Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Media Day Blitz

'Tis the season...for Football Media Days.

Surely you've seen the festivities working their way through college football lately--the monster-size conferences get the most attention for their events, but they definitely don't have an exclusive on such things.

This week the Big South stages its annual launch/gathering/showcase in Charlotte, and football fanatics throughout the Conference will get their fix as we go into the last month before teams begin play.

Here's what Thursday's 2010 Big South Football Media Day will bring:

--first off, the morning, the football coaches will gather to go over issues, followed by a joint session of those coaches and their athletics directors;

--next up, lunch...with the morning sessions concluded, the focus turns to a banquet hall--but it's not just about the food;

--featured presentations...the centerpiece of the luncheon is the formal release of the Big South's Preseason Poll and All-Conference Team (as shared in a preview video produced last I know all those answers already, but I can't share for another 24 hours, sorry)...PLUS the coaches will each get a brief opportunity to address the room and the preseason players of the year (offense/defense) will have short interviews on stage;

--free-for-all frenzy...okay, so it's not really all that frenzied, but a lot happens in the couple of hours after the luncheon's conclusion, with basically three rooms abuzz: the main media room, where individual outlets will all be collecting sports information materials and grabbing lots of interviews...the player interview room, where the Conference will ask questions of the team representatives for use during the season...and the streaming broadcast room, where Matt Hogue (fresh from leading the luncheon) will put questions to all the coaches and players for a FREE live video stream on the Big South I expect plenty
of mingling and interviewing in the halls, too.

Catch the live stream if you can--and look for updates coming out on our Twitter and Facebook pages as well, where you can also submit YOUR questions for the coaches and players (and please do so -- we'd love to get the answers you're looking for).

And then sometime late in the afternoon, visitors will depart, the buzz will hush, and life will return to a semblance of normal.

But it will be different than the day before...

...because it will already be football season for those of us who have been waiting for it...(the less eager can try to hold out a few more weeks, but it won't be long now).

Let the games begin.
SHOUT -- out...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All Stars to Me

Today is the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, saluting many of the best active players in the sport. The roster even includes a former Big South player, which makes it all the more special. That said, it should be noted that while fame and talent are relative, everybody capable of playing pro ball is a "star" in his own right. And while that may sound broadly optimistic or simplistic, I feel there's more to it than that.

So before I dig deeper into the subject of the Big South in pro baseball, a few digressions:
--remember when this was really the "All-Star Break"? It was a chance for a collective breath from an unending wheel of games, and the only ones who lamented the gap were sportscasters seeking content. Now it seems like the wheel never stops.
--while not as diluted as the NFL Pro Bowl pool seems to get, the overall collection of players that winds up involved in the game often feels like less than the game's true elite, thanks to a combination of injuries (both real and perceived), the compulsion for including every team, and the desire to get as many players in the game as possible (which, at its worst, produced an extra-inning TIE once the benches were laid bare). Taken separately, these things may appear logical; combined, they can be less than ideal.
--determining the World Series home field advantage via an isolated game played months before and likely resolved by players not involved in the championship makes about as much sense as setting Fall Classic start times based on the number of runs scored on Opening has nothing to do with the other. Would you do it based on the Home Run Derby results? They're both exhibition contests, so what's the difference?

And as for the "star" question, I fall back on some things from my days working in minor league baseball. Try to remember that everybody you watch on these rosters was all-city/all-state/all-star/all-conference somewhere, that each of them was chosen over countless other players, and that all of them have survived multiple cuts to get to the level they are playing at--from the lowest of the minors to the pinnacle of being MLB All-Stars. Getting paid to play ball shows talent greater than most...and of course, getting recognized as one of the best of the best demonstrates exceptional abilities and true GAME. Anybody who can do this for a living has certainly earned a modicum of respect for his game...not necessarily adulation and mind-boggling riches, although those seem to come with the package anymore.

Therefore, I offer an open SHOUT-out to all the players who made their way up through the Big South to the professional ranks--guys like Liberty's Shawn Teufel, who went from this year's Conference Championship tournament to the Tigers organization--playing first with the Connecticut Tigers and now the West Michigan Whitecaps...guys like VMI's Michael Bowman, who got drafted from the Keydets two years ago and pitched in the AA All-Star Game last night...guys like UNC Asheville RHP Justin Schumer, who will get his shot now that he's signed a free agent deal with the Giants organization....and guys like Ty Wigginton, American League All-Star.

Wigginton, who played his college ball for the UNC Asheville Bulldogs, got the lone Baltimore roster spot on the AL squad. He's been traded and cut multiple times in his career, but keeps plugging away, now with his 5th big-league team. It's not surprising that at 32, he gets labels like "journeyman infielder," but just don't forget to include "All-Star" as well. Here's a great profile--including his college years--from the Baltimore Sun.

So catch the game, watch Wigginton when he gets in at some point, and enjoy a smile for a player who's had a wild ride in a successful career.

And yes, there are a great many more players from all our member teams throughout professional baseball, I was just picking a few examples of individuals at different points in their careers (so please don't hit me with "what about Kevin Slowey, or x, or y, or z...").

Before I go, here's a nod to some extra special All-Stars: our Big South Conference Scholar Athletes of the Year! Just announced today, these selections embody the full nature of what it means to be a "student-athlete"...and both are from Coastal Carolina University--male winner Austin Fleet (baseball) and female winner Jill Nyhof (volleyball). It's worth pointing out that the last time both winners came from the same school was just two years ago--and it was also CCU. Congratulations to both deserving recipients on a tremendous year in competition and in the classroom!

No better way to end it than that, so that's SHOUT--out.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quick Hits for a Holiday Weekend

Gotta share this with you, if you haven't spotted it yet--VMI alum Tim Maypray puts his speed, vision, and reaction time in full effect to return a missed field goal for a touchdown over 120 yards (this is the CFL, after all)!!! Just one great moment from a 54-51 overtime thriller won by Maypray's Saskatchewan Roughriders on CFL opening night (July 1st).

His play is #4, about 1:18 into the video...

In other news for the Big South in the pro ranks, Art Parakhouski from Radford will play on the Boston Celtics' Summer League team, trying to work his way into an NBA job.

Great job, Tim...good luck, Art...and here's hoping everyone out there has a safe and enjoyable Independence Day/weekend holiday celebration ------SHOUT--out.