The legend of John Canzano shows

Sometimes it takes a while to respect a man’s work. Respect is exactly what Canzano deserves.

Most likely a courtesy of my Portland sports affiliation, I never gave much credit to the guy who spends a good deal of his time calling spades in a facet of our industry where geography draws the line between spit and spite. It’s a war out there, for a sports columnist. Canzano has a talent for polarizing his audience, and often I found myself on the angrier side of the line.

Now that the line is drawn between professionals (please ignore the irony of self-publication), Canzano earns his stripes. He’s won a few awards over the years and I knew it; because of two recent articles, one that would’ve angered me in my more innocent days, I understand why.

He can write with power. It’s the hardest thing for any writer to master.

Brandon Roy’s line at the end of Saturday’s game was pedestrian in comparison to the norm, but Canzano recognized the importance of his storyline. Hardly groundbreaking, as Roy’s return from injury was the story from tipoff, but Canzano executed the story to a tee. Never shy (he hosts a radio talk show called “The Bald-Faced Truth,” and yes, he’s bald), he even threw himself into his story.

Isn’t that taboo for a journalist?

Yes, but it works. Grain of salt recommended, being a good writer isn’t about vocabulary or grammatical structure, it’s about timing. Choosing the right moment for the right style. Most of the other things go by the book. In this case, the spectacle demands the perspective of the individual. It isn’t about John watching Brandon. It’s about all of us witnessing a legend.

Sports writing is chock-full of cliches (explicit language, but true), but they aren’t evident here. It’s evocative, thoughtful writing. It’s a spade.

Rewind it another two days, the story changes. The title alone is enough to irk me: It’s hard to believe in the Trail Blazers when the players don’t. No. It’s never hard. My beard is Blazer-colored.

I was in attendance for that game, and the quality of his article wasn’t just in the final score – it’s here, if you want a reminder (I don’t). Canzano’s coverage climbed to another level. He gauged the atmosphere in the building (unsympathetic) and wrote an article about how the halftime act was more fulfilling that the main attraction (she’s insane, by the way).

My dad even acknowledged it as the “performance of the night,” and in reality, this game was over from the tip.

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I might just be waxing his shiny head, but consider this my atonement. While the article lost some of its strength down the stretch, possessing the wherewithal to interview a highly-coordinated unicyclist for an article about an NBA playoff game due in six hours is impressive.

At least I’m impressed. Judging from the comments, I suppose I might be misled. But covering a team for a rabid fan base, you must have hit something right if the reaction is so vivid and visceral. You have to have a few callouses. I’m know you’ve been badgered, too. From a former badger, John, you’ve earned my respect. -Jonathan Stull

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