Sunday, January 3, 2010

ESPN vs. Mike Leach?

I was chatting with a friend and colleague yesterday about the whole Mike Leach vs. Texas Tech saga. Let me preface my summary/commentary on our discussion by mentioning I'm a huge Mike Leach fan. I think his whole act - the pirate stuff, the bizarre personality, Friday Night Lights cameo, hilarious press conferences - is terrific for college football. I've become transfixed with bowl season and college football in general because of the uniqueness of each school and football team, and Leach's persona only helped make the game more fun for the average fan in an era where big donors, high rollers and wealthy alums are the only people catered to by coaches.

He's one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of coach who you'll reminisce about 5-10 years from now when Texas Tech is relegated to obscurity and say "THAT was fun" - much in the same way longtime college football fans now reminisce of Bear Bryant, Jimmy Johnson, and Lou Holtz.

So it's with this I wonder whether ESPN has been fair in its coverage of the whole ordeal. I haven't sat through any of their production meetings, chatted with Craig James or his family, or tried to contact Mike Leach myself, but from the limited viewing I've had on TV and online I'm a bit perturbed by James' access. I think Rece Davis has done a good job trying to balance both sides during cut-ins and studio updates from bowl games. But, it seems for every counterargument Leach or his supporters float out there, James (or his supporters - including Texas Tech and the team's physician and trainer) seemingly has a quick response on camera or in a written statement - including Saturday's swiftly-released affidavits condemning Adam James' confinement. I don't think this would be the case with most other parents of D-1 athletes - parents with no immediate access (no cell phone number of the executive producers) to "The Worldwide Leader" and its millions of ready eyeballs - While ESPN tried to lessen the appearance of bias by taking Craig James off of calling the Alamo Bowl, he's still had the ability to speak out on the matter - both publicly and certainly privately within the annals of ESPN.

My colleague mentioned that Davis' "exclusive" interview with Leach ran roughly 38 minutes, but where is the rest of it? About 8 minutes and 30 seconds of its scintillating material is online, and the H&R Block Halftime Show ran bits and pieces of it. Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention - but where is the rest of it? Is ESPN planning on running more in an Outside the Lines story? I would hope ESPN has tried to keep the time devoted to James and Leach somewhat equal, but I just haven't watched enough to really say one way or the other.

So while ESPN has every right and ability to report on this story, I do think there is an appearance of minor bias through James' influence and position. I do not think it has been an intentional bias - if anything, Leach has always seemed amiable, friendly, and open with the media - but an unfortunate, everyday type of bias that comes from working around public figures involved in a very public dispute.

Update: As I finished writing this, I found this months-old video of Leach cursing out Adam James for an apparent poor attitude in practice.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

travels home

Finally arrived home in NJ Tuesday after not being home since August. I stayed in Columbia until yesterday because I filled in a few live truck shifts. Otherwise I would have flown home Sunday. But anyway, I flew out of KC to Newark, and took the MO-X shuttle so I could leave my car at home. I'm thinking this was a bad decision despite near-exhaustion from lack of sleep the night before. I got on the MO-X at Gateway and changed buses at their terminal on Providence and the Business Loop. I boarded the bus and was surrounded by old women. I thought, "uh oh." I have nothing against old women, but I was NOT in the mood for making conversation. I wanted to put on my Springsteen Live in NYC on my noise-cancelling headphones and sleep for at least 45 minutes. So when the guy with a Bluetooth headset, enormous backpack, and walking cane steps into the bus, introduces himself, and tells everyone he has a laptop to check "traffic and weather for the whole trip" you can imagine how irritated I was. He then told folks he was a former Navy SEAL (the picture of him is included with this post) had "friends in NASA", and then asked the driver to plug in his portable charger to the power outlet in front. So upon departing Columbia, he began making small talk with just about everyone. I was basically asleep by the time the Mo-X accelerated onto I-70, and slept til about milemarker 75 (a good 30-35 minutes). I was awoken by the same man blathering on about his computer's internet connection and the old woman behind him horrified of missing her flight she'd be arriving for 3 hours in advance. I was forced to endure this background talk as my Springsteen blared on in my headphones. Of course, instead of taking I-70 through downtown Kansas City to I-29, the Mo-X takes I-435 around the entire city to the airport. It adds a good 30-40 minutes to the trip because apparently they're afraid of getting stuck in traffic - in the middle of the day, no less. Line of the day came at this point - the man pointed to his computer screen and said "We'll be out of this rain in 2 minutes!!" 2 minutes later, it was still raining, and he looked very disappointed. Anyway, he got off at USAirways (a completely different terminal) and I was one of the last to get off at Continental.

I ate lunch at the majestic Budweiser Lounge while being tempted by the fine alcoholic products available at 12:15 on a weekday. I didn't have any, but any later in the day I may have considered some. This, and going through security remained uneventful. Upon sitting at my gate for a while, a Continental employee got on the PA and told travelers the "aircraft's lavatory light is not working, and the pilot doesn't want to take off without that because it's a 2 hour and 15 minute flight, so we'll try to get it fixed, worst case scenario we'll either fly with no lavatory service, or change aircraft." I've never heard of that happening before - the lavatory light not working - and the fix seemed incredibly simple (change the bulb??) but what do I know, I'm not an airline mechanic. So they had us move to the gate next to ours, the plane to Houston, while the Houston passengers moved to our plane.

So all that goes on, and I get on the plane content to sleep again. We took off and enjoyed a relatively uneventful flight until about halfway through when the small child in front of me began 1) singing constantly 2) telling its Daddy to "DADDY LOOK THE WINDOW WON'T CLOSE". This eventually devolved into the child singing one line from "Joy to the World" on repeat until the door opened in Newark. Of course, the parents didn't do anything and seemed to think their child was just bringing JOY TO EVERYONE!!

Hardly - they would have been more joyful if the kid had just shut up! UGH!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Charlie Weis and wastefulness

Preface: I dislike Notre Dame, but I don't hate them. Nor do I enjoy the undue attention they receive from ESPN and NBC for playing pedestrian football almost every year for the past 10 years (besides their Fiesta/Sugar Bowl losses). And in those 10 years, it's become more and more common for the definition of "success" in college football to mean "making bowl games." Regardless of whether it's a BCS Bowl or the Bowl, I still consider it a success because you're playing in the "postseason", whether that be a playoff or bowl system. So with that understood, I find it shamefully lavish that Notre Dame (or its fans) want to fire Charlie Weis because he didn't win a national championship in 5 years. Somehow, it's forgotten in their thought process that under his guidance, the Fighting Irish played in 2 BCS games (against very good teams), earned 2 top-25-at-end-of-year BCS rankings, and won the Hawaii Bowl. This year, they're 6-5 (bowl eligible, yet again). Weis has a winning overall record in South Bend and 4 of ND's 5 losses this year came by a touchdown or less. Is that his fault? Maybe - but you can't deny the guy will see his QB and stud WR drafted early in this year's NFL draft. I'm guessing 110 out of 120 D-1 teams would be thrilled to have the kind of success Weis has had. Think they're screwed for the future? ranks Weis' recruiting class as #11 in the country.

From what I gather, there's at least $20 million owed to Weis, and it'd require at least $5 million per year to hire a new coach. I have no idea if donors and boosters are willing to cough up such an outrageous amount of money to fire a successful coach. If they do, it could be the most disgusting display I've seen in a long time. In economic times like this, it's simply a display of arrogance and unreasonable expectations, especially in a sport where athletes are unpaid. I have no respect for attitudes like this.

Monday, November 16, 2009

PA guys in Big 12

I've been fortunate enough to watch enough Big 12 football in my career at Mizzou to hear most of the stadium PA announcers either in person or on TV. Here's a quick list of how they stack up, in my boredom.

1) Randy Wright, Missouri: Of course he's a huge homer and I'm totally biased towards him but he does an excellent job both feeding off the crowd and getting people fired up at football or basketball games. He rarely makes mistakes with players' names/numbers and usually has pretty good phrasing for plays. I'll give him and the Mizzou marketing people credit for coming up with the "First down, M-I-Z" - you can hear him around :15 in this:
2) Name unknown, Oklahoma State: This guy has an AWESOME voice. He uses a few quirks in his announcing - i.e. instead of the overused, cliche "That's good for a [insert team name and wait for crowd to yell 1st down]" he says "Oklahoma State 1st down and ten". He also doesn't use the opposing team's name - simply saying, for instance, on defense "3rd down and 3...for the visitor." Definitely a fan. You can kind of hear him in this
3) Name unknown, Kansas: The state of Kansas is pretty good for PA guys. Like OSU, this guy has an great voice. I haven't been to a game in Lawrence but having heard him in the background on TV and the radio, he doesn't get too fired up and lets his inflection carry the enthusiasm, instead of yelling or sounding crazy. It sounds like he avoids cliches and sticks to the basics, and, gets them right. I'm guessing he's an old-school guy and he does a good job.
4) Name unknown, Kansas State: Also has a great voice, but uses too many cliches/overused phrases to try and fire up the crowd i.e. "That's another WILDCAT [pause while waiting for crowd to yell "First Down"]" I also noticed several crucial errors in identifying opposing players - for instance, identifying Aldon Smith as someone else, or completely missing Sean Weatherspoon for someone else. Not sure if you can hear him in this, but it's worth a try.
Schools I have not heard: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor, Nebraska, Colorado. For the sake of this article, we'll assume they fill slots 5-11 as I leave the schools below out for a reason.
11) Name unknown, Oklahoma: Not a very good voice, occasionally to the point of irritation for listeners and fans. His voice was monotone and lacking depth. He had decent form and phrasing, but I do recall him saying Chase "Daniels" instead of Daniel, a crucial mistake for any announcer's credibility. I don't mean this in a bad way, but he sounded like a less enthusiastic Alex Anthony (New York Mets' PA announcer)
12) Name unknown, Iowa State: Probably the worst PA guy I've heard call a football game at any level. While it could be a symptom of a bad sound system, the guy sounded like he was literally screaming into the microphone. To make matters worse, he used every cliche in the book - from "THAT'S ANOTHER CYCLONNNNNNNNNNNNEEEE FIRST DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!" again, literally SCREAMING into the microphone, while on defensive 3rd downs, shouting "IT'S 3RD DOWN AND ___ MAKE SOME NOISE!!!!!!" Overall, very irritating - and it's unforgivable to announce like that if you don't have the voice for it. You can kind of get a sense of this guy from this:

Friday, November 13, 2009

November update

This is the 1st Friday I've been free since the start of the semester! I've shot football games just about every Friday night, and with high school football just about over, I'm pretty much free now on Friday nights. I'm gearing up for a trip to Manhattan, Kansas tomorrow for Mizzou's game against the Kansas State Wildcats. This will be my 2nd road trip (3rd if you count the Illinois game) for Mizzou football, and I've shot every game except for Nevada. It's been a blast to shoot all the Mizzou games, despite the disappointing record and tough home losses. I can honestly say I've shot in all weather conditions this season - from torrential rain and cold during the Nebraska game, to warm and humid during Bowling Green and Furman, and plain ol' chilly during the Oklahoma State game. Tomorrow looks to be in the 50s and overcast, so it should be comfortable. Meanwhile, producing sports has gone well. I've definitely improved since I began. It's VERY easy - much easier than I thought. I've even gotten to the point to where I think "Hey, this isn't so bad, I could do this for a living" until I realize it's still not the greatest place to be. But hey, at least I've gotten some experience in it and had some fun with it.

I noticed my last update came after the Nebraska game. I traveled to Oklahoma State the next weekend to shoot the game down there - also really cool but a disappointing result again. I was greatly impressed with the quality of Boone Pickens Stadium - insanely nice overall. The attention to detail is immaculate - everything from deluxe catered meals for the media to OSU engraved elevator buttons. Clearly, ol' Boone is sinking money into his namesake's building, and I can definitely see the results. However, I thought the crowd would be a lot louder than it was - perhaps because the stadium's capacity is around 55,000 - but after experiencing OU in 2007 I expected the same outrageous decibel level in Stillwater. It only got really loud after Gabbert's pick-6 and OSU's TD towards the end of the 1st half. Their student section seemed into the game the whole time, and their odd paddles certainly made a lot of noise. But, I can definitely say Boone Pickens Stadium, while VERY nice and luxurious, is not nearly as tough to play in as I'd expected.

I'm curious to see if Bill Snyder Family Stadium is any more hostile! I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures and such of the journey. Will Maetzold and Brandon Spiegel are joining me on this trip - Maetzold hitching a ride and covering it for, Spiegel also with KOMU.

Check out my Youtube for some of my packages - here's an embedded link.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We got shucked

Put simply, Missouri did not have a good game last week. I produced the 6 sports, and I was pleased with how it went. Gervino went live from the 6th floor of the press box with a live interview during the sports block, and then a Cardinals gm. 2 NLDS highlight. We scrambled to get it in on time but I was happy with it overall. Chris did a great job of doing the highlights without a monitor. After we wrapped up the show, I headed off to Faurot Field, where after lugging all the gear in the driving rain to the media shuttle, I got my credential from Kyle Stokes, who was running the live truck. Upon arrival though, I discovered the power outage situation (more on that later) resulting in limited elevator service, so I had to climb 4 flights of stairs with all the gear while dodging rich old geezers clutching their wine and cheese within the club level. Of course, the rain and overall weather was terrible - cold, driving rain and a somewhat strong wind. So, once within the press box, I finagled a garbage bag to cover the camera and went down to the field. I immediately discovered it'd be really difficult to shoot like I usually would, so I had to literally create a photo booth-like setup by putting the garbage bag over my head and using it like a cape with my only view through the LCD screen. While it was tough to see long passes and ball trajectory, it did a great job of keeping the camera dry. And with a complete lack of big plays in the 1st half, I didn't miss much. I was right behind the end zone where Gabbert scored on the QB sneak, but unfortunately on the complete opposite side of the field for the safety earlier in the game. So, I departed the field with Missouri holding on to a 9-0 lead.

About that power problem - I'm guessing the extreme rain caused some sort of fuse to break in the campus power plant, shutting off all the power to the stadium. I was told the lights and all power shut off to the stadium for about 10 minutes. After backup generators fired up, the main scoreboard and PA system remained off - creating an eerie silence and dampened (literally) atmosphere for the entire game. On one hand, it was really cool because the whole crowd stood for most of the game and really paid attention to what was going on. They didn't need much prodding to make noise on defensive 3rd downs or for the Mizzou touchdown. But, I think people began to lose energy as the game went along, and understandably so - the cold and rain began to affect people midway through the 3rd quarter. That loss of energy, coupled with the silent PA system and no Randy Wright "THIRRRRRRRRRRRDDD DOWN AND _____ "or "FIRST DOWN, M-I-Z!!" almost created a sense of foreboding collapse, even with a seeming impregnable 12-0 lead late in the 3rd quarter.

So I enjoyed the 2nd half in the warmth and dryness of the press box with my good friend Will Maetzold - whose trusty old camera succumbed to the elements, and he was forced to sit out the 2nd half. We viewed the collapse. That's all I'll say about that - but perhaps the most irritating part of it all was seeing the Nebraska fans going crazy from high above. I understand they travel well, but good lord, they made a lot of noise and hearing "There is No Place like Nebraska" blaring from the Marching Huskers was very annoying.

After the game ended, we went down to the media room to wait for Pinkel and co. His presser was uneventful - he didn't say anything that surprised me or anyone else. We then talked to Andrew Gachkar (quite honest and a good interview), Sean Weatherspoon (as always a good interview), Jaron Baston, and Blaine Gabbert (after 45 minutes waiting for him). Gabbert was in a terrible mood (understandably so) but he was uncharacteristically short and terse in his answers. He's usually pretty approachable and courteous, but on that night with the pain he endured physically and emotionally throwing 2 INTs, I can understand.

After taking off, I put together a PKG on Sunday for the sports show about Nebraska's resurgent 4th quarter. Watching them put up 27 points seemed like I was watching a sleeping giant of a program emerge from its hibernation to swat and destroy a pest - in this case, Missouri. I may not have pleased some diehard Missouri fans, but that's what it seemed to me. I wanted to put some of my personality and commentary into the story, and the story hit me while sitting in the press box watching them come back.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Long overdue update

Well, I'm now a sports reporter/producer at KOMU and despite it being MUCH less stressful than news, I am still at the station almost every day. I work live truck for the Monday/Wednesday morning show, and for the 5/6 on Tuesdays. It's been a lot less stressful this semester working live truck, too. The early morning hours are tough, but it's an easy show to work because with so many hits, it's easy to rearrange things if we have trouble with the truck. It's also a solid way to pick up hours, even if it does come at a time I should be sleeping. For the most part, I've had good reporters too, so it's been fun.

I experienced probably the wildest story I've probably ever been a part of on Wednesday morning. I woke up somewhat early at 2:15am (usually wake at 2:30 to get to the station at 3am) and Matt Jeffries, the morning student producer, called me to tell me to come in "early" because of a breaking news situation in Columbia. Up off Stadium Blvd, the Columbia Police Department were staking out a couple of people holed up in an apartment. These people apparently SHOT AT A COP CAR, then peeled out in their high-performance Dodge Stratus, crashing through their apartment complex's gate and hiding in their apartment. The suspects refused to come out of the apartment, so the cops called in some serious reinforcement - State troopers, SWAT TEAM (!!), and a few other imposing vehicles to handle the threat of these 3 whacked out dudes. So I showed up with the truck and Chance Seales was already there. He shot some video already, and I fed it back through the truck, which I thought was fun. We basically set up our shot just alongside the driveway into and out of the complex, so we could see cop cars coming in and out of the area. We had plenty of nats too, with "flashbangs" aka stun grenades going off (which we thought was gunfire because it was so loud). Chance did a great job with his hits, and I was pleased with my camera work. Eventually the cops got the dudes to come out of the apartment by blowing down its windows. This was a really awesome live shot experience all-around, so I'm glad it went so well. On a side note, KMIZ showed up half an hour after we did, and their reporter was far too chummy with Jessie Haden, CPD's "Public Information Officer". I would expect nothing less from them. Here's the link to our story.

Working in sports has been awesome. I've shot every Mizzou football game so far (minus Nevada, since that was on the road) and I've done FNF every Friday night. I FINALLY broke my Gold Star duck with a win last weekend for my Boonville/Hannibal highlight. Jim Riek totally got me by surprise, and I went nuts when he said we got the Gold. I had a lot of help from the guy who went with me, Caleb Barron - he deserves a lot of credit. I'm psyched to shoot Jefferson City's homecoming game tonight. Another great part of this game is the chance to visit Kate & Ally's Pizza in Jeff. City - probably the best pizza you can get in Mid-Missouri! I've also been mildly surprised at how easy producing sports has been. Yeah, it can be a little "crazy" but I'm confident in my abilities, so I don't stress out about getting video transferred, edited, or graphics created. Of course, Jim's sports class is awesome too, so overall it's been a pretty good semester so far! Hope it stays as good! Here's the link to my Gold Star video (it's the first one in the vid.)