sports, let alone sport statistics. The last baseball stat I tracked was the 1969 Mets’ win-loss record which I scotch taped to my mom’s refrigerator (100-62!).
But I loved “Moneyball” because, to me, it wasn’t about sports—it was about attacking an old problem in a new way. And since I had no idea who won the 2002 World Series, or that the A’s actually set an American  League record with a 20-game winning streak, I was on edge until the last out.

Then Maraniss blew that all away with one op-ed. That’s powerful story telling.
So here’s the lesson: When writing for yourself or for a client, find the most compelling perspective of the issue. Take a contrarian view when possible. (It's easier than you might think.) Write with passion. Write like you talk. Use data to support your position. And try to reach a wider audience by speaking to the broader implications of your position.

"I recommend
the surf and TURF,
Quick aside on how thoroughly I don’t follow sports. Back in 2005, I had the opportunity to have lunch with then-Outback Steakhouse president Paul Avery at a Lee Roy Selmon's restaurant. Lee Roy's was, at the time, an Outback concept, and this one was a block from Outback's global headquarters in Tampa, FL. The place was packed with sports memorabilia. A picture of Hall-of-Famer Lee Roy himself was on the menu. But I was a bit nervous and a tad distracted trying to remember which bread plate was mine. So I opened the conversation with, “So, this Leroy Selman, was he a ballplayer?”

Hands down the worst business lunch ever.

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