Thanks to all that called or messaged today after the Marathon bombing. I was tucked away safely at the Globe, far away from any danger. But I do appreciate your thoughts and concerns, particularly because the Boston Marathon is an event that I work on each year. My head is still swirling from the events of the day. Sadly, it will be a more memorable day than any one of us had imagined. My thoughts are with my colleagues who were at the finish line when the explosions occurred. And my heart bleeds for all the victims. There’s not much else to do now but pray.
On Saturday I was on 98.5 The Sports Hub with hosts Johnston and Flynn talking about the New England Patriots. Producer Tracy Clements was nice enough to provide me with a clip of the audio, which you can listen to by clicking on the player above. You can listen to 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston online here.
I saw this on Universal Hub and it kind of sums up what a person of my age thinks of this city (no 24-hour food options, a lack of cultural activities for young folks, and a lack of venues). But this obviously takes a political bent against Mayor Menino. He’s portrayed, frankly, as a cranky old man. Bostonians, take a look.
The Celtics are squaring off with the 76ers in the NBA playoffs and the Red Sox are beginning interleague play against the Phillies. Between Boston and Philadelphia, there’s much ado in sports, politics, and history. Trust us when we say we’re over Benjamin Franklin’s departure. But what is interesting is the storied series between the teams in each city, whether that is the old Celtics-76ers rivalry, Sox-Phillies, Bruins-Flyers, or even Patriots-Eagles. It’s all worth a deeper look. Here are the bullet points on Boston vs. Philly. I promise no cheesesteak or clam chowder references.
How interested are you in the best baseball player “you have never heard of”? That’s one of the tie-ins for the Museum of African American History in Boston’s new exhibit, “The Color of Baseball in Boston.”
Riding the fanfare of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary, the museum has put together a collection of rare photographs and articles of clothing of black baseball players in Massachusetts from the 19th and early 20th century. One of the main draws will be the more than 20 articles of clothing, including a full uniform, of William “Cannonball” Jackman, a negro league player for the Boston Royal Giants who was regarded as the best black pitcher from Boston from 1920 through the 1940s. He played for 30 years, before integration, and was otherwise known as the “best ball player you have never heard of.”
Read more about the “Color of Baseball in Boston” exhibit on Boston.com
After today’s Boston Marathon, I’ve now covered all of the major sporting events in Boston. You’d think I would’ve scratched this one off the list pretty early because of the throngs of people the Boston Globe dedicates to marathon coverage. But in the two years prior to today, Marathon Monday, I had been on desk duty — the other half of the equation in our amazing coverage. Today I helped produce our live broadcasts on Boston.com from Hopkinton.
The Boston Marathon is one of those unusual events in the sporting landscape, one I would easily equate with the Super Bowl, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup, which I’ve also covered. Not because of its popularity outside of the running community, but because of its festive atmosphere, prestige and the throngs of coverage thrown its way. It’s a great event, filled with tons of stories on redemption, determination, exuberance and filled with people who flaunt a never-say-quit attitude in front of the world. It’s the runner’s Mecca, better than NYC and more serious than the wacky Bay to Breakers.
Which leads me to this: What’s next? I’ve now covered every major sport in the area. You name it, I’ve done it. Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, Revs, high schools. I haven’t touched a college event yet, including the Bean Pot, but I have been to a few press conferences. I can’t imagine I’d want to be near a regatta, but a Head of the Charles might be cool enough to warrant extra coverage in the future.
What else is there?
If I’m truly blessed, and so are the Red Sox, maybe a World Series. Is that too much?
It’s spring. That’s been the official word for more than a week now. But don’t let that stop the weather here in Boston from messing things up.
Did you know it actually snowed in some parts of Massachusetts this past week? True story. In Boston we’ve had to deal with rain while the weather has hovered around 40 degrees. My heat is still on.
But besides my gripes with the weather, my focus currently is shifting from the basketball and hockey seasons to spring sports. I’m turning my attention to high school baseball, softball and lacrosse. And as always, my mind will be on the Patriots. I’ll likely be working the NFL draft again from Gillette Stadium and I know everybody wants to know what kind of move Bill Belichick will make now that the free agency boom is over. (Just a thought: The Pats probably won’t draft a receiver.) And then there’s the opening of the MLB season. The Red Sox begin their quest for another World Series title on April 5. There’s also the Bruins and Celtics getting ready for the playoffs.
All things considered, there’s a lot to think about and mentally prepare for.
I write all this to say that of the things that my focus often fall to, high schools coverage often comes first, even it is of least importance. It remains in my peripherals partially because of both my professional responsibility and personal pride. But of all seasons, spring high school sports can be the most confounding.
Consider this: High school baseball and softball in Massachusetts had 23,209 kids participate last year, according to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. (12,923 for just baseball.) That easily surpasses the singular juggernaut in every local district, which is football, as the second most engaged sport in the state. Football had 20,399 student-athletes last year to be fourth. Lacrosse netted 15,491 for fifth behind basketball at 22,518 which is third.
The most popular sport, again adding boys and girls together, is soccer: 26,809 kids participated last year in the state. From our coverage at the Globe, you wouldn’t know it.
(I should note here that I’m omitting the numbers for Indoor and Outdoor track & field as they occur in separate seasons and often carry the same students, thus making their actual figures hard to pin down. In all likelihood, those numbers would definitely shake up this Top 5.)
Our big thing at the Globe and Boston.com, as it is every year and for every newspaper around this country, is football because of its popularity. Nothing draws clicks in the fall like football. No soccer feature or extra game coverage can change that, despite being in the same season.
Conversely, the same can be said of hockey, which had 9,143 kids participate in the winter of 2010-11 — far behind the participation numbers of basketball. And yet, no basketball feature or game coverage could move the dial as our hockey coverage did.
This has been proven to me time and time again that despite the the size of engagement in a sport, its popularity here in Massachusetts is not as obvious. Parents may encourage their kids to play soccer and run track, but secretly they want to watch them and read about them playing football, hockey and lacrosse. Which brings me to the point of my writing this.
Why is lacrosse the king of spring? Without even a smidgen of understanding, I ventured to Boston three years ago thinking that baseball was the No. 1 sport in this state. What with the Red Sox and all it would seem that a foundation was likely in place for kids and parents to be drawn to to the sport at the high school level. I imagined fist fights in the stands over whose kid was the better pitcher.
Participation-wise, I haven’t been disappointed. But when the needle begins to measure the traffic for baseball/softball coverage, in direct comparison to football coverage, hockey coverage, and lax coverage, all logic flies out the window faster than a Dustin Pedroia laser bomb. It doesn’t even come close and there is no explanation worthy.
I’ve discussed this with some colleagues in the high school coverage bubble here and they too agree it’s a weird conundrum, one which I do not think there is an easy answer. But in the interim, the traffic patterns are encouraging coverage decisions that I would not normally make. While football may be behind soccer in participation, it by no means is behind because of shallow numbers. In fact, hockey and lacrosse are more easily relatable because they defy the engagement/popularity enigma that I’ve been puzzling.
Do I feed the insatiable taste for lacrosse stories and photos as our No. 1 sport of choice? Do I give the lax feature top billing over the baseball feature? Where does my time go? And so on, and so on.
This is a vexation I have that’s only applicable it seems to this state. And with each year living here, it’s easier to pin down which sport gets a certain amount of my attention. However, that doesn’t mean any of this makes any sense. And that doesn’t mean that everyone will be satisfied.
I’ve been absent from this space for the past month for the same reason I write sparsely in the month of March every year in Boston — high school tournament season. A large part of my responsibilities remain the Boston Globe’s coverage of high school sports and I take pride in making sure we’re represented properly online. So much so that I clocked a whopping 72 hours two weeks ago before taking this last week off on vacation following the state basketball and hockey championships.
Just grinding. Or as I like to term on Twitter, #grindmode.
Unfortunately for me, in the time I have been away from writing on this site, NFL free agency has bloomed and the San Francisco 49ers’ weird, twisted quarterback journey has been right in the thick of it.
Oh, and the New England Patriots have been busy too. (Again, two worlds colliding.)
When Randy Moss signed with the 49ers, I was asked maybe a half a dozen times what I thought about it. And I’m sure you could understand that made me wonder why I wasn’t writing about it. I was just too busy. But in retrospect, from March 12 — the day he was officially signed — to now, my feeling on the topic is more ginger than a red head. With Mario Manningham signing on, and Moss’ contract reportedly a 1-year base salary of $750,000 with the ability to reach $1.5 million with bonuses, there doesn’t seem to be too much harm. If the 49ers get the good Moss, great. He’s on the cheap. If the 49ers get the bad Moss, whatever. He’s on the cheap. And Manningham, a hero in the Super Bowl, is more than capable next to Michael Crabtree. I would imagine those two being the starters with Moss providing a deep threat for the team as a third option.
It’s this whole situation with Alex Smith that vexes me. The 49ers re-signed Smith to a 3-year deal March 21 after failing to court Peyton Manning. Manning, as I’m sure you already know, signed with the Denver Broncos who have jettisoned (pun intended) Tim Tebow to the New York Jets. Tebow will back up Mark Sanchez. (Oh, and if you’re paying close attention to backup quarterbacks, Brady Quinn is now a Kansas City Chief. True story.) All this after Smith flirted with the Miami Dolphins and even the Seattle Seahawks before the Seahawks signed quarterback Matt Flynn. Smith eventually said he went to Miami because he’d never been to its beaches before. (Yes, he was actually quoted saying that … And Deadspin has started a Lolphins tag.) I think that has us caught up.
What’s not caught up, is the 49ers’ quarterback situation in the 21st century. San Francisco is now embarking on Year 8 of the Smith dynasty and I’m sorry but there is nothing to be happy about that. I don’t care about what he did in one season and, in particular, one game. (Yes, my feelings have changed. This is allowed.) I don’t care that he had the world against him for seven seasons. I don’t care that he’s only just now getting his wings under him. He’s not a winner in my books. Not now, not ever. He’s got the accuracy of a drunk playing darts. He has the vision of a bat in a soundless vortex. He is the most uninteresting starting quarterback in 2012. Now, he has to prove himself that 2011 wasn’t a fluke and that possibly he can do better than what he showed in the NFC Championship against the eventual Super Bowl-winning New York Giants.
This after I gave him so much love for his magnificent game against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. It wasn’t so much a win as it was poetry, the movement and flow of the game. The gamesmanship. The miraculousness. The poise. The pizzazz. He displayed none of that exactly a week later in the 49ers’ loss to the Giants. It was as if he had reverted to his old self.
The Giants, taking a different tact than the Saints, didn’t give Smith the opportunity to beat them like they would give some rookie quarterback. With a strong defensive front, they were able to pressure him and force bad throw after bad throw. The final 49ers drive and their play in overtime exemplified what it means to put the game on Smith’s shoulders, a 70-30 proposition in favor of the other team. Those situations are what make me think Smith is a stopgap at best in this league until the quarterback situation can be fully resolved. Manning would have fixed that. He would have been the answer to this 8-year Rubik’s cube. If not him, one would assume that Colin Kaepernick is progressing enough to be ready to start. He has to make strides or the 49ers will regress.
I don’t think it needs to be explained that a 13-3 club is not going to be getting a high enough draft pick to select the quarterback of the future. Things don’t work that way. So free agency and trades are all that’s left to figure out this QB quandary. With Smith on board for three more years, the 49ers must assume that they’re either stuck in the desert or still figuring out how to find the promised land of signal callers. So are followers of this franchise to assume that Smith is the fallback plan … again? The SF brass can’t keep using this excuse. It’s only worked well once in seven tries. I’m not optimistic it’ll work well again.
In the course of my staycation, I’ve mulled these thoughts and more, figuring I’d jot them down when I had the chance. Lucky for me, I’ve had plenty of free time. I’ve actually gotten a chance to enjoy myself quite a bit in Boston over the last week. I went to the New England’s Revolution’s home opener against the Portland Timbers (that’s Major League Soccer for the uninitiated), walked Harvard Square (for the umpteenth time), watched “The Hunger Games,” and have experienced some new cafes and restaurants. Boston has been blessed with some great weather this week, allowing me to shed the winter coats and rock some new T-shirts. I couldn’t have asked for more. Best part? I haven’t woken up before 11 a.m. yet.
Tomorrow, the work week starts with my last day off before going back to the Globe on Tuesday. Everyone’s mind is on baseball with opening day looming April 5. My mind will be on that as well as a number of other projects. But one thing I think I’ll continue to focus on this spring and into the fall is social media, particularly for our high school sports coverage. I launched a Google+ page for Boston.com High School Sports and I intend to work on some more offerings for the socially apt as well.
In the meantime, I’ve been exploring Pinterest, the iPhone app Socialcam, and have fallen in love with Instagram all over again.
My attention to Pinterest is the same one I take with every social media site. What good is it for me journalistically? So far, outside of gathering pictures from the Boston Globe where their copyright can be shredded, I believe the journalistic aspect of the website is lacking. That’s not a bad thing for Pinterest. But it is a bad thing for journalists who want badly to join another social network that is rising in popularity. Simply posting a photo with an interesting caption and link back to your website does not suffice for Pinterest users. The vast majority don’t want to click on the links to see where the content originated. Instead, they want to “re-pin” the item to one of their “boards” so it can be seen as part of their collection. Without the clickthrough, it’s hard to ascertain why a journalism organization — outside of branding purposes — wants to utilize this system.
Here’s a thought: What if, in Pinterest’s grand scheme of schemes, you could disable repins? What if brands could force users to go to their website if they want to see where pins originated? That would fix a lot, dontcha think?
And then there’s Socialcam, an app I downloaded randomly for my iPhone that is surprisingly awesome. Basically, you take videos of yourself or whatever and share it with friends via Facebook, YouTube or friends in the app’s network. It has a strong journalistic root, in my opinion, because it allows for a user to submit instantaneously recorded content. It’s available in Android as well. I’ve had fun with it mainly to test and mess around with while I’m out and about at assignments. But I imagine I will use it a lot more going forward for interviews. (Side note: Why doesn’t Brightcove do these things? I mean, they are the juggernaut of newspaper video portals. Why does YouTube get to have all the fun and Brightcove continue to be cumbersome for sharing and social spaces? Why, why, why???)
And of course I’ve fallen prey to the awesomeness that is Instagram. That’s one iPhone app I don’t think I can do without now. I used it extensively for the Super Bowl and then I was messing around with it again this week. Best part about this app is that it loads phenomenally fast. Better than the Facebook app, better than Twitter app and 10 times better than the Google+ iPhone app. (Why does Google even have this app? It’s horrible. You can’t do anything you want to do with it and nowhere near as seamless as the web experience. It’s just awful.) The filters are simple and cool enough to enhance most photos without so much as even whispering “edit” and everybody seems to love the intuitiveness of it all. There’s nothing to argue with about this app. And now, it’s becoming available on Android too for wider use.
I think that sums up what I’ve wanted to say in the last week. It only took me 1600 words to do so, but it’s a good 1600 because it’s off my chest. Now I’m going to finish my vacation in style with some brunch before taking a run and settling into the couch for Sunday night TV.
Goodbye winter, hello spring.
Before I get too busy, I wanted to stop and share some thoughts with those that frequent this site. I’m here in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI, the rematch game between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. Who knew when I wrote on this very site five months ago that I was going to be taking a greater role in Patriots coverage that I would be here, that the Patriots would be here, and that I would have this opportunity. It really is a blessing.
Since I’ve come to the Globe, Boston sports teams have done extremely well. I took part in our coverage of the NBA Finals in 2010 as the Celtics and Lakers went toe to toe. I was on the ground in Vancouver when the Bruins throttled the Canucks in Game 7, and then Vancouverites throttled their city. And now I’m here in Indy as the Patriots try to cap a really serendipitous season.
In the words of Kevin Garnett, “Anything is possible.”
We’re a few days away from Saturday’s Super Bowls which capped the end of the high school football season, but there’s no better time then now to look back at the games, the season and even look forward a bit.
In the latest episode of The Huddle, we take a look at Cathedral’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the Division 4A Super Bowl, go over BC High’s Division 1 win, discuss Everett post-Jonathan DiBiaso and take a look at some of the best Super Saturday performances, including Mashpee’s Jared Taylor’s 306-yard performance.