– Wright Thompson on profiling Theo Epstein
In ESPN The Magazine’s “Chicago Cubs Issue” on newsstands today, senior writer Wright Thompson offers a deep, layered perspective on how former Boston Red Sox wonder boy Theo Epstein saved the Cubs — and himself – in “The Mastermind.”
The Cubs, who already won the National League Central Division title, currently lead the MLB with the most wins this year. They will host their rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, at Wrigley Field this Sunday, Sept. 25, on the season finale of Sunday Night Baseball (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Thompson shares some insight with Front Row about the writing of “The Mastermind”:
What did you find to be the most challenging part about writing this piece?
It’s a story that takes place mostly in someone’s head, so the narrative tension was difficult to build. It needed to exist on multiple levels – both as an exploration of how someone arrives at a time and a place, along with a kind of vibrating sense of place to make it be a “Letter From Chicago.” So structuring it was hard.
Were you disappointed by anything that made the cutting room floor instead of the feature?
Everything that got cut needed to go to make the thing speed up. The first draft was 12,000 words, so we basically cut an entire story. There was a scene with [Pearl Jam lead singer] Eddie Vedder that I loved a lot.
Was there anything you wish you had done differently?
There’s a quote that came off out of context, about Theo following people home. Some people who wrote about the story [which was published earlier this week on ESPN.com] used that to make him seem like a stalker. That’s not what I meant, or he meant, so I regret helping people hammer him about that. He did that in high school, and not in a stalking way, but as an invisible person who could imagine the hidden lives of strangers.
Throughout your reporting process, was there anything that truly surprised you?
The biggest surprise was how engaged Theo was in the process – in my process – of understanding and capturing and relating the actual him. He’s a thoughtful guy.