Sunday, April 27, 2014

Offensive Rebounds in Basketball

I'm a big sports fan. Not as big as I used to be. There's a lot of overexposure, ticket prices are up, etc. But on the bright side, people give real and cogent analysis, and we understand better what's valuable and what isn't, and how and why.

Offensive rebounds (OR) in basketball are, for those who don't follow, when a player manages to gain control of a teammate's missed shot. So if you like soccer, call it a tap-in. ORs weren't given much official credit, though coaches would often say, the wrong one at the wrong moment will kill a team tired from defending. Whether they have to defend for another 24/35 seconds, or the person that gets one is so close to the basket he can score easily, it's a big boost to a team on offense. Coaches go on and on about how ORs are about desire and preparedness. They weren't a big deal for a while, and if you remember Dennis Rodman, he was invaluable to his teams in getting these. He knew how to position himself or scramble for a miss, and while people remember his more visible head games, they were usually camoflague for the more practical stuff. (Lots) more below the fold.

They happen while writing, too, text adventures or not. Sometimes it's just a matter of tweaking a word. Sometimes it's one you have to make, like when your game won't compile. Then there are the rare ones that seem to come out of nowhere. For a while I'd discounted some ideas because they seemed too simple and too easy. What I think I didn't realize was that I'd been buzzing around a succinct, concise, good idea, and I'd got in position to make it better. In effect, I convinced myself it'd be too good to be true, because it's too simple. I didn't do what your average power forward would do, which is just go up strong and put the ball in the basket and worry about details later. (And there will be a later, since you should pave over even your a-ha ideas.) I've often given myself the worst of both worlds: 1) it can't be that easy to convert a bad idea into a good one and 2) that one word out of place totally ruined what I was trying to say, and if I'd paid attention at all while I proofread, I could've zapped it. This is not desirable, and thinking in terms of sports takes the pressure off me. I'm not worried about If I'm a Good Writer.

This applies to other people's work, too. I consciously try to recognize when they are in good position and just throw up a literary brick, and I look for a way for a quick putback. Of course, I don't have a defender to fight against, but the imagery works for me. If I have the image of my author missing an open shot, I try for the put-back. The analogy can stretch further when I imagine an author dribbling all over the court without doing much or throwing a bad shot up with a defender guarding them. It also works whether or not I know what the author looks like.

I can't describe how to get in position, and I don't do any crazy method acting to get there, but when I test I want to be there to put back anything that just misses. I know I've been close to a good idea but one or two words were completely out of place, and I try to take that "crashing the boards" to others' work. The mental exercise and preparedness helps me to say, okay, if they did most of the stuff right, I can follow up. This can also apply to my own work, as long as I wrote it some time ago (like a week) and have some detachment.

Another image I use is that of a sweeper in soccer/football to kick out the obvious mistakes that dribble by and might go in the goal otherwise. And sometimes I feel like I got beat, and at that point all I can say is, hey, author, can you look at this, it wasn't as strong as the rest. I think there can and should be a concept of offense and defense in testing/proofreading others' writing, and breaking down these tasks helped me a lot, both in helping other people and asking for more specific help.

I've got a lot of sports analogies and images that I use to relate to my writing or others', even as I watch sports less. They're probably less perfect and even more specialized to the sport, though. There's a quarterback who doesn't plant his feet as he throws--that's like when you're just kind of randomly writing and poking around for ideas and not focusing, which is fine, unless you need to actually throw the ball sometimes soon. These images usually WORK, though, and if I catch myself in a bad one, I can fix it. When I recreate my writing session as a sporting event and pay attention to what happened, it's a good gauge for what I need to fix.

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