J.R. Moehringer did a remarkable story on Alex Rodriguez for the latest edition of ESPN The Magazine. Even if you detest A-Rod, it definitely is worth your time if you want to see a different way of writing a profile. Brilliant.
Moehringer spent considerable time with the disgraced star. Yet he wrote the piece without using a quote.
He explains in this passage:
How many pills, creams or needles he used, how much those pills, creams or needles might have enhanced his already towering gifts, and to what lengths he went to conceal it — these and other questions will be debated forever, and will never fully be resolved, but there’s no longer any debate about Rodriguez’s credibility. He’s a proven liar, a repeated liar, and thus, as he prepares to emerge from the longest steroid-related suspension in the history of baseball, as he readies himself physically and mentally for his 21st spring training, there’s tremendous interest in his story, but there’s just no point in quoting him.
More than no point, there’s just no way.
Take a sentence from Rodriguez, set it between two quotation marks and watch what happens; it curdles like year-old milk. The words become unstable, unusable, weirdly ironic. It’s not a choice, to quote or not to quote, it’s simple science, obeisance to strict natural laws, to the crazy alchemy between his damaged credibility and basic punctuation. Quoting Rodriguez is like dropping a Mento into a Diet Coke. It makes a big whoosh, everyone gets excited, for about three seconds, and then it’s just a mess, and you wonder what’s been accomplished, besides some stickiness, and maybe a permanent stain.
In fact, don’t even bother taking out a recorder or notebook in Rodriguez’s presence. Aside from the fact that it induces in him a physical condition, Resting Zombie Face, and aside from the fact that he says off the record more than an allergist saysgesundheit, he’s forfeited his right to exactitude. No more verbatim for him. Not right now. His suspension is over, but so is the public’s suspension of disbelief. If he hopes to recapture the public trust, to repair his image, it will be through actions, not words.