Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What’s an assistant coach worth?

October 23, 2008

Sometimes, we need to challenge absurd quotes. Sometimes, though, we just need to throw them out there for the reader to assess – especially when the comments, or logic, are ridiculous. That’s what USA Today’s Steve Weinberg and others did this morning in reporting that a Kansas State associate basketball coach would now earn $420,000 per season. That’s $80,000 per year more than university president Jon Wefald. Dalonte Hill is in his third year at K-State. Head coaches, of course, make much more money. Some critics say these salaries are absurdly high – such as the $4 million paid to Alabama football coach Nick Saban and the $3 million paid to Kansas basketball coach Bill Self. But that’s another argument. The absurdity here is how K-State athletic director Bob Krause defends Hill’s salary: “Yeah, it’s important to recruit. But his compensation (was for) responsibilities that include game preparation, recruitment, bench coaching, scouting. It kind of does him a disservice.” This comment probably prompts readers to think about the injustice of it all, that a third-year assistant coach can earn more than the person charged with running an entire university (and athletic program). That’s an idea that’s a disservice to us all.



Does sportswriting need saving?

September 12, 2008

In the 1920s, Grantland Rice and his peers felt compelled to create heroes out of athletes. Americans had just persevered one of the worst periods in its history. More than 300,000 soldiers were either killed or wounded in World War I, which ended in 1918. That same year, the nation was struck by the Spanish Influenza, a flu that killed more people in a single year than the four worst years of the Bubonic plague. Anywhere from 500,000 to nearly 700,000 died of the disease, roughly a quarter of the U.S.’s population. (And it’s estimated 25-100 million people died worldwide.)

The nation needed a diversion, something to take its collective mind off war and disease. Rice and his colleagues filled the need, promoting baseball, college football, boxing, tennis and golf by creating heroes out of Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Bill Tilden, Red Grange, and Bobby Jones, among others. Sportswriting in the 1920s was filled with exaggerated statements for these “greatest” athletes. The adjectives and adverbs were a-flyin’. And it continued well into the ’70s and ’80s. Today, we scoff and roll our eyes at the language used by some of these sportswriters. But, sometimes, we can also be mythmakers and idol worshippers. This is one of many problems author/blogger/sportswriter Will Leitch says exist in the profession right now.

Leitch is not shy at offering suggestions in his book God Save the Fan, which is no shocker to anybody who’s read his commentary on Deadspin. He hates ESPN as much as Carl Hiaasen hates Disney (which, now, is really the same company), he believes sports journalists can be elitist, and he offers advice on ways to adapt to new media.

In the book, Leitch says the need for experts is a blight on both fandom and sports journalism. As a result, TV is now filled with experts screaming) about issues and radio waves are filled with Mad Dogs ranting and raving about players, managers and owners. (Unlike working journalists, many of these ‘experts’ do not spend time in locker rooms or at practices.) I agree with Will that covering a sport does not necessarily make one an expert; however, not spending time observing practices and talking with those connected to teams can make you much less informed.

“This is, of course, the point; it’s not particularly difficult to become an ‘expert’ anymore. It’s all for show. Hell, now that I run a sports Web site, people have come to call me an expert, and I’m damned sure that I don’t know anything. … Does the fact that I write poop jokes and puns on ‘Chien-Ming Wang’ really qualify me to answer these questions? Typically, I tell them I am just another idiot who happens to type fast, and that my opinion should not be considered even slightly more credible than that of the guy who drove your cab to the station. They laugh, and then say, ‘Yeah, so really, who do you like?’ And then there’s some sort of wacky sound effect, maybe a gong, or a dnkey braying.”

Leitch particularly dislikes when sports journalists attempt to cross over into ‘real news,’ delivering analysis on what sports mean to communities, cities, and the country. Leitch, a devout (St. Louis & Arizona) Cardinals fan, argues that sports mean less than those covering them believe.

“It’s a fundamental concept: Sports do not matter. The average fan understands this – despite pretty much every sports commercial, which portrays fans as some sort of unwieldy, testosterone-laden, beer-shotgunning mob of delinquents – and that is why we put sports in its proper place: as somethng to partake in and enjoy because we want to escape from our jobs, our bills, our responsibilities, our lives. The world is a terrifying place, with grays and complexities and confusion at every turn. Sports affords us none of this: If our team wins, we are happy; if they lose, we are sad. It doesn’t need to be more than that. That simplicity is enough. It’s plenty.”

In addition, Leitch dislikes the idea of ‘branding’ journalists, turning them into celebrities who eventually become the story. He loves fantasy leagues that reveal athletes for what they really are – robotic producers of statistics. Writes Leitch: “Fantasy sports distill the athletic process to the core and treat athletes with the reverence that they deserve – none.”

Leitch can be rough on both professional athletes and sports journalists, but he also realizes his role is as much entertainer as commentator. And he’s having some fun in this book. Sometimes, he’s right on the mark; other times, he is not (at least, in my humble opinion). This book is not a primer on sports journalism, but sportswriters can still learn a great deal by reading it.

So are we still using sports as an escape from a plunging stock market, volatile international affairs, and an eroding environment? Leitch would agree that sports journalists still spill considerable ink (terabytes?) creating heroes and myths. After all, didn’t this nation just turn its lonely eyes to a horse (Barbaro).


We’re moving to this site

December 4, 2007

I am in the midst of moving the main site for OnSportz to this location, so please change your RSS feeds and bookmarks to For the next month or so, I plan to post to both sites, but I will always post here first. As always, the site includes tips and suggestions for covering more than a dozen sports, commentary, book reviews and much more. And, I love to hear from sports journalists — young and experienced. Suggest topics, ask questions, or send notes to me at I hope you find this site just as easy to navigate.

Send in your most hated sports phrases

October 15, 2007

I am putting together a list of sports phrases, words and terms that need to be deleted in sports reporting and could use your help, especially if you are an editor, writer or teacher. So far, I have a slew of cliches (giving it their all), unnecessary phrases (The Wildcats found the end zone again), and unnecessary repetitions (a 23-0 shutout). Send me the words, phrases and terms you typically cross out, delete or that cause you to scream. You can post them below or email them to me at Thanks.


Here’s my new blog on sports journalism

September 26, 2007

I am just starting to work on this blog, but you can check out for information on sports journalism.

Let me know your needs for sports reporting classes

July 29, 2007

I’m back — sort of. Not in any Arnie type of way. Rather, I’m just checking in to let you know I have not disappeared like the Brewers’ lead in the NL Central. I am in the midst of developing a new sports reporting syllabus for my fall class, something I will post around Aug. 13. (And I am recovering from a summer filled with softball. There’s a story for you — parents who spend their summers sitting on bleachers and watching their kids play softball every weekend. Did I say 60-plus games? Whew. Actually, it’s pretty addictive at times. I’ll write more about that later.)

In a few weeks, I will return to posting at least 2-3 times a week on a variety of sports reporting subjects. As always, I will field questions from students and professors. Feel free to send a note to with any queries. Also, please, let me know if you are planning to use materials on this blog so I can better serve your needs. I would appreciate if teachers directed students to this site instead of printing pages. I look forward to talking sports with students, teachers and fans as a new school year begins with a whole new college football division anad new polls.


You can help some kids get a field for their dreams

May 19, 2007

Just read through some of the essays on a website, where kids explained why their towns need money to build a new field — or to fix one up. Coaches across the country are spending countless hours raking fields, putting in fences, and painting dugouts so some young kids can learn about sport (and themselves.) Wish they all could get money for their fields.

My girls just helped inaugurate two softball fields in our east central Illinois town, something that took about 10 years to complete. Some city parents spent a great deal of time in raising the money, building fences, doing carpentry and electrical work, and painting. The first pitch this morning brought a tear to one of the fathers who started this work. His kids are out of school now, but he is excited that other kids will get the chance to play on this field. That’s why I was out there raking the field between games — and will go back and do some more later this afternoon. (To pay back those who spent much more time in making this dream come alive for our town’s girls.) And that’s why many of us might jump in and help raise the additional money so the other two fields can be built.

Now, you can help some other folks earn money to put up a fence, fix a dugout or fill in major holes on a field. Click here to read the short essays and to vote.


All should fight for free speech

March 30, 2007

The great John Siegenthaler spoke briefly at the Center for Innovation in College Media in Nashville, Tenn. The man who fought for civil rights and continues to battle for freedom of expression said he wishes he could jump more into new media reporting.

“I’m in my 80th year, but I wish I were starting over,” Siegenthaler said. “There’s the chance to do so much with the written word that’s never been done before. I wish to hell I was your age – and not for the reasons you might think.”

Everybody needs to learn more about the Siegenthaler and the continued fight of all journalists (and citizens) for freedom of expression,. You can start by checking out the Freedom Forum and First Amendment Center site and by reading as much as you can on Sieganthaler.

(photo/Brian Poulter)


Play ball!

March 8, 2007

I’m headed to spring training where I plan to relax at a few stadiums in Florida. Nice weather. Cheap dogs. Baseball. What could be better? Check for posts through the week.

Dear Fans: Stop Storming The Courts

February 28, 2007

Storming the court is a fine way to celebrate a big victory. But fans need restraint when their school defeats a lower-ranked team, even if the game had been close, writes a columnist at Loyola Marymount. Unlike a columnist at Michigan State, Allison Hong writes that racing onto a field or court does not always create excitement.

Hong implores fans at Loyola Marymount to stop storming the basketball court after every victory. Running onto the court after a major upset is fine, but fans should not run out after a win over, say, Santa Clara University, she writes. In an open letter to fans, she writes: “Please stop storming the court. We’ve done it three times and now it’s just getting old.”

Sometimes, columnists need to take on their readers in order to affect change, especially when it can cost the school money. Hong does a fine job doing that for a good read. Check it out.