Author Archive for

04
May
08

Emmitt Smitth is easy to please

Just to bring everyone up to speed, these are the headlines from the past week in the NFL:

But fear not! Emmitt Smith is here to make sense of it all. The master of morality, the king of Kantian ethics, the… guy in gold shoes apparently stopped by Cowboys camp to set things straight. I would try to summarize, but ESPN pretty much nailed it with their headling “Emmitt stops by Cowboys camp, advises Pacman to make [and they quote] ‘better choices’.”

Well, “better choices” is kind of vague guys. Care to clear that up in the first two graphs of your story?

IRVING, Texas — Emmitt Smith has some advice for suspended Dallas Cowboys cornerback Pacman Jones: Stay out of trouble.

“As long as you’re not killing anybody, getting anybody shot at and going to jail, then I don’t have any issues,” said Smith, NFL career rushing leader. The former star running back for Dallas was visiting Cowboys rookie minicamp Saturday.

Ahh, that’s better. So the three commandments of the NFL according to Emmitt:  Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not get thy neighbor shot, thou shalt not go to jail.

However, thine drug trafficking, human trafficking, brothel, and rape…. Thy league shall looketh the other way.

Amen.

23
Apr
08

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Press Pass – pt. 3

Some day soon, a book will come out entirely centered around the journalistic phenomenon we now call blogging. Specifically sports blogging. It won’t be written by a blogger, but some Ph.D. at a liberal arts school. The book will analyze all the ways in which this new form of media has effected “traditional sports reporting” and how the landscape of event coverage has changed forever. One of the chapters in this book will be an expansion of this article (or at least the beginning of it), published in the New York Times on Monday, April 21. The chapter will center around access, and who deserves what amount. But before all that happens, we wanted to address this issue in a five-part series. We will view the access question from the perspective of all the major parties involved: owners, players, reporters, bloggers, and we’ll end on Monday with the most important perspective of them all — the fan’s.

PART 3 — THE REPORTERS

Alright, let’s get this out front first. Yes, a lot of reporters write blogs for their given outlets, but it’s not necessarily by our own accord. More often than not, an editor calls us into the office, tells us that management wants to establish more of a “Web presence” because that’s what all the kids are doing these days with their Giggles and Tube Yous, then they tell us to cross our arms and “Oh my god, look at the spider on the ceiling!” then *FLASH*-*SNAP*, we have a blog.

What I’m trying to say is, that’s not entirely by choice. As much as I love being forced to write twice as much as I used to, I’m not the biggest fan of sports blogs. Never really have been.

I look back on how I got to this point, and I see college where I spent countless hours in sweaty rooms writing news leads and memorizing the different between lay and lie. I covered field hockey and volleyball and water polo and track and softball… And what did it all get me? My first job covering all the same shit — except at a high school. My big stories were about a basketball player with down syndrome and a football recruit getting arrested (which I co-bylined with a fat man named Bill who had a burly mustache and a car that smelled like sour hot dogs).

Ten years of that landed me right back at the colleges, and another 15 years after that I finally cracked open the doors to a professional press room. That’s how I got the job I have, how about you bloggers that want a seat next to me? You opened an account at Blogspot and started calling me a shmuck.

I’m not saying all that makes me more or less worthy, I know the world doesn’t work like that. What I’m saying is that you can’t replicate the passion and respect that those 30 years have left me with. I approach these games like a surgeon approaches a patient; like a lawyer approaches a courtroom. These are not some free tickets to me. This is work.

When I look around that press room, I see a bunch of tired faces that carry the same battle scars as my own. And I’m just as dependent on those guys as I am on my recorder and notebook. You see, in the eyes of these athletes, we’re all the same. Lumped into one giant bunch. “The Media.” And the fact of the matter is, if one guy pisses of the coach, he walks out on all of us. I have to tell my editor that my story won’t have quotes tonight, just like the other 20 guys in the room. Around here, there isn’t any room for renegades.

Listen, even though I could go on about “ethics,” and “standards,” and how “I can’t do what you do and get away with it,” I don’t think those are the central issues to this matter. I think journalists have proven they are just as capable of acting unethically. What’s bigger is the history, tradition, and honor that surrounds covering a coach who just won a Super Bowl, or a 22-year-old kid that’s sobbing into your microphone because he just lost the last meaningful game he’ll ever play in his life.

Those are the things that are not to be taken for granted. And unless you’ve seen that same elation on the face of a little league coach or that same anguish in the eyes of a high school softball pitcher, I argue that you’ll never truly understand what a privlege it is to cover these games. So for now, let’s just stick to what we each do best. I’ll keep writing game wraps, and you can keep calling me a shmuck.

View the other perspectives: The Owners and The Players

21
Apr
08

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Press Pass — Pt. 1

Some day soon, a book will come out entirely centered around the journalistic phenomenon we now call blogging. Specifically sports blogging. It won’t be written by a blogger, but some Ph.D. at a liberal arts school. The book will analyze all the ways in which this new form of media has effected “traditional sports reporting” and how the landscape of event coverage has changed forever. One of the chapters in this book will be an expansion of this article (or at least the beginning of it), published in the New York Times on Monday, April 21. The chapter will center around access, and who deserves what amount. But before all that happens, we want to address this issue in a five-part series starting today. We will view the access question from the perspective of all the major parties involved: owners, players, reporters, bloggers, and we’ll end on Monday with the most important perspective of them all — the fan’s.

PART 1: THE OWNERS

I’m a business man and my model is simple: Win. Winning = good press = more fans = dollars. It’s that simple… On the surface.

The only things that fuck up that model are the elements beyond my control: A head case of a closer, my point guard finds out his prozzie is a cop, the backup QB gets caught railin’ lines off a hooker, hell, some punkass fan decides to start a riot… These are the only chinks in my armor. The only ways I loose money. So what I do I do? I control. As much as I can. That’s the name of the game in this business — control. You’re either gaining it, or you’re losing it.

So what are bloggers to me? They’re sharks. I know, we usually reserve that title for prick agents, but let me lay a different analogy on you. See, us in management are like dolphins. We work as a group, everyone with their role, and together we create structure. We organize all the little fish into a perfect, compact space and through this organization and planning, we get what we want. Bonus with sports is, we don’t have to eat the fish, the fish get what they want out of the bargain too.

But bloggers, you see, they exist outside our control. We can’t exude any command over them, we can’t work them into our overarching plan. They’re just out there sniffing for blood in the water, and when they catch a whiff they attack! They come barreling in, caution to the wind, and make a big spectacle out of everything, just trying to gobble up as much (attention) as they can before everything is gone. Then they swim on, back to the darkness, looking for their next meal. And it’s us dolphins that are left with the mess.

I love analogies to nature because it speaks to something bigger than the human mind. It’s nature. It’s the way things are. And believe me, I understand that in the age of the Internet, this is the way things are. It’s the way they’re going to be. These guys writing blogs are no different from what I used to be — just a guy looking to make it on his own, to carve a niche. So, don’t get me wrong here, I don’t have a problem with what they’re trying to do, you’ve just got to understand the differing perspectives.

Granting access to bloggers is just bringing a shark into my family of dolphins. The head case closer, my sex-craved point guard, the QB addict — that’s all blood in the water, my friend. Don’t you see? A blogger’s wet dream is my nightmare. 

What about regular reporters, you ask? All I’ll say is this: Reporters report. I can live with that. Bloggers, they  try to stir the pot even if nothing’s cookin’. Look, this issue is nothing personal, it comes down to a conflict of interests. Where I look for control, they look for chaos. What they see as page views, I see as lost ticket sales.

And at the end of the day, that stadium, those seats on press row… Those are my waters, son.

 

09
Apr
08

Beep! Boop! I win your pool!

Alright, so we let our gut-wrenching fear admiration of robots go a little overboard here at the Cut, but might I stress a point I made last month that math is really just robot DNA. How does this ridiculous robot/math rant have anything to do with sports? Cuz the soulless bastards just won our pool!

As you may or may not recall, we started a pool this year to find out who can truly claim to be king when it comes to predicting the NCAA Tournament. Are there truly “experts?” Do bloggers know more than there bad grammer let’s on? Or is it all a fruitless quest to try and predict the totally random?

Well, I’m not licensed bracketologist, but based on our results that answer to that last question is a resounding, “Hell no!”Quite the opposite. If this year has proven anything it’s that the tournament is far more predictable than we make it out to be — at least this year it was.

As evidence, we present Exhibit A: Ken Pomeroy. The man’s revolutionary new approach to ranking basketball teams (judging them on efficiency per 100 possessions as opposed to anything based on their final score results) was able to clean up in our pool and earn the man computer program first prize. And for its prize: 0110010 1110010 0011100. Yup, out of the kindness of our hearts. Congrats!

From there, however, we get to the goods. In other words, the pwning of the pros. Second place went to yours truly — coming in only 11 points shy of the Pomeroy rankings, and guessing 46 games correct (the computer got 48). Third place went to Ft. Wayne Mad Ants Head Coach and former NBA-er Jarren Jackson — the only participant who gave Memphis any respect. Fourth place was fellow blogger Eamonn Brennan aka Postman E, who you may know from AOL Fanhouse, We are the postmen, and I’m pretty sure there are another two or 20 he contributes to out there. Rounding out the top five was the RPI rankings.

What do we learn here? Well, obviously that bloggers are smarter that “real reporters.” Or at least the ones that have unhealthy infatuations with Bob Dylan and the Wu Tang movie masterpiece “Iron Fist Pillage.” But on the whole, it also revealed that taking a serious approach to the bracket does pay off. Sure, inevitably Sue from accounting will catch a break and take the pot, but our friend Brittany was the only “casual fan” in our experiement to finish in the top 20. And she even faltered down the stretch.

The bigger thing to take away is the rising significance of stats in sports. These number crunchers are for real folks.They are able to sift through all of Dick Vitale’s rants and Billy Packer’s insensitive comments to find some real objective measuring sticks by which to judge these teams. And in closing: 0110010 0110010 0011101 1100101 1100010!

SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT! SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT! I was actually able to interview Ken Pomeroy a couple of times for an article I wrote for popularmechanics.com. Rather than bore you with details here, I’ll just let you know that if you are interested in his pool-winning formula for ranking teams there is a much more thorough breakdown of his method riiiggggghhht HERE!

Oh also, just to let it me known, Bill Simmons finished second to last in between a small child and the “Places I’ve Been” bracket. The small child was the one ahead of him.

23
Mar
08

Girls rule, boys drool & robots destroy us all

Honesty hour: I was a little skeptical of how this whole experiment in bracketology would work out, but like an east-coast two seed, I must admit defeat. There are some pretty interesting trends emerging from this small sample in the science of selection. (Look at that, I’m so worked up I’m alliterating)

For starters, the current leader — with the most correct picks and the best possible fynal score — is a close friend of the Cut, Brittany. She still has all her Elite 8 picks in play and can finish with an astounding 176 points if the chips fall her way. I spoke to her on Saturday to ask about the approach she used to make her picks and the answer was something about a “gut feeling” or “woman’s intuition.” I think that’s just code for She-Devil Magic.

The stats actually support my She-Devil Magic theory, as three of the four women in the pool are among the top 10. If not for my fifth-place standing, both FynalCut contributors would be positioned behind their significant others. (Yes, place innuendo here)

The only match for our female friends? Robots. Well, math, but we all know that’s just robot DNA. Ken Pomeroy‘s efficiency ratings are up to their old tricks of serving as the top barometer of tournament talent. The bracket we filled out based on his rankings is currently tied for first — losing only Duke from its Elite 8. The RPI and Sagarin ratings are not far behind, in an eight-way tie for seventh place (along with both FynalCut girls and a small child).

As for the epic battle between bloggers and “professionals,” well, those other guys (and girl) are proving why they get paid. (except for you Seth Davis — you’ve got some explaining to do) SI’s Luke Winn and Pete Gillin’s mug from CBS are tied for third just two points back from our leaders, then I am the lone blogger among the top 10, tied with Sports Illustrated’s Kelli Anderson for fifth place. Our own FynalCut creator and Seth Davis are bringing up the rear among sports analysts. Sorry buddy — full disclosure is a part of journalism. At least you can claim to be as good as Seth Davis…

The absolute worst scores, however, belong to the “Places I’ve been” bracket (school in Indiana, brother at Kent State, cousin at Marquette…), a small child is just ahead of that one, and just ahead of a 7-year old: our only two entrants with on-court experience. Former Hoosier Rod Wilmont and Ft. Wayne Mad Ants head coach Jaren Jackson have first week scores of 34 and 37, respectively.

The lessons here: Just cuz you played or coached the game, doesn’t make you any better at predicting it (isn’t that right Bobby Knight? Pittsburgh? Really?); analysts hold the upper hand on bloggers (as if their whole “making money” wasn’t enough); robots hold the upper hand on analysts (proving they will soon replace every job); and fellas, don’t ever, ever underestimate the power that is wielded by women on a daily basis. And that’s a lesson that extends beyond basketball.

[Keep visiting the Cut this week for more thorough breakdowns of the first weekend. We’ll look into what separated the men from the boys, the women from the men, and pretty much everybody from “The Sports Guy” and his wife. Also, a look ahead to what might go down in Rounds III and IV.]

13
Mar
08

What in the name of Anal Fissure is going on out there!?!?

First was the Cubs’ outfielder Felix Pie suffering what the docs like to call the ol’ “Teste Tornado” on Monday. Or, as reporters call it in their illusion of not prying while prying: testicular torsion. Yup, that’s one complimentary ball diagram. From me to you, with love.

[Side story: I actually know of a guy that had this happen to him in high school. After a few days he was perfectly fine in a physical sense. But after earning the knick-name “Timmy Tangles,” you could argue he never fully recovered.]

Then, just one day later, we get news from down South (sorry, had to) that Astros’ second baseman Kaz Matsui will miss some time due to an injury that, literally, sounds painful. Anal fissure. Just say it out loud to yourself, “Anal. Fissure.” Eeesh. (Hope nobody just heard you say that)

Now, a twisted nut seems to occur more often among people involved in a lot of physical activity. But looking at the list of causes for anal fissure, all I can think of comparing this to is what the kids on the street refer to as, “Blowing your O ring.” (Not to be confused with “Showing your O face”) This injury seems all the more freakishly random, unless Matsui has been on a steady diet of thumbtacks and sand paper.

Me, I blame steroids — or the lack-there-of. By denying our baseball players their God-given right to enhance their performance, we now have outfielders whose testicals are no longer shrunken down to an un-twistable size and infielders who don’t even have the strength to push out a poop without landing on the DL.

Bud Selig, I hope you’re happy.

06
Mar
08

What being a Packer fan is all about

So, I know it is this way with a lot of organizations, but I’ve always grown up a Packer fan, so that’s all I know. Through my work as a fact checker, I had to email a woman from Green Bay yesterday. I will hold back some of the telling info, but this is how it transpired. Just a little glimpse of how Cheeseheads treat each other — remember, these are two, totally random Packer fans, having never spoken before:

Hi [Jane]
I am just double checking some stuff that was sent in for “Random magazine section” Is your name spelled [Jane] and are you from Green Bay, WI? Please get back to me as soon as possible
 Thanks,
 [BabyJ]
 P.S. I feel obliged to reach out here, as well. I’ve grown up a lifelong Packer fan and these are truly somber times. Personally, being just 22, I don’t know the Pack without Favre. It’ll be hard adjusting. I hope everybody there in the homeland is handling it alright.

 [BabyJ],
My name is spelled [Jane] and I am from Green Bay, WI

Thank you for reaching out [BabyJ]. These are tough times, honestly. Many of us are in denial yet, however watching his press conference today was a big reality check. He has just always been such a class act, it will surely be a sad day again when #4 doesn’t come racing out of the tunnel with his hands held high in the air! Hope you can get to Lambeau if  you’ve never been, with or without Brett Favre it is a great place to watch football. Thanks for the long distance support, it is appreciated as we all try to come to grips with ol’ faithful no longer being at the helm of the Green Bay Packers.

Hey, thanks for getting back so quickly!
Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough to see #4 come out of that tunnel twice in my life (I grew up just north of Chicago near the border of WI, and my father is from West Allis, WI). Last time I was there was actually the final home game of 06, which at the time, seemed like it might have been his final game in Lambeau. And you are right, it’s an incredible place to watch a game!
I had to work today, but I desperately wanted to catch that press conference. Was there anything of note from it? Or just classic, soft spoken, relatively straight-forward Favre?
[BabyJ]

[BabyJ],
No problem on the response time.
I’ve lived in GB my entire life and take the stadium and home Packer games for granted but the greatness of Brett Favre isn’t lost on me. In fact I always chuckle to myself when I am driving down Oneida Street in July/August and there are hundreds of people watching them practice. Seems weird to me but then again, I’ve lived here for 32 years so it isn’t new to me.
I am sure you can catch the whole thing on youtube or the like.  It was hard to watch at first because he broke down and couldn’t hold back the tears.  It was very raw.  Real.  Like he has always been.  You called it…it was classic, soft spoken, straight-forward southern boy Brett Favre.  His absence will be felt on and off the field here in Green Bay.  Hope you can get up to Lambeau to see the new era of the Green Bay Packers begin.
Thanks for the solidarity fellow Packer Fan, we will get through this. It isn’t going to be pretty at first, but we will get through it.  Us Packer Fans and Cheese heads always do.  🙂
[Jane]
PS:Glad to hear you aren’t a Bear fan….

Sacrilege! My pops would’ve never allowed it! Besides, why would I have chosen to subject myself to that much pain and anguish for an entire childhood? From all my family’s accounts, Favre’s retirement is actually bigger news down there than it is up by you. Picture “The Wicked Witch is Dead” scene from the Wizard of Oz except with fat guys in Grossman jerseys instead of munchkins in suspenders.
“We represent the Hot Dog Guild! The Hot Dog Guild! The Hot Dog Guild!”