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Book Review: “The Best American Sports Writing 2013″

July 16th, 2014 by and tagged ,

“The Best American Sports Writing 2013,” edited by J.R. Moehringer

“The Best American Sports Writing 2013,” edited by J.R. Moehringer

In the four months since I reviewed The Best American Sports Writing 2003, I spent most nights reading a collection of HP Lovecraft horror stories. And after slogging through some very, very slow-paced stories about monsters, I decided to return to non-fiction with The Best American Sports Writing 2013.

Finishing the volume in at most a month, BASW 2013 was a breath of fresh air to a mind altogether exhausted by stories of nameless horrors with names impossible to pronounce.

Here’s my review of BASW 2013, which had Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer as its editor.

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Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

July 10th, 2014 by

Sorry this is a few days late — I joined a Monday-night Ultimate league in Tulsa this summer, and when you’ve played four hours of Ultimate and then driven 1.5 hours to get home, the last thing you want to do is blog.

Looking back on June, I’m kinda surprised at how many stories I actually wrote. June and July are kinda dead months in this area (with the exception of the week-long Jr. Sunbelt Classic baseball tournament), so to produce this much local content is quite satisfying.

As for this roundup’s late publication, I’ll make it up to you all with a new Best American Sports Writing volume review sometime in the next week. And it’ll be about the latest BASW volume, no less!

Meanwhile, here’s everything I wrote in June.

Five locals make Sophomore Sunbelt

Buffs star at TU Football camp

Kevin Durant’s grace period will end soon

Little League AA tourney begins

Oklahoma leads B.A.S.S. Nation tourney Day 1

Pittsburg County Little League update

Photo gallery: WE WILL Team Camp in McAlester

Arizona to defend Sunbelt title

Oklahoma still ahead after B.A.S.S. Nation tourney Day 2

Photo gallery: Jr. Sunbelt tournament banquet

Oklahoma wins B.A.S.S. Nation tournament

Jr. Sunbelt Classic, Day 1

Jr. Sunbelt Classic, Day 2

Jr. Sunbelt Classic, Day 3

Jr. Sunbelt Classic, Day 4

Jr. Sunbelt Classic, Day 5

Jr. Sunbelt Classic Day 6 schedule and scenarios

Big and bright: Texas wins 2014 Jr. Sunbelt

Sunbelt always brings the scouts

Canada’s Roy travels far

Wrapping up the 2014 Jr. Sunbelt

Thunder win AAA Little League championship

Legends win Little League Big 13

PCLL announces All Star rosters

Downtown Detail hands Swag first loss

Defense helps Firm edge Scared Hitless

Rundown wins coed opener

Buffs tame Wildcats in summer league game

Donald Sterling needs to go away

Kelleya Cox takes over Lady Buffs

Photo gallery: Eagle Hill Disc Golf mini-tournament

Blasengame uses disc golf for good

Buffs sweep in Stuart

Homers help Swag top Mayhem

Summer-league tournament results and schedule

Pittsburg County Little League preps for State

Smith, Buffs top Panthers

Miners pitchers tame Jr. Buffs

Summer-league tournament update

Miners win summer-league tournament

Little League wins four state titles

July 4 rodeo to feature female bullrider

Slime rains at awards ceremony

Photo gallery: Kiowa youth basketball camp

McAlester youth football league starting this month

Sugar Skulls hosting mashup tonight

Posted in Baseball/Softball, Basketball, Football | No Comments »

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

June 5th, 2014 by

Another month comes and goes, and with it comes and goes another month’s worth of stories. I remember last summer as a constant scramble to come up with things to write about in the three months between the end of the spring and start of the fall high school seasons.

If anything, this year I’ve felt like I have too many things to try and cover, and I worry about (and have taken some crap for) missing a potentially big sports thing in the area.

Between those two states, I’ll always take the latter. Plus, to me that shows development as a journalist that I now see potential stories that I couldn’t a year ago.

Here’s everything I wrote in May.

Midweek Update: Four teams make State

Know Your Foe: Buffs host four-team baseball Regional

Buffs golf makes State

Buffs split Day 1 of Regionals

Chargers knock out Buffs at Regionals

Lady Buffs ready for tennis State

Bulldogs top Miners at Regionals

Lady Buffs golf team 11th at State

Lady Buffs duo sixth at State

Stuart wraps historic softball year

Buffs’ Woodmore signs with Tabor

McAlester track sends 10 to State

Buffs golf 12th at State

Lake Eufaula All-Star Classic set for Saturday

Buffs tennis third at Regionals, makes State

Buffs AD says goodbye

Buffs banquet honors golf teams

Sistrunk leads Buffs tennis at State

Robinson fifth in state hurdles

And so it ends

Tennis banquet honors seniors

Jr. Sunbelt Classic still seeking host families

Buffs all-stars big in extra innings

Local black belt tests new system

South sweeps Kiamichi Classic basketball

South completes Kiamichi sweep

All-State tennis and slowpitch teams announced

Seven Buffs named All-District

McAlester United to host Field Day

Local angler makes Oklahoma state fishing team

Oklahoma announces Jr. Sunbelt Rosters

Miners beat Cowboys in summer league

Buffs hold Black and Gold Scrimmage

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

Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

May 5th, 2014 by

I’ve got a complaint, and for once it has nothing to do with my newspaper. Instead, it concerns The Oklahoman, the Oklahoma City-based daily that has the largest circulation in the state.

For those not following the National Basketball Association, the first round of the playoffs just ended, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are still alive. But earlier in the series they were getting their asses handed to them by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Ever since Michael Jordan took over the league in the early 1990s, the NBA has morphed into an entity in which a team can win with basically one superstar and a bunch of B+ role-players. Having a second A-level athlete helps, but it’s not essential.

For the Thunder, that superstar is Kevin Durant. He’s probably going to win MVP later this week, but through the first five games of the Memphis series, he was inconsistent at best.

The Oklahoman recognized that, and after a Thunder loss published a headline calling Durant “Mr. Unreliable.”

A little unkind? Maybe. But justifiable based on his previous few games? Absolutely.

Problem is, Durant’s mom didn’t see it that way. After Mrs. Durant screamed at The Oklahoman via Twitter, sports editor Mike Sherman issued an apology.

Wow. Talk about cowardice.

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

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.

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