Monthly Archives: July 2009

More flowery reviews for the book

From Lance McAlister, the king of sports talk in Cincinnati:

I started reading the new book by Josh Katzowitz on the beach yesterday….fantastic. Must read for UC fans. It details the history and rise of UC football. Great stuff on each era of UC football….including Jim Tressel’s interest in the job, the condition of the facilities at UC(hilarious story of foot coming through ceiling above the weight room), why Tim Murphy took a 40% paycut to leave UC and coach at Harvard, the impact Rick Minter and Bob Goin had on the program, and the shadow of Huggins on the program, plus much more.

He doesn’t mention the salty language in the book. But it’s there.

Huber’s first appearance

(5:45 p.m.): I spent the day down in Georgetown, Ky., covering the Bengals for CBSSports.com – one training camp practice finished, 16 to go – and I caught up with former Bearcats punter Kevin Huber.

(If you’re interested in the CBSSports.com Bengals Rapid Reports, check ‘em out here.)

Huber, as you might know, is the only punter in Cincinnati’s camp, meaning he’s going to have to be absolutely terrible not to win the job. He was a little short with a few of his punts this afternoon, but at least one of his high spirals were met with appreciative mumblings from the crowd here at Toyota Stadium on the Georgetown College campus.

Read the rest here.

A new way of thinking (online edition)

There’s been talk recently on some journalism web sites I frequent about how college athletic departments are hiring sports writers to write for their official sites. A new dearth of guys have been hired – DePaul taking in a former Chicago Trib staffer and the University of Virginia grabbing a guy from the Richmond Times-Dispatch are two recent examples – and at least one major conference has done the same (I’ve also written a few articles this summer for the Atlantic 10′s Web site).

I, of course, began writing part-time for the University of Cincinnati’s Web site in August 2008, Xavier gets some help from a local Cincinnati writer and Miami (Ohio) will join the parade this year as well.

It’s becoming … well … it’s becoming normal. And it seems like attitudes in the industry have changed.

Four years ago, when I worked at the Cincinnati Post, I never would have imagined myself working for UC*. Frankly, I thought, it wouldn’t have reflected well on me as an objective journalist.

*Although I don’t receive a paycheck from the school. My money comes from IMG,** a company which works with UC in house on marketing and other behind-the-scenes goals.

**To me, this is an important distinction, although whenever I mention it to anybody else, the response I typically receive in return is a rolling of the eyes and a “Yeah, whatever dude.”

Hell, I can remember talking to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports a few years ago inside the Reds clubhouse, saying, “Is it weird that you’re not working for a newspaper anymore and that you’re just online? Aren’t you worried about your job security?” He assured me that he wasn’t and that it was the best career move he made. Now, he’s one of the top baseball writers around. And my newspaper died.

Before, if you wrote for Rivals.com or Scout.com or the school’s Web site, you were a homer*** and deserving of scorn. Now, those jobs are gold.

***Look at definition No. 4

A good friend of mine, Larry Williams, who seemed to have a pretty good job covering Clemson athletics for the Charleston, S.C., paper left the print world and began working for Clemson’s Rivals.com site last year. He makes more money, and honestly, he has more job stability. He seems to be really happy these days.

Now, if you’re working for one of these sites, you’re not spit upon by print guys. Now, print guys are the ones who covet those opportunities.

Which leads me to this: how are these sites – any site for which a sports journalist writes – going to make money? Obviously, college administrators are trying to build their sites as legit news producers, because of the objective journalists who now work for them. That leads to more credibility for the site. That leads to more page hits from fans. That leads to more ad revenue. That leads us to the promised land.

So far, it’s unclear whether this is a winning combination.

I know. however, the Cincinnati Bengals have benefited from forward thinking like this. About a decade ago, they hired Geoff Hobson, formerly of the Cincinnati Enquirer, to produce news for their site. He does a wonderful job at Bengals.com, and he can be as objective as he needs to be. He’s legit, the site is legit, and now that the Dayton Daily News, Columbus Dispatch and Clear Channel Communications won’t be covering the team on a regular basis – leaving only the Enquirer and Hobson – Bengals.com will only grow in importance.

It’s not weird or homerific to work for an online only site, even if it is for Bengals.com or gobearcats.com. I get that now. These are the places to go. But is it the solution? Can these sites – or more importantly, can I – be making money in this racket 50 years from now in this system?

What about a newspaper’s Web site? Or anybody other than ESPN? Can sports journalism be produced for the WWW and make money? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps a new approach is needed. ESPN is trying it by localizing its web content in Chicago, LA, New York and Dallas. Some see this as the apocalypse, because it’s seen as bad news for newspapers. I don’t. I see it as growth in a business that many think are dying (I prefer the word ‘evolving’). If ESPNCincinnati.com came calling, I’d be picking up the phone before it finished its first ring. ESPN, for all its faults, is trying something new. The network deserves credit for that.

And so is CBSSports.com****

****Now, finally, we’ve come to the point of the post. Only 750 words into this monstrosity.

About a month ago, I was contacted by the managing editor of CBSSports.com to talk about this new idea. Basically, CBS was going to embed an NFL beat reporter in each NFL city (by the time the ME talked to me, he already had most of his writers in place). Really localize the product, the managing editor said, while coming up with an innovative way to cover the league

He wanted to know if I was interested in some work. I was.

It’s an interesting concept. Basically, the reporter is a cross between a blogger and a Tweeter, though the ME said the job is actually neither of those things. So, I’m at a practice, giving the masses what CBS is calling Rapid Reports. Basically, 25-30 times a day, I’m observing what’s happening on the field or whatever is around me that piques my interest, I’m typing into the Blackberry they’ve sent me, and I’m sending this Rapid Report into CBS, so CBS then can post my 50-word thoughts all over the web site. It goes onto the Bengals team page on CBS. It goes on to the individual player’s page. It goes to wherever fantasy football participants check.

I’m intrigued by the concept. Yeah, it’s not sports writing the way I’m used to it, but that’s OK (after all, one our most favorite gags after covering a game is to say, “Yeah, it’d be a helluva job if we didn’t have to write.”). But an opportunity is lurking about, and I thought, in my situation, I’d be foolish to turn it down. Although I’m a newspaper guy, I’ve given up hope for writing for another newspaper. The chance to write, though, for a legitimate national Web site might be the next best thing.

It’s not a full-time job, though it could eventually turn into one. But it’s a new idea. It’s something different. It’s exciting. It’s a little bit of good news in an industry that’s specialized recently in nothing but bad. It’s a start.

Another fighter lost …

… another senseless death, another tragedy.

This time, it was Vernon Forrest (you can read a little about his bio and how he was killed in Atlanta last Saturday night right here in the AJC). And again, another boxer dies violently, tragically. A few weeks ago, Arturo Gatti was killed (allegedly by his wife, though some reports now question whether he took his own life). Now, Forrest – a good fighter, a good champion and a good ambassador to those in need – is gone.

vernonforrest

Forrest was from Augusta, Ga., and since I worked at the Augusta Chronicle from 2002-04, I had the opportunity to cover two of his big fights. The first occurred in Indianapolis for his second matchup with Shane Mosley – Forrest won a unanimous decision – and it was the first big travel trip I made while working for a newspaper. The second happened in Temecula, Calif., where Nicaraguan crazy man Ricardo Mayorga knocked out Forrest in the third round.

Forrest hated my paper – he actually didn’t associate himself much with Augusta much after he left and moved to Atlanta – and I don’t think he thought much of me and my knowledge of boxing. I came to that conclusion when he informed me, “Man, you don’t know shit about boxing,” when I interviewed him in his hotel suite a couple days before the Mayorga tussle.

But his charity work was impressive, and many people who knew him raved about his generosity.

At one point, he was one of the best fighters in the world, beating Mosley twice and winning three world titles. Now, he’s gone. But not forgotten by those who knew him and loved him. And not forgotten by me.

That night in the hotel suite while I interviewed him, I asked him a rather innocuous question to which I should have known the answer before I began our talk. He basically chastised me for being unprepared. It was not a great interview, and most of that was my fault. But I learned a valuable lesson from him that night. Be prepared. Know what the hell you’re talking about before you go in for the interview. Don’t ask a stupid question if it’s something you can look up beforehand. It’s something I’ll always remember.

RIP, Champ.

Media credential for Forrest-Mosley II in 2002.

Media credential for Forrest-Mosley II in 2002.

Part II on ticket sales

(11:19 a.m.): Earlier this week, I talked about the new plan for a segment of upper-deck basketball season tickets – $150 for 18 games – and how more than 15,000 football season tickets have been sold.

If you need a refresher, click here. If not, let’s continue the discussion on why UC has continued to set records selling football season tickets in an economy that isn’t exactly blasting skyward.

For one, the Bearcat Lair section in the North end zone continues to sell out every year. Senior associate athletic Mike Waddell explains why.

“We’ve built relationships and people feel like they’re getting a great value,” he said. “People had to get a buy-in. In 2007, that was an area that we definitely looked at as having a Dawg Pound-like area or like the Black Hole in Oakland. We looked at that, and to get people to sit there, we have to make it worth their while. It was $10 a game. An absolute no-brainer. That sold out really quick. The next year, it’s supply and demand. We’re sold out of it, and $10 is not the medium ticket price in the Big East, especially for wonderful seats.”

Read the rest here.

Benson got his chance, ran with it 07-16

Geez, it only took six months for the NFL Players Association to run this story. That might be a new record for me.

Breaking season tix news

(2:09 p.m.): Went to UC on Monday to talk to Mike Waddell, associate athletic director extraordinaire, about football season tickets and how those were selling. In the process, he let slip about a new offer for basketball season tickets that Waddell says you can’t find anywhere else in the Big East.

First, the basketball season tickets news.

I’m sure you know about the Bearcat Lair football season ticket packages the UC administration has put together the past few years, which basically allows fans to grab those North end zone seats for a cheaper-than-normal price (two years ago, season tickets in that area cost $60; this year, it went for $160 (the past three years, by the way, those 1,750 Bearcat Lair seats have sold out, including the 2009 campaign)).

Well, the Bearcats are using the same brand name for 5/3 Arena. Basically, UC will put on sale a block of the seats in the upper level (non-seat backs) and price it at $150 for the 18-game schedule. To Waddell, the deal – which works out to $8.33 a seat per game – is a no-brainer.

To read the rest, click right here.

A couple new media appearances

And by appearances, I mean radio appearances (so you don’t actually have to see me in the flesh).

Thursday, July 23, in studio with Lance McAlister on Sports Talk, 700-WLW, 8 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 17, the Jim Scott show, 9:50 a.m.

On Twittering and Tweeting

(10:17 a.m.): When Jamelle Elliott took the UC women’s basketball coaching job, she was besieged with Follow-me-on-Twitter requests. Her first reaction? What in the heck is Twitter?

While Twitter is silly, a time-waster and self-promoting – and this coming from a guy who’s on Twitter for much of the day – it also can be rather useful. For a coach like Elliott, who is searching for ways to build interest in her program, Twitter is a much-needed commodity.

“In talking to my coaching friends, they feel like it’s a good way to market yourself and get your basketball program out in the cyber world,” said Elliott, also known as @JamelleElliott. “It shows the positive things you’re doing with your program. Just getting publicity and exposure for your program. As far as the Internet is concerned, you can’t get better access. It’s probably better than any advertising or letters that you’re writing. It’s a way for more people to grasp what I’m trying to do for the program. It’s something I wanted to do right away.”

Read the rest here.

Blood and guts warrior

Jan. 29, 2005, a snowy day in Philadelphia. I was in town to cover the Xavier basketball team facing one of the Atlantic 10 Philly teams. Either La Salle in glorious Tom Gola Arena or St. Joseph’s in Memorial Alumni Fieldhouse (nothing more than a high school gym, but one of my favorite arenas in the conference). I don’t remember which. It was an afternoon game, and I probably could have flown home that Saturday night. But when I made my travel plans a few months prior, I noticed the Xavier women were playing the Temple women in Philly the next afternoon. Normally, I wouldn’t have cared. I would have flown him Saturday night anyway.

But I knew there would be someone keeping me in town a little extra longer, someone who would guarantee a great Saturday night, somebody who would honor me with his presence, somebody who would drag me 45 minutes to Atlantic City. His name was Arturo Gatti.

arturo-gatti

Gatti, I think I can say, is my favorite fighter of all time. So many of his matches were drop-your-jaw incredible. There were the fights with Gabe Ruelas, Angel Manfredy, two with Ivan Robinson, three stunners with Mickey Ward. Look on You Tube, and you can find an incredible Gatti moment with your first click. He wasn’t the most talented fighter in the world – losses to Alfonso Gomez (the fight that whispered to Gatti that he was through as a pro), Ward and Manfredy prove that – but he was perhaps the most fun to watch (he did win two world titles, it should be noted). Gatti would be out of the fight, on the verge of taking a rest on the canvas for good, cut over both eyes, exhausted, hurt, dizzy, probably ready to vomit. And sometimes, he’d land that one punch on his opponent that would end the fight for good. Somehow, that opponent, not Gatti, was on the mat, unable to rise. Sometimes, Gatti would resist every reason in the world to quit and start fighting back. Take this for instance. Round nine in the first Ward fight. Probably the greatest round I’ve ever witnessed in one of the best fights I’ve ever seen (edged out, of course, by the first Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo match).

That was Gatti. Full of hurt and heart, trying to land blows of his own.

That’s why I wanted to stay over in Philadelphia one extra night. So I could drive to AC in a snowstorm to watch him box Jesse James Leija. I made my way over to Boardwalk Hall, found my seat in the sold-out arena and watched Gatti light up the night. Wasn’t a great fight, though there was an exciting knockout in the fifth round. But it was a pleasure just to watch him in his fifth-to-last fight. A legend on the slow decline, but a legend nonetheless.

Gatti died last weekend, allegedly strangled by his wife while drunkingly asleep on vacation in Brazil. I felt terrible when I heard. I feel terrible right now. I’ll treasure my own Gatti memory. I’ll try not to compare every other fighter to him, my favorite. They’d all come up short, anyway. RIP to one of the best.