A little narrative goes a long way

Kevin WilliamsIn last night’s NFC Championship game, which the Giants won 20-17 in overtime, the outcome pivoted twice on turnovers by San Francisco punt returner Kyle Williams. Williams muffed a punt late in the fourth quarter, which gave the ball back to the Giants, who shortly after took the lead. San Francisco managed to tie the game and send it to overtime, but six minutes into that extra quarter of play, Williams fumbled the football during a punt return, and again, the Giants pounced on it. Minutes later, New York kicked the game-winning field goal that sends them to the Super Bowl.

Yahoo Sports writer Les Carpenter posted a short article about William’s night and the aftermath. It’s a good piece of reporting, but what struck me was a great little scene he captured at the end of the story, an excellent bit of narrative:

Yes, Kyle Williams was alone on the day he was introduced to the rest of the country. At one point, as he dressed, he noticed a man with a television camera filming him and he gave the man a cold glare. Otherwise, his eyes focused on nothing. He pulled on a White Sox cap and blue-hooded sweater, draped the hood over his head and quickly walked out of the locker room, into a tunnel filled with delirious Giants players, family members and eventually into the parking lot where he blended in with the fans and disappeared.

Outside the lot a line of red brake lights stretched up the hills. He would be going nowhere but at least nobody was going to know who he was.

What a great (and sad) little cinematic moment Carpenter captures in a very economical bit of writing. 125 words. We see Williams, alone, getting dressed, being filmed, putting a hood over his head, then walking out into a tunnel, where he passes members of the Giants celebrating. And then we see him drive off. It’s subtle, understated, and powerful. You don’t expect something like this in a quick sports story, but Carpenter shows that great narrative nonfiction can be done quickly and on deadline.

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