Blogs > The Back Page

The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Friday, February 27, 2009

NFL Free Agency is here!

The Lions say their emphasis is on the Draft and building up through the annual guessing jar, but NFL free agency opened at midnight today (last night) and to commemorate it. Sure, it wasn't likely the Lions would add Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, but he's the most lucrative figure in the potential Hall of Fame bunch headed to the free market. An appropriate collage
Keep track of Detroit's signings (click link) and keep current on everything Lions with Oakland Press beat writer Dave Birkett's blog, "Birk's Eye View."
Also we had great home wins in college basketball with U-M getting its third upset of a Top-25 team, and Oakland extending it's season-long winning streak to six games with a win over conference foe Southern Utah.
So much for Tiger Woods' triumphant return to the links, but it's still good to have him back. A Tiger win makes the front, a Tiger comeback loss gets tucked inside (B5).
The inside college basketball page looks a little crammed, again, we're trying to get all the information in that needs to get there, but the end result is a gray page.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feeling the squeeze

As page counts shrink, more news is crammed into a smaller section, as I'm sure many readers have noticed. One of the casualties, as we aim to maintain all of our local coverage, is the occasional prep story.
Such was the case Tuesday night, as the Catholic League semifinal between Orchard Lake St. Mary's and Warren De La Salle was moved to our prep Web site, MIPrepzone, in favor of a boatload of prep box scores and a nifty refer to the site (which I realized after deadline, in such small capacity, it's difficult to make out the address of the site). To help some readers, here is a link to Justin Berndt's story. (Spoiler Alert) St. Mary's couldn't quite get that fourth consecutive trophy, but held close to the Pilots in a three-point loss.
These types of decisions are becoming more frequent, as we no longer have the capacity to print all the news that's fit to ... well, print. Web sites such as ours have become helpful alternate channels publish all of our content and get it out to readers.
In other news, will the Pistons win again this month? We used to listen to Pistons games all season long in the office, but now, we don't even turn it on until halftime, if at all. Their recent slump contributes to their positioning at the bottom of the front page.
Up top, we have a column by Jim Hawkins about another seasoned veteran, new Tigers shortstop Adam Everett, who may not be remembered as one of the premier infielders from 2003-06. Everett sounds like a definite upgrade from Edgar Renteria.
With a break in the Lions coverage, there won't be many more of those in the near future I bet, we have a story about Tiger Woods making his return after eight months away from the sport while recovering from knee surgery.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

NASCAR is back

Attention NASCAR buffs, take a look back before your Thursday paper heads off to the recycling bin. Tucked within the inserts is a special, eight-page tabloid-sized season preview. The section includes driver previews and a feature story about how the slow economy is affecting your sport. Also, OP NASCAR blogger Matt Myftiu chimes in on his picks to for the Chase field. (For those who were wondering, all the material in the section was written before the Daytona 500 last weekend.) Keep up with the latest news and insights at “Beyond the Track” on the The Oakland Press’ blogs page.
It was a quick process rounding up the material, but we brought readers a good synopsis of the season to come. Enjoy the season. By the way, NASCAR comes to MIS the weekends of June 14 and Aug. 16.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to play the A-Rod situation

When something as big as the A-Rod scandal breaks open, as it did Monday, what type of emphasis do you put on it? Obviously New York papers would take the story for A1, but here, geographically removed from the situation, I feel we did it right. Not the centerpiece, but still very much present with Pat Caputo's column about Hall of Fame voting.
Hit the jump on B6 (at right) to see the actual story, Caputo's jump and a story where MLB Players Association executive director Donald Fehr denied allegations that his No. 2 official gave players advance notice of drug tests. Attached are some notes from the baseball offseason happenings.
In the world briefs section, Lindsey Vonn won her second gold at championships and apparently PETA is trying to compare the American Kennel Club (AKC) to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

Monday, February 09, 2009

Channeling Jerry Seinfeld

It was a big weekend for all of our college and pro teams, as Sportsbeat expanded in Sunday’s edition to 12 pages. Sure, the section used to be bigger in the past, but still Sunday editions are a chance to get everything in and put your best foot forward.
Front and center was Michigan’s near upset of No. 1 Connecticut Saturday night. Michigan State’s domination of Indiana earned a top billing, too.
The Headline “No Stu for U” was debated in the office as the Wolverines approached another impressive upset of a Top 5 team. Stu Douglass connected on six 3-pointers en route to a career-high 20 points.
As we listened to the game in the background, all we could here was some variation of “Douglass with another 3,” and being U-M’s leading scorer, he would be a natural choice as a reference in the main headline.
How the name got in was a chore for headline aficionado Matt Mowery, who harkens back to an old episode of ‘Seinfeld’ and a friendly fellow named the Soup Nazi. The character used to say, “No soup for you!” as he shout ed at customers he wished not to serve in his bistro.
We debated the reference and decided a great percentage of readers would understand the reference, plus “Thabeet goes on” lost in the voting.
Of course Crean and Green is a reference to former MSU assistant Tom Crean, who now leads Indiana.
Pat Caputo’s column about Dontrelle Willis’ loss of command was an interesting jaunt down memory lane. Notice ‘The Thing’ hanging over Willis’ head mentally, and thanks to us, literally.
If you venture inside to B4, there is an excellent feature on Lake Orion bowler Jeff Suma Jr., who has an interesting way to bowl. We were able to capture the two-handed style through the photos of staff photographer Jose Juarez.
Read the Suma Jr. story at
Lastly, our apologies to subscribers who get the early edition, late Pistons start + overtime + early press deadline (11:15 on Saturdays) = no Pistons results in the first edition. Don’t fret, it’s an odd combo and had the game not gone to overtime, it would be in first run.
All the extra space and no new Phelps news this weekend? Well, we do what we can.
As always, I look forward to your comments and e-mails.
(Eds. note: The Associated Press spelled Douglass' name with one 'S,' and that is the reason for the discrepancy in the spelling Sunday. The double-S spelling has been confirmed by the University of Michigan's athletic Web site and beat writer Paula Pasche.)

Friday, February 06, 2009

It's a tie-up

Sportsbeat, Friday, Feb. 6
Wow. I thought it was tight Thursday. Five pages doesn’t leave much room to get everything in, but we did our best.
Keeping with tradition, we made the Lake Orion-Pontiac Northern girls basketball game our “centerpiece” item, a true ‘TIE-UP’ at the top of the OAA Red.
Second-most attention goes to the Wolverines’ much-needed conference win over Penn State. Not to be outdone, our local product, Oakland University, beat conference foe Oral Roberts.
Typically you’ll find OU on the front page, as we’ve taken to covering both Golden Grizzlies’ basketball programs, a change from year’s past. Oakland’s been in Division I long enough where it’s making waves, toppling Top 25 teams and even making the NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee coach Pat Summitt reached a huge milestone, collecting career win No. 1,000. A case could be made for that to go out front because of its significance, but when we have staff writers producing topical columns, it’s unreasonable to push those inside.
After two pages of a strong local presence, we have the final page, dedicated to “world” items — essentially anything important that didn’t already go somewhere. Sure, it would be great to expound on Michael Phelps’ suspension, update the Bonds trial and have a separate story on Matt Cassel, but with the changing nature of this industry, page counts are shrinking and these items are reduced to briefs.
What didn’t make it in was this:
Boxer Calzaghe retires with undefeated record
LONDON (AP) — Former super-middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe retired from boxing Thursday with a perfect 46-0 record.
“I’ve got no other goals to go for,” he said. “That’s why I am calling it a day.”
The 36-year-old Welshman outpointed Roy Jones Jr. in November in his last fight of a 16-year pro career.
Calzaghe held the WBO super middleweight world title for more than 10 years, unifying the title against Mikkel Kessler in April 2007, before moving up to light heavyweight to fight Bernard Hopkins and Jones.
Good enough for a full story, but most people don’t know who he is, it’s going to look odd making the other items shorter, and there you go. Executive decisions such as that one are constantly made by the copy editors of Sportsbeat.
Ahh, another night in the life. Until next time.

Any questions, comments, concerns, take a couple minutes and send me an e-mail at Looking forward to hearing from our loyal readers.

National signing day

Sportsbeat, Thursday, Feb. 5.
(Let me start by saying we’re trying to make this a behind-the-scenes type of blog, taking our audience behind the printing press, so to speak.)
National signing day is huge not only for college programs, but for area kids who get to take athletics and academics to the next level. We had a front page dedicated to their advancement, as well as two inside pages to acknowledge Oakland’s best.
Page 1 was dedicated to Stoney Creek standout Eric Fisher, who signed to play at Central Michigan. A great story out of a developing program centrally located between two stories detailing how Michigan and Michigan State faired in their recruiting. Fisher, the school’s first Division I prospect, definitely set the bar high for his fellow Cougars.
Beneath you’ll see an infobox of the top 10 area recruits, which include some of the best in the state.
Readers may wonder about all the “refers” to interior pages we have in Thursday and Sunday editions. Those are in place to tease the information that doesn’t always make it out front, which happens with a larger advertising presence on the front.
Usually we have more than one sport or topic out front, but with the importance of signing day and the sheer number of outstanding athletes abound, we had to go with that as the sole object on B1.
With the expanded size of a Thursday section, we were able to maintain our standard two pages of local content in addition to the two recruiting pages inside. On a night with the Pistons, Red Wings and Michigan State men’s basketball all playing late with our early press deadline (11:30), our staff was still able to put out our most thorough local content of the year.

Any questions, comments, concerns, take a couple minutes and send me an e-mail at Looking forward to hearing from our loyal readers.