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Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

April 7th, 2014 by

I know that as long as a reporter accurately reports a story, he isn’t supposed to care about the reaction from his readers. And I know that most people have responded very positively to my work since coming to the McAlester News-Capital — I’ve even won a couple awards for my sports coverage.

But for whatever reason, criticisms just eat at me. They bother me deeper and for a longer period of time than compliments do the opposite.

One of my stories below, “Cowboys fall at State,” elicited an extremely negative reaction from a portion of Kiowa’s fanbase. And a month later, it’s still bugging me.

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Posted in Baseball/Softball, Basketball, Cross Country/Track and Field, Football, McAlester News-Capital Articles, Tennis | No Comments »

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

March 3rd, 2014 by

My fall sports coverage is always McAlester-centered  (and really, McAlester football-centered), and last spring’s coverage was pretty balanced between MHS and the smaller schools. But my winter coverage last year shifted noticeably towards schools like Stuart, Canadian, Kiowa and Hartshorne — smaller schools with solid basketball teams.

While I devoted most of January to the Pitt 8 basketball tournament (first prepping the magazine and then covering it), since then I’ve almost exclusively covered McAlester teams. The Kiowa Cowboys will play in the Class A state tournament this week, and unless they make the state championship Saturday, there’s a decent chance I won’t cover them at all.

I don’t know if this is the right approach to the winter or not. Probably the majority of my readers live in McAlester, so obviously the Buffaloes need to be covered the most. But I also get the feeling that fans of one small school — Savanna, for instance — appreciate coverage of other small schools — Haileyville, for instance — almost as much as they appreciate coverage of their particular school.

I think covering teams like Crowder and Pittsburg show the McAlester News-Capital isn’t so focused on the big-city teams that it ignores everyone else. And if I’m right, and small-school readers do indeed appreciate coverage of not just their particular school, but all the Class B, A and 2A schools, then focusing on McAlester so much runs the risk of alienating not just one non-McAlester school district’s readers, but possibly all 11 of them.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe our readership is so concentrated that even if we lost every reader who doesn’t care about the Buffs, we’d still be appeasing the majority of our readers. Or maybe because the News-Cap is the only paper in Pittsburg County, our readers aren’t likely to stop their subscriptions just because Quinton and Wilburton’s sports teams rarely make the B section.

As I said, I don’t know which is the right way to go. I just know that lately it’s felt like almost all my live coverage and features have surrounded McAlester only.

Anyway, here’s everything I’ve written since Feb. 11. Monthly roundups will now publish the first Monday of every month.

Midweek Update: Kiowa sweeps Pitt 8 Conference

Lady Buffs wrap pom season

Lady Buffs edge Durant 36-34

Buffs flat in loss to Lions

McAlester weekend wrestling results

The biggest man on campus

Falcons win ORES Area Championship

Classes 2A-6A brackets released

Avants, Antlers beat Buffs

Lady Antlers top Lady Buffs

GBOF’s ‘10 For 10’ league

Buffs’ Scott turns one into three

James Remedi overcomes speed with strength

Midweek Update: Kiowa reaches area finals

Buffs tennis aiming high

Know Your Foe: Lady Buffs face Lady Comets in Regionals

Four Buffs wrestlers make State

Know Your Foe: Buffs face Cardinals at Bishop Kelley

New coaches take over Buffs golf

Lady Buffs upset Comets

Buffs take down Cardinals

Lady Cardinals rain 3s on Lady Buffs

Comets blow out Buffaloes

Bond, Buffs ready for new baseball season

Posted in Baseball/Softball, Basketball, Bowling, McAlester News-Capital Articles, Tennis | 3 Comments »

Book Review: “The Best American Sports Writing 2003″

March 3rd, 2014 by and tagged ,

“The Best American Sports Writing 2003,” edited by Buzz Bissinger

“The Best American Sports Writing 2003,” edited by Buzz Bissinger

I’ve on several occasions derided what I call “sick kids or dead coaches” stories, but not everyone knows what that means. Considering one such story appears in the Best American Sports Writing volume I’m about to review), let me explain.

All “sick kids or dead coaches” stories follow the same structure, beginning with some introductory paragraphs that can be summarized as “John Smith’s life is crap. Here are all the ways it’s crappy.” If it’s a dead coach story, replace “John Smith’s life” with “living in Springfield,” because instead of being about a person, the story’s about a town.

Anyway, after the reader feels horrible about the universe because of this dude’s crappy life, there’s a couple of paragraphs that say something like, “the only thing that makes Smith’s life less crappy is this sport. He’s not good at it, but he loves it because it makes him feel slightly less crappy, so he devotes all his time to it.”

Throw in a quote from some outsider about how heroic this guy is for devoting himself to something that’ll never really solve his problems, conclude it with a paragraph or two about how even though his life sucks, the guy will keep playing until he can’t, and you’re done. If it’s a “dead coaches” story, the quote is about how much the town changed because of the coach, then end with a couple of paragraphs on the minor positive change he brought.

Don’t get me wrong — a few such stories (including some I’ve read in BASW volumes) have been really, really good. But with “sick kids and dead coaches” stories, the writer sacrifices things like creativity, structure, emotional complexity and intelligence and instead tries to exploit the reader’s sense of sentimentality and nostalgia.

That, more than the subject itself, is what bothers the crap out of me.

Anyway, here’s The Best American Sports Writing 2003, edited by Buzz Bissinger.

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Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

February 9th, 2014 by

Sorry everyone, this actually should’ve come out on Monday! From now on I’ll post these the first Monday of every month so I don’t forget.

Midweek Update: Basketball season resumes

Pitt 8 Tournament schedule released

Hornets beat Cougars in showdown

Lady Hornets too much for Lady Cougars

Three Savages, two Bulldogs earn All-District A-6 honors

Maddie McGowan wears out the opposition

Demons too fast for Dragons

Proctor, Lady Dragons top Demonettes

Lady Panthers win Dee Foster Invitational

Warriors repeat as Dee Foster champs

Buffs second at McAlester Open

Midweek Update: Kiowa sweeps Moss Tournament

Shumway resigns as MHS cheer coach

Lacey McLain plays with ‘no regrets’

Austin Taylor works his way back

Cowboys too fast for Bulldogs

Cowgirls blow out Lady Bulldogs

Pitt 8 Tournament, Day 1

Pitt 8 Tournament, Day 2

Pitt 8 Tournament, Day 3

Pitt 8 Tournament, Day 4

Pitt 8 Tournament, Day 5

Pitt 8 Tournament, Day 6

Pitt 8 All-Tournament teams

Final observations from the Pitt 8

Buffs hold annual football banquet

Midweek Update: Two weeks’ worth of scores

Class A and B district tourneys announced

Two Buffs make All-State Game

Buffs’ Stizza finds ways to score

Tsarnaev death sentence brings no peace

Lady Buffs edge Lady Savages

Savages edge Buffs in OT

Photo gallery: McAlester dodgeball tournament

Lady Highlanders beat Lady Buffs

Highlanders too much for Buffs

Midweek Update: Hoops season enters final month

Buffs fourth at Maverick Conference Tournament

Class A and B district tournaments scheduled

ORES Area tourneys start Saturday

Wilburton powerlifting competes in Prague

Buffs send three to college

Bulldogs’ Preston signs with Southeastern

Miners’ Ward heads to Southwestern

Buffs’ Pratt withdraws from Muskogee search

Lady Miners win in OT

Miners too strong for Diggers

Falcons come back against Mountaineers

Lady Falcons shut down Lady Mountaineers

Posted in Basketball, Football, McAlester News-Capital Articles | No Comments »

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

January 6th, 2014 by and tagged ,

I’m getting the feeling not too many people read these roundups, nor do these roundups lead to a lot of increased traffic to the McAlester News-Capital sports section. Between all that and a still-unfinished transition to the new ownership group for Sportsblognet.com, I’ve decided to drop down to a monthly roundup.

I’ll still post Best American Sports Writing volume reviews as I complete them (expect BASW 2001 and 2002 next, though perhaps not in that order). Here’s everything written since Dec. 10.

Midweek Update: Snow postpones multiple games

Buffs Replay: McAlester vs. MacArthur

Buffs’ Cannon ‘lives for battle’

Know Your Foe: Buffs go for championship Saturday

Falcons end Miners’ postseason

Box score: Millwood 24, Hartshorne 9

Bluejays overrun Buffs

Box score: Guthrie 51, McAlester 21

Kiowa boy at home on the ice

Midweek Update: Hartshorne Tournament resumes

Buffs’ Pratt reflects on season

Buffs Replay: McAlester vs. Guthrie

Aggressive Tigers beat Buffs wrestling

Lady Buffs finish fourth at State

Lady Tigers overcome Lady Miners

Medicine Bear leads Miners past Tigers

Tigers come back, beat Buffs

Lady Tigers slam Lady Buffs

Buffs’ Pratt leads All-District list

Baylee Dawkins combines sports with family

Midweek Update: Hartshorne tournament wraps up

Eli Boyle always in the gym

Cougars, Warriors drop to 8-man

Miners’ Herring selected to Oil Bowl

Photo gallery: Haileyville basketball practice

Roller derby coming to McAlester

Lady Buff cheerleader to march in London

Herring, Ward lead All-District Miners

Photo gallery: Stuart basketball practice

Midweek Update: Warriors sweep Panama Holiday Festival

So far, Big 12 holding its own

Cowgirls host 3-team scrimmage

De’Angelo Rhone works his way up

Second half carries Buffs past Warriors

Lady Buffs can’t come back against Lady Warriors

Posted in Basketball, Football, Hockey, McAlester News-Capital Articles | No Comments »

Book Review: “The Best American Sports Writing 1995″

December 30th, 2013 by and tagged , ,

"The Best American Sports Writing 1995," edited by Dan Jenkins

“The Best American Sports Writing 1995,” edited by Dan Jenkins

So it’s been about eight months since I last reviewed a volume from Glenn Stout’s Best American Sports Writing series. Blame it on a new Neil Gaiman book, though that maybe took me three days to read. Or blame it on Guns, Germs and Steel, which took me about three months.

But really, just blame it on The Best American Sports Writing 1995 itself. As volumes go, this one just didn’t grab me.

Weirdest… intro… ever…

I read Dan Jenkins’ introduction to BASW 95, but I use the word “read” loosely. I definitely recognized letters, and my brain definitely ordered the letters into recognizable words. But reading usually implies a measure of understanding, and eight months later I still don’t know what I read.

The essay has something to do with sports books, but it’s really unclear if Jenkins was discussing real books I’d never heard of because I was 11 in 1994, or if he made up the titles to make some kind of point. If Jenkins was trying to criticize the sports media world of the mid-1990s, he didn’t. If he was trying to be funny, he wasn’t.

Whatever he was going for, these six pages of chaos never achieved it. If you ever opt to read this volume, I’d say skip the intro entirely. It says nothing about sports writing in general, nor the specific 28 articles that follow.

A “quaint” problem

Even before I started reading BASW 95, I’d feared that 20 years later, the subjects written about in 1994 would seem “quaint.” And to a large extent, I was right. James Ellroy’s “Sex, Glitz and Greed: The Seduction of O. J. Simpson” harkens back to a time when the most violent thing we cared about was whether a pro athlete murdered two people, and 20 years later Simpson has taken a back seat to things like terrorism and school shootings.

The volume also contains three separate stories on the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan clubbing incident leading into the 1994 Olympics. Just two years later, an Olympics would get bombed, while another would see an athlete die during competition. Again, what mattered back then now seems pretty inconsequential, though Joan Ryan’s “The Cold Wars: Inside the Secret World of Figure Skating” depicts judging as corrupt enough to make the 2002 Olympic scandal seem not at all outlandish.

There are also two stories on the 1994 baseball strike, but after subsequent work-stoppages in the NHL, NBA and NFL — and in light of all the revelations about steroid use in the 1990s — it’s hard to look back at a strike in 1994 and care at all. But at least Bob Verdi makes the strike entertaining, turning the fiasco into a play on Abbott and Costello’s iconic “Who’s on First?” routine in “Baseball’s Troubles Could Play Out to Be No Routine Comedy.”

I didn’t like sports very much in 1994. Brett Favre hadn’t done much with the Packers yet, Boston was still a decade away from becoming the best sports town in America, and the Olympics didn’t start captivating me until the Atlanta Games. So while I as a journalist enjoyed reading this volume dispassionately, as a reader I wanted to connect to these stories and most of the time I just couldn’t.

Not everything’s irrelevant

While many stories read as “quaint,” not every story fell under that category. Skip Hollandsworth’s “Whatever Happened to Ronnie Littleton?” depicts an ex-football player as an alcoholic drug-addict what seems like 15 years before revelations about concussions made it clear how many players turn out that way. And Furman Bisher’s “This Ex-Voter Has Had Enough Heisman Hype” takes a shot at the NCAA football system, similarly taking up arms two decades before anyone else would challenge it.

Steve Rushin’s “1954-1994: How We Got Here” looks at the people and phenomena that led to the sports/marketing/media world of the mid-90s, and it’s not hard to extend the themes Rushin discusses and arrive at that scene as it is today. And anyone curious how New York Jets moron coach Rex Ryan turned into such a dingbat can just read Mark Kram’s “Bully Ball” to discover he probably got it from his dad, Buddy.

Jay Searcy’s “Worth More Dead Than Alive” discusses horse-owners paying to have their own horses killed for insurance money. Considering how often horses are shot after races — HBO had to cancel a series on horse-racing because too many featured horses got hurt and were killed — it seems quite likely this phenomenon continues to this day.

“Quaint” also isn’t a bad thing for every story. Gary Smith’s “An Exclusive Club” proposes the quaint notion that distance-runners will always be more popular than sprinters. That’s quaint because Smith had no idea people like Usain Bolt would eventually steal the spotlight,  but the idea of bringing together all the still-living people who’ve broken the 1-mile record is so damn cool, their ideas about distance-running so intelligent and insightful, that it hardly matters.

Modern readers might not connect to BASW 95 the way they might with a volume from the last 10 years. But if you can wade through the stories that just don’t matter anymore, there are a couple of really good ones that serve as absolute signs of things to come.

Posted in Sports Writing | No Comments »

Two-Month McAlester News-Capital Roundup

December 9th, 2013 by

Sportsblognet.com. the hosting website for this blog, was recently sold. In the process, everything I’ve posted since Sept. 30 has been erased.

I’ve tried to get an answer as to whether this content will at some point be restored, but so far nothing. Almost everything I’ve posted has been McAlester News-Capital links, and those are easy enough to replicate.

Everything I’ve written in the past week appears before the cutoff. See the full article for older links.

Midweek Update: Buffs prep for Championship

Alexandria Williams makes the most of MHS

Boyle leads McAlester boys past Hugo

Hugo girls pull away from McAlester

Free throws help Lady Diggers past Lady Cats

Errors cost Canadian against Tushka

McAlester soccer placed in District 5A-4

Eastern postpones High School Invitational

McAlester season/postseason stats

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Posted in Baseball/Softball, Basketball, Cross Country/Track and Field, Football, McAlester News-Capital Articles, Red Sox, Soccer, Volleyball | 1 Comment »

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

September 30th, 2013 by

When it comes to teams, what can and can’t a sports journalist do? Can he or she accept a gift from the booster club? Partake in the hospitality room before the game and get a free meal? Wear a team’s logo while at a game or in the newsroom?

A journalist is supposed to be impartial, covering each game as honestly, accurately and spin-free as possible. But when it comes to accepting gifts, there’s no hard line after which a journalist is considered officially compromised.

As a reporter, I’ve eaten my fair share of free meals on various teams’ dimes — a phenomenon widespread at both the collegiate and professional levels. And I’ve been given a couple of team T-shirts and hats, which I refuse to wear while working but have no problem wearing outside of work.

I’m also one of the only people in my newsroom who never wears his black McAlester News-Capital shirt, which has our logo on the back but a gold buffalo, the McAlester mascot, on the front. So far, I don’t think anything I’ve done has compromised my integrity nor led me to dishonestly report a story.

But now I face a new dilemma: pickup Ultimate games.

By now just about everyone ought to know Ultimate (a.k.a. Ultimate Frisbee) is really the only sport I play well, and it’s certainly the sport about which I’m most passionate. For about three months I’ve been playing with a group of (mostly) adults in Quinton, but last week I discovered a group of players in McAlester who play pickup games multiple times a week.

Some of these players are on McAlester sports teams and are kids I’ve written about. I haven’t yet written about them playing Ultimate — though I might at some future point — and I kind of think making them more comfortable with me will make it easier to interview them later.

I might have to hear it from one of them if I write something negative, but one of my bowling teammates sent me a very angry email six months ago, and we get along fine now. Were I to write something disparaging about a player, I might get yelled at (or possibly kicked out) at an Ultimate game, but I don’t consider that a big enough risk to justify avoiding a game I dearly love.

I’ve learned that the more you write about a team, the faster you can change the story and get people talking about something other than a bad article. But I could be wrong.

So how about, readers? Do you think I’m compromising myself? What should I do?

While you ponder that, here’s everything I wrote last week.

Weekend Update: Frink-Chambers makes State

Grant Sontag helps the offense go

Lady Dawgs top Lady Buffs

Sarah White leads Lady Buffs

Buffs Replay: McAlester vs. Claremore

Jarome Smith stands small, plays big for Buffs

Ariana Garner tightly bound to Lady Buffs

Region Roundup: Jarrett leads Cougars past Warriors

Know Your Foe: Buffs head to Noble for district-opener

Buffs dominate Bears in district-opener

Box score, McAlester 51, Noble 7

Hank Brown runs his own race

Madison Taylor flies high with Lady Buffs

Posted in Baseball/Softball, Cross Country/Track and Field, Football, McAlester News-Capital Articles | No Comments »

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

September 23rd, 2013 by

Sometimes I have weeks where I’m kind of scrounging for stories for certain publication days — Tuesday mornings year-round and Thursday mornings when it’s not fall being the best examples. But this past week I had no problems filling the week’s worth of B sections, even submitting some decent content for Thursday, which should’ve been a light day due to a furlough.

Always nice to have a lower-stress week, and with two player interviews not yet used, I should I have no problems keeping the streak going this week as well.

Here’s what I wrote!

Weekend update: Crowder baseball goes 4-1

Nick Porter works his way back

Cowgirls wrap regular season with win

Buffs Replay: McAlester vs. Booker T. Washington

OSSAA announces district baseball and softball locations

Know Your Foe: Buffs host Zebras in first 5A game

Okla. State report flawed, still revealing

Buffs run away from Zebras

Box score, McAlester 59, Claremore 35

Region Roundup: Bulldogs overwhelm Diggers

Photo gallery: MRHC Mustache Run 5K

McAlester cheer qualifies for State

Saturday scores for McAlester United games

Posted in Baseball/Softball, Football, McAlester News-Capital Articles, Soccer | No Comments »

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

September 17th, 2013 by

Friday’s McAlester-Booker T. Washington football game drew some attention from the big city. A crew from a Tulsa television station showed up several hours early, interviewing everyone from players to cheerleaders to tailgaters, and a Tulsa World reporter drove down to write up the game as well.

I’d met this reporter last year, when he came down for McAlester-Bishop Kelley. With not much else to do and an hour until kickoff, I went up to the press box to talk to him.

It turns out we disagree on many aspects of our job. While I see features as a time-saver that balances out the workload against three-hour football games, he said gamers are far quicker to write, and they tend to be less “over-written” (not sure what he meant by that).

He also spent the entire game in the press box (something I do for baseball games but not other sports), while I was down on the field shooting video. When I explained my reasons, he kind of dismissed me, saying, “What do I know? I’ve only been doing this for about 50 years.”

Granted, staying in the press box allowed him to simultaneously keep a play-by-play log and a stat sheet, while my strategy demands an additional hour of work post-game to figure out the stats. That also allowed him to do more updating of the paper’s website at halftime, whereas I basically posted a photo to Facebook.

But I read the story he wrote, and while it was a bit tighter than mine, it contained a major factual error: On the Buffs’ final play of the game, quarterback Dalton Wood targeted a played in the end zone different from the one this reporter indicated.

As of Monday night, that error is still there.

Messing up the recipient of a 5-yard pass in the middle of the second quarter. But this play was without question one of the five most important plays of the game. And because I was much closer to the action and active in my coverage, I got the play right, and the other guy got it wrong.

And for that, I feel pretty good.

Here’s what I wrote last week.

Weekend Update: Savanna wins Tushka Fall Classic

Durant hands McAlester first district softball loss

Buffs Replay: McAlester at Stillwater

Cade Harkins wins the one-on-ones

Region Roundup: Savanna beats Beggs JV

Know Your Foe: Buffs welcome Hornets to McAlester

Hornets stun Buffs in second half

Box Score: Booker T. Washing 47, McAlester 45

Seth Burke back stronger and more mature

Courtney Smith passes down Lady Buff spirit

Posted in Baseball/Softball, Football, McAlester News-Capital Articles | No Comments »

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