For John Papanek, who in July became a senior editor after six years as a writer, the editing of this season's hockey coverage presents a special challenge. Papanek's first close encounter with the sport came in Patchogue, N.Y., where John, then 15, appeared atop a pair of figure skates to match moves with some tough kids. "It wasn't so much their size," says Papanek, "or their skates, which looked like Cadillac fins to me. It was their mouthpieces. I looked up into the jaws of Don Chiuchiolo at this mass of white plastic and realized I was out of my league." Which is not to say Papanek doesn't like hockey, as long as somebody else is playing it.
As for the switch from writing to editing, Papanek doesn't feel he has joined the enemy. "Writers traditionally complain about their editors," he says. "I was no different, but I was always appreciative of a good editing job. The best thing an editor can do is find the one or two spots where the writer didn't get things quite right."
Does he mind no longer writing himself? Well, Papanek says, it's easier to give up some aspects—the constant travel, for one—than others. "But I will miss the feeling of starting out with zero and ending up with something. As an editor you start out with something and hope to end up with something a little bit better."
Certainly Papanek doesn't miss the hazards of writing in the computer age. After working all night after last January's Sugar Bowl, he was putting the final touches on his 3,000-word account of the Penn State-Georgia game when he got up from his hotel-room chair and flicked a switch to turn off the foyer light. It did, but it also turned off the bedside lamp and cut the power to his portable word processor: The article was lost somewhere in the great electronic beyond. It took him 1½ hours to reconstruct his story.
That was small potatoes compared to what had happened to him a year or so before. John was set to transmit 6,000 words on Caesars Palace when the machine's memory failed—"one time when I started out with something and ended up with nothing" is how he describes this glitch. It took Papanek several days to recover from the shock, but he was then able to put himself in a sort of trance and reproduce the entire piece, Wayne Newton and all, "even with a few improvements."
Our hockey preview, with a few improvements by Papanek, begins on page 44. Take that, Don Chiuchiolo.
WRITER PAPANEK WITH BILL WALTON...
...AND AS EDITOR WITH HIS NEW TOOLS