Monthly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

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

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

I really don’t have anything to report from this week of sports coverage, except that I’m probably the first sports journalist in McAlester News-Capital history to a) devote significant coverage to the local recreational softball leagues, and b) actually drive to Tulsa for a Little League game. Whether that’s a sign of professionalism, desperation or something in between, who can say.

Beyond the News-Cap, however, I finally finished The Great Shark Hunt, the first anthology of essays by Hunter S. Thompson. I wrote about Thompson almost two years ago, breaking down his appeal to a combination of brilliant word-selection, a deeply nuanced understanding of the 60s and 70s, and a gleeful dishonesty.

More than 400 pages later, I still think no one picks words the way Thompson does, and I still think he really understood the cultural undercurrents of his time. But unlike two years ago, I no longer see his approach to the 60s as some kind of rah-rah, “We changed things forever” attitude. Thompson respected the intentions of the 60s’ counter-culture movements, but he’s also very aware that while the hippies didn’t exactly fail, they also didn’t really succeed, and within a decade, many aspects of American society had gotten much, much worse.

As to whether or not Thompson was a dishonest writer, and whether he took joy in that intentional dishonesty, I’m not so sure. Thompson’s Watergate writing is an especially tough nut to crack.

Nothing Thompson writes about Nixon and his cronies screams outright lie. But in this modern age of public relations, where so many layers of protection exist between the media and the people they write about that only the most white-washed versions ever reach print, it’s hard to believe a reporter — and especially one so openly hostile to his subject matter — could ever have been given such an intimate glimpse of the real people in power.

Thompson’s political writing — and the majority of his writing, one way or another, is political — seems like an honest look at the political realities of his age. But it’s so honest, and so “raw” in its honesty, that as a survival mechanism the reader’s brain refuses to take it seriously.

At the end of one his final essays in the collection, Thompson quotes Muhammad Ali: “My way of joking is to tell the truth. That’s the funniest joke in the world.” Thompson goes on to claim those two sentences as the best explanation of “Gonzo journalism,” that reporting style that Thompson invented and no one has ever successfully replicated.

But a joke is not meant to be taken seriously. Jokes — and it’s pretty clear Thompson loved jokes — are fictions, and writing the truth in a way that makes it appear fictitious might count as dishonesty.

Or maybe not. I don’t really know. I just know I enjoyed the hell out of The Great Shark Hunt.

On an unrelated (except to the headline) note, here’s what I wrote this week.

Bond, Zike among new Buffs head coaches

GBOF announces fall bowling leagues

Six homers power Addiction Salon

Brian Renegar introduces new concussion info to MPS

Wilburton advances to softball final

Local wins state bodybuilding competition

Photo gallery: McAlester volleyball camp

Lady Buffs stampede Warriorettes

Buffalo Valley beats Stuart softball

McAlester native organizes benefit wrestling show

Tulsa beats Pittsburg County in Little League championship

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Apparently I forgot to publish last week, so this one is gonna be extra-long.

One of the stories below might put me in some hot water come Wednesday morning. But I figure if I’m gonna get readers mad at me, it should be over an issue I feel strongly about, and not, say, a dumb quote used in a meaningless column about youth basketball camp.

It shouldn’t be hard to figure out which story may not go over so well, and normally I don’t explain my writing choices. I’ve learned by now I can’t please everybody — a mother recently yelled at me because I wrote about her son during football season and didn’t want to do it again for baseball season — so normally I don’t even try.

But people may wonder why I care so much about this issue, and I’ll give my two reasons:

1) I was picked on mercilessly in elementary school for getting good grades. As such, I grew up hating seeing people being mean to other people — and really, what is prejudice but a form of meanness?

2) I’m Jewish. As such, I know very well how easily hateful language and segregating laws can transform into violence and death.

I’ll also add that if people in the majority never take interest in the issues of the minority, the minority will always be left unprotected against a majority that could enforce its will through means far worse than the vote.

Here’s what I wrote this week.

Jason Collins should open floodgates

Demonettes dreaming of state tournament

Drew House: “I can play golf ‘til I’m dead.”

Meghan Dewbery finds her own path

Addison Brown leads by example

Bowling Bulletin: Beer Money wins Monday Men’s second half

McAlester tennis sweeps Burn Out

Buffs walk-off against Highlanders

Buffs track season ends Friday

Beer Money wins Monday Men’s League

District update: Demonettes, Hornets and Lady Hornets win districts

McAlester splits soccer finale

Two Buffs coaches earn OCA honors

No-tap and kids in GBOF summer leagues

Playoffs update: Miners and Demons win districts

Motley brothers help Demons win district

Chargers run-rule Buffs, clinch home regional

Tannehill wins ORES State Track Meet

Lakewood’s John Perry signs with Mid-America Christian

News-Capitals’ Rachel Petersen wins state pool tournament

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

One of the lesser reasons I chose sports as my journalistic focus was so that hopefully I’d never have to cover something truly horrifying. Journalists always have to be objective, and often even dispassionate, but I never wanted to have to truly sacrifice my emotions to cover something that would otherwise upset me.

As the bombing of the Boston Marathon showed, not even my beloved world of sports is safe from the ever-encroaching terror of modern life. Realizing that has left me feeling, in the words of the column I wrote for Wednesday’s paper, “hollow.”

People told me that column was very well done — “perfect,” even, according to my editor. And while I appreciate the compliment, I’d happily and instantly trade a well-written op-ed for the three lives lost — including an 8-year-old boy and a Boston University grad student — and more than hundred shattered by what happened on Monday.

With a heavy heart, here’s what I wrote this week.

Savannah Cannon “one of the best”

Buffs tennis finishes fifth at Ada

Doug Hummel bowls double 300s

Buffs’ Pratt wins powerlifting national

Cowgirls lose to Lady Pirates in Moss tourney opener

Bowling Bulletin: Team 4 wins Senior Men’s League

Kaleisha Johnson signs with Murray State

Jr. Buffs’ Smith no-hits Eufaula

Stuart places third at Moss tourney

MHS hoops holds banquet

District tourneys begin for softball and baseball

Crowder softball run-rules Hartshorne

Joy destroyed at Boston Marathon


Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

I got all of my work done early enough in the day so that I could cover McAlester’s noon game of a home doubleheader, which it won, 20-0. But after that, I had a choice: I could cover what would probably be another uninteresting Buffs blowout, or I could hit the road to appease a smaller group of readers and maybe catch a more exciting game at a regional baseball tournament.

I took the latter option, driving an hour to Preston to cover a Hartshorne baseball game. And as I’d hoped, I got a 4-1 pitchers’ duel that was way more interesting.

When I got back to the office, I discovered that McAlester had won its second game, 25-0, making the game I covered actually the more competitive of the two. So I think I made the right choice, but there was a cost.

Two hours of driving both ways meant that I worked for almost 12 hours Saturday. And with a furlough scheduled this week, I have very few days to get myself back under 32 hours.

I don’t mind working long days in themselves, but I’ll definitely pay for this one later in the week week, either by not being able to write as much or by needing to ask for overtime — something I absolutely hate doing.

Here’s what I wrote this week!

Turnout low for Pitt 8 softball and baseball

McAlester Gamerz continues to grow

Ngoc Nguyen finds “better life” in McAlester

Bowling Bulletin: Misfits win Mix & Mingle League

Jaci Bigham wraps career at ORU

Bulldogs win Wetumka opener

Kyle McDonald loves to field

Buffs trounce Knights in district doubleheader

Pirates beat Miners in Stuart Tournament final

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

OK people, it’s 2013. Why haven’t we figured out how to control the weather yet? It’s hard enough trying to stay on top of 12 schools’ worth of teams. But figuring out what’s been rained out and what hasn’t, especially on the weekend? Now it’s just ridiculous.

With my mini-rant now finished, here’s what I wrote this week.

Skye Edwards “sets a precedent”

Victor Martin keeps tradition going

Messy brackets bad for tourney

Loretta Medina always on the move

Lady Buffs unveil 2013-14 pom squad

Buffs win home tennis tournament

Eagle Hill Disc Golf Club plans first 2013 events

Haileyville’s Martin throws no hitter

Bowling Bulletin: Position rounds shaping up

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

So when I see “donkey basketball” on a local school’s calendar, I just know I have to cover it. I mean, given my love for alternative sports — underwater hockey, quidditch, Ultimate — how could I not?

I had planned to write a pretty tongue-in-cheek account of the game, but the game actually became suspenseful in the fourth quarter. There was a legitimate comeback, some actual basketball plays, and an air of tension that seemed markedly different from the lighthearted, semi-invested attitude the crowd took through the first three quarters. I took some notes, did some interviews, snapped some pics and went to write it up.

When I finished the recap, I wasn’t crazy about it. Some of the story read as silly, and some of it read as serious. Maintaining tone through a piece is a critical element to journalism, and I hadn’t done that.

Granted, I’m always a harsher critic of my own work than others tend to be, and I do recall inserting a sentence or two that basically said the tone of the night shifted in the fourth quarter. But whether my transitional sentences were enough to explain the tonal inconsistencies, I won’t know until I see my editor Tuesday morning.

Anyway, here’s a week of stories by yours truly.

Jonathan Barickman at home in McAlester

Buffs soccer moves to Savanna

Vanoss sweeps Crowder doubleheader

Miners come up short against Chieftains

Zach Dugan always focused

Tuesday Night Jackpot fishing tournaments return Tuesday

Broncos shut down Buffs

Chad Aldridge’s baseball family

Nick Clark aims high

Cowboys switch to donkeys for fundraiser

Bowling Bulletin: Monday Housewives League still wide open

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

When you’re basically the entire sports department, balance is a major issue. I have to constantly juggle my time between McAlester High School and the other 11 local schools, each of which some percentage of my readers cares about.

I covered McAlester football really well in the fall while still giving a fair amount of coverage to the other six football teams. I did an alright job with McAlester softball, a slightly less alright job with regional softball, and absolutely no job with fall baseball. Even still, I think I achieved a pretty appropriate balance between McAlester and the other local schools.

During the basketball season, I definitely shifted pretty heavily towards the small schools. I didn’t plan on doing that, but between the high quality of some of those teams (Kiowa, Stuart, etc) and McAlester traveling so much (and farther away), covering the small schools was way, way easier.

I know readers in McAlester got frustrated with how unbalanced my coverage was in favor of the small schools, but since the season changed over, I feel like its flipped. Now almost all of my coverage is about McAlester, and McAlester baseball more specifically.

Because I can’t possibly cover every team, I hope readers respect the attempt at balance, even if I don’t always achieve it. And as this is still my first year as a full-time sports reporter, I guess all I can do is keep learning with each new season.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote this week.

Buffs track starts Friday

Rain helps Buffs beat Savages

Stringtown three-hits Pittsburg softball

Buffs win state powerlifting title

Troy Meadows always a Buffalo

Photo gallery: McAlester Maulers soccer

Crowder native leads OSU Quidditch

Buffs stampede over Braves

Local All-Conference selections released

Bad defense costs Buffs against Bears

Bowling Bulletin: New’s dominate Wednesday Open Trio

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

In the span of one week, I wrote about golf, basketball (boys and girls), tennis, bowling, baseball, soccer and paying NCAA players. I think that makes this past week one of my most creative to date, and also shows how cool my job often is.

Here’s what I wrote:

Buffs golf seeks return to state tournament

Cowgirls run ends in semis

Buffs soccer prepares for inaugural season

McAlester tennis sweeps Freeze Out

Charles Joyce comes prepared

Bowling Bulletin: Hits & Misses leads Fun Bowlers

Cougars maul Warriors for first win

Buffs lose soccer home-opener

NCAA players deserve their share

McAlester wins baseball opener

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Transition weeks are always a challenge, but they’re also a reprieve. Instead of spending multiple hours each afternoon covering games, I write previews of the games that will soon be happening. And as a general rule, previews take less time to report (interview and take pictures) and also less time to write.

My weekly schedule in the weeks between sports seasons isn’t always as obvious, but once I do figure out what I’m writing about, in some ways it’s the least stressful part of the year. And it gives me a chance to write about all-new sports!

Here’s what I wrote this past week.

Donald Cannon wins state wrestling title

Playoffs Update: Kiowa reaches state tournament

Savanna coach among state honorees

High hopes for Buffs tennis

Senior class leads Buffs baseball

Bowling Bulletin: Fonzie’s Girls retakes Women’s City League

Buffs win powerlifting Regional