THE HONOR TAP character biographies: OTIS HOAK
Otis's Good List
When someone tells you, “I give you carte blanche”
Mrs. Rowe’s spoonbread
Any song with a harmonica solo
Roy Orbison’s gurgly growl in “Meanwoman Blues.”
Watching old videos of James Brown dancing
Bruce, the cooler
Bruce, the musical artist (aka “El Jefe”)
The feeling of Guinness foam on your upper lip
A carton of ice cream after it’s softened from sitting out a awhile
The late John Facenda’s narration of anything for NFL Films
Steve Sabol, period
A hot, thick, soft, chewy oatmeal-raisin cookie, straight out of the oven, with a cold glass of milk
The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile
The old Sinclair gas station signs that featured the green Apatosaurus
Learning that Superlative Baull’s leukemia went into remission
Billy Stewart’s trilling in the song “Summertime”
The horns in “Summertime”
The drums in “Summertime”
Hell, everything in “Summertime”
Acold shower after three hours of playground hoops in June
The word “umbrage”
When Bob Seger moans “Lawd I remember, Lawd I remember, haaa-uuuuuuhhhhh” at the end of “Night Moves”
Getting something in the mail from eBay
The way Springsteen writes his “T’s”
The fact that it is socially acceptable to make a big mess of shelled peanuts at a baseball game
The ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian
A sugar maple in autumn
The smell of Play-Doh
On a rare off day in Saturday, flipping between four college football games
ABC’s “Thrill of Victory/Agony of Defeat” on Wide World of Sports
The way the first cop nods when John Candy asks him, “Orange Whip?” in The Blues Brothers
The look on the little girl’s face when John Belushi asks her father, “How much for the little girl?” in The Blues Brothers (Otis)
Getting a parking ticket voided (I wouldn’t know first-hand but heard it’s awesome)
When a hospitality room official closes up and says, “Here, take this bucket of chicken and case of beer home with you”
The feel of a bean-fueled fart while sitting on a bench of finely varnished wood
Pumpkin spice cake topped with butter pecan ice cream
The sensory gratification of shooting a new leather basketball against a glass backboard
A courtside press pass at an NBA game (rarer every day)
When an auto mechanic tells you he thinks you might need a new alternator, then returns to say it was only a loose bolt
The good old days when I could touch the rim
“Roosevelt” as a first name
Otis's Bad List
Potholes that put your alignment out of whack (the seminal entry)
Having to wipe in the woods and mistakenly using poison oak leaves for toilet paper
Seeing a typo in my story after it’s already published
People who say, “Exact-a-mundo”
When she says, “We need to talk”
When magazines or newspapers, grasping for gravitas in a headline, tout somebody or something as “The Last (Blah Blah Blah).”
People who use the word “loathe” in a serious conversation (possibly the most pretentious one-syllable word in the English language)
Being on a first date and trying to hold back a huge fart
U-Turn Turner’s burps
Tape recorder batteries that die in mid-quote
When she says, “I think of you more as a brother.”
Waffle cones that leak on the bottom, and then when you try to lick up the ice cream, it just makes it worse because the bottom of the cone gets even soggier
The song, “I’m Not Lisa”
Agitated black widow spiders (or brown recluses)
Whiners in pickup basketball games who call touch fouls, but only when they miss the shot
When she says, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
Those small, bothersome pebbles that get in your shoe
Finding out your credit card is at its limit—while you’re at the beach
While playing hoops, retying your shoe, and the shoelace breaks in your hand
When she says, “My life is just too complicated right now.”
That disgusting gray gunk you find on the underside of cooked salmon filets
Jungle Joe’s annoying fine print
Having to go into the office
When she says, “I’m concentrating on my career right now.”
Guys who wear baseball caps while playing basketball
When people pronounce “rather” like “father”
Radio guys who say they’re with you in the “air chair”
Working on Sunday
Editors who look over my shoulder while I’m writing
Having to take a deuce in a port-o-john
Having to take a deuce in a port-o-john right after someone else has taken a deuce in a port-o-john
Taking a deuce in a port-o-john and when your doody hits the water it splashes up and hit you in the butt
Finishing a deuce in a port-o-john and realizing there’s no toilet paper
Finishing a deuce in a port-o-john and there’s toilet paper—but no hand sanitizer
Otis Hoak's 20 Rules of Sportswriting
No. 1: In writing a column, good reporting is essential. Failing that, try beer.
No. 2: If you want your story to sound like something from Sports Illustrated, drop in references to Sophocles and Sisyphus.
No. 3: Write shorter. Take a Wilt Chamberlain sentence and turn it into Bill Shoemaker. (And if you don’t know who those guys are, you shouldn’t be a sportswriter.)
No. 4: Whenever possible, use words like “kingpin,” “mogul,” “bloviate,” “nefarious,” “infidels” and “minions.” Also, “subterfuge.” Doing so is rare, but possible—even if you are not writing about boxing.
No. 5: “Botch” is even better.
No. 6: “Stymie” is better still.
No. 7: And if you can use “harangue,” you should make “ding-ding-ding!” noises because you have hit the jackpot.
No. 8: Never ask questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.” Instead ask “Why” or “When” questions. For example, “Why does it take four guys wearing gold chains and warmup suits to open the door of your Escalade?” Or, “When did you realize that Plato was a Greek philosopher and not a child's modeling compound?”
No. 9: Never use the phrase “on steroids” to describe something extreme, i.e., “Hooch’s junk looks like a loaf of French bread on steroids."
No. 10: Treat adverbs like a bug zapper treats flying insects. Kill them all.
No. 11: Never use a quote unless it is memorable. Paraphrase everything else. And “good luck.”
No. 12: If you stand five-foot-ten, never interview a seven-foot basketball player in a locker room while he is rubbing his penis with moisturizing lotion (and it takes him both hands to do it).
No. 13: Unless you want to come off as a pompous ass, never use the word “balderdash.” Unless of course it's a quote, thereby informing your readers that said subject is a pompous ass.
No. 14: And never, ever, ever use a cliché, particularly “stick a fork in them, they’re done,” as it is complete balderdash.
No. 15: Speaking of cliches, another one to avoid is “It's not over till the fat lady sings.” Instead, try something like, “It's not over till you're out of rounds and have to throw your pistol at the bad guy.”
No. 16: Never shake hands with an athlete who has just coughed into his fist.
No. 17: Always make eye contact when interviewing someone one on one. But if one of their eyes is looking one way and the other is drifting off the opposite way, forget their damn eyes and just focus on their nose.
No. 18: In a crowded locker room, interview the guy nobody else is interviewing. Unless there's a good reason nobody else is interviewing him.
No. 19: Be skeptical. Because yes, they are lying to you.
No. 20: The only good shit is off the record.