A month ago Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein promised subscribers an upcoming Gary Cartwright "screed" against modern-day sportswriting, and it's here.
And it bored, mostly. Precis: No one writes as good as we did back in the old days.
At least Cartwright calls people out by name: Cedric Golden and Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman are hacks, he pretty much decrees; and "Houston hasn't produced a warm body since [Mickey] Herskowitz retired."
Cartwright proses on about the wacky, wonderful days of him, Blackie Sherrod, Bud Shrake and Dan Jenkins. While there is some immense talent there, the examples Cartwright cites won't blow you away. (Nor will his apparently-meant-to-be-hilarious recollection of how the group "used to go around in capes and leotards claiming to be Les Flying Punzars, an Italian acrobatic group of mysterious origins. Our most celebrated act, we liked to say, was the amazing triple somersault, which we were always prepared to perform but for the lack of a trapeze.")
It's a cranky, old-man piece that isn't the takedown of current sports columnists we were hoping for. Abe Simpson could have wrote it. (Complete with the trademark "P.S. I am not a crank.")
The only good ones left, he argues, are in the Metroplex.
The best of today's sorry lot are Randy Galloway, at the Star-Telegram, and Tim Cowlishaw and Kevin Sherrington, at the Morning News. Houston hasn't produced a warm body since Herskowitz retired. San Antonio? Forget about it. Though our big-city dailies are top-heavy with sports columnists, there are hardly any worth spending a cup of coffee on.
Galloway is old-school. He was a young sports reporter in Dallas in the sixties, at roughly the time that Sherrod was presiding over the Times Herald. Maybe that's why he's so intoxicated with attitude. Cowlishaw is a good reporter and a good enough writer. Sherrington's offerings are, as they used to say, an inch deep and a mile wide, but his short, punchy style can be pretty funny. In a column this spring about claims that the Chinese were cutting a few years off the reported ages of their gymnasts, Sherrington noted that fourteen-year-olds supposedly have an advantage over sixteen-year-olds because they're more flexible. "Sounds sketchy to me," he wrote, "but then I've never tried to bend one of my teenagers, either."
Again, the examples don't exactly back up the arguments.
We're not really defending the current crop of columnists, to be sure. We were just looking for something more than "We were great and the new guys stink."