Sports News Around the Horn

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Recapping the Last Few Months

Lauren Avant (black jersey) was an athlete I was fortunate to cover this year.
Have you noticed it's been a while since I posted? Me too. I've been busy trying my best to wedge my foot into a more formal sports media door, and in a few ways I've succeeded. Last April, I was fortunate enough to secure a part-time gig with Sports56 Radio (WHBQ-AM Memphis, aka 560AM/87.7FM), learning how to run the control board, cut highlights, and produce shows. One year later, I'm happy to say I'm still employed there.

I've also spent the past year doing play-by-play announcing on Rhodes College athletics' home webcasts--football, men's and women's basketball, men's lacrosse, and, for the first time next week, baseball. It's been an awesome learning experience and a ton of fun--Rhodes football went 8-2 (the two losses by a combined 4 points), and the Lynx won a share of their conference championship with an upset of No. 19 (and previously undefeated) Millsaps at home the season's final game. Here's a link to Michael Shield's pick-six in the game's final minute that sealed the victory. https://db.tt/26aE0Rjg

On the basketball court, the men's and women's teams finished in the top half of their conference, and the women's team was particularly successful, going 24-5 on the year and winning the Southern Athletic Association's regular season and conference tournament championship.  The Lady Lynx earned their second ever NCAA tournament berth, hosting a 1st & 2nd round regional for the second year in a row. They fell short of reaching the Sweet 16 by one bucket, battling back from a 17-point 2nd-half deficit against UT-Tyler before falling short in the final seconds. Senior captain Lauren Avant finished the year 2nd in the country in scoring (25.6 points per game) and was the only guard in any NCAA Division (1, 2 or 3, men's or women's) to score 25 points per game and shoot over 50% from the floor (53%, to be exact). She won conference player of the year, was named a D3Hoops.com and WBCA First-Team All American, and was also selected as a finalist for the WBCA's National Player of the year trophy.

[Sydney Moss, a sophomore forward at Thomas More College, won POY after scoring 27.8 ppg and shooting 60% from the floor. Moss, the biological daughter of former NFL player Randy Moss, set the D3 scoring record with 63 points in 1 game, and led TMC to an undefeated record all the way to the Elite 8 before suffering a devastating knee injury that ended her season and, consequently, her team's. Moss had transferred to TMC from the University of Florida after her freshman year; Avant had transferred from the University of Tennessee to Rhodes after her freshman year. Had Rhodes won its second-round game, Avant and Moss would have faced each other's teams in the Sweet 16. What a matchup that would've been...]

One of the more satisfying, humbling, and outstanding experiences of my year was getting to write a full profile of Lauren Avant that was eventually reprinted on D3Hoops.com. I could not have done it without Lauren trusting me to tell her story and giving so much of her time to me, and 5,000 words later, I truly felt able to say that I now knew someone who exemplified greatness.  Here's a link: [http://www.d3hoops.com/playoffs/women/2014/rhodes-lauren-avant-full-of-determination]*. I suggest you read it--with apologies to my English professors, it's probably the best thing of length that I've ever written.

The Rhodes men's lacrosse program currently stands at 7-7 on the year, still growing in its 3rd varsity season. The Lynx are 1-4 in conference play, but their defense leads the country in clearing percentage, which is one of the undervalued statistics that coaches, players, and statisticians are now looking at as an important component of winning. They need more offense, and they'll get it, but it may not be until next year.

Rhodes baseball has, for the first time since I arrived in Memphis, been ranked consistently in the top 25 this season, and their baseball matchup with Birmingham Southern next weekend in Memphis may have huge implications for home-field hosting rights for the conference tournament later this month. I'm truly looking forward to calling the Easter series against the Panthers.

All of this is just to update you on what I've been up to. I want to be clear that I intend to keep writing, but it will not be on this blog unless I can figure out a way to transfer it over to my other Google account. I don't know if writing will be my living (at this moment, I'm preparing as hard as I can for making a career in play-by-play), but it always be a part of my living. I look forward to writing more soon. Til then, enjoy baseball and lacrosse this spring, and as Ms. Avant would say, appreciate every single win and the opportunity merely to be on-court, in whatever arena you choose, for a little while longer.

*Original title of the Avant piece: "The Hoop and The Harm"

Thursday, September 5, 2013

First. Podcast. Ever.

Yes, you read that right--we're on the air! Ok, not really, not live, but hey, my good buddy Mason and I recorded a whole 70 minutes (80 with music breaks) of sports talk. Click here:

https://soundcloud.com/tsprings/springsonsports-podcast-9-1-13

Not perfect by any means, but it's a start, and we'll hope to improve on that stuff as the fall goes on. I'll give you a rundown as best I can (these are de-facto chapter marks, not the actual length of the segments):

04:20--College football opening weekend review
18:25--Homerism/announcer favoritism on broadcasts
26:50 MLB pennant race
45:10 Survivor Football picks
52:10 Sports Media picks of the week
1:03:50 NBA League Pass picks
1:12:50 Mike Budenholzer situation
1:20:30 Closing thought on NFL Concussion Lawsuit/"League of Denial"

Twitter Links

Tyler: @SpringsOnSports
Tyler's Survivor Football Pick of the Week: Houston over San Diego
Tyler's Sports Media Pick of the Week:





Mason: @masbury12
Mason's Survivor Football Pick of the Week: Indianapolis over Oakland
Mason's Sports Media Pick of the Week:



Kevin (guest): @mcduffin_cheese
Kevin's Survivor Football Pick of the Week: Miami over Cleveland
Kevin's Sports Media Pick of the Week:





Andrew (guest): @NaturalSprings

This Week's Closing Thought: League of Denial & NFL Concussion Lawsuit
If you believe in coincidence, you might believe that the NFL settling its $765 million dollar concussion lawsuit with 4500 former players last week merely happened to come one week after ESPN, the NFL’s right hand, backed away from an official partnership with PBS on a forthcoming documentary about the concussion issue. You might also have once believed that Santa Claus shows up on Christmas and gifts tend to appear under your evergreen tree shortly thereafter; for that, you would be forgiven. But make no mistake here: these were not events with mutually exclusive outcomes. To allow that documentary, entitlted, “League of Denial,” to be brought to television in October during an ongoing lawsuit would be toxic to the league’s credibility on health issues and potentially impactful with regard to in-season ratings. With ESPN’s stamp on its information and PBS Frontline’s renowned journalistic integrity and editorial control, there would very likely have been no more room for the League to dodge the important questions concerning its former players and how much or how little they have been compensated for the damage to their health caused by a career of subjecting one’s head to thousands of pounds of force with great regularity. So the NFL did what it tends to do: it leaned on the right people, and in doing so, saved itself a lot of trouble. Let’s not forget that the NFL is a non-profit organization, and it would have an awful lot to answer for if we suddenly decided that it was responsible to us, citizens of the United States, based on the fact that it refused to acknowledge that the nature of its game inevitably caused damage to its participants. No, the NFL likes the idea of coincidence: concussions, CTE, ALS, Alzheimer’s and dementia, after all, just happened to befall many a man who played football. Unfortunate, but just a coincidence, wouldn’t you say?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Don't quit on me yet!

I know I said I'd have a post up by Monday, and it wasn't for lack of trying. I've got an 80 minute podcast recorded and saved on my computer, I just haven't been able to get it to uploaded on SoundCloud. I'm at work now, but I'm gonna keep trying, should have it up by tomorrow. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back in business this weekend!

Yes, I know, it's been far too long since the last time I posted, but I do have good news: I'm starting up again this weekend, and in a big way! Besides a bit of writing, there's gonna be a post on Sunday or Monday that includes the FIRST EVER Springs on Sports podcast (with a special guest, no less)! College football, NFL concussions, and lots more on tap--heads up!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Non-Sports Post: Dr. J on Memphis and the Grizzlies

Like many other people in this town, I had to smile last night as I watched the Memphis Grizzlies advance to the NBA's Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. It took a long time for the Grizz to get where they are now, and almost anybody you pass on the street would tell you exactly how hard-earned an achievement it was.

One of those people is Dr. Leigh Johnson, a native Memphian and professor of
philosophy at Rhodes College, a small liberal arts school of about 2,000 students located just a few miles east of downtown proper.  As a recent graduate, I am a bit sad to admit that I never had the pleasure of taking one of her classes, but I know a little bit about Dr. J through her writing. She maintains a blog through which she expounds on a wide range of topics, and last night, she took the time to appreciate the Grizzlies' role as a key cog in the resurgence and emotional renaissance in this much maligned city. I've excerpted her post here, but I encourage anyone trying to understand what the Grizzlies' success means to its fans to read it in full (link below).

From Dr. J:
Memphis could always have done a lot of things easier than we did.  But we've always elected, voluntarily or otherwise, to do it nice and rough.  Why?  Quite simply, because if you go down to the [Mississippi] river, you're gonna find some people who live.  And real living, for the vast majority of us, is hardly ever nice and easy.  There are precious few places in this country where people so deeply and existentially understand that just living is rough-- just getting up every day hoping that it's better than the last, just finding some place to work and to make ends meet, just manufacturing the means to suffer or combat a million both tragic and mundane injustices, just finding a warm (or cool) and safe place to lay your head at night, and just finding some people to eat and laugh and love and dance with while you try to do your best at living.  It's something that requires all the heart, grit and grind a person can muster.
Heart, grit and grind don't pay the bills, though, and I'll be the first of the million Memphians to testify to that. [Tina Turner's] "Proud Mary" says that you don't have to worry 'cause you got no money, people on the river are happy to give. But, truth is, Memphis is poor and not a lot of people have a lot to give.  Memphis has very real and abiding problems with violence and crime.  Memphis is and has always been deeply divided, a microcosm of the very same race and class issues that deeply divide our country as a whole.  Memphis fights with itself, which means that it loses every battle it wins, and wins every battle it loses.  
My dear friend…once told me that "you can't really say that you love a city until it's given you reason not to."  Of course, I know of all the reasons that people say that Memphis is unlovable. And they have no idea the love they're missing out on by not believing in this underdog."  
I've always been an unapologetic fan of the underdog… [and] I'm a self-appointed ambassador for Memphis. Locals will tell you, sometimes with gratitude and sometimes with exasperation, that Memphis is a place that won't let you go, keeps bringing you back, whether you want it to or not.  
Given the right conditions, which have only just arrived, Memphis has more to give than anyone ever imagined. And I'm even less surprised that, as we say here, ERRYBODY is jumping on board.
Welcome aboard the Memphis bandwagon, y'all.  The most soulful, passionate, crazy, infectious, tasty, libidinous, musical, gritty and, to be honest, sexiest wagon around.
Full post here: http://readmorewritemorethinkmorebemore.blogspot.com/2013/05/i-bet-you-gonna-find-some-people-who.html

I recognize that the Grizzlies are just a sports team, and if they were not a good team, as they were for a long time, their existence wouldn't mean much to Memphis. That said, their success is a beacon for all of the people in this town, and Dr. J does well to get at that feeling, one that's so palpable this week.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Media Monitor: How ESPN May Have Unintentionally Exposed Incompetence at UCLA after the Steve Alford hiring

UCLA hired Steve Alford to be its next mens basketball coach yesterday, and the move has been met with mixed reactions from industry observers. According to
New UCLA head coach Steve Alford can bring the
Bruins back to the highest heights, but how will his
style of roundball play in Westwood? (Photo from
cdn.breitbart.com)
ESPN college basketball writer Jason King, Alford is "the right fit," someone who is "capable of bringing [the luster] back" to the once-great-now-struggling program. Others, like Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register, are not impressed by "the spectacularly mixed bag [of success] he brings to Westwood." A particular point of contention in the argument seems to be the on-floor philosophy that Alford favors. In addition to the needless-to-say goal of winning a national championship, there are also concerns about whether or not an Alford-coached team will draw greater attendance to Pauley Pavilion than the squads of recent years.

From ESPN's Andy Katz, who reported on the UCLA hiring:

"[UCLA athletic director Dan] Guerrero made it clear that he wanted to have a coach who played an exciting style, would help fill the seats at Pauley Pavilion and represented the university and student-athletes well. Alford has a good chance to make all of that happen if he coaches in a similar fashion at UCLA as he did at New Mexico.

'Steve is the perfect fit for UCLA… and brings an up-tempo and team-oriented brand of basketball to Westwood,' Guerrero said."

Glossing over what exactly Katz means by "if [Alford] coaches in a similar fashion at UCLA as he did at New Mexico," Guerrero's statement comes with a very big red-flag that is visible if one merely takes a moment to probe it.

From ESPN LA writer Peter Yoon:

"[Alford is] also a defensive-minded coach who isn’t known for lighting up scoreboards. New Mexico was No. 172 in the nation in scoring this season with 67.4 points per game, so if it’s an entertaining, wide-open style you’re looking for, Alford won’t be bringing it. "
Assuming the stat Yoon cites is correct, the scoring numbers of Alford's squad this season rank about halfway down the list of the 347 basketball teams in the NCAA's Division I. That sounds more like middle-of-the-road than leader-of-the-pack. And that's not all.

As pointed out in a Tweet by Yahoo! Sports blogger Jeff Eisenberg that was quoted on BruinsNation.com, the notion of an "up-tempo" offense doesn't jive with New Mexico ranking 239th in the country in possessions per 40 minutes in 2013.

I would not characterize myself as someone who knows a great deal about
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero has some
explaining to do. (Photo from Zimbio.com)
basketball, but when I read about a team characterized as "up-tempo" in one place and "defensive-minded" in another place, alarms begin to sound in my head (especially knowing UNM's ho-hum scoring average). Those terms aren't usually found in one team's description, unless maybe we're talking about the "Havoc"-wreaking VCU teams coached by Shaka Smart that make their hay by forcing turnovers. Stats are all well and good, but they don't always tell the whole story, so I wanted to try to understand Alford's scheme at UNM a bit better before deciding whether the stats belied the team's actual objectives and abilities. I've seen New Mexico on television maybe twice this year, so I don't have a great grasp on their playing style, but I was curious to know how the man UCLA hired could really build a team that is both fast-paced and stout on defense.


[All of this, of course, makes no judgment on whether or not an "up-tempo" brand of basketball is "an exciting style [that] would help fill the seats at Pauley Pavilion." Winning should bring fans regardless, and if it doesn't, there's a bigger problem afoot in L.A.]

If you Google "steve alford offense," there are a number of prominent search results:

1) A page on MensBasketballHoopScoop.com describes Alford's "2 Out 3 In Motion Offense" as a "unique" system that "allows the post area to become open for isolation plays and opens up dribble penetration and backdoor cut plays." Even I know that nobody gets backdoor-cut into oblivion on a regular basis, especially not in a power conference. (Spoiler alert: How many times has John Thompson III's Princeton-style offense taken Georgetown to the Final Four? Once in nine years? That's what I thought.)

2) ChampionshipProductions.com touts a DVD that features Alford's instructions on a "cutting and screening motion offense." The synopsis of the DVD says that "Benefits of motion offense are shot quality, low turnovers…and getting to the free throw line." The goals of these tactics are said to be "easy baskets, open shots and free throw attempts," all of which sound like the objectives of a conservative team that doesn't shoot particularly well and picks its spots carefully.

3) An analysis of the 2-Out/3-In Offense on CoachPeelBasketball.com notes that "the offense does not lend itself well to the fast break…Teams that employ this offense will want to avoid getting into high-scoring games and instead focus on wearing down the opponent."

The three links above took fairly little time to find, and if you're a Bruin fan, that ought to have you concerned. The evidence is clear, at least at first glance, that Guerrero either failed to research the kind of tactics Alford will use in Westwood, or that he lied about such tactics to the school's fanbase, or that he simply confused them for the tactics of another potential coach that he might have researched in the process. Any way you slice it, Guerrero's apparent inability to grasp Alford's methods (an admission embarrassingly and unwittingly made in print for everyone to see) does not speak well for his capacity to adequately steer a coaching search or evaluate candidates.

I am sure it was not ESPN's intention to make Guerrero look bad, and quite honestly, they didn't. Katz was quoting what had already been said, and Yoon was merely providing a statistic on recent performance, but when the two pieces are juxtaposed, it is very easy to draw a logical conclusion. That's good journalism, I think--though some people believe that journalists have an axe to grind which guides their reporting, this case is proof that more often than not, a public figure only has themselves to blame if they have egg on their face in the news.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Real Quick: Rhodes College baseball photos

Two weekends ago, I traveled to Atlanta to watch the Rhodes College baseball team play a three-game series against Oglethorpe University. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to watch the games from the dugout and to spend time with the Rhodes players off the field during team meals. I took a lot of photos from my phone, so the quality of the whole set isn't spectacular, but I've put most of my candid shots into a Google photo gallery that can be accessed here.



My feature article on the baseball team came out in the March edition of the school's student newspaper (printed today), and I'll post a few notebook-style observations here that didn't make the final draft of the feature. If you're a baseball fan, you'll be interested in this brief sub-surface look at a D3 team. Enjoy.