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Sports Desk: Still Running

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Feb. 6th, 2012 | 08:18 pm

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SPORTS DESK

STILL RUNNING

One might be excused a burst of somewhat-racist surprise at the sight of Travis Durelle Laster carefully peeling the skin from his chicken and de-greasing each piece on a napkin. But leaving behind the biscuits at the Tik-Tok Lunch-N-Munch? A culinary sin, regardless of creed or color.

“Wide receivers gotta run,” Laster explains, also setting aside the coleslaw and draining the juice from his probably-canned corn. His formed-cardboard plate is heaped with chicken skins. “I can eat about as much white meat as I want, but I probly only have two-three pieces here, it’s so greasy. I had the week off from training because I kinda tweaked my ankle so I thought it would be good for me to take some time and let it heal. Tomorrow I gotta weigh.”

Laster is training for the pros—preferably the Bengals, but he’d settle for the Vikings, or in fact, any team that signs him. So far, he’s been playing practice squads for three years, and he’s ready to step up.

“I claim football as a gift. It was football that got me through the hardships of war in Iraq and Kuwait. Last month I made a lunch visit to my stepdaughter’s school, spent most of my time giving autographs. I’m not even on an NFL team yet, and the kids are just so excited about the fact that I am trying out and working out. It is so cool how they don’t even know it, but they really motivate me a lot.”

After high school in Georgia, Laster enlisted in the Marines, playing running back and wide receiver in scratch games in the desert. Deposited in Los Angeles by the US Government at the end of his tour, he played at a junior college before getting a scholarship to the University of Minnesota. He’s in Charlotte for two weeks, between a week back in Minneapolis, snowed in while training for a Vikings tryout, and a week in Cinncinati, where he hopes the weather will be better. “I played college ball in terrible weather, so I wasn’t slipping around like the guys who came up from Miami, but it was hard to show my stuff.”

The counter worker hollers that the kitchen is closing, and Laster orders more corn, no butter. On finding that there may be carrots, he asks for two servings. Vegetables are an unlimited food.

It’s been a tough week for Travis Durelle, as his mother calls him. His coach has called daily to remind him that it’s hard to stay in shape and easy to get fat. His on-again-off-again girlfriend has asked him to stop calling for awhile, and he misses talking to his stepdaughter.

“Breaking up was primarily all me. I was this college football player that was so well known around the city and the university and just let a lot of that get to my head. Being out here in Charlotte has forced me to do a lot of maturing.”

Laster polishes off the carrots, looking wistfully at the counter.

“It really sucks being alone here in Charlotte but ya know, I feel more focused and more determined to be something great. I know what you mean when you say that you’re learning to do your writing daily whether you like it or not. That is so how it is on the field. But one thing I learned, it’s usually the days that you don’t feel like getting better at your craft that end up being most influential and fulfilling.”



whipchick had to ask if there was anything happening in football this week. Apparently there was.

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Comments {32}

whipchick

Concrit Question

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 7th, 2012 01:20 am (UTC)
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Any comments are welcome, critical or not :) But if you read The New Yorker, I've tried to make this a Talk of the Town piece in structure, length and tone, and I'd appreciate hearing if you think it succeeds at that, and where you see any problems. Thanks!

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the middle of the road's fine with no cars around

Re: Concrit Question

from: noodledays
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
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I haven't read The New Yorker regularly in a while, but from what I recall, I think you captured the feel of a piece like that nicely. :)

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lawchicky

(no subject)

from: lawchicky
date: Feb. 7th, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
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Mmmm vegetables :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 10th, 2012 12:59 am (UTC)
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This place, they were the canned variety :) Totally down-home low rent.

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Laura, aka "Ro Arwen"

(no subject)

from: roina_arwen
date: Feb. 7th, 2012 11:08 pm (UTC)
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I like this, it's got a good tone and interesting characterization. I'm not much of a sports fan, but I can relate to Laster all too well!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 06:25 am (UTC)
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Thanks - I really enjoyed interviewing him, and he's a smart guy!

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beldarzfixon

(no subject)

from: beldarzfixon
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 04:06 am (UTC)
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I like this. It gives a great perspective of how it is for most pro football players, especially when between contracts. I once worked a summer with a guy who was drafted first-round as a kicker, then after a couple of years with the Saints, then picked up and ignored by the Bengals, he was just doing whatever odd jobs he could find until the next Open Tryouts -- came back from one in Dallas where he said there were thousands of people there for what would be one hire, two if they were generous (who still wasn't guaranteed a roster spot once training camp ended).

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 06:26 am (UTC)
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Wow. So Travis is doing even better than I thought. Sobering.

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basric

(no subject)

from: basric
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 05:35 am (UTC)
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I liked it, well done. Football and all.(=

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 06:26 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I can't believe I didn't know it was Super Bowl weekend :)

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jacq22

(no subject)

from: jacq22
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 06:18 am (UTC)
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Just about deal with football. LOL, but seriously I think you nailed it, the style is perfect. It reads as you envisaged. Well I think so!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 06:26 am (UTC)
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Thanks, glad to hear it!

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Jemima Pauler

(no subject)

from: jem0000000
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 08:55 am (UTC)
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I found out because the beer at work was stacked higher than my head. ;)

Laster sounds like quite a person; I hope he makes it onto one of those teams.

I like the format. :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 10th, 2012 12:59 am (UTC)
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The coffee shop was extra quiet, too :)

He's a great guy - I'd love to see him make it.

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(Deleted comment)

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 10th, 2012 12:59 am (UTC)
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Thanks!

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Myrna

(no subject)

from: myrna_bird
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 06:21 pm (UTC)
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I liked the relaxed feel of bits of conversation in the structured story. I didn't realize it was an interview till you mentioned it but it certainly sounds like it would be an interesting piece for a venue like The New Yorker. Good luck!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 10th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
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Thank you! I'm not usually a sports person, so this was a stretch for me, but Travis was so interesting I really wanted to write about him.

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A Karmic Sandbox

(no subject)

from: karmasoup
date: Feb. 8th, 2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
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I couldn't speak specifically to the New Yorker, but, to magazines in general, it does follow the general feel one gets from that style article.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 10th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
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Thanks, appreciate the feedback!

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Andrea Blythe

(no subject)

from: blythe025
date: Feb. 9th, 2012 01:44 am (UTC)
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Definitely enjoyed this, though I skipped the Super Bowl, not much of a football fan. I would say you captured the New Yorker tone quite well.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 10th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
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Thanks! Yeah, I skipped it, too - coffee shop was extra quiet for writing!

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(no subject)

from: iamthesea
date: Feb. 9th, 2012 05:26 am (UTC)
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this is awesome :D

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 10th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
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Thanks :) Glad you read!

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

(no subject)

from: halfshellvenus
date: Feb. 9th, 2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
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So, you wound up interviewing him while he was in town? It sure looks like it was a great opportunity. (I'm actually surprpised YOU were in town, unless this isn't your actual town and you were just passing through)

I see this guy is taking his training and his craft seriously, and I hope he finds success!

My one criticism is in your transcription of his words, where you used "probly". I don't quibble with gotta, since people actually say that, or the parts of the quote that sound verbatim in the ir sentence-fragment way (people usually don't talk in perfectly complete sentences). But that word is one that people often say like you spelled it, but it's still written as "probably". Now, "prolly" is another thing entirely. But using 'probly' makes the speaker seem less educated, rather than that he's being informal in a way that most people are.

I feel bad about the girl he refers to as his stepdaughter. If that was his girlfriend's child, it's clear that he thought of the girl as his own. So now, both of them are probably hurting over the split. :(





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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 10th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
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I passed through Charlotte on the way to somewhere else, and I already knew Travis from flying on the same plane with him--he was headed to another training camp and I was on my way to Alaska :) I'd been wanting to do an interview with him for awhile, and the funny part was, I really did ask on FB, "Hey, I've got a story I want to write but it needs a football tie-in - is anything going on? Is it even in season?" My friends laughed a lot.

I agree on 'prolly' - good eye! Would it work if it was 'prob'ly'? Because he is a person who makes an effort to use good English even though he speaks with a Southern accent, and I'd hate to make him sound uneducated.

Yeah - he cares a lot about his ex's child, and still talks to her off and on. But it is rough.

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similiesslip

(no subject)

from: similiesslip
date: Feb. 10th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
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Wow, I sure hope he gets his dream. I admire his dedication. It must be hard training and also having his girlfriend ask him not to call.

I really like how you put this together, including the eating details here and there.

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