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View Full Version : Feinstein's writing ability....or lack thereof.



Ima Facultiwyfe
06-05-2007, 07:55 AM
I'm at a loss to understand DBR speaks of Feinstein's writing in such glowing terms. I read one book early on and found it to be so sloppy and sophomoric that I was embarrassed that he had graduated from Duke. He recently said that graduating from Duke was easy. Evidently he's right if he could do it.

(Bless his heart, though.)
Love, Ima

tux
06-05-2007, 08:14 AM
I agree. I thought "Season on the Brink" was quite good, but Feinstein's writing is overrated. I tried a second book (I can't recall the title --- the one about the PGA tour) and it was almost unreadable. The most hackneyed prose I've ever encountered. And very disorganized.

hurleyfor3
06-05-2007, 08:45 AM
He recently said that graduating from Duke was easy.

I agree with this. Getting in is the hard part. Once you're there, you can make it as easy or as hard as you want. It is not too difficult to maintain a 3.0.

freedevil
06-05-2007, 08:49 AM
He's a hack.

Highlander
06-05-2007, 10:28 AM
I agree with this. Getting in is the hard part. Once you're there, you can make it as easy or as hard as you want. It is not too difficult to maintain a 3.0.

That depends on your major. For some humanities majors, that may be true. It was most certainly not true in Engineering and Science majors, where getting C's and D's was not at all uncommon.

4decadedukie
06-05-2007, 10:36 AM
Is it possible that the eloquence and the incisiveness expected from most first-rate authors is less likely to be found in many newspaper reporters, especially those in the sports section?

Reisen
06-05-2007, 10:54 AM
No offense to the older members on the board, but Duke University, and education in general, is a completely different place today than it was in 1977, when Mr. Feinstein graduated. The competition both to get in and as a student is far, far greater. I dare to venture Mr. Feinstein probably knows very little of what life is like for a Duke student today, 30 years after he graduated.

mapei
06-05-2007, 12:07 PM
In general, I find that people who are good at writing columns have trouble with the longer form of a book. Too often, it ends up being a series of short vignettes with little in the way of organization or overall direction. I don't mind Feinstein's columns (though I wish he'd lose the bitterness toward Duke), but I can only read his books a few pages at a time.

Actually, I find this to be true of sports writing in general. I've attempted many sports books and I've almost always been disappointed by anything not written by John McPhee.

Mike Corey
06-05-2007, 12:16 PM
Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball and The Blind Side, is a helluva sportswriter, as well. So too was David Halberstam, who dabbled in both sports and politics (though they aren't that different); Ernest Hemingway; George Plimpton; etc., etc.

Exceptions to the rule, of course, as are the writers for this site.

jimsumner
06-05-2007, 02:00 PM
Well, I must have really been stupid. I had to work pretty hard for my 3.0. Of course, part of that was in the '60s and you know what they say about the 60s, so I may be wrong. :)

grossbus
06-05-2007, 03:10 PM
feinstein for whitlock!!!!

hurleyfor3
06-05-2007, 03:24 PM
That depends on your major. For some humanities majors, that may be true. It was most certainly not true in Engineering and Science majors, where getting C's and D's was not at all uncommon.

I was an engineering major... it wasn't a breeze, but a good chunk of it was pretty easy, and on the whole I thought high school was harder.

dkbaseball
06-05-2007, 04:08 PM
No offense to the older members on the board, but Duke University, and education in general, is a completely different place today than it was in 1977, when Mr. Feinstein graduated. The competition both to get in and as a student is far, far greater. I dare to venture Mr. Feinstein probably knows very little of what life is like for a Duke student today, 30 years after he graduated.


Sorry, I'm not buying. In the 1966 Places Rated Almanac Duke was listed as the 17th most selective university, after the usual suspects such as Harvard, Cal Tech, MIT, etc. I'd venture to say it's in roughly the same place today. SAT scores started to decline in 1963, and did so steadily until 1995 when about 70 points were added to the verbal scores so that 1000 could continue to be the average score. I realize that even factoring in those 70 points the average SAT scores for Duke students today are higher than they were 40 years ago. But back then parents didn't pay for SAT prep courses. The SATs were just something people did when they came up, and didn't give much thought to.

Frankly, after having taught at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, where average scores on standardized tests aren't quite as high as Duke but aren't too far behind, I can't believe how brain dead students today are. I honestly don't think over 90 percent of the papers I received would have gotten a passing grade in freshman English at Duke back in the day. And yet I'm expected to hand out all A's and B's. We didn't have this rampant grade inflation back then; a 3.0 gpa at Duke was a legitimate accomplishment. Though the public schools had started to decline quite a bit by the early '70s, I can just about guarantee you John Feinstein got a more rigorous education, in high school and probably in college, than most of today's Duke students.

I think John is a competent writer, not particularly notable for a distinguished prose style, but clear, readable and informed. I think in the business he's probably known for being prolific and fast, no minor virtues if you want to make a living as a writer. I can recall Tony Kornheiser marveling at how John could bat out a column, up to his usual standards, in about 15 minutes.

Lord Ash
06-05-2007, 05:14 PM
feinstein for whitlock!!!!

Wasn't Whitlock the one who was talking about how much he hates all the white players at Duke, and how all of Duke's players are spoiled white boys from perfect families?

No thanks, keep both of those idiots away and let me keep Jay Bilas. Oh, and a trade for Brad Daugherty, too... "That was out-standing!" I miss him.

cspan37421
06-05-2007, 05:37 PM
Grade inflation is bad at Duke and everywhere. I was class of 1985 in high school and multiple valedictorians was a rarity; a few years ago the high school in our zone had about 17 of them.

Duke Magazine did an excellent story on grade inflation many years ago. The % of grades as As or Bs was given by major. Humanities departments led the list with the highest %-ages; hard sciences at bottom, with social sciences in between. [I hit each area with 2 majors and a Certificate program]. Another part of the article profiled Valen Johnson who was a stats professor (then) at Duke; he wrote a policy book on the subject. It was ignored and he later moved on. He proposed a good idea - show the student's grade and the average grade given in the course next to it. Maybe even assign a point value to each and divide. Otherwise you're just pretending Durham is Lake Wobegon.

Do we want to make honors like summa cum laude or top 5% of class rank easiest for drama & lit majors and hardest for future scientists? Personally I don't, but that's JMO.

Feinstein: From what I've read lately at KCJ's D-I-W site, Feinstein's biggest problem is his reasoning ability, not his writing ability. But then again I have only read 2 of his books, none recent, so perhaps his recent writing is pretty lousy too. Keep in mind, though, the above points. Sports books are not where you go looking for prose with clarity, wit, and depth of thought. He's making a living seling sports books that guys get for Father's Day, not shooting for a Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction. And like everyone here knows, bashing Duke sells. And sadly, with a Duke diploma in hand, his sour grapes get extra weight.

Atlanta Duke
06-05-2007, 05:44 PM
No offense to the older members on the board, but Duke University, and education in general, is a completely different place today than it was in 1977, when Mr. Feinstein graduated. The competition both to get in and as a student is far, far greater. I dare to venture Mr. Feinstein probably knows very little of what life is like for a Duke student today, 30 years after he graduated.

You of course are correct - today's students are obviously the most brilliant and burdened in history.

Duke '76

grossbus
06-05-2007, 06:58 PM
"Wasn't Whitlock the one who was talking about how much he hates all the white players at Duke, and how all of Duke's players are spoiled white boys from perfect families?"

you should read his columns. he doped out what was going on in the LAX case long before most of the media and certainly before any other sports media types. i have not seen anything like you suggest.

http://www.kansascity.com/182/index.html

SeattleIrish
06-06-2007, 02:33 AM
Thanks to DBR, I've had a chance to read more Al Featherston; while not a fan of sports liturature in general, I've found Featherston to be a wonderful writer, regardless of genre.

Dump Feinstein...give me more Alwyn!

s.i.:D

Bob Green
06-06-2007, 03:24 AM
Thanks to DBR, I've had a chance to read more Al Featherston; while not a fan of sports liturature in general, I've found Featherston to be a wonderful writer, regardless of genre.

Dump Feinstein...give me more Alwyn!

s.i.:D

I enjoy sports literature in general and Al Featherston specifically.

Bob Green
Yokosuka, Japan

Ima Facultiwyfe
06-06-2007, 05:58 AM
Thanks to DBR, I've had a chance to read more Al Featherston; while not a fan of sports liturature in general, I've found Featherston to be a wonderful writer, regardless of genre.

Dump Feinstein...give me more Alwyn!

s.i.:D

I was waiting for somebody to say that!
Love, Ima

duketaylor
06-06-2007, 09:01 AM
I'll take Mr Featherston as well, plus our, now retired, Garvey Winegar, who wrote columns on hunting and fishing for the RTD. He was a joy to read, unlike many of our regular writers who just plain suck, IMO. I was very pleased with Jim's piece on Coach Myers as well, the one on ACC.com. Thanks again. HBTM!!!:) Our new hunting and fishing writer, Lee Graves, is pretty interesting to read. Good hire.

DankeShane
06-06-2007, 09:24 AM
Eh, I like Feinstein's books just fine.

SilkyJ
06-06-2007, 10:43 AM
You of course are correct - today's students are obviously the most brilliant and burdened in history.

Duke '76

Sensitive much? He wasn't saying that, he was just saying its harder to get in and it is certainly a different place that it was in the 70s. He is right. My father and mother were T '77 and there a lot of similarities and a lot of differences they/we have noticed.

the end of the year myrtle beach trip and painting the bridge are some of the similarities. other than Dr. Bonk still being around, the academic landscape has changed considerably.

T '06

Atlanta Duke
06-06-2007, 11:49 AM
Sensitive much? He wasn't saying that, he was just saying its harder to get in and it is certainly a different place that it was in the 70s. He is right. My father and mother were T '77 and there a lot of similarities and a lot of differences they/we have noticed.

the end of the year myrtle beach trip and painting the bridge are some of the similarities. other than Dr. Bonk still being around, the academic landscape has changed considerably.

T '06

I surrender. To the extent you are convinced of your wonderfulness compared to your predecessors, hurray for you.

Reisen
06-06-2007, 12:26 PM
Without getting too much into a debate that people likely have personal feelings on, let me just say it has nothing to do with kids today being wonderful or "better" than kids 30 years ago.

What it does have to do with is an increased stratification in higher education, an emphasis on standardized tests, a huge amount of pressure on high school kids to build "college resumes" in the pursuit of perfection, and a massive influx of hard-working, highly educated foreign students seeking degrees from top US universities.

In the meantime, Duke has risen to a consistent top 8 national university. Even when I compare the school today to when I was a student (less than 10 years ago), the acceptance rate has dropped by over a third (dropped more than 10%), and the 50th percentile range for SAT scores has gone up.

Duke has changed in a lot more ways since the days of Mr. Feinstein than just no more kegs on the quad. I'm not really sure it's for the better, either.

SilkyJ
06-06-2007, 12:53 PM
I surrender. To the extent you are convinced of your wonderfulness compared to your predecessors, hurray for you.

my father can assure you I am quite convinced of my wonderfulness :)

But I won't get into the generational bashing. I respect my (much) elders.

unwrinkled ear
06-06-2007, 03:05 PM
You of course are correct - today's students are obviously the most brilliant and burdened in history.

Duke '76


wow - no wonder i tend to avoid duke graduates when watching a game: you guys are SO bitter.

(i'm very happy with my MIT degree)

dukemsu
06-06-2007, 08:42 PM
Feinstein, in my opiinion, did peak with the Knight book. Of course, that was one of the first books of its kind-with unmatched access and an undeniably fascinating subject in RMK. Forever's Team was a great piece for me-having not been around for that era of Duke Basketball. The author's fondness for his subject showed. That is one of my very favorite sports books.

His writing has gone downhill, but I think some of that is because he has tried to repeat the same formula. Sorry, the Baltimore Ravens just aren't as interesting as Bob Knight to me (though I did like Feinstein's willingness to call out the NFL on its shortcomings, something most sportswriters are afraid to do). The book he did about the 05 Final Four was basically unbearable for me as it was almost all about Roy Williams and a little bit about Pitino. He neglected to spend more than 3 pages on Michigan State and not much more on Illinois, who dominated the NCAA hoops scene most of that season. Izzo must have denied him access, though I find that hard to believe as Izzo loves media coverage. Feinstein probably has never been to Illinois.

I don't get the Duke venom, although I detected it long ago, in his book about the Colonial League. He had a rather surly anecdote about the Crazies singing Happy Birthday to Boozer, and Boozer not appreciating it, acting as if they should know it was his birthday because, well, he was Carlos Boozer. His writing seems to lack some of the love of the game that he used to exhibit readily.

I hope he gets over it.

dukemsu

dukemsu

hurleyfor3
06-06-2007, 09:35 PM
wow - no wonder i tend to avoid duke graduates when watching a game: you guys are SO bitter.

(i'm very happy with my MIT degree)

Yes, we as a whole do need to get over ourselves sometimes.

Regarding Feinstein, this is nothing new for him. A Chronicle columnist wrote this back in 1999:

I was in the Charlotte Coliseum for the first two rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament this year. I was privileged to meet John Feinstein, a noted sports novelist and writer for the Washington Post. He is also a Duke graduate.
I asked Mr. Feinstein why he was wearing an Army jacket instead of Duke paraphernalia. He replied that although he was a diehard fan of Duke basketball, he was not a fan of Duke University.

http://www.dukechronicle.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=2ef34e91-2f18-4858-8e72-c323c512be43

dkbaseball
06-06-2007, 10:00 PM
Posted by Hurleyfor3: "Regarding Feinstein, this is nothing new for him. A Chronicle columnist wrote this back in 1999:

[i]I was in the Charlotte Coliseum for the first two rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament this year. I was privileged to meet John Feinstein, a noted sports novelist and writer for the Washington Post. He is also a Duke graduate."


This quote from the Chronicle is an example of what I was saying about undergraduate writing these days. Far as I know, Feinstein, a writer of nonfiction works, has yet to pen a novel. My students at Wisconsin would make that mistake all the time.

beridian
06-07-2007, 08:27 AM
Why do you guys keep bashing Feinstein? He has always been a Duke supporter in the past. He is exactly right when he says that the atletic program has been a mess recently under Alleva. The University turned its back on its own players and coach. They completely screwed up the lacross situation. You have to support your own people, especially when they are wrongfully accused. The baseball team has been a joke since Alleva, he has hired 2 bum football coaches, and he let Coach G walk. I am a huge Duke fan but that doesn't mean I am going to bash someone for being honest. Duke (especially Alleva) should be held accountable for all the mistakes that have been made recently.

Stray Gator
06-07-2007, 10:05 AM
Why do you guys keep bashing Feinstein? ....

****************

I'm not among those who bash Feinstein, but if I were, I'd answer your question by turning it around: Why does Feinstein keep bashing Duke? The fact that John is a Duke alumnus of some prominence in the sports world does not mean that he should refrain from expressing criticism of Duke athletics where such criticism is warranted--and there's no doubt that Duke's athletic program, like that of any other school, is a fair target of criticism at times. The problem IMO is that we would reasonably expect and hope such criticism, when coming from a Duke alumnus, to be objectively fair and well-intentioned and constructive, couched in terms designed to say, in effect, "here's a problem at Duke that I think needs to be recognized and rectified for the good of the school and all of us associated with it."

In short, I think Duke fans would naturally like to believe that any criticism from members of the Duke family is not only valid, but motivated by an underlying love for the institution and a genuine desire to enhance its stature. (See: Bilas, Jay.) But John's criticism is so persistently cutting and malicious that it's readily apparent his objective is not to help remedy the perceived problem, but to exacerbate the damage to Duke. His animosity is evidently motivated by the fact that Duke did not hire his friend, Tom Mickle, as the athletic director to succeed Tom Butters, but instead promoted Joe Alleva, who (at least at that time) was believe to be the friend and personal choice of Coach K.

Now, I don't think anyone would deny that Alleva has earned a hearty helping of criticism. And Feinstein is certainly entitled to add his voice, or even lead the choir. But instead of trying to use his status and potential influence in a positive manner to promote constructive change, John is acting like a pompous, immature brat, who wants to seize every opportunity to shriek "See, I was right and Duke was wrong. I told you so! They should have listened to me!" and actually wants to make Duke suffer for its failure to defer to his wisdom.

I think John needs to get over it already and move on. Maybe he was right--though we can only speculate about how things might have turned out differently if Mickle had been selected instead of Alleva. But the question Feinstein needs to ask himself at this point is whether being right is more important to him than being respected.

Karl Beem
06-07-2007, 11:02 AM
Posted by Hurleyfor3: "Regarding Feinstein, this is nothing new for him. A Chronicle columnist wrote this back in 1999:

[i]I was in the Charlotte Coliseum for the first two rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament this year. I was privileged to meet John Feinstein, a noted sports novelist and writer for the Washington Post. He is also a Duke graduate."


This quote from the Chronicle is an example of what I was saying about undergraduate writing these days. Far as I know, Feinstein, a writer of nonfiction works, has yet to pen a novel. My students at Wisconsin would make that mistake all the time.

Winter Games
http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Games-Mystery-John-Feinstein/dp/0316277215

arnie
06-07-2007, 12:20 PM
Great post! I have always enjoyed Feinstein's writing and disagree with most posters that his abilities are not exemplary. I believe his total distrust of our AD's character and abilities have swayed him to pound on the university unfairly. Some of his characterizations of the lacrosse situation appear misguided and are intended to make the scene at Duke appear worse than it really is.

Of course, I concur with his feelings about our AD and continue to hope that a change is made quickly. The "Bucky Waters" approach may work well here.

SilkyJ
06-07-2007, 12:33 PM
Winter Games
http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Games-Mystery-John-Feinstein/dp/0316277215

Thank god. the wisconsin comparison made me throw up in my mouth a little.

Indoor66
06-07-2007, 02:57 PM
His attitudes and comments about Duke pre-date Alleva as AD. He goes back to the Butters day. Fire, you are sounding like a one-trick-poney with every issue related to Duke sports beginning and ending with fire Alleva. Maybe he is not Satan incarnate?

kjo3444
06-07-2007, 03:53 PM
I have to say that I find his books dull and extremely superficial, ever since Season on the Brink (which I thought was a great book). I honestly feel that a typical high school student would be a better writer - it is like he is churning these out evey 18 months just to make the $$.

And i agree 100% with the poster who says Feinstein's problem isn't his writing, it is his reasoning. A few visits to DIW will confirm that.

cspan37421
06-07-2007, 04:33 PM
Stray Gator:

Well said! Great post. If you had a blog I'd bookmark it. Look out, KC Johnson!

cspan37421

cspan37421
06-07-2007, 04:36 PM
PS, Stray Gator:

Your sig line avatar reminds me of the "Happy Happy, Joy Joy" gators [who got on the bus to go to work] from early Ren & Stimpy. I think it was episode "Untamed World" - but of course the song is from "Stimpy's Invention".

OK, I guess I've betrayed both my age and my, um... attention to detail.

Stray Gator
06-07-2007, 05:16 PM
PS, Stray Gator:

Your sig line avatar reminds me of the "Happy Happy, Joy Joy" gators [who got on the bus to go to work] from early Ren & Stimpy. I think it was episode "Untamed World" - but of course the song is from "Stimpy's Invention".

OK, I guess I've betrayed both my age and my, um... attention to detail.

**************

As it happens, my son, who created that gif for me about 10 years ago, was a big fan of Ren & Stimpy when he was little (and turned me into a fan as well). So maybe there's a subliminal connection after all.

arnie
06-07-2007, 06:57 PM
Yes, I can't deny that I believe a new AD could bring life to the football program. Unfortunately, I've attended most of the home games for the past 15 years and at least 2 games a year prior to that. It's getting harder and harder to turn the key in the ignition and drive 25 miles each way to attend the massacres with limited interest in the stands.

I don't expect much anymore, but if we can rid ourselves of this man (he is not Satan Incarnate for sure - not bright enough) maybe new leadership at the top will bring momentum to the program. I still can't figure out why he is allowed to remain; except, for the unthinkable - can he really be a puppet??