Author Archive

Composite bats should be banned, face masks for fielders required

June 22, 2009

OK, so when is someone going to finally step up and admit that using composite bats is a mistake?

When someone dies? That will happen soon, believe me. Especially if coaches don’t force players to wear face masks, which players dismiss as uncool even though they can save their lives.You’ll find travel softball players using these masks at summer tournaments, although mostly at the younger age levels.

Two weeks ago in Mattoon, I watched a batter drill a line drive right off the face of a third baseman in a U-14 game. The ball was hit so hard it popped about 20 feet in the air before being caught by the shortstop. (more…)


Does Twitter have legs?

June 4, 2009

I’d start this post by saying I’m not really atwitter about the social network called, well, Twitter, but I didn’t want to scare everybody off with that lame joke.

Instead, here’s a much funnier joke:

A guy is in the hospital with two broken legs. The nurse comes in and tells him that there’s good news and bad news.

The guy asks for the bad news first.

The nurse says, “We’re going to have to remove your legs.” (more…)

Focus on less obvious plays

June 3, 2009

To cover any sport, you need to understand its subtleties. Any schmuck knows that a pinch-hit grand slam is a big play, as is a last-second 3-pointer, or an 80-yard touchdown pass. But what led to these decisive plays? Did the batter fight off several good pitches before drilling the homer? Did someone set a great pick to allow the 3-pointer? And did the fullback fill in a hole to block a linebacker and allow the pass to be thrown? (more…)

Posnanski & James = terrific reading

June 3, 2009

Joe Posnanski, one of the best baseball writers in the country, has teamed with Bill James, the baseball stat guru, to write a regular column on Reads sort of like a he said/she said – but with far more interesting anecdotes, analysis and insights (and none of the sophomoric humor). This week, they focus on hyped baseball prospects like Matt Wieters (re: the next Babe Ruth.) Check it out.


Investigate your athletic dept.

June 1, 2009

I’m getting ready to revamp this blog site, but, in the meantime, everybody needs to read this terrific story on secrecy among college athletic programs. And all should start their own investigation into athletics on their own campuses.


Here’s how to write a notes package

September 10, 2008

The Daily Trojan offers both breaking news and fun tidbits in its football notes package about a pivotal football game set for Saturday. Josh Jovanelly observed that two Southern Cal defensive players sat out practice Tuesday. Linebacker Brian Cushing, a Butkus Award candidate, hurt his hip, and Kyle Moore has back spasms. Meanwhile, Ohio State cleared running back Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells to play. Jovanelly puts the injuries into perspective, offers updates on other previously hurt players at both Southern Cal and Ohio State, and describes how USC used more experienced players to simulate Ohio State’s offense. Plus, the writer included a note about Pete Carroll’s one-year stint as an assistant coach for the Buckeyes that includes a reminiscence about Woody Hayes. This, folks, is how to write a notes package.


Kernel offers solid recruiting story

September 10, 2008
The Kentucky Kernel digs into the reasons that recruits like Ridge Wilson (above) are signing to play football for Kentucky.

photo by Allie Garza of the Kernel/ The Kentucky Kernel digs into the reasons that recruits like Ridge Wilson (above) are signing to play football for Kentucky.

Kentucky defeated Louisville last week for the second straight season, something that might alter the college football landscape in that state. Apparently, the Wildcats are doing equally well off the field, according to the Kentucky Kernel. Kenny Colston reveals how Kentucky has started to attract some of the state’s top recruits, such as Louisville Central High School linebacker Ridge Wilson.

This a terrific enterprise story, something that goes well beyond basic bats and balls coverage. Colston speaks with top recruits, college and high school coaches, and cites a recruiting expert. This is a good read. Check it out.

Check out syllabus for sports reporting

August 21, 2008

Anybody who has read this blog knows my respect and admiration for Steve Klein, a talented and inventive sports journalist and professor. Professors looking to develop a sports reporting class ought to check out the website for his classes at George Mason. I will post mine by the weekend as well, but here’s the link to Steve’s website for his sports reporting class.

Create good sports reporting habits early

August 21, 2008

Sports journalists are returning to campus ahead of the rest of the student body in order to publish that first week’s newspaper. Many college athletes have also returned to campus, preparing for lengthy seasons of soccer, cross country, football, and volleyball, among other sports. (And some teachers, like myself, are also gearing up for an exciting academic year.) That first issue can be a challenge. Here are some tips for preparing that first issue.

First, do something as simple as heading out to a practice. Introduce yourself to coaches, trainers, and managers and watch the players work out. Many times, the managers and trainers are your best sources. They are there for every pass, corner kick, and ankle sprain. You can get a lot of background from these folks, information that can lead to news stories and features. But also watch the practices. Don’t write; just observe. Get accustomed to these practice sessions. Afterward, you can jot down a few thoughts and observations. Make sure the players see you at these practices so they know you are working as hard as they are, credibility that can lead to better working relationships and conversations. Attending practices is one of the most important things a sportswriter can do. Make this a habit. Not that you should blow off that afternoon calculus class. (Only kidding. I know sportswriters like myself can spell calculus much, much better than they can quantify derivatives and integrals.)

Make sure you also write a season preview story. This can be done the second week, but try to publish it before your conference schedule begins. You’ll need to get some background information first, determining, for example, the top players who return to each team. You’ll also want to determine which teams have the toughest schedules in and out of the conference. Check these websites frequently, if not daily. This is another habit that will yield great news and feature stories. You will also write much more informed game stories as well. One more thing – check if your conference schedules a weekly press conference by phone. If so, ask to be included so you can learn more about your sport and so you can ask questions for notebooks, features and game previews.

One more suggestion for preview stories – interview opposing coaches and players as much as you cite your own players in order to get a fuller, more balanced look at your team’s chances this season. This also yields a much more impressive clip.

We’ll talk about this some more later, but start blogging on your team’s practices even if only to offer a short note or a few observations. This can be especially helpful at newspapers that do not publish daily (but dailies should do this as well.) And file these dispatches right after practice. Eventually, you should start posting game stories as soon as they are completed. A more developed version can be published in the print editions or updated after you interview players and coaches.

Finally, make sure you introduce yourself to your school’s sports information directors, athletic directors and coaches – even if only to pop in their offices for a few minutes. Reporting is about developing relationships.

Also, check this blog for more information on reporting through the school year. Now that school is back in session, I will be posting at least two to three times a week. You can also contact me at if you have questions or suggestions.


Student journalists offer mostly 1 side

June 3, 2008

There are always at least two sides to any story – unless that story happens to be about sports on college campuses. Or so it appears based upon a recent survey of college sports journalists. (A few weeks ago, I surveyed 72 college sports journalists and college advisers, along with 79 sports information directors. The results will be published in College Media Review.)

More than half of those responding say they rarely or never interview players and coaches from opposing teams for any of the following stories – gamers, previews, profiles, and features. Just over 10 percent of all college sports journalists say they interview opposing players and coaches for these same stories. That’s a shame. Sports journalists cannot be lazy reporters. Sportswriters already have a poor reputation as borderline journalists who write for the toys department or serve as PR hacks for teams even though some of the finest reporters can be found in the sports department. Unless a locker room is closed, there is no excuse for not grabbing a quick comment from the other locker room or dugout. And there is absolutely no reason for not calling opposing coaches and players for game previews, profiles and features. That’s how readers – and sports reporters – gain perspective on their local, or campus, teams. As sports journalists, we need to work hard and report in much more depth.

This summer you may be out there covering Little League baseball or travel softball. Treat these sports the same as you would college and professional teams. Introduce yourself to the opposing coach and ask to speak to some of these other kids. You’ll learn a lot about the game. And readers will be terribly impressed – as will the sports editors who may consider hiring you some day.