New job

Starting a new job is an exciting time, especially when it is one that you have always wanted.

Monday I began a part-time position in the ESPN Stats and Analysis department. Basically that means I will be watching a sport, tracking it using the feeds that ESPN gets and making sure what goes out to the website and all other outputs is correct. It may sound complicated, but it’s really not. I will be watching college basketball and getting paid to do so.

This is what I would call my third real job and before I started them all (dishwasher, customer service and now at ESPN) I have been very nervous and started to second guess myself. It is normal to be nervous before starting something new, that’s not what I’m worried about, it’s the part where I question if I made the right decision.

I know in the long run I did, it’s just these first few days of training and trying to figure everything out where I worry. The hours aren’t any better than what I worked when at Lowe’s, but I am working in sports now. I did some training tonight and will do some more tomorrow and hopefully by the end of the night I feel comfortable and can contribute to the team. That’s the biggest area of concern for me. It’s tough to enter a workplace while they are getting everyone else ready and I am learning from scratch. I know I will be fine, it’s just my anxiety.

I will continue to post some updates here, although I can’t say much (because ESPN), but I hope to get rolling in this new job and start to enjoy what I do.

The Journey: CCSU Softball

Three years ago when I first came to Central Connecticut and heard about the student run newspaper, The Recorder, I didn’t know what to do. I was a new journalism major and knew I had to right, but was scared. I have always loved sports, but writing wasn’t really my thing until I decided to give journalism a shot. I could finally write about topics that interested me and I enjoyed it.

In the spring of 2011 I emailed Brittany Burke, the sports editor of The Recorder at the time and asked if I could write about baseball, my pastime. She told me that there was someone already who did baseball (Kenny Barto), but I could do softball. The memories of the one high school softball game I ever went to began to run through my head. It was the worst, most boring game I had ever seen and didn’t think college softball would be that great either.

I talked to the sports information department and they set me up with an interview with head coach Jeff Franquet one day for a preview of the 2011 season. I was nervous, had no idea what to ask him and I’m sure I don’t want to read that story ever again. I did a couple stories for the paper throughout the season and even did a feature on Kat Knowles, a senior catcher from Washington. That was a cool story, because I also got to take pictures on the field during senior day for my photojournalism class.

In 2012 I was ready for the season to start. I got some stories under my belt and had successfully established CCSU softball as my beat. In addition to writing the season preview, I met with coach Franquet every Monday in his office and we talked about the past weekends games. I had to do this because I worked all weekend and could rarely make it to the games. Not an ideal situation for a journalist writing timely stories, but I made it work. I would leave the office and work on the story, usually mine being one of the last edited and placed on the page during Monday night layout.

Last season I also wrote a feature on Laura Messina. If you follow any part of the program you should know that name by now, but I wrote the story first. I met her in one of the study rooms in the athletes study hall and talked to her for 20 minutes or so about her high school career and what it meant to be breaking records already as a freshman. From that day forward I knew she didn’t care about setting school records unless it meant that the team was winning. 2012 was a great team, but injuries in the middle of the season derailed the hopes of making the conference tournament, even though another single-season win record was broken.

This year felt like the year from the very beginning. Franquet finally had a solid core of his players and the last three years he had been preaching “get better everyday” and “buy into the system” and that’s exactly what happened. From the opening trip to Florida when the team went 2-3 against some very tough opponents to the 12-game winning streak they went on to begin Northeast Conference play, the Blue Devils knew they were the best team in the conference and that confidence carried them all the way to the first NEC title in program history.

I wrote my stories and I even made it to a few weekend games where I was allowed to go on the field after the game and do some interviews like a real reporter. 2013 was special for me as well.

I would have loved to go to Moon Township, Penn. for the tournament, but I couldn’t, I had to work on Saturday. So instead, I watched the game live on on my phone while I cashed people out at Lowe’s. NEC Front Row is probably the best streaming video service in college sports in the country and they came through huge for me this past weekend.

At 4:31 a.m. on Sunday morning I received a text message from coach Franquet, “10pm tonight is the ncaa selection show. We will all be in the coaches suite [at] 915. Please come by and enjoy the celebration.”

Of course I accepted the invition and got this in return, “You are a part of this journey”

I fell in love with this team and almost felt like a part of them. If they won, I was happy, if they lost, it affected my mood (for a short time). It was just awesome to watch and to be acknowledged like that by the coach meant a lot to me. I drove from East Hampton to New Britain just to be a part of the celebration; it was a once in a lifetime event and something I will always remember.

A little after 10 p.m. this image showed up on the television and the team erupted…

CCSU will travel to LSU for the Baton Rouge regional this weekend.

So, I would like to thank Kenny Barto for being the baseball writer in 2011 and forcing me to write softball and Brittany Burke for suggesting I try writing a softball story. The last three years covering this team has meant so much to me and made my entire CCSU career worth while.


The Power of Social Media, Gone Wrong

I was at work yesterday when my girlfriend texted me saying that Kevin Ware broke his leg. I had no idea who that was and didn’t think anything of it. Another text said that it was a big deal and Rick Pitino was crying. I immediately checked Twitter and everyone was saying it was the worst injury they had ever seen. I told a co-worker what I heard and he ran into the break room to find a video.

He walked back out with a disgusted look on his face and I then knew that is wasn’t something good.

“His bone is sticking out of his leg,” Josh said.

I immediately had a disgusted and disturbed feeling. I had to see it, but at the same time, I didn’t want to see it. My girlfriend asked me if I wanted a screenshot, but I had to watch the entire video and see how it actually happened. I left work at 6 p.m. and pulled up a grainy video on my phone. I could sort of see it, but had to wait until I got home to watch a full screen shot on my computer.

I got home to my dad’s house for an abbreviated Easter dinner and my stepmom had the game on. I asked her if she had been watching (I should have known the answer already), but no, she was just looking to watch the news. I told her what happened earlier in the game and she didn’t quite get it. A little later my dad came in and I told him what happened, this is when she wanted to see the video, so I had her pull it up on the computer. It was disgusting, but I still don’t think she could fathom what happened, it was that bad. Also, she is in the medical field, so maybe things like that aren’t as bad to her as they would be to most people. Yes, it has to be. It was awful.

I tried to show my mom later in the night and she could barely watch it. She saw the first far away camera angle and then walked away. When I tried to show her again, she got mad at me, she couldn’t handle it.

Which brings me to the point I am making, if you don’t want to see the picture, you shouldn’t have to. I opened my Facebook page tonight and BOOM! there it was. The account from the Chaz and AJ Morning Show on 99.1 WPLR posted the picture nice and big with a title of “Caption This.” A picture of the kid in pain with the bone sticking straight out of his leg. I have no idea how the photographer could even take that picture, it’s disgusting.

I could not believe that someone would post a picture like that for just anyone to see. No warning. No discretion. Out there in the open. Before reading the comments on the page and the picture, I posted my own thoughts right on their page for everyone to see.

“Are you serious? Posting a picture of this horrific injury for the enjoyment of your fans and yourself? You should be ashamed. This is one of the worst injuries to ever happen in sports on television and you’re mocking it. You’re looking for clever and funny captions. How would you feel if you were injured and people started making fun of you just for the hell of it? At least give a warning that the picture was there. If the coach and players almost vomited when seeing this, how do you think you’re fans feel seeing this? Clean it up and show some respect.”

Some people actually followed along and captioned the photo, others did what I did and criticized the post. I believe this was very poor judgement by the radio hosts and company and should have been taken down immediately. CBS didn’t show any replays, because of the graphic nature of the scene. Everywhere I first looked for the video, it was hidden behind a link saying WARNING, GRAPHIC etc… The image should not be posted out in the open. I have even seen some people write on social media, that they have been avoiding it and then there it was, right in there face. I hope everyone who has posted the image somewhere takes it down in respect for the young man and for the respect of their fans.

Some people still don’t understand the power of social media.

Don’t Fill Out a Bracket

Here is the overdue post about why you shouldn’t fill out an NCAA bracket ever again.

When I was in high school and first started filling out brackets, I filled out a bunch of different ones hoping that one of them would be really good. That never happened and I found myself getting even more frustrated. If I had a pick on one bracket that was different in another, I would say to myself, “If these brackets were combined, I would be doing pretty well.” Of course I wish that could happen.

The last year or two I have been making one bracket and sticking to it. This is a better way of doing things, because there is no wishing you made all the good picks from ALL my brackets. There is one and that’s it. This technique has been fun recently, until all my picks start losing after I believe I have created the perfect bracket. First I get frustrated and wonder why I even went through the trouble of filling out a bracket and then I just don’t care.

I asked my friend Scott a couple days before the tournament started who he had winning and he told me that he never filled out a bracket and said he wouldn’t per @DarrenRovell, because the Twitter sports business icon said it’s more fun if you don’t. I am starting to believe this idea.

After day one of the tournament, I had made only two wrong picks and was in good shape in the free pools I had entered with my friends. Friday, my bracket was busted when Wisconsin lost and then the Cinderella of Florida Gulf Coast University beat Georgetown and everyone’s brackets went down the toilet. As soon as that happened I stopped caring about my bracket and became a college basketball fan again. College basketball is one of the greatest things about this country, behind baseball, of course. It is the only sport where a team from a small college in Florida that has been around less time than I have been alive (16 years) can beat one of the most storied programs in the history of the sport. That is why college basketball is wonderful.

Even though the story is huge and people love it, imagine how much happier the entire country would be if they didn’t pick Georgetown to go to the Final Four? Maybe this year is different, because FGCU is such a long shot and they are fun to watch (Dunk City), but I am genuinely thinking about not filling out a bracket next year and just watching basketball and enjoying it.

The other thought I had was get drunk, fill out a bracket, hide it with someone and don’t look at it until the tournament is over. That might be a better alternative and will probably get quite a few picks right, because I won’t be over-thinking it.

CCSU Ousted By Wagner

I stepped off the fan bus to a cold and windy Staten Island and from the moment I took my seat reserved for CCSU fans behind the Blue Devils bench, I knew it was going to be a long night.

Central Connecticut had beaten Wagner College back on Jan. 17, 73-66, but three and a half weeks later at the Spiro Sports Center, the Seahawks put up 101, the most the Blue Devils allowed all season. Wagner had figured out the CCSU high-paced offense, or Central was getting tired, they led the Northeast Conference in possessions per game with about 77, I believe. They just didn’t have the energy.

While the Seahawks were warming up with defensive drill and putting on a dunk contest of their own, the Blue Devils hung out at their end of the gym shooting around like they were getting ready to play a pick-up game, the energy wasn’t there. When the two teams came back out for their “official” pregame shoot-around, Kyle Vinales and Matt Hunter sat on the CCSU bench for a few minutes, before joining their teammates. The whole team just looked flat and it showed the entire game.

The first half started incredibly slow, CCSU led 6-4 at the 16:21 mark, but that would be the last lead of the game. Wagner was just too long, too athletic and too fired up in front of their home crowd of a little over 1000 at the Spiro Center. Wagner went on a 9-0 run that lasted almost six minutes and you could tell on the faces of the Blue Devils, especially Vinales and Malcolm McMillan, they had no answer.

Central Connecticut pulled to within three with 4:20 left in the first half when Vinales hit a 3-pointer, but then Marcus Burton got hot. The 6-foot guard from North Carolina made four straight free throws and then hit a big 3 to give Wagner a 10-point lead. After two Terrell Allen free throws, Jonathan Williams started his own personal run. Two layups wrapped around a made free throw gave the Seahawks a 13-point lead at the break.

As the clocked was winding down in the first half, Allen got a steal along the sideline, ran the length of the floor and wound up for a huge statement dunk, but was fouled HARD by Williams as the buzzer sounded. Coach Howie Dickenman made his case for a flagrant foul, but no call was made and the two teams entered the locker room.

I think I tweeted that if CCSU was to get back into the game in the second half, they needed to make a run right out of the break…that didn’t happen. They were just as flat and tired as they ever and were literally getting run over. Burton hit back-to-back three’s 39 seconds apart to give the Seahawks a 20-point lead. That’s when I knew the game was over.

Central had run out of gas, no one got a single good look the entire night, Wagner’s defense was too tight. I hadn’t seen Kenneth Ortiz play very much, but there’s a reason he is the 2-time NEC Defensive Player of the Year, he plays as tight as possible and can shoot a little too. Vinales did end the game with 23 points to lead all scorers, but it wasn’t nearly enough, no one else could make anything drop.

The Detrick Gym has gotten complaints lately about how warm it is in there, but I think they do it on purpose, because the Spiro Center was cold and so were the Blue Devils (15-59 FG). Wagner was 27-71, but they had a much easier time shooting over the smaller CCSU squad. They even had a few dunks that caused the home crowd to explode.

The game got so out of hand that both teams put in their rarely used and walk-on players, for CCSU that was Andrew Hurd (much to the delight of the Wagner student section), Erik Raleigh and Greg Andrade.

Central was outplayed in every facit of the game. Wagner was too tall, too long, too athletic and had too much energy, everything CCSU didn’t have last night. It’s back to the drawing board for Coach D. but until then, I’ll make my way over to the CCSU baseball and softball fields…