Cliff Pfenning's blog

Building the franchise

Thu, 11/07/2013 - 11:24pm
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Well, losing to Stanford in November is a lot better than losing to Alabama in January.

At least for this season.

That's the basic assessment of Thursday's loss by the University of Oregon football team at Stanford.

The score? Not important. It's only the result that really matters.

The officials? Not the deciding factor, but they definitely had a role in the outcome.

The SI Jinx? Maybe, but you can't win the nation's top college trophy without being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, so ... it's a good watercooler topic, if there are any watercoolers actually left.

UO football fans learned a lot about their franchise - it's way beyond being a college program these days - from the loss Thursday, and they're things that can be very helpful in the gameplan for winning the national championship. And, winning the national championship many years in a row, too. So, in some ways, Thursday's loss was helpful to the franchise, long-term.

There's a lot to assess.

First, is do we have the right coach?

Thursday's loss came in the same week that ESPN aired a program that followed Alabama's Nick Saban for six months as he guided players and coaches toward ultimate victory - the national championship. The Crimson Tide has won it the past two seasons, and three of the past four.

Is Mark Helfrich ready for that media attention? He needs to be, and with a lot of passion - for the media world. Thursday's loss didn't highlight what Helfrich did wrong, but that he doesn't seem to be on the same level as Saban, or Stanford coach Brian Shaw. They both took over successful programs and have kept them their, but they work in very different worlds of expectation. Helfrich is expected to win the national title every year. Shaw coaches with the goal of playing in the Rose Bowl, or even the national championship game.

Thursday showed off Helfrich's team does not yet have the urgency to overcome the type of game it might get with the national championship on the line. But, he seems to be a great hire.

Second, what happened to Marcus Mariota?

He never runs the ball forward. In watching the NFL, a group of young, successful quarterbacks have infused the league with their ability to run and pass with great efficiency, and that's how Mariota has been delivered to the media world - he's equally gifted at running and passing in an offense.

But, it's not true. Mariota actually seems afraid (or has been coached) into not running forward to save a broken play. The issue showed itself off numerous times Thursday - that Mariota seems more adept at looking for a receiver behind the line of scrimmage than running for a first down by using the open spaces created by his receivers.

It was a very frustrating loss to watch. Stanford seemed like the perfect game to show off the parts of the Oregon offense that had been held in reserve, the plays that would accentuate the basic run up the middle. Why show off all the plays in the UO playbook when the wins are all by 21 points or more? Save some for Stanford. Maybe Alabama. That was a theory coming out of games against Washington and UCLA.

But, they didn't seem to be saving any plays at all. Maybe they just don't have that many plays, starting with the read-option, where Mariota reads a defender and instinctively decides to hand the ball to a back or keep it himself and run. He never runs, so the play ends up as a basic run up the middle. What's exciting about that? And, that's one of the reasons Mariota is on the Heisman Watch.

Thursday's loss highlighted that Mariota should not be on the Heisman Watch. However you want to assess Johnny Manziel, it's not hard to think he would have guided Oregon to a big win Thursday just by running the ball forward when he needed.

Next, is Oregon's defense good enough to stop Alabama? Even though Stanford converted time and again on third down, Oregon's defense does seem good enough to slow down and eventually stop other teams - even ones that don't throw very often. Thursday's game had really just one bad play by the Oregon defense - a third-down conversion run by Kevin Hogan where three Ducks had a chance to stop him and none did before he ran out of bounds having gotten a first down.

Finally, how can the Pac-12 Conference fix its officials?

What a different outcome Thursday might have been if the second-quarter interception hadn't been overturned due to a pass interference penalty that could only be described as one of the worst calls of the year. But, the Pac-12 has issues from the Wisconsin at Arizona State game. And, the call ruled a fumble on the Ducks next drive? It could easily have been ruled not a fumble.

But, that's the kind of game Helfrich needs to be ready to guide his team to a win. They almost got there with their late rally, but even then the offense was still running the ball when it needed more than one score with less than four minutes left.

A very frustrating loss, but also one that might have been good for the long-term success of the franchise.





For real team excitement - it's cross country

Fri, 11/01/2013 - 10:19am
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It's right there in vivid color from a year ago, the final feet of the OSAA Cross Country state finals.

With St. Mary's and Grant expecting a tight race for the girls Class 6A team title, junior Paige Rice of St. Mary's bore down on Grant freshman Ella Donaghu on the track and Lane Community College - the clock keeping track of time clearly in sight.

Rice, the defending state champion, had not had an optimal performance and was headed for fourth or fifth as she ramped up to a full sprint.

Donaghu had run alongside senior teammate Parkes Kendrick until the final corner and was near collapse having spent her energy on the first 4,980 meters of the 5,000-meter course.
Rice caught her - nearly.

The timing chip attached to each runner's shoe clocked both runners in with the same time - 18 minutes, one second, but Donaghu finished fourth with Rice fifth. Another foot and the results would likely have been reversed. In the overall team standings that foot gave Grant the team championship, 66-68, over St. Mary's. Had the positions been reversed the teams would have tied, giving the Blues a share of the school's second state title.

Instead, Grant won its second title, having won the first girls title in 1974.

Even though Rice had an individual title to her name from her sophomore season, that closing burst has stuck with her through the past year.

"That's been there all year," she said after winning the Mount Hood Conference title for the third straight year last week. "This is my shot at redemption."

The drama at the finish of last year's race is one of the reasons the cross country finals the best team event on the OSAA schedule. Each runner competes in two or three races, depending on their school's district results. They race themselves and their personal best, they race the other individuals for placing in the overall standings, and they race runners from other teams, with each placing making a difference in the team standings.

Every year, the team title of at least one of the eight races is decided by that foot or two that separated Rice and Donaghu - often its between runners from the teams battling for first and second.

What puts the cross country finals ahead of other championships is that foot is often between runners well behind the individual champion - those boys or girls dueling for 18th or 33rd or 60th place.

The weight of scoring for each team's top five runners is equal, making those final feet as valuable for fourth as it is for all other spots, regardless of what school the other runner is from so long as its one involved in team scoring.

At Class 3A boys, Union beat East Linn Christian by one point - 93-94. In the final standings, East Linn Christian senior Kody Osborne finished eighth in 16:48. But he finished in a three-man rush in which two other runners were also timed in 18:46 - both ahead of him. Second in the rush was Rich Fettig of Westside Christian, which finished sixth in the team standings. Had Osborne edged Fettig his school would have celebrated its first team title. But, its a result each of the other four members of his team can reflect on - all of them finishing within three seconds of the runner ahead of them.

In the case of St. Mary's, its second finisher, senior Ellen Patterson, was timed in 18:37 - the exact time of West Salem freshman Brooke Chuhlantseff, but Patterson placed eighth in the team scoring instead of seventh. The Blues other three scoring runners all placed within two seconds of the runner ahead of them - each spot making that critical difference in team scoring.

Of course, it works both ways as some runners do catch the person in front of them and that's what makes the team scoring as close as it becomes. That's the drama of the cross country team finals - there's no scoreboard that lets a runner know how those final meters will impact the team scoring. In those final meters, the race is in each runner's head.

Rice's finish, though, ended up having the most drama of the 2012 championships as it was between runners in direct competition in overall scoring, which involves a two-point swing. It's what will drive runners Saturday as they look ahead at the starting line, then look to the right and left at others in the race. The final seconds before the opening gun, those are the ones where everyone on a seven-member team will wonder who will be ahead or behind them in the final meters and will they be able to catch or hold onto their spot on behalf of their school?



College football is the answer

Tue, 10/15/2013 - 8:42am
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So, if you were like me, you learned a lot about the federal government at 9 p.m. Monday night, Pacific time. That's when the federal government shut down.

My reaction was simple - what's that actually mean?

Will traffic lights still work? They will because they're managed by local governments.

Will schools still open their doors? Yes - local governments.

Will cable still operate? Yes - it's a private business.

The mail? Yes, still there because it's a business, too.

So, what's gonna happen to me?

Will I get a break from photo radar? No way.

Well, that's when the scrolling info on the bottom of my television informed me of the big ticket items:

National parks will be closed. That sucks, but it doesn't affect my daily life.

NASA will shut down. Again, bad news, but we already lost the Space Shuttle and our little guy on Mars doesn't need daily updates, so not a big issue.

Federal employees, many of whom manage the tax system, won't get paid.

And, retirement checks won't get mailed out - there's a big item for older citizens, which I'm not.

I'm basically not affected, other than to wonder if I still have to pay taxes for a government that's not officially working.

Of course I do, because Congress is still getting paid.

And, the military is still operating on foreign soil.

What really happened Monday night is the U.S. just looked stupid to the rest of the world. That's nothing against older Americans and people who operate the government - some of whom I know, but most of America isn't directly affected by the federal government.

Our Congress doesn't even care enough about the nation to pass a budget - a long-term budget, too - to keep itself operating.


Even the nations that have filed for bankruptcy have to be looking over to North America with distain.

That's when it hit me it's time for college football to step up and make the federal budget really important, because what's bad for America is bad for college football.

Yes, college football is the answer to the federal government. And, head coaches are in charge of their programs, so they should step up and make a statement for Americans.

Here's a challenge to the college football coaches of America to step aside on Saturday, or Thursday in the case of Texas, Iowa State, UCLA, Utah, Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Monroe.

Just don't coach, something that will challenge team captains and every player on the roster. Assistants should still work, although they should donate their pay to a non-profit, but the head coach, then every player, should just agree to stop.

How fast would Congress work to pass a budget? Tuesday night might happen, or Wednesday ... Thursday morning at the latest. Texas is playing, and Iowa State wants its chance to hammer the Longhorns just like BYU.

It's not just football, by the way, but college football, which is the most important part of virtually every state in the union. That's why college football head coaches are the highest paid public employee in every state but Alaska.

Pro football is a business, which is why it can shut down and the U.S. still goes about its business. Same thing with Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL. They can all cancel an entire season and still not affect daily life. But, not college football.

Hotels will suffer. Gas stations will suffer. Beer sales will suffer.

If college football were to stop, even for one week, every member of Congress would get voted out of office, even the people who will eventually be on the winning side because there isn't a winning side when the government stops paying itself and looks stupid to the world. Citizens might even hold Congress captive on Capitol Hill, letting members leave only when they agree to have "I stopped college football" tattoed on their foreheads.

College football head coaches are the real source of power in America, and this is their opportunity to showcase that fact on behalf of every American.

Again, here's the challenge to college football head coaches, make that statement for America:

"Congress, get back to work and pass a budget, or there will be pain. Real pain."

Batum trade would spark Blazers

Wed, 06/19/2013 - 9:01am
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The magic that has always seemed to be brewing in Oakland, Calif., with the Golden State Warriors finally happened during the NBA season and made the team the SPORTSLAND, Oregon "Overachievers of the Year" during Monday night's podcast, recorded at Blitz in the Pearl District of Northwest Portland.

The Warriors, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers were other notable selections after the Warriors, who were among the top two picks of the show's four cast menbers: Derek Weber, Marlon Thomas, Michael Chamberlain and host Cliff Pfenning.

Golden State finished 47-35 and sixth in the Western Conference, then won their first-round playoff series over Denver. Last season, the Warriors were 23-43 during the strike-shortened schedule.

And, the other side, "Underachievers of the Year?" Easy: the Los Angeles Lakers.

Los Angeles built itself to win the league title with the acquisition of Dwight Howard and then Steve Nash during the offseason, but the team didn't win any preseason games, got clobbered in Portland in its season opener, and barely reached the playoffs, where they were routinely dispatched by San Antonio.

And Portland? The Blazers continue to be one of the quietest franchises in the NBA, something the panel tosses about as being a good or bad trait.

It's all from Northwest Portland, recorded every Monday night.

Oregon is a bracketbuster

Wed, 03/27/2013 - 9:48pm
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When the NCAA Tournament bracket got released Sunday, more than a few people, Oregon Ducks fans to be exact, had to be looking into a mirror thinking the same thought at the same time - this is the year.

If Gonzaga can be a No. 1 seed, why can't Oregon win the national championship?

No reason at all.

Louisville and Miami seem to be the top picks to meet in the national final in Atlanta, April 8, but there hasn't been anything close to a consistent winner under pressure this season. That's why Miami isn't even a No. 1 seed. It's in the East Region where Indiana is the top seed.

Louisville? It's the top seed in the Midwest, where Oregon is, but the Cardinals got trounced for more than a half by Syracuse in the Big East title game - before Syracuse imploded. Louisville got hot at the right time and played its way to a No. 1 seed.

But, Oregon got hot, too, in the Pac-12 title game against a UCLA team that had some magic for about eight minutes and then just played catch-up. The Ducks made that catch-up not much of a reality by doing a fabulous job of defensive rebounding and attacking the basket.With a lot of different players, too.

When the tournament MVP comes into games off the bench, that's a special team.

So, for Oregon fans, the tournament has to start with the same questions - if not Oregon, then who? And, if not now, then when? The answer to both of those questions is simple - it's Oregon's year: a win over Oklahoma State today, then Saint Louis on Saturday, then Louisville, Michigan State, New Mexico and Miami.

National champions for 2013, only 74 years after its first title.

Remembering the past is always fun

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 6:46am
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When I ran across Dennis Murphy on Saturday at the Class 6A state basketball tournament, he lit up on a topic he knows very well, but doesn't get to talk about much anymore.

It's his first championship - one he earned in 38 years ago while coaching Little League softball.

I ran across that fact two years ago while doing some history research and finding that a team from Gresham had won the softball World Series in 1983. I worked on getting that team together for a 30-year anniversary, and there's some video of that up on Those ladies had a great time showing off photos from their experience three decades earlier.

Murphy's name popped up on the list of champions, and immediately hit me - is that the same Dennis Murphy who's the basketball coach at South Medford?

Murphy had a great time talking about the unique elements of that season as the South Medford band played in the background, in particular, that the team won the series in the only year softball actually played in Williamsport. Softball people will note that's a good thing as the field there is baseball oriented, not softball - there's grass in the infield.

Since then, Murphy has gone on to a distinguished

The best part of the interview was at the end, after filming, when he sat back down and and reflected on reflecting with a big smile - "that was fun."

Getting people to talk about their experiences is always fun for me, too.

And, hey, how about those hats?

Here's the video:


Return to the Jump Ball Era

Thu, 03/07/2013 - 10:07am
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In a year, I think Grant High would win its boys basketball playoff game against West Linn - with the exact same circumstances as played out Wednesday night at the Rose Garden. But, not beause the officiating would be different, or different calls were made. They'd win because of an extra year of experience for the team, and for coach Paul Kelly.

Kelly came away from the game extremely upset by the officials' call that created two free throws that West Linn senior Jarrod Howard calmly sank to push the Lions to a 51-50 lead with 3.6 seconds remaining in the pressure-filled game.

Grant threw an inbounds Hail Mary, which Howard caught and ran out the clock to move the Lions into the semifinals and a game against unbeaten Lake Oswego Friday.

Kelly had plenty of reason to be upset by the call that sent Howard to the line, a call you can watch on video at He's scrambling for the ball along with half the players on the court, but ends up at the free throw line. On the replay, you can see it's a decisive call on a very indecisive play. And, Grant got burned by the call.

In a year, though, that call won't be the decisive part of the game, because Kelly will have a year of head coaching experience to reflect on.

Grant played its way to a No. 1 seed in the playoffs in Kelly's first season. But, that's the regular season. The pressure of winning in January and February isn't anything like winning in March, and the final 20 seconds showed that.

Leading 50-49 after making a pair of free throws from a foul call, Grant forced a missed shot - by Howard - and senior Khayman Burton grabbed the rebound. But, he simply held onto the ball, and got tied up - by West Linn's Hayden Coppedge ... and Howard. Grant got possession on the jump ball. The ensuing inbounds play went badly, though. The inbounds pass got batted away ... by Howard ... and turned into a mad scramble in which Grant's Bryce Canda clearly got to the ball first and got tackled. When the whistle blew to end the play, though, West Linn got possession due to a jump ball being called - although it was not clearly signaled.

West Linn's ensuing inbounds play ended in another mad scramble, but this one resulted in the key free throws.

What to make of all this?

Well, first, Grant had 3.6 seconds left after both free throws. That's plenty of time to get all the way to the basket for a lay-up or game-winning jump shot. The Hail Mary was the last call a more experienced team would make.

Moving backward, too, a better inbounds play with 13 seconds left would have resulted in free throws for Grant. Instead, it resulted in a turnover. Regardless of how questionable that call was, a more experienced team would have gotten that ball in without getting it batted away.

Even the rebound that turned into a jump ball could have been a rebound and pass to a nearby teammate, who would have drawn a foul.

Next year, the Generals would create a lot more chances to win (there's no guarantee, of course, they'd make any of those free throws they might have drawn).

As for the offiicials, the jump ball call brings up an idea to resolve a lot of mad scrambles. Use it more. When there's a scramble, a scrum, tackles being made, that would be a great time to just call the play dead and determine possession. In that case, neither team could score directly, one team would just get the ball and an inbounds pass. Complaining about a change in possession is a lot different than complaining about free throws that result from the same mad scramble. The call that resulted in Howard's free throws was right in line to be a jump ball call.

It's unfortunate Grant's eight seniors will probably reflect on their loss to West Linn with an official's call being a key element, but it's an opportunity for the program's future to grow from the experience and be better prepared to win the same game, even with the exact same officials.




Oregon's season is saving the state's honor

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 11:01am
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It's been a horrible year for college basketball at the NCAA Div. I level in Oregon.

Horrible is a bit of a harsh term, but a look at the conference records for the eight Div. I men's and women's programs shows there's only one of team with a winning mark. In fact, only the Oregon Ducks have more than five conference wins heading into this weekend's games.

Without the Ducks' 11-4 conference record, the state is 26-85 in conference games.

So, where's that leave the expectations for the fans of the four schools?

Are there any coaching changes that deserve at least a chat around a water cooler?

Here's a look at who's most likely to get a bit of conversation going in order of how it might come up:

1. Paul Westhead, Oregon women
If there's a change coming this off-season it's Westhead. Oregon is 50-67 in his fourth year there, but just 20-50 in conference play, and is going backwards in overall wins. This season, the Ducks are 4-24, 2-14, and lost all four games to in-state schools. When they played at the University of Portland in December, the team (along with the Pilots) attracted roughly 200 fans
Unless the team somehow plays its way to a conference tournament title, this will be the worst season in school history.

2. Craig  Robinson, Oregon State men
Robinson is 73-86 overall and 30-57 in conference play in his fifth year at the school. Those aren't numbers that scream for a coaching change, unless you're a fan who expects more. The Beavers were 21-15 last year, which showed off the progress under his guidance, but he has yet to post a winning record in conference play. This season's 3-12 record in Pac-12 play is what should get some discussion going.

3. Eric Reveno, Portland men
In his seventh season, Reveno has led the Pilots to a 96-124 record, and 42-47 mark in West Coast Conference play, so the program isn't begging for a change, unless, again, you expect more. Portland averaged 20 wins per season from 2008-11, but went just 7-24 last year. It's 11-19 this year and 4-11 in WCC action. A win or two in the conference tournament should quell discussion through another season, but no wins in Vegas leads to …

4. Tyler Geving, Portland State men
Geving has guided the Vikings to a moderate level of success, which included a 17-15 record last season. There's not an imminent need to push for a change in the Park Blocks, unless, again, you expect more. The team does not have any freshmen this season, which would be the biggest thing that attracts attention, and is just 8-16 overall. But last season's record and level of competitive play should allow room for at least one more season.

5. Scott Rueck, Oregon State women
In his third season, Rueck is 38-53 overall, but only 14-38 in conference play. He's still building the program with his own recruits, but 9-19, 3-13 this season is cause for some discussion. Are the Beavers going forward? He's still in year No. 3, and was conference Coach of the Year last season when the program went 9-9 in conference play, so there's not much of an imminent need to talk about his future as being somewhere else.

6. Sherri Murrell, Portland State women
In season No. 6, Murrell is 109-75, and 58-39, which puts her alongside Oregon's Dana Altman as the coaches with winning records for their career at their current school. The Vikings have had annual success, although this season they're just 11-5, 5-12. Another year like this will get a little blood boiling, although a return to previous success might actually get some larger schools looking her way.

7. Dana Altman, Oregon men
In year No. 3, the Ducks are 22-6, 11-4 under Altman and have become a Top 25 program. Oregon expects a winner, and he's producing. Now, they just need to get somewhere in the NCAA Tournament, but that's the kind of discussion you want.

8. Jim Sollars, Portland women
In year No. 27, Sollars is pretty-much untouchable as coach on The Bluff. The Pilots are an annually tough team, although just 11-17, 4-12 this year. Overall, Portland is 374-412 under Sollars, and 164-202 in WCC play, but heading for three decades at the helm should have fans talking about frustration with players, not the head coach. Unless, again, you expect more.

Are the Olympics asking for competition?

Wed, 02/13/2013 - 2:59pm
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Talk about coming from out of left field.

The International Olympic Committee took the first step toward cutting wrestling out of the line-up for Summer Games starting in 2020, a move that was absolutely stunning to read about - just the headline - on Tuesday.

Wrestling may have been one of the original sports the Olympics were created around, but the modern keepers of the Games looked past that and voted to take it out regardless of its standing as a much-loved international sport.

The leaders of the sport at the international level, FILA, didn't seem to do much to stop it either, according to what's been written online.

The sport isn't going to stop being contested on the international level - there's going to be World Championships every year, but it's just not going to have the specific appeal it gets every four years. The IOC Executive Board, with its move, seemed to totally miss it's role in assisting non-TV-oriented sports with their popularity every four years.

Take soccer for example. Soccer has its own world celebration - every four years, too - called the World Cup. Soccer as a sport, has professionals worldwide and does just fine without the Olympics.

Basketball has pro leagues across the world and does just fine as a sport without the Olympics. Since professionals have been allowed in, it's essentially another opportunity to watch the All-Star game. Those sports, though, are television-oriented, money generating, so they're always going to be part of the Games. Wrestling, while it nearly sold out all of its tickets in London - more than 120,000 - during its run for Freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions, is not a highly revenue-generating sport on television, so it was on the block along with other sports such as the Modern Pentathlon and field hockey.

The Modern Pentathlon - is there anyone in Oregon who trains for that? Field Hockey - are there any teams in Oregon?

Wrestlng gets to show itself off every four years, much like figure skating or ski jumping do in the Winter Games. There are competitions yearly with World Championships, but the Olympics are the biggest thing in the wrestling world. The IOC looked right past that.

The sport is achieving great success in Oregon, and is growing more than any other sport - roughly 9 percent a year. Only girls cross country (7 percent) and girls track and field (6 percent) are growing among the state's high school sports. Baseball (13 percent) and softball (17 percent) are experiencing the biggest decline. Baseball and Softball are looking to join the Olympics roster in 2020.

For wrestling supporters in Oregon, who've seen programs get dropped at schools throughout the state to where there are just a handful left, it's another snub by the executive level, even though within the state it's highly successful. Oregon State is among the nation's top dual meet teams and is annually ranked in the top 25, while Clackamas Community College has won a national title recently. Half of OSU's team is from Oregon, something none of the other teams at the school can promote.

So, where's the reversal here?

Perhaps wrestling as a sport needs to create its own World Cup, a tournament conducted every four years and held in countries where there's significant interest and revenue available for such an event. The best way to get wrestling back into the Olympics is to have the IOC ask for the sport to come back, and that's going to take some effort at the top level of the sport, something it didn't seem to get recently.

There's a number of online petitions that have sprung up already, urging the U.S. Government for one to take some political action. The first thing the U.S. wrestling establishment should do is lobby to replace the executive level of the international governing body, which seems to have allowed the sport to get taken down without much of a fight, and that's not the way its competitors are raised to address competition.

It's the era of specialization

Fri, 01/25/2013 - 11:19pm
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Ah, the simpler days of the sports media world. Where did they go?

In this week’s cover feature, coaches of club teams reflect on the state of sports and athletes who play them and it’s not what it used to be. At least in time commitment.

High school kids might put in the same amount of time in practice and games as they used to during a season 10 and 20 years ago, they just don’t play as many sports anymore.

Three-sport athletes are far more rare because they are almost required to focus on one sport if they expect to earn some financial assistance from a college, whether it’s a scholarship or some tuition assistance.

If you want to be good enough to get noticed, you have to be special by focusing on one sport.

It works that way in the media world as well, and has writers of traditional media making the same comments about their profession. It was better the old way, when one publication was able to cover a wide variety of topics for a large audience. Competition wasn’t lacking, but the mix of print, radio and television survived from the advent of TV following World War II right on into the 21st century.

Today, the media world changes almost daily, which is part of social progress. Any sport or activity can get special attention if it has someone to provide it. Usually for free.

The consistent specialization, though, especially in blog form, has  continually sapped the ability of established media to keep tabs on larger issues affecting its community. Those issues would turn into features, the kind that involve some research and a bit of time to write.

Writers of today probably spend more time working their craft, but so much of it involves tweeting and blogging, and doesn’t get delivered to a larger audience, only the specialized one that follows their work through Facebook or Twitter.

That’s the challenge we’re tackling, attracting an audience to a collection of stories and features from a variety of specialized topics, something newspapers do, at least did back when there were still three-sport athletes.

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