Archive for the ‘Sports/Real Life’ Category

Extra P. Sells Out

I know what you’re thinking… this is news?

As you may know by now, we have a few contacts at ESPN: the Magazine HQ. Heck, one of them even writes a conference report for me at Storming the Floor. Fortunately, that road runs both ways, as they occasionally give us a chance to pursue our unique… idiom for a wider audience.

Today they’re running the first in what hopefully will become a series of articles about sports memorabilia collecting, starting with current eBay auctions.


I don’t know why they do headlines in all-caps. But they do.

More importantly, if you or someone you know collects or sells unusual crap, drop me a line, and you might be in a future edition. I think a post about hilarious minor-league memorabilia would be aces.

Email your tips about odd stuff or people to collectespn@gmail.com. This could be tons of fun.

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We have our first appearance of Voodoo Sabermetrics over at Babes Love Baseball. It’s in good hands, let me tell you. Our first victim is Miguel Tejada.

Also going very strong right now is my collaboration with Brian from One More Dying Quail – we talk minor league baseball at Bus Leagues Baseball right here on WordPress.

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High Ate Us


I’m starting to feel stupid about updating once a week if even that, so I’m going to make it official – the Extrapolater is going on hiatus for a while. I’m currently writing 2-3 posts a day at Storming the Floor, and trying to keep my freelancing going, and I don’t really have any creative juice left for general sports monkeyshines in this space.

I appreciate those of you who visited here often, and I won’t flatter myself by apologizing for shutting things down – there are plenty of other fish in the sea, and if you miss my particular style, I’ve simply chosen to focus it on college basketball – my favorite sport.

I’ve really enjoyed some of the debates we’ve had here, and the hilarity involved in bringing other great writers into the fold from time to time. Some of that may still go on, but it’s obviously not going to happen until early April at this point. It makes me a little sad, but like a waning romantic relationship, it hurts less to put the kibosh on it now than to zombie-walk through another few months.

Thanks again, and don’t forget to visit Storming the Floor, where Marco (who shut down Just Call Me Juice for the same reason) and I are examining the orange sphere with everything we have.

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I drove up to Philadelphia on Friday the 23rd to meet some blog-buddies and take in the Philly Classic basketball tournament.

Read my ode to the Palestra and the good times at Storming the Floor.

And now, back to my super-Turkey sandwich. One of many to come.

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jaybus.jpgI had an assignment for a writing class recently: interview someone who does what you want to do. So I chose Jay Busbee, who has been a font of wisdom and encouragement in my general direction for a while now. Our Q&A was truly enjoyable, and I will preface it by saying that I was asking Jay personal questions, so it is not his fault if he sounds like a windy douchebag (by his own reckoning).   You should definitely shoot the messenger on that one.

Those of you who want to write for a living – read up carefully:

What’s the most powerful attribute a writer can develop – style? a thick skin? Sheer, plodding, bloody-minded persistence?

Good question. All three are important, as is a good sense of what makes for a good story, and also what Hemingway called the “bullshit detector”—the ability to know when what you’re writing just sucks, and needs to be put out of its misery. However, of all those, I think persistence is the most important. A writer can get by without a whole lot of style, can get by being overly sensitive—but no writer gets very far without persistence. Even the crappiest Harlequin romance or by-the-numbers spy novel was created by somebody pecking away hour after hour, day after day.

You started out at William & Mary. Did any of your experiences there contribute to your ability or desire to write?

Absolutely. Main thing was writing for the newspaper. I was the sports editor there, and had the freedom to write pretty much whatever I wanted. It was a weekly paper, and I wrote a weekly game-picking column which, now that I think back on it, was really the Cro-Magnon version of what I’m writing these days on Right Down Peachtree—sports knowledge shot through with pop culture references and rampant smartassery. And this was eighteen years ago. Too bad there wasn’t an Internet back then, huh?

You also went to grad school (Memphis?). Do you feel today like that experience honed your skill set?

Yes, and in some unexpected ways. Grad school for writing can have a pretty rigid code of behavior—back when I was there, third-generation Raymond Carveresque nihilistic minimalism was all the rage, and the writing style (fictionally speaking) that I specialize in—black comedy, in the style of Carl Hiaasen—was looked down upon. I spent a lot of time—and wrote a really bad novel—in an attempt to create what I, at the time, thought was “serious” literature. It took me awhile to recognize that just because my talents didn’t run in certain literary directions didn’t mean my stories weren’t worth writing. So, from that side of things, I learned to follow my own voice, even if everybody else wanted me to speak a different language. (Hey, metaphor!)

But that paints grad school in a far too negative light. More than finding my own voice, I got exposed to a full range of others. I dug deep into every kind of literature I could get my hands on, and I got taught its nuances by experts in the field. You might not think that Virgil or Shakespeare or Gabriel Garcia Marquez would have much to do with sportswriting, but it’s all writing, it’s all creation. It’s all using language to craft something out of nothing. It may be an epic tale of love and loss, it may be ten goofball sentences on what Michael Vick and Van Halen have in common. But if there’s truth behind the effort, if there’s style behind the execution, they’ll both pay off. And that’s the kind of insight and instruction that I couldn’t have gotten on my own.

Was your first published piece about sports, or something else?

Technically, my first published piece was in the Atlanta Journal when I was in third grade, but that was part of a school project. (I analyzed school lunches. Deathless prose, it was.)

I think my first published piece outside of school writing (I was on the high school paper) was for a weekly neighborhood paper—one of those kinds that specializes in high school sports scores, garden club meetings, and overheated reports of City Council town halls. I did do sports for them, mainly because the sports editor there was an extremely cool guy and gave me my first lessons in dealing with coaches and players. (Lesson No. 1: They need you as much as you need them. Remember that, even if they don’t. It’s a lesson that’s served me well when dealing with pro athletes.) But I started out writing about high school football and basketball, swimming, track, whatever.

From there, though, I spent an awful lot of time in the “Living” and “News” section of the paper. I spent about six or seven years writing book and music reviews, doing investigative pieces, doing long-form creative nonfiction, stuff like that. Sports always seemed to draw me back, though, and even now it’s the part of my career that’s consistently breaking big.

Good God, this sounds egotistical. I swear I’m not this much of an insufferable bastard in real life.

How much of your daily routine is devoted to contacting editors and pitching stories?

Not nearly enough. I’m fortunate in that I’m at a point in my career where editors come to me with assignments, or I have standing assignments (columns) at multiple locations. And just keeping up with those can be daunting and time-consuming enough that I don’t pitch as much as I should. You’re supposed to spend up to 20 percent of your time pitching for new assignments; I’d say I probably do, at best, half that. God bless the Internet, though; it’s a lot easier dropping an email than the old-style way of mailing a query letter with a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and waiting three, four weeks for a reply…or none.

How much of your daily routine is devoted to interviewing subjects? actually writing?

Depends on the article for interviewing. For a 1,000-word article with three interview subjects, you’re looking at probably 30 minutes for each interview, 30 minutes of prep time, an hour to 90 minutes per interview of transcription and editing, and another 2-3 hours of compiling the whole mess into a readable article. I probably work about 50-55 hours a week and spend about 35 of that actually involved in physical writing tasks (which includes editing, interviewing, rewriting). The rest is pitching or planning. Oh, and scanning the Internet. That counts as work, right?

I have a list of “dream publications” that I would like to see my byline in. Who’s still on your list? Do you feel like those remaining names are attainable?

Hell yeah, I have a list. Rolling Stone is at the top of it. Sports Illustrated. The New York Times. The print versions of ESPN and Esquire (I’ve made it into the .com versions). And yes, I think it’s possible to get in. It’s a matter of combining good timing, good luck, a good pitch, and a good pipeline to the right editor.

I’m having a hard time envisioning the process of writing a graphic novel. Since most of your deathless prose is turned into visual art and word bubbles, how much background and development do you have to write in order to keep the overall story real & coherent?

Depends on the artist and what I’m trying to get across. “Hero punches villain in the face” is pretty straightforward. But if I’m trying to get across a mood, if I have visual symbols that are necessary to the story, I’ll write a paragraph of prose for each panel in a comic page. All of that doesn’t have to be cute and literary; it’s the equivalent of stage directions in a play. The artist is the only one reading that, but he’s in many ways the most important audience of all, because he’s the one who’s got to communicate my vision to the masses.

Comics/graphic novel writing requires a lot more precision than anything else I’ve ever written—you’ve got to compile your story into 22 pages, 4 to 6 panels per page—there’s not a whole lot of room to get flowery in your dialogue.

How did it feel to score the winning touchdown? (sorry, started feeling like a sideline reporter there).

Well, you know, I first have to thank my Lord Jesus Christ. And I wouldna gotten nowhere without my teammates. These guys have the heart of champions, you know, and when everyone was doubting us, we wasn’t doubting ourselves. We took what they gave us, we gave 110 percent, we played ‘em one game at a time, we…you look so cute. I wanna kiss yew.

You are currently writing a book, with a second on the way. Is there much tweaking of the idea during the proposal process, or did your concept come through fairly well unscathed?

I got incredibly lucky—the book I’m writing on the Georgia Bulldogs was suggested to me by my agent. He was having lunch with an editor who noted that SEC books always sell, but there hadn’t been a good Georgia one in awhile. So I got to thinking, and boom, the idea sort of blew out of my head full-grown.

My agent—who friggin’ rules—knew that the editor wanted the book. So he packaged it as a two-book deal—you want the Georgia book, you take another one by my boy. So I sold the entire Braves book on the basis of a single paragraph in an email.

The proposal itself, for both books, hasn’t changed significantly, no, so I was fortunate in that regard. But it did require a lot of prep work before I was ready to show anybody.

Have you always been good at meeting deadlines, or did you have to develop some new skills?

Decent, yeah, not great. I’m always looking for new ways to streamline what I do. And I’m having to resist the many temptations that are out there—the Internet, the TiVo, the Playstation, the whole bit. My major problem is one of overcommitment—taking on too many projects without finishing off the ones I’ve already committed to.

Interviewee’s choice – Your chance to wax poetic about how your family has inspired/enabled you, and stuff.

Hmmm…how about “Why does someone so devilishly handsome chain himself behind a computer in solitude?” No? So we’ll go with the family one. I was lucky enough to grow up in a very stable two-parent family in suburbia—lucky from a “good psychological foundation” perspective, but bad in the sense that I didn’t get that dark, brooding sense of imminent doom that torments and haunts most artists. However, I came from a large family, meaning that I had to be quick, loud, focused , and funny in order to get heard…all elements that have served me well even today.

Now, I’m lucky enough to be married to an insanely talented and driven wife who’s a partner in a law firm. She’s also an ex-UVa English major, so she knows enough to be able to tell me when my writing is just garbage. She’s completely supportive of my work, and there’s no way I could get as far as I have without her. And she doesn’t even know I’m writing this…but she probably should. It’d get me out of trouble once.

My kids love checking out my writing, but they’re spoiled little punks. I shamelessly abused my press pass to get them down close to the field before a Braves game and got Jeff Francoeur to come over and say hello and sign their stuff. Now, they’re pissed that I can’t get John Smoltz to come to their birthday parties.

So there you have it. I only asked ten questions because Jay’s a busy guy. Maybe some day I’ll grace you with the profile I wrote up for class, but I’m going to let Jay debut that on his own website first.Seek out Jay’s writing. It’s everywhere. You won’t be disappointed.

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birthdaycakefeast0017.jpgNo, it doesn’t say “Anus Bloggus”. Settle down, Beavis.

What that means, is that I have completed one full year of blogging, which is like seven years in the mainstream media. This blog has been, at best, mildly popular during that time, so I’m not rolling out the cake with strippers inside, exactly. But I did want to reflect just the tiniest bit on where this blog came from and where it’s been. Where it’s going would involve foresight, and I have none.

I actually started this blog as a challenge from a classmate at Old Dominion. We were supposed to be setting out a plan that would help us envision what it would take to become successful writers, and I said “the main thing I need to do is get used to writing every day.” So my partner in the exercise says “You should start a blog”. So you have her to thank, genius that she is. I know I need to track her down and say thanks, for certain.

I started out to just write satire, but my first post happened to be tangentially sports-related:

Can You TiVo This and Save My Leg, Doc?

At the time, though, I tried to be topical with the news as well:

Club Fed

A couple weeks later, I had my first national attention, again for a sports satire, but the link was on College Humor instead of Deadspin.  This one related to the big scandal from last year’s world series.

A Smudge of Fudge from Pudge?

Then, just before the end of my inaugural month, I discovered the joys of Deadspin with this gem, which I’m still kind of proud of:

Open Letter to a Pedantic Killjoy

Tell me that doesn’t stand up today.  I also used to make a cottage industry out of joking Peyton Manning’s OCD, until he had to ruin it all by winning the Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning Complicates Everything!

And, the post that by far wins the longevity championship is this one:

Rugby vs. Football = Apples vs. Oranges

No single day of this post’s existence has much exceeded fifty views, but it averages double-digit views every day since I wrote it a couple of months ago.  Maybe it was the coincidental timing of the Rugby World Cup, but I still can’t figure out where the views are coming from – no referrer shows up in my stats bar.  What I do know, is that I have been chastised for not knowing the rules of rugby (the premise of the piece, I must say), and it has been suggested that perhaps I should get off my skirt and get in the game if I want to know how it works.  Whatever – just keep reading and commenting, and we’ll come to an understanding some day.

birthdaycakeface0023.jpgSince then, there have been a great many posts, and over 200,000 hits, mostly by way of outside sources who were kind enough to loan me their readers for a day.  The best thing about that whole time is the collaboration aspect of it all.  I’ve been a part of the Awful Announcing Channel Four News Team since it was formed, just before the NCAA tournament.  And while that might sound gimmicky, it hasn’t been – our styles really mesh, and we work really well together when such an effort is required.

Shorty and Ted Bauer have both provided me with guest posts from time to time, and I’ve suckered invited sympatico bloggers like TC, Jack Cobra, and Sooze to help me overcome my lack of true baseball knowledge by helping me write Voodoo Sabermetrics and some of the Smells Like Pujols posts.  I’ve been quite pleased to make the acquaintance of great sports writers like Jay Busbee and Michael Litos, as well.

I’ve also met some great (as yet) unknown blog writers, and I am loath to name them for fear that my mental sieve will leak at the wrong moment.  Suffice to say – if I love your writing, I have tried to work with you at any opportunity, which is my way of saying “you rock”. 

Wow, this is far more pedantic than I intended to be.  I’ll just conclude by saying thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week, at the beginning of year two.

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I got this press release from Darren of Sports Agent Blog over the weekend. I’m already signed up as a Media member, so you should drop by and do the same.

Young Entrepreneurs Launch a New Social Networking Site: “AccessAthletes.com”

Gainesville, Fla. – Sept. 24, 2007 , Darren Heitner, 22, of Hollywood, Fla. and Matthew Allinson, 26, of Baltimore, Md., have launched AccessAthletes, LLC.

AccessAthletes.com is an interactive, social community that connects athletes, agents and the media across the globe so that they can communicate with each other more effectively and efficiently. Users may search for an agent, recruit talent, network or stay informed of the latest sports news. Athletes can make their AccessAthletes profile their home base for recruitment, bring their teammates online and create an official Access team, or inform the media of their latest achievements on the field.

The goal of the site is to revolutionize the sports industry by providing enhanced access to athletes, agents and the media. AccessAthletes requires its members to comply with all NCAA Bylaws and all other rules and regulations applicable to their respective sports. Athletes, agents and media entities must go through a validation process to confirm a registrant’s identity. If it is found that the registrant is truly a member of one of the three categories, that person will gain MVP status.

AccessAthletes.com strives to open various channels of communication under a secure umbrella, where all MVPs are authorized and information is kept secure. MVPs will also have control over their own privacy settings and can dictate who is able to contact them on the site.

Matthew Allinson and Darren Heitner, co-founders of AccessAthletes, LLC added, “Whether you are an athlete, agent, media entity or general sports fan, we want you to join the AccessAthletes.com community. While our site is geared towards athletes, agents, and the media, the sports fans are the people who drive its success.”


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usa_rugby_logo.jpgIndeed we do. Our national team is called The Eagles, and they are currently playing in the Rugby World Cup in France. This is an event that probably completely escapes our notice year in and year out, but as access to technology shrinks the world, we can expect to hear more about it.

My initial introduction to Rugby was via my college roommate. He was named Hans, and he played on the University of Kansas club team. I never once went to a game, but I saw him come home with his ears taped to his head so they wouldn’t fall off, gashes under his eyes, and gimpy knees. I also woke up to drunken singing and cursing in a Kiwi accent one night, so I guess he invited some of the other guys over from time to time. Anyway, suffice to say, I never caught the fever.

Since then, I’ve become a sports blogger. I have chosen to be a generalist, and to often focus on the obscure, so something like Rugby is now right up my alley. When I started reading truly knowledgeable and excited Rugby World Cup coverage over at With Malice and Shot to Nothing, I knew it was time to pay attention. If you can’t get excited to root for your national team, you’re just not trying, right?

My first attempt to talk about the sport was the post titled Rugby vs. Football = Apples vs. Oranges. It was my attempt to quell the debate that one sport was more “manly” than another, simply by pointing out that the intent in each was so different that the question is really rendered moot. The post was not an overnight success, but rarely does a week go by without a passionate advocate of either sport adding his comment, which is very gratifying indeed, and very educational.

Explaining rugby via the video game medium. This is perfect…

When I watched USA vs. England, there were a great many elements of the game that were immediately clear to me. The scoring run, where a player dodges, stiff-arms, and tries to touch the ball down for a “try”, is very much like it is in American football, and every bit as thrilling to watch. Tackling, lateral passes to teammates, kicks through the posts for three points…. check. There was enough familiarity there to keep me engaged.

Top ten rugby hits via youtube.

The confusing aspects will require more study, though I don’t by any means see them as deal-breakers. For instance, I had always thought that a scrum only happened after stoppages in play, sort of like a face-off in hockey. But I often saw a man get tackled to the ground, and a scrum form over his crumpled body immediately (after watching the video above, I learned that was a ruck). I also couldn’t tell exactly when kicking the ball was 1) allowed, and 2) tactically expedient within the flow of the game. There were running kicks that seemed meant to advance the ball (no forward passes) and then tee kicks for points. But still, nothing a quick tutorial wouldn’t solve.

A great try, as narrated by the English guy from the Jeffersons. (What?)

Better yet, a novice could sit down and actually watch a USA game with a friend who knows the game. That’s what Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog did. Finding a bar that plays Setanta network outside of a major metropolitan area might be a bit difficult, though.

usarugbyplayer.jpgI am opting for a third course. I will watch games whenever feasible (my sattelite provider carries Setanta, which I didn’t know until this project came to mind), read Don’s coverage, and attempt to allay my ignorance with research on the fly.

The timing of the RWC is unfortunate. Americans have been slavering for the start of our own football season for months, and there is precious little time in our viewing schedules for rugby, especially with our Eagles, predictably, struggling against more experienced and talented groups. However, if you happen to catch a match on a barren Wednesday night, why not give it a try? There’s beer, there’s hitting, there’s great team names, and there’s national pride on the line.

What’s not to like?


Rugby resources:

Rugby World Cup 2007

USA Rugby

2007 Rugby Super League (USA)

Women’s Rugby first to get NCAA status

America’s best-known rugger

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New article in Chicago Sports Weekly. It’s a short piece about how the NFL network is putting the preseason in heavy rotation.

Expensive For Some (page 23)

My ego is sated. Now go make us a sandwich.

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Special Patriotic Message

In celebration of the freedoms we enjoy in the United Stakes of the Merica.

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