But it’s not really a sports story. Please keep reading.
No, it’s a tear-jerker piece from The Tampa Bay Times about a dying man who is clearly a serious baseball fan and, to some degree, he is a serious Christian believer. Maybe. You can’t really tell.
This story is one or two words away from being a normal, clearly written news report. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Times team elected — in a crucial sentence of the story — to be so vague. Maybe it was just a mistake. Maybe someone just did take the story very seriously.
Here is the top of the story. Can you spot the vague word that got to me?
Harry Cummings sat in his wheelchair by the dugout and took it all in.
“Is that home plate?” asked the 80-year-old Spring Hill man who doctors say has only weeks left to live. “It doesn’t look that far from here to hit a home run.”
Cummings is dying from kidney cancer. The former Baptist preacher says he is ready to go when God is ready to take him. But Sunday he had some living to do, thanks to grandson Jeremy Via and the Tampa Bay Rays, who arranged for a pregame tour and meet-and-greet with players.
Yes, I am the son of a Southern Baptist pastor. My dad was a Baptist preacher until the moment he died.
What, precisely, is a “former” Baptist preacher?
I have known some ex-Baptist preachers. They were former Baptist preachers. The implication is that they either left the ministry, left the faith, joined another faith or some combination of the above.
Of course, I have known many, many retired Baptist preachers. They are still Baptist preachers, even if they have left full-time work in a church.
The point is that they are not “former” Baptist preachers.
So what is Cummings? Is he an ex-Baptist preacher or a retired Baptist preacher?
The story never tell us. The copy desk used the one word that really doesn’t work. Why?