A Dad and an Audience of One

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Our home usually mimicked the sounds of a newsroom: the rustling of the paper over morning espresso; the ringing of telephones; the pounding of a heavy black Royal typewriter, every volley of keystrokes adopted by a ding and the slap of the carriage return; and then the dictation of that day’s copy.

In a deep, sluggish, clear voice, my father, George Vecsey, would learn his freshly written Sports of the Times column — one of 1000’s he wrote over some 30 years — to a machine someplace inside The New York Times Building. Every phrase, each comma, each quote mark, each correct identify spelled out. Everything as a substitute.

He’d learn into the cellphone, “NEW PARAGRAPH The frustration was on the Rangers’ faces EM-DASH a few of them filled with tears EM-DASH as the players clumped off the ice a few minutes later COMMA and it was in the words of CAPITAL H-e-r-b SPACE CAPITAL B-r-o-o-k-s as he talked about OPEN QUOTES LOWERCASE C closing the gap PERIOD CLOSE QUOTES NEW PARAGRAPH.”

And the subsequent morning, this would seem in The New York Times:

The frustration was on the Rangers’ faces — a couple of of them full of tears — because the gamers clumped off the ice a couple of minutes later, and it was within the phrases of Herb Brooks as he talked about “closing the gap.”

For an 11-year-old sitting within the hallway, baseball glove in hand, ready to play catch, this was pure magic.

There was my father describing conversations he had had with Herb Brooks, or Mike Bossy, or Chris Evert, or Alexis Argüello … a fantasy world for any child who grew up on “Wide World of Sports.”

More essential, I had simultaneous front-row and backstage views of how a narrative will get written. It wasn’t simply that each phrase was in its correct place; it was that each thought was in its correct place. It was a non-public course in journalism from one of the nice masters, and these hours listening to his dictation would come to tell my profession as a replica editor. Not solely do I understand how a New York Times story ought to learn, however I additionally know the way it ought to sound, how the cadence ought to ebb and move. Sadly, that have was misplaced with the arrival of moveable computer systems, when the sound of my father’s voice was changed by the screech of his Kaypro’s modem.

I spent quite a bit of time in stadiums as a child. I’d be there early sufficient to observe crew members water and line the sphere, and late sufficient to observe them sweep popcorn from the aisles. Sometimes I may speak my method into the media room, the place I’d go to sleep ready for my dad to file. We’d drive residence within the center of the night time, and over a Wendy’s burger, he’d inform me what he had mined out of Keith Hernandez that night time. A few hours later, a “Keith Speaks” column would land with a thud within the driveway.

In the pre-cellphone world of the early ’80s, my dad might need carried out a couple of issues that right this moment would increase a couple of purple flags, however in reality cultivated a way of independence. “I’m headed to the ballpark,” he’d say, dropping $20 on the desk in a Chicago lodge room. “Take the Red Line to Addison, your ticket should be at Will Call. Try to find the media room after the game or just hang around outside the gate or just meet me back here.”

People would usually inform me how fortunate I used to be. And they have been proper. But not as a result of I bought to “go to all the games.” And not as a result of I’d often get to have lunch with Lucky Pierre Larouche or shoot hoops with Bob Welch.

I used to be fortunate as a result of I had a father who shared his world and his craft, who taught me the identical classes any father, of any occupation, ought to train his son about navigating life, love, work, play and the human situation, to not point out that backup catchers and boxers are one of the best quotes.

They gave me 700 phrases for this essay, however I may write 700 phrases day-after-day from this Father’s Day to subsequent and nonetheless not say all that would, and ought to, be mentioned. But that’s one other lesson realized: They ask for 700, you file 700 (OK, 750) and put the remainder in your pocket book for later.

Thanks, Pop. Period. Close quote. End it.

David Vecsey is an editor for The Times’s Print Hub.

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