Blogs > The Back Page

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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Congratulations Clarkston

I wanted to take a minute to praise Dan Fife, Eric Chambers and the Clarkston Wolves for advancing to the state semifinals for the first time in the Fife era. I know many people were excited about the Wolves finally getting past the state quarterfinals, after losing six in a row. Well, as a Clarkston alum, I can say I had a fun time laying out this page (click to enlarge) on Thursday in preparation for Friday's semifinal.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What Baseball Classic?

It's unfortunate, but I see the WBC headed the way of World Cup soccer. Well, on second thought, maybe it's not quite that drastic. But even if the United States had been able to hang on to an early lead, defeat the Japanese and earn a berth in tonight's WBC final, who would be watching?
I would tune in ... but I have to. How many casual viewers would pick a WBC final, United States vs. Korea, over say the men's NIT, women's NCAA tournament, or even a late Red Wings game (both are a 9:30 start)?
Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said the following before the tournament began:
(excerpted from an story dated March 5)
"We cannot allow those clubs to beat us. It's our game," the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager said Thursday. "Remember one thing: In your hearts, you better pull for the USA or you may not get into heaven."
Sorry pal, but it may have started here, but other people are beating us at "our own game." Is that really a bad thing? Others have adopted a game that began here. It seems fit for a compliment to me.
Back to the original problem, baseball's just not as popular as other sports anymore, leaving the second installment of a preseason tournament, one where the U.S. falls to the middle of the pack, out in the cold.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Timely Twittering

A couple months ago, I e-mailed a friend of mine in the business in a panic because I kept hearing about "Tweeting."
I've since calmed down as I've gotten a grasp of the concept and even learned The OP has plans for a Twitter page.
I just don't know the usefulness of the service outside of breaking news, but people obviously enjoy it, so more power to them.
The idea, as I can gather, is to tell people exactly what you're doing at a particular time. This sounds quite invasive to me, but the idea of what's breaking news is in the eyes of the beholder.
The service is so appealing that Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva was chastised by coach Scott Skiles last weekend for Tweeting at halftime of a game against Chicago. I don't remember the exact transcript, but something to the effect of "We're down, coach wants to see more hustle."
A rip from the coach for not having his head in the game, really? Or is Villanueva just the first of many athletes to get on this bandwagon?
(An excerpt from an Associated Press story today)
Villanueva agreed to stop tweeting during games but still isn’t sure he did anything wrong; he argued that posting to Twitter isn’t much different from doing a short television interview at halftime.
I agree with what the forward says, the NBA should embrace this technology since people are obviously crazy about it. What can it hurt? From what I can gather (again, I have yet to experience this phenomenon personally) it takes very little time, perhaps a minute or less. I liken it to sending a text message, and that typically takes about 30 seconds.
The new Women's Professional Soccer league is allowing players to post tweets during the leagues first game next Sunday and may continue the practice based on fan response.


People are getting all riled up about the presidential NCAA bracket. I think it's great he can relate to the common man like this. As far as a I know, he filled out an ESPN bracket (which you can link to via the White House blog).
The Asssociated Press is reporting the number of brackets filled out online is greatly increasing, leading me to believe our beloved tournament teasers may be phased out of print editions as early as next season.

More and more people filling out brackets online
NEW YORK (AP) — The growth in popularity of filling out NCAA tournament brackets online shows no signs of slowing down.
More than 5 million entries were submitted to the contest on before it closed Thursday. That's up 37 percent from the 3.65 million last year. At the peak period, nearly 3,900 entries per minute were submitted.
Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and North Carolina are the most popular Final Four picks.
The entrant with the most points at the end of the tournament wins $10,000.

I don't know what the bracket limit was, but 5 million is surely saying something.
We still run the brackets in print, but I remember in years past cutting out the field of 64 and filling in picks, keeping them under lock and key for the next two weeks. This year I filled out two brackets on paper, entered another where we drew teams out of a hat (I got Eastern Tenn. State and Dayton) and a free bracket on the Free Press Web site, which is cool because it goes round by round.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mad about March Madness

Last night was likely as frantic as an election night for news people. I can't remember a night where copy came in as franticly as last night, save for the Super Bowl. With our limited newshole, we still have six pages for Selection Sunday as we would for a typical Sunday, we were trying to get in as much content as possible, while taking time to make a nice presentation. I am quite certain we achieved our goals.
The Detroit News went with an additional section to compliment the regular sports front, a great idea if you can get the pages. The Free Press went to 12 pages today, whereas on a typical Monday, we're all in the same six-page boat.
Check out other sports fronts at a favorite site of ours dedicated to Sports Page design, the Washington Post cover is drawing praise also. As is with the Detroit Free Press cover attached, the Post is quite a bit more labor intensive than our front, something we would love to be able to do given the personnel. But, we do what we can.
This is an exciting time to be on the sports copy desk with the tournament winding down in MoTown. Hopefully we'll have a home team to write about when it all comes down to Ford Field.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Days of full-page agate no more

Want to make any readers aware of a staff decision made this afternoon: We will no longer be running full scores for golf events due to space restrictions. Attached is an example of just how tight it can get running scores from three tours — on the third day of the event !
We understand the move may not sit well with some readers, however, this has been a long time coming. NFL box scores were a web-only deal last fall and we have excluded NBA and NHL boxes this winter.
The reason we keep the boxes from high school games is we are pretty much the only place to get those. With pro and college sports, there are several other avenues to satisfy the number crunchers.
Stay tuned for more cuts due to spacing issues.

Oakland's exit

It was a nice run, but the Golden Grizzlies came up just short at the Summit League tournament in South Dakota last night (enlarge page image to see Oakland story in the right column). It really looked like they were going to get it done and make it back to the NCAA tournament.
It took expedient work from our staff writer Dave Pemberton, who drove out to South Dakota for the tournament, and our copy desk staff to ensure the game story showed up in the next day's paper. We also got a little lucky none of Oakland's three games went into overtime.
The first two games Oakland played barely made it into the first edition because of their 9:30 starts. But like every other live event, we made it work.
I can say one good thing about that fateful day when newspapers cease to exist in printed form, there are no deadline issues for online content. Sure you want it up as fast as possible, but you're not going to be affecting a whole chain of people if you don't post your story by midnight.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Homecoming fit for a Big Shot

A little late on my part, but I want to know what readers have been thinking about our coverage of a late. We have gone through an inter-departmental transition which takes us away from many events we would have previously covered, but we have been putting our feed to The Associated Press to good use.
Case in point, we were unable to have a preview story for Chauncey Billups' return to The Palace, but we ran one from the AP. However, we were able to run an Oakland Press-generated story about the game as well as a column by Pat Caputo. We're trying to keep readers satisfied with what means we have available.
Did Chauncey get too much attention? Too little? To that extent, should the Pistons retire Chauncey Billups' No. 1? Do fans appreciate Billups more now that he's gone? If the team was doing better, would they even remember Mr. Big Shot?
Feel free to let us know how you feel by commenting.

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The life of a story

It was plastered on the front page of The Oakland Press and the Detroit Free Press for two days. The disappearance of a former Detroit Lion and three of his friends lost at sea was certainly a tragedy, but days later, the story is nowhere to be found.
There have been stories, I feel, in the last few years that dominated news coverage while lacking newsworthiness. Or at least lacking more than a week's worth i.e. the death of Anna Nicole Smith. That story just kept unfolding, and unfortunately, a story about the pending rescue of fishermen in distress fades quickly. The Lions said they aren't going to issue the No. 93 in Corey Smith's remembrance, and if they didn't, how would we remember him?

(Click to enlarge Friday's world page and try to find the update on the missing fishermen.)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Where's the Wings? Where's the goaltending?

Not that anyone was in any particular rush to find out the score of the Red Wings game Saturday night, we weren't certain the game would even be finished by our deadline, and that's why the game summary was near the bottom of the NHL roundup in early editions.
We wouldn't do something like that for a game of significance, but 8-0, we knew once the rout was on that we would be alright. And that's why you'll find the Wings inside on B9. The game story was reworked to be the lead summary in late editions, but the game wasn't pulled out as a standalone story like usual.
Ironically, Sports Soundoff this week on B5 gave the impression the Wings were alright in net. But that's a funny thing about deadlines, I'm sure that notion would have been squashed after watching Saturday's game.