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March 25, 2015


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Well-known sportswriter Rick Reilly, when he was a columnist for Sports Illustrated, wrote a hugely influential column about a rivalry between two hockey teams in 1999. Since Reilly is a Colorado resident, he showed his bias for his hometown team -- and disdain for Detroit, Colorado's rival -- by using strikethroughs. He used them exactly as Gretchen described: He got to call them names, used the strikethrough to "delete" the name, and then ran a slightly less unpalatable description.

He was the first one I'd seen to use the device, and the piece was so widely celebrated, and imitated, for the next few years it became "a thing." I know it sounds suspect to credit one person, but Reilly won the national sportswriter of the year award ELEVEN times, so he was the closest thing sportswriting had to a rock star. I can't find his original column, but I did see a blog post noting the strikethrough column and saying it was a fad that should fade -- and the blog post was written in 2004.

I usually see the strikethrough as a weak, cover-your-ass device; an unsubtle nudge-nudge to ensure something witty is understood.

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