Is Patch Heading in the Wrong Direction?

If Patch can't recognize a real, compenstion-worthwhile story when it's presented to them, maybe they shouldn't be in business.

I liked writing for Somerville Patch. I really did. My various editors supported my ideas, allowed me a relatively relaxed work schedule, and helped me fine-tune the high school sports reporting I anticipate doing for the next few years of my career.

They also paid me, even as a student intern.

So when my editor told me AOL Patch was killing its freelance contracts at the end of 2011, I was sad. The steadiest outlet for my work had suddenly dried up. I feared my skills would grow dull without an editor and the scrutiny of a well-read site.

At the time, I understood that just like every other online news source, Patch didn’t make enough money to justify its paying structure. Changes had to happen, and cutting freelance contracts was a way to minimize overhead.

As much as I hated getting downsized, I accepted that it was a budgetary decision. I didn’t believe it represented a philosophical shift by the company.

I was wrong.

Not only did Patch end its freelance contracts, it also has seemingly ended any interest in high-quality content.

No more timely, relevant reporting or well-written, clever copy. Instead it’s “Pizza playoffs,” “Best of” lists, and “easy, quick-hitting, cookie-cutter copy.” I can hear my journalism professors screaming all the way from Commonwealth Avenue.

My editor had told me this would happen and, so I of course knew it was coming. But I had no idea how bad Patch would become.

Continue reading Is Patch Heading in the Wrong Direction?

DigBoston: UFC 144 Story Live

While others may enjoy watching people kick each other in the face, my first experience with MMA left me queasy. Read more at DigBoston.com

As much as I enjoy a good Tony Jaa film, I’m really not much for combat sports. Boxing died in the 60s, and wrestling (pro or real) just looks silly.

As for MMA, well… my trip to Spirit Bar in Cambridge Saturday for UFC 144 was my first exposure to it. And it made for an exciting if nauseating 52 Games column on DigBoston.com.

Check it out!

 

Despite Winning Appeal, Ryan Braun Still Guilty

Ryan Braun can cover his heart all he wants: he's still a cheater until he explains how his body produced large quantities of synthetic testosterone. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Ryan Braun is still a cheater. Whatever independent arbitrator Shyam Das might say, nothing will change Braun’s urine testing positive for synthetic testosterone, and a lot of it at that. And until someone conclusively accounts for that, Braun will remain a steroid-user, his name forever smeared with the b.s. he’s spoon-fed the media since his acquittal.

Where Did the Testosterone Come From?

Major League Baseball and Braun can argue endlessly over possibly closed FedEx stores, STD medication and whatever else each side cooks up, but that testosterone still remains. And while experts admit improper storage can affect testosterone-epitestosterone concentrations, none say it can make naturally produced testosterone look like it came from somewhere else.

Somehow a large (though not unbelievably large, it turns out) amount of testosterone got into a sample that, while perhaps a little warmer than it should have been when it arrived at the Olympic anti-doping lab in Montreal, showed no signs of tampering. It was in Braun’s body. It was in his sample.

Testimony can call into question many steps in the doping process, but it can’t refute science. The testosterone that Braun peed into a cup was not naturally produced. He took steroids. He cheated.

Braun himself has never refuted the testing result – a curiosity considering how willingly he’s refuted everything else, including a herpes rumor that can’t be killed by Braun’s words, only time. Instead, he’s focused on the time it took the sample to get to the lab, the storage and custody issues.

These arguments may have validity in court. But the MLB is not a court: it’s a private organization that’s come under heavy fire and scrutiny for its apparent complicity in baseball’s steroid-fueled 1990s. In response to that charge, baseball has set up a system wherein a player can do everything wrong and still get off scot-free. “Justice” replaces “right,” and the sport suffers all the more for it.

Continue reading Despite Winning Appeal, Ryan Braun Still Guilty

Stop Raggin’ on Rondo!

Of COURSE Rajon Rondo's pissed: the Celtics' 2011-12 season is a lost cause, and everyone's blaming him instead of his too-old teammates. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The NBA suspended Rajon Rondo for two games on Monday. The suspension came after Rondo tossed a ball at an official, receiving a double-technical and ejection in Sunday’s loss to the Pistons.

The Celtics lost both games Rondo missed, and the local media – in particular sports radio – has ranted almost unceasingly about the point guard: He has no discipline. He can’t be coached. He’s a bum. Trade him.

No one, I notice, seems interested in why Rondo’s acting out. Everyone just sees a problem, and they want it excised immediately.

While no fanbase likes to lose, Boston sports fans (and media) hate to get beaten. We hate admitting that another team either played better than ours on a given night or simply is better.

And when faced with the reality that better teams exist, our reaction is always to redirect our frustration. Usually we focus on the behaviors of a particular player, making those behaviors reflect an attitude not conducive to winning.

Our self-esteem is salvaged: Since this fatal character flaw didn’t manifest until the final game, it wasn’t our fault for not recognizing it. And it wasn’t our fault the team lost.

We saw this entire thought process in the aftermath of Super Bowl XLVI – a game the Patriots lost because the Giants just played better that night. Instead of admitting that, fans cried foul over Rob Gronkowski’s partying and Gisele Bundchen’s complaining. Both were minor incidents blown completely out of proportion by a fanbase eager to blame anything but their own team’s deficiencies.

We’re see this same process with Rondo two weeks later. Once again, we’re choosing to blame a situation on a player for unrelated behavior.

Continue reading Stop Raggin’ on Rondo!

Boston.com: Somerville-Peabody Boys’ Basketball Story Live

We all know season finales can be pretty great. Examples include “Last of the Time Lords” (Doctor Who Series 3), “Posse Comitatus” (The West Wing Season 3) and all four finales of “Breaking Bad.”

So when I covered the Somerville Highlanders playing the Peabody Tanners in a season finale that went into overtime, of course it got published on Boston.com!

Check it out!

2012 Red Sox Preview: Infielders

Left to right: Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis highlight the 2012 Red Sox among the infielders and DH. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images North America)

Starting this week, Sports of Boston kicks off a weekly preview of the 2012 Red Sox. We’re starting with the infielders, who last season provided most of the pop on the league’s top-ranked offense.

You’ll need to check SoB to get the entire preview, but I handled the infielders. And here they are!

Corner Infielders

Adrian Gonzalez will start at first base come April. He tied for the league-lead in hits last year with 213, came in second with a .338 batting average and ranked among the top 10 in RBIs (117, fifth), doubles (45, sixth), on-base percentage (.410, sixth), and OPS (.957, seventh). Dismissing any preseason fears of an NL hitter struggling at Fenway, Gonzalez set personal-bests in hits and OBP while playing Gold Glove-winning first base.

Some analysts say Gonzalez faltered in September, leading to the Red Sox’s historic collapse, but the numbers don’t back up that claim. Gonzalez is an absolute game-changer with maybe the most beautiful swing in baseball.

Kevin Youkilis, meanwhile, starts at third. Injuries have limited Youkilis the last two seasons, knocking his total games from 135+ from 2006-2009 to 120 and 102 since 2010. Those absences have likely affected his sense of pitch-location, something once so strong it earned a two-page spread in Michael Lews’ Moneyball.

When he’s healthy, Youkilis is an athletic third baseman with tremendous plate-discipline. He’s just as capable of hitting a home run as he is drawing a walk. He’s also adaptable, able to hit in different lineup spots and move to first base (where he won a Gold Glove in 2007) without sacrificing success.

Continue reading 2012 Red Sox Preview: Infielders

DigBoston: Lasell-Lesley Men’s Volleyball Story Live

Whatever, man, volleyball is awesome. Read about the Lasell College-Lesley University men's volleyball game at DigBoston.com.

I needed a break last Thursday. Something to clear the air after suffering through a disappointing Super Bowl, a frustrating Celtics-Lakers game and a surprisingly dull Beanpot. So I went to Newton to watch D-III men’s volleyball.

The Lasell Lasers played the Lesley Lynx. And if you think those team names are awesome, you should read the rest of my DigBoston column.

Check it out!

Nowitzki, Mavericks Crush Shorthanded Celtics

Dirk Nowitzki takes a shot against Chris Wilcox during Monday's Celtics-Mavericks game in Dallas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Hmm… let’s see. The Celtics struggled badly with rebounds Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks. They also couldn’t move the ball offensively, find open shots or accomplish anything in the paint.

The Celtics played the Mavericks without Kevin Garnett (family matter), Brandon Bass (knee) and Rajon Rondo (two-game suspension). They lost to the Mavericks, 89-73.

For some reason, I can’t help but think the two previous paragraphs are related.

Nowitzki’s Double-Double Highlights Celtics Struggles

Without Garnett or Bass, the Celtics had few options for defending Dirk Nowitzki. Whoever Boston sent at Nowitzki, he made that defender look silly.

It didn’t matter if Nowitzki was in the low post, high post, top of the key, whatever. Nowitzki scored 21 of his game-high 26 points in the first half, including a run of 10 consecutive points in the second quarter. A particularly abusive move on Jermaine O’Neal highlighted that run.

Along with all those points came 16 rebounds and two blocks. The Mavericks out-rebounded the Celtics eight, grabbing 13 offensive rebounds to the Celtics’ five. They also out-scored the Celtics 32-18 in the paint, getting a solid nine points from reserve power forward Brandan Wright.

Wright scored an alley-oop bucket from reserve guard Jason Terry (16 points on 6-of-11 shooting) in the second, then added an emphatic dunk in the fourth. He also grabbed two offensive rebounds in the same possession, eventually kicking it out to Terry for a three-pointer that put the Mavericks up 40-26 in the second.

The Celtics showed moments of offensive consistency that led to moves in the paint, in particular a fast-break dunk by Ray Allen followed by a dribble-penetration from Paul Pierce that made it 44-34 late in the second. But overall the Celtics never looked in rhythm, throwing up crazy shots in the lanes or running anemically into defenders for easy blocks.

Pierce (20 points), Allen (15) and Avery Bradley (12) did their best, but with Bradley running the offense the Celtics lose most of the fluidity Rondo typically brings. And with so few second-chance scoring opportunities, the Celtics’ stiff, disjointed offense just meant more minutes on defense.

The Celtics didn’t lead at any point during Monday’s game. Their five-point deficit after one quarter became 10 after two and 17 after three.

Continue reading Nowitzki, Mavericks Crush Shorthanded Celtics

The Ultimate “Worst Idea Since”

Ultimate Tazer Ball: Have professional athletics really come to THIS? (www.utblive.com)

Google “worst idea since” and some pretty funny clauses pop up:

• Worst idea since Greedo shooting first

• Worst idea since black highlighters

• Worst idea since the plug-in flashlight

One summer when I was 12 or 13, I approached a summer camp counselor about a bunch of us getting up at midnight to play Ultimate Frisbee on a nearby field. He asked his unit head, who said it was “the worst idea since invading ‘Nam.”

These were all terrible ideas worthy of being compared to other potentially terrible ideas. But I’ve just stumbled onto a true work of abject stupidity: Ultimate Tazer Ball.

The premise… is exactly what it sounds like. You run around with a giant ball, scoring by throwing it into a net (a la team handball) or running it in (a la rugby). But players defend by zapping you with freaking stun guns! Which aren’t actual Tasers, by the way: Tasers shoot from a distance.

This is a reason why all those anonymously evil foreign powers hate America.

Continue reading The Ultimate “Worst Idea Since”

Boston.com: Somerville-New Mission Girls’ Basketball Story Live

Enough track and field. Time to get back to the hard court!

Somerville’s girls’ basketball game against New Mission (Roxbury) kept me up real late Friday, but the results got published on Boston.com! I think I’m becoming a bit of a fixture on their YourTown Somerville page.

Check it out!