What An Opportunity

Emotions flow freely, and so does Sullivan’s quality writing

In Culture, Sports on September 15, 2013 at 10:58 pm
EJ Manuel

Photo by James P. McCoy / Buffalo News

The Buffalo Bills won today, 24-23, in one of the greatest Bills games I have seen in the past decade. There were many things to write about – Fred Jackson’s clutch play, Mario Williams’ emergence (finally), Robert Woods’ impressive day, and more.

But Buffalo News Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan picked the two storylines that were most compelling: EJ Manuel’s incredible two-minute-drill piloting and first win as a National Football League quarterback, and Doug Marrone’s first win as an NFL head coach. In addition to the “first NFL win” similarity, Manuel and Marrone also both had emotional moments after the game.

I can imagine it was a very powerful post-game press conference, considering there were tears involved. It takes a great writer to capture a moment – and a moment after a huge game, nonetheless – and put emotions into words. It takes a special kind of writer with loads of experience and perspective. A writer like Jerry Sullivan.

Jerry is one of the most polarizing journalists I can think of. People in Buffalo either love him or hate him, mostly because he is paid to be a cynic and critic.

I have had the pleasure of working with Jerry the past two summers at The News. I am not kidding when I say that when people I find out I have worked at The News, they almost always immediately respond with, “Is Jerry Sullivan an asshole?”

Here’s the answer: He is one of the most helpful, interesting people I have met in journalism. He is a very grounded man full of wisdom. He is a tough marshmallow. I genuinely believe he is as big a celebrity as there is in Buffalo, but he has never been too busy to offer me – an amateur college kid – writing advice or to just talk about life. I have never publicly praised him or his work in more than 140 characters, so I figured this Bills column provided a perfect opportunity to discuss Jerry’s writing in the second edition of The Best Sports Writing I Read This Week.

First, here is a link to Jerry’s column: “Emotions flow freely on a feel-good afternoon

It is also important to understand that the column was published at 8:51 p.m. Sunday. The game ended at about 4:30. The press conference and post-game interviews probably ended around 6. That means this wasn’t some grand work upon which Jerry spent days or weeks contemplating its strategy, wording, and execution; it was a hurried column he drafted in roughly two and a half hours.

And as for the actual writing, well, you’ll have to discover it for yourself. There is perspective, but there is also optimism. It’s tough to be an optimist covering Buffalo sports, and no one has been doing so as thoroughly as Jerry since 1989. The positive tone of his column (there’s even a paragraph that begins and ends – and this is an extreme paraphrasing – with, “This one feels a little different … we might look back on this as the day when the EJ Manuel era began, when he truly began to arrive as an NFL franchise quarterback.”) says something about the promise of the day, but it also says something about Jerry. He is not above simply enjoying the basic goodness of a beautiful day. He does not need to posture or create some crazy storyline.

Why would he? The storylines were right in front of him.

Doug Marrone was mourning the loss of a friend; EJ Manuel was celebrating the birth of his career and his father’s birthday. That’s pure, raw emotion that begs to be told. And the writing is pure, raw goodness.

I suggest giving it a read, maybe even checking out The Bucky & Sully Show on television, and perusing Sullivan’s work whenever you see his trademark photo in The News. You’ll always be wiser for doing so.


 Non-sports writing that I have thoroughly enjoyed this week:

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for Esquire, on “20 Things Boys Can Do To Become Men.” It’s as awesome as it sounds.

2. This life perspective article on “How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps.” It’s not at all like it sounds.

  1. […] Sept. 15, 2013: Emotions flow freely, and so does Sullivan’s quality writing […]

  2. […] Sept. 15, 2013: Emotions flow freely, and so does Sullivan’s quality writing […]

  3. […] this week – Buffalo News sports columnist Jerry Sullivan, whom I have written about before (Emotions flow freely, and so does Sullivan’s quality writing). He assigned each member of the class to write a blog post about Sullivan’s visit and what they […]

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