Sweet 16 Blog from Phoenix

March 27, 2008

Media CircusGameday

It’s GAMEDAY! Got up this morning to watch BKO sports anchor James “JB” Brandenburg being interview on ESPN’s First and Ten talking about the Hilltoppers. He was the best of the bunch that was interviewed about the teams they cover. I packed my gear and hit the media hospitality room for a bagel and coffee. Road the media shuttle to the arena and set up shop. I grabbed my little Canon G7 Powershot and went looking for WKU fans to do a quick video. I shot the t-shirt vendors setting up shop and wandered around until I found two WKU fans for a quick standup interview. Then I peeked into the arena to watch a few seconds of WKU closed practice. I tried to grab a few frames of video, but no luck. I was also worried about getting ousted. As I made my way back down to the photo workroom, I found the team walking to their bus. I shot a few seconds of video and started to put it all together. It is pretty down and dirty. I took the avi files into VisualHub and converted then into iMovie for a quick edit. I then took it back into VisualHub to export as an flv file. Compressed it and sent it to our online producer Chris Houchens. Did a walk around the arena, grabbed a Diet Coke and sat down to blog. Headed to the media buffet in a few and then will get gear ready and head to the floor. Very nervous. Pretty excited. Hoping for a win.

More in a bit.

Media Circus

Well, it’s officially a circus. I took the media shuttle to the U.S. Airways Center this morning at 9:30, got my credentials, secured a spot in the photo work room, talked to the photo marshall about my shooting spot for the game, saved the paper $300 on internet by getting a wireless line for cheap, got my camera’s cleaned, got some cool loaner gear, bought shirts and a hat for the family and oh yeah, shot a ton of pictures. 830 to be exact. I started off with West Virginia’s practice. Bob Huggins was looking rough. Then WKU took the floor and I shot from multiple angles, down low, up top and under the basket. The Hilltoppers looked relaxed, but not too relaxed. Following the 50 minute practice, they opened the locker room to the media. It was a circus! Reporters, videographers, photographers and more reporters rushed in for the news feeding frenzy. The players looked like deer in the headlights! I had to shoot from way above Courtney to see him from all the people closing in around him. Tyrone Brazelton was backed up against the wall. Even Adam Howard was getting some journalist love. I bet 30 people rushed in. I shot for about 20 minutes and did a quick sound interview with A.J. Slaughter and Boris Siakam. I use the voice recorder on the back of my camera to get 60 seconds of sound and then use it in the SoundSlides program we do our shows with. It just adds a little bit extra to the show. They should be online at www.bgdailynews.com by now. After the media frenzy, I went out and grabbed a few frames of Xavier’s practice for my shows. I went back and edited and then hit UCLA’s practice. They had the most fans. And man are they big, I mean really big. Speaking of fans, during WVa. practice a guy in a red shirt with a W on it sat down with his son and started watching the players and he stayed through WKU’s practice. I saw a bunch of TV people and reporters go over and interview him. I shot a few frames and planned to go over and get some sound. When I got closer, I noticed the W looked funny. I asked his name, Todd Baumer of Fort Wayne, Ind. I asked is he was a WKU fan. He said this is a Wisconsin shirt, I am a basketball fan and I came to watch all of the practices. He laughed and said every member of the media was surprised, thinking he was from WKU. He gave me his thoughts on the game and I used his sound.

I spent about two hours editing the pics, sound and slide shows. I shipped everything to the paper and packed up. On the way out I checked my photo position. During the first half of the WKU/UCLA game, I will be in the front row about the middle. In the second half, on WKU home end, I am in the front row, right under the basket. Primo photo real estate. Unless of course I get a ref who parks himself right under the basket. Which will really suck. Anyway, I am getting a little nervous about shooting. David Smith did such a good job for us, the pressure is on. I really will have to step it up a notch and shoot hard to justify spending almost $2K for a photographer to come out when we could get pics from the wire services. That’s why I did the slide show and put up the extra content. Time to find some dinner. I will log back on tonight to add more stuff to this blog, the Daily News blog and the online reprint service. I just got off the phone with Tracy and she said people have asked if I am having fun, did I go over to Las Vegas. I wish. If (or when WKU, wins) I might check out Phoenix and the surrounding area on Friday. If they lose, I am headed back to BG so I can see my son play soccer on Saturday. Just got a call from Brent Price. He and Jill are in Phoenix and I will be on the lookout for them at the game. More later.

Sweet 16 day 2

Here I am at the U.S. Airways Center on Thursday ready to cover practice and media day at the West Regional Finals. Rode the shuttle over, got my credentials, found the photo workroom and talked my way into $16.95 a day wireless instead of the $350 hard line. I went out and checked the light on the court and am getting my gear ready. Met the Nikon techs and got some loaner gear. West Virginia is on the floor and I shot a few pics and came back to post before WKU takes the floor. There is a ton of security and people checking your credentials everywhere. I am getting a bit excited about things starting to happen. I am ready to get the show on the road. More after WKU’s practice.

Sweet 16 day 1

I stayed up late last night packing for my trip to phoenix and the chance to cover the Hilltoppers. I made the morning budget meeting and worked the photo desk for three hours until a 1015 press conference at Diddle. Usually just the WKU beat writer Rob Herbst and BKO’s own James Brandenburg are there. But today we had the AP, Louisville and Nashville tv along with a few word herders I didn’t  recognize. Ty rogers and Tyrone Brazelton came in and sat down and answered questions for about 30 minutes. They were used to it by now. They have been on sports center CBS and been interviewed by tons of national press. They both gave great answers and one that stuck out was Tyrone talking about his friends asking if WKU was a Division 2 school. I tried to make interesting pictures to Wednesday’s sports centerpiece. I pulled out all of the stops looking for every angle. Another tv guy showed up late and took Ty and Tyrone out to floor of Diddle were I think I made the picture that will run Wednesday. I talked with ty for a minute about their travel plans and then left to pick up my reporter. We headed to Nashville to catch a flight on Southwest to Phoenix. The team was leaving by charter at 3 from BG. So here I am typing on my iPhone 40,000 up. Herbst wrote his story and crashed. I am going to get the flight attendants attention and cash in my free drink coupon for a bourbon. Back in a bit.

Made it to Phoenix. More later.


A ‘War’ worth fighting

December 21, 2007

One of the cool things about being the film critic for the Daily News is that I sometimes get a chance to venture out for late night screenings of films that are about to open in Bowling Green. Late Thursday night, I did just that when I attended the screening of the new Tom Hanks film “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Even though I sit at my desk a little weary-eyed this morning, I have to say it was worth it.

“War” may not be the year-end award winner it aspires to be, but it is still an entertaining political comedy that is worth your time.”War” is based on the true story of Charlie Wilson (Hanks), a Texas congressman who was responsible for the covert assistance of Afghanistan during its fight against the Soviet Union in the 1980’s. Wilson manages to bring together some unlikely allies – a Texas socialite (Julia Roberts), a renegade CIA agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the President of Pakistan (Om Puri) – to help assist in a war that eventually signaled the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

This is a film that truly understands the back-room underbelly of Washington politics and “Charlie Wilson” is at its best when the congressman is trying to get the funds needed to aid in the Afghan cause. Hanks has a lot of fun as the womanizing Wilson, while Hoffman continues to build on a great year with a performance that is delightfully off-center. Roberts doesn’t really bring much to the film outside of an ‘A’ list star and I really wish director Mike Nichols wouldn’t have felt like he had to rush through the final act to get to the payoff. Still, this is a film that is entertaining and enlightening. I’d give “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which opened Friday at the Great Escape 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow a solid B. 

High-wire act

December 11, 2007

Daniel Pike
Aside from alerts about incorrect information in sports stories, one of the topics readers raise most often with me is the balance between content produced locally or by wire services.

There’s a buzzword in print journalism these days, “hyperlocal,” the definition of which I’m not convinced anyone in the industry truly understands. The term usually is attached, though, to the theory that the print media, faced with competition from the Internet, must redouble efforts to cover every twitch and twitter of the home market, because that’s information readers find nowhere else. With print circulations tending to decline nationwide, the theory suggests that “hyperlocal” journalism is the best way for newspapers to remain relevant and financially viable.

Fair enough. But for newspapers such as the Daily News, it seems hyperlocality is always the driving force. Look at our front pages – more often than not, they’re fully local. Same for the sports front; whenever possible, that space is filled with stories of direct interest to Bowling Green and Warren County. Even if the local stories aren’t “major” news, they are stories readers can’t get elsewhere.

Sure, exceptions are made for major state or national news. The lead story in Monday’s sports section, for example, was the sentencing of Michael Vick on federal dogfighting charges. We’ve run Vick stories regularly on inside pages over the past few months, but rarely is it front-page material, much less the lead. Monday’s court session, though, was an unusual circumstance – especially because the timing of Vick’s sentencing made it impossible for that day’s morning newspapers to have the story.

University of Kentucky and University of Louisville content is a different matter altogether. With so many WKU and prep sports available to cover locally, we generally don’t have the time or the resources to directly cover either of those schools. But it’s a mistake to ignore that there are as many fans of those schools – and in the case of UK, probably more – among Daily News readers as there are WKU fans. So, as one of Kentucky’s largest daily newspapers, the Daily News is obligated to ensure UK and UofL have substantial representation in the sports section. I’m questioned fairly often by UK fans about how and where Wildcat sports appear in the Daily News. The short answer is this: in Bowling Green, UK is at the mercy of one thing – the amount of local sports to report on a given day. After that, UK and Louisville become the main priority.

From there, it’s kind of a crap shoot. Sunday editions, for the most part, are the best places to find information about, say, the NBA, Major League Baseball or Top 25 college sports outside of UK and UofL. Midweek editions, which often have less available space, occasionally must be devoted almost entirely to local words and photos. Some readers celebrate that. Others, for whom the Daily News might be the only source for sports news, might wish we’d found room for this national football game or that top 25 basketball game.

I do my best to remember that folks turn to the Daily News’ sports section for all kinds of reasons, and I try to put together sections that are suitable mixes of local, state and national news. But when forced to choose between a local prep story or some far-away college football game, the local story will always take top billing.

Future bowl question

December 6, 2007

Nick Baumgardner
With much of the recent buzz around college football focusing on the Bowl Championship Series debacle, one thing some Western Kentucky fans might have overlooked is that future Sun Belt foe Troy was left out in the postseason cold.

Yes, that same 8-4 Troy team that finished 6-1 in the Sun Belt. The same Trojan squad that knocked off Mike “I’m a Man” Gundy and Oklahoma State (who, by the way, finished with a 6-6 record, and will be playing in this year’s Insight Bowl) and lost to BCS-bound Georgia by just 10 on the road. In fact, all four Troy losses were to bowl-bound teams (Florida, Arkansas, Georgia and Sun Belt champion Florida Atlantic).

What does all this mean and what does it have to do with Western Kentucky? Basically, it means that when WKU makes its full transition into the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt in 2009, it might have to win the Sun Belt outright to secure a postseason party.

Now I know that last season Middle Tennessee was able to squeak into the Motor City Bowl as an at-large team, but with the recent snubbing of Troy (who has a much better resume than last year’s Blue Raider’s squad did), one can’t help but wonder if that was maybe a one-time deal.

And while nothing is ever written in stone (especially in the recent head-scratching world of college football), it looks like the Hilltoppers will really have no choice but to hit the ground running once they enter the Sun Belt in ’09.

Otherwise, any participation WKU might have in a warm-weather holiday bowl excursion might have to take place the old fashioned way: Through the TV set.

Toppers’ test tonight

December 5, 2007

rob herbst“Must-win games” might be the most over-used cliche in sports, but if Western Kentucky doesn’t want to rely on a Sun Belt Conference championship to get into the NCAA Tournament, tonight’s Nebraska game might just be a “must-win game.”

After Saturday’s head-scratching loss at Northern Arizona, a two-game losing streak against very beatable teams would equate to one big blotch on WKU’s resume. And make no mistake, while Nebraska is a Big 12 foe in a bigger, better conference, it’s very beatable – especially at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Games like this are ones WKU should expect to win if getting an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament isn’t a hopeless pipe dream. Nebraska finished 6-10 in the Big 12 last season – it’s not like Kansas or Texas are coming to Bowling Green tonight.

Lose to a mediocre to sub-par Big 12 team at home and – barring wins over Tennessee and Southern Illinois later this month – and WKU would have little legitimate basis to gripe if it weren’t to get an at-large bid.

Win tonight, or else start planning for three critical games in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Raw data supports Purples

December 4, 2007

In Sunday’s newspaper, I wrote that the Bowling Green Purples would probably find themselves the “public-opinion underdogs” to undefeated Highlands on Friday in the Class 5A state championship game in Louisville.

I stand by that statement. Internet message boards – not that they’re the best indicator of statewide sentiment, but it’s pretty much all we’ve got to go on – seem to lean roughly 70/30 in Highlands’ favor.

Still, a couple of machines support the 13-1 Purples. Both of the state’s major computer rankings – The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous ratings and the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Cantrall ratings – give slight edges to the Purples.

In both ratings, Bowling Green and Highlands are the third- and fourth-strongest teams, respectively, remaining in the state (trailing, naturally, Class 6A finalists St. Xavier and Trinity). The differences in both ratings are slim – Bowling Green has a 1.3-point advantage in each; 130.9 to 129.6 in the Litkenhous, 93.5 to 92.2 in the Cantrall – which essentially means the final is too close to call.

Meanwhile, the Massey ratings lean toward Highlands, 1.904 to 1.794.

Folks have all sorts of opinions about the value of high school computer rankings. But I thought I’d throw it out there.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

November 26, 2007

post written by Daniel Pike…well, in most ways.

Late November and early December are boom times in the local sports world. Prep football playoffs are reaching a climax, prep and college basketball is racheting up. It’s fun, no doubt, but also a whale of a challenge for the sports staff at The Daily News.

The transition from fall to winter sports is one of the most difficult for sports journalists, mainly because the two major sports – football and basketball – overlap with each other. And because each has such large followings, our four-person staff is forced to make tough decisions on when and how to cover the events.

My primary goal as sports editor is to provide readers with the best source for news and analysis of local prep and Western Kentucky sports. But in the course of day-to-day staffing and scheduling, it’s inevitable that I’ll be forced to make difficult coverage decisions.

It’s my job to answer to readers who disagree with my choices. From time to time, I plan to use this forum to explain why our sports reporters covered this but not that, why certain games got the full treatment and why others got less. You’re welcome to offer your own opinions, and I’ll take them all into future consideration.