posts

Peter Nowak: We must break you

If you saw the MLS season opener, you saw one of two things, depending on your view of the world’s game:

1. A bunch of whiny Seattle players diving and moaning with pre-existing injuries.

2. A bunch of thuggish Philadelphia players knocking Seattle players to the turf.

We can’t really say Philly coach Peter Nowak, one of the league’s all-time best players, has been on the defensive about it. He’s very much on the offensive. If you can’t take a little bumping and kicking, he says, find another sport. From the Delaware County Daily Times:

“If you want to avoid contact, I would suggest badminton or curling or chess maybe. That’s how we play the game. This is a man’s game. If you want to compete, let’s compete.”

That’s a questionable comment on several levels:

1. Man’s game? Has Nowak ever seen the U.S. women play? No one should ever accuse them of a lack of toughness.

2. Some of us slipped badly the first time we tried curling. Some of us also plan to cover a bit of chess in our shiny new multisports blogs. And Olympic-caliber badminton will make anyone rethink definitions of athleticism. But fine, none of them are “contact” sports.

3. The fouls against Seattle looked like fouls from here, especially the only one that made the highlight video here:

Make no mistake — Nowak knows what he’s doing. He’s a sought-after coach for several reasons, and one is that he’ll stick up for his team. Before the season, he told me the Union supporters, who existed as a group before MLS was even close to awarding an expansion team, wanted to see passion, commitment and fight. His players will bring that, or he’ll yank them off the field. No doubt about that.

But since MLS is a man’s game, he might need to find some men who can play defense without landing a flying knee to the backside. And he knows that, too — he’s already shaking up his backline.

Thursday: No fooling around here

Today’s headlines:

Soccer: The U.S. women’s team beat Mexico 1-0. At least, we think that’s what happened. The snow made it a little hard to see. Can’t wait for U.S. Soccer to post the highlights. In the meantime, the Salt Lake Tribune story includes a photo gallery worth checking out. (U.S. Soccer match report)

MMA: Kenny Florian took a comfortable third-round submission win to spoil Takanori Gomi’s long-awaited — probably too long, unfortunate — UFC debut in the main event at UFC Fight Night. Roy Nelson won the battle of big and tall against Stefan Struve, ducking under a punch from “The Skyscraper” and answering with a knockout shot. Florian and Nelson took the night’s submission and knockout bonuses, while Ross Pearson and Dennis Siver took the fight of the night honors. Jorge Rivera had the best overall performance of the night with a convincing win over Nate Quarry that didn’t last long into the second round.  (MMA Fighting Stances)

Soccer: Not to judge a city’s politics from afar, but it looks like a one-week delay in a vote on the Houston Dynamo’s stadium deal has spawned a bit of petty sniping. (Houston Chronicle)

Alpine skiing: You didn’t expect Bode Miller to make his mind about next season anytime soon, did you? (AP)

Soccer: U.S. player Marcus Tracy expects to miss the rest of the club season in Denmark with a knee injury. (AP)

Today’s reads:

Volleyball: Need to catch up with any of the 157 U.S. women’s players going to overseas club teams? They’re rounded up on one staggering roundup. (USA Volleyball – PDF)

MMA: The toughest part of getting into the house on The Ultimate Fighter might be dealing with solitary confinement in a hotel before the first bout, according to this compelling blog entry from contestant Court McGee. (Sherdog)

Soccer: Inside Minnesota Soccer compiled a comprehensive preview of the USSF Division II (shotgun marriage between USL and NASL) season, with one writer per team. Familiar names include Steve Ralston, Christian Gomez, Louis Crayton and Steve Cronin. Future MLS clubs Vancouver and Portland have kept a lot of players from year to year. Miami, which has Gomez and Abe Thompson, is trying to rival the MetroStars/Red Bulls for roster turnover. (Inside Minnesota Soccer)

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 1: 14-fight whirlwind

Recapping The Ultimate Fighter, frankly, is too fun not to do. So that’s what we’ll do over the course of the next three months, each Wednesday night after the 10 p.m. ET showing on Spike.

At least, most nights, it’ll be at 10 p.m. — the premiere was delayed a few minutes by a long break in the UFC Fight Night card followed by a power outage.

Coming into the season, the rumor mill has claimed that something goes awry and coach Tito Ortiz has to drop out, replaced by ever-loyal UFC soldier Rich Franklin on the show and in the coach’s fight that comes afterwards. If so, rival coach Chuck Liddell is throwing everyone off the trail. He spent most of a conference call this week talking about how much he was looking forward to beating up Tito, saying Tito not only talked about his personal life but made stuff up.

UFC and Spike officials guard these secrets like Roy Nelson guards his spot in a buffet line, so we won’t get any sort of confirmation one way or the other. When I asked Dana White about it recently, he told me I’d just have to watch and see. OK, then.

In any case, we can count on a lot of Liddell-Ortiz back-and-forth during the season, which probably isn’t a good thing. That got a little tedious last season with Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans, and they’re both a lot funnier than Liddell and Ortiz.

But we won’t hear much of it this week because we have to get through 14 fights. They brought 28 middleweights to the training center, but only 14 will make it into the house and the collective consciousness of UFC fans over the next three months. And here they go …

Continue reading ‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 1: 14-fight whirlwind

Happy Wednesday

HEADLINES

– New FIFA rankings! Spain, Brazil, Netherlands unchanged in top three. Portugal leaps past Italy and Germany for fourth. Egypt surges to 14th.

But the big news is in CONCACAF: USA 16th, Mexico 17th.

Mixed bag for the USA’s World Cup opponents: England swapped places with France to take seventh. Slovenia slipped to 29th. Algeria is up five places to 27th. (FIFA)

– Big upset in Key Biscayne’s Sony Ericsson Open, one of tennis’ near-majors: Tomas Berdych ousted Roger Federer. Tennis writer Bonnie D. Ford says via Twitter that the match was long but far too sloppy to be an “epic.” (AP)

– Would North Korea really host a couple of World Cup games if South Korea lands the 2022 Cup? As rigid as North Korea has been, who knows what the geopolitical landscape will look like by then? (Reuters)

– LPGA players are just warming up this season, and yet they’re being thrown into a major already. (USA TODAY)

– Welcome to Philadelphia, David Myrie! We’re happy to have picked you up in the MLS expansion draft, and we’re planning to build a core of good young players moving forward. Take your spot in the starting lineup for the opener. … OK, never mind, you’re cut. (Philadelphia Union)

PROVOCATIVE READS

A few years ago, Mike Penner became Christine Daniels. Now, friends of the LA Times sportswriter are mourning two people with only one physical death. (LA Times)

– Football, religion, Sabbath … OK, I didn’t get through all of this one. (Christianity Today)

– Random preview of the day: U.S. Chess Championship in May features new format. As long as Jen Shahade is doing commentary, it should be worth checking out. (USCF)

TODAY’S TV (times ET)

– 1 p.m./9 p.m.: Tennis, Sony Ericsson quarterfinals, check Fox Sports Net affiliates

– 2:30 p.m.: Soccer, Champions League, Arsenal-Barcelona, FSC (Inter Milan-CSKA Moscow follows on delay)

– 8 p.m.: MMA, UFC Fight Night, Spike. The main event is one of the most anticipated ever on a free-TV UFC card, with longtime UFC contender Kenny Florian taking on Takanori Gomi, a Japanese fighter who has dealt with a few personal demons since the dissolution of Japan’s once-dominant Pride promotion and has finally found his way to the USA. Also a good heavyweight matchup of big (Roy Nelson) and tall (Stefan Struve) fighters trying to climb the ladder. (Bloody Elbow)

– 9 p.m.: Soccer, USA-Mexico women, ESPN2

– 10 p.m.: MMA, The Ultimate Fighter season premiere, Spike.  Recap will follow tonight right here at SportsMyriad, where I’ll hopefully have a logo and some design tweaks in place this evening.

Randy Couture, Kimbo Slice … and lacrosse? Closer than you think

The NLL (National Lacrosse League) is a lot like hockey with carpet instead of ice and a different type of stick. And like NHL players, NLL players occasionally drop the gloves and throw their fists in fights governed by codes both unofficial and official — in the NLL’s case, written in exquisite detail (see the rules in PDF). Sometimes, those fights get so out of hand that they migrate from the lacrosse blogosphere to Deadspin.

Everyone involved was punished, though the “game misconduct” penalties might not mean much with all of this happening so late in the game. The Boston Blazers-Philadelphia Wings box score duly notes it all.

Also noted in the box score – this approach seems to be working. Attendance for this game in Philly was 11,241.  That’s not an outlier — last year’s league average was a shade over 10K, squarely between indoor and outdoor soccer, not too far off arena football. The league survived a labor impasse a couple of years ago, maybe not too surprising since some of the players spend more time on airplanes than they do playing and practicing. (See my 2007 interview with goaltender/Ontario teacher Anthony Cosmo.)

In an era of media hand-wringing over anything and everything, it’s surprising no one has made a fuss over lacrosse fights. Hockey fighting rarely leads to injury — fighters can’t get much leverage on their punches while they’re standing on ice. Lacrosse fights are basically bare-knuckle brawls on an unforgiving surface. Listen to the commentary in this clip, and you’ll hear someone giving a shoutout to backyard brawler-turned-UFC fighter Kimbo Slice:

A “Kimbo Slice uppercut” would be something like what you’ll see at the 1:24 mark here:

Given all this, should we be surprised that UFC legend Randy Couture has taken an interest in lacrosse and had a few fighters, er, lacrosse players training at his gym?

Tuesday’s headlines: Moscow mourns, Man U in Munich

– The Champions League continues today at 2:30 p.m. ET with Bayern Munich-Manchester United (FSN) and Lyon-Bordeaux (FSC), but Wednesday’s action will have a somber tone as CSKA Moscow takes the field two days after a subway bombing that killed 39 people. The club has asked to wear black armbands (Reuters). (TV listings – Soccer America)

– CSKA Moscow’s basketball team, where Americans Trajan Langdon and J.R. Holden have carved out long careers, is in action today in the Euroleague quarterfinals against Spain’s Caja Laboral. CSKA leads the best-of-5 series 2-0. (Euroleague)

– Back to soccer’s European elite — Chelsea’s Didier Drogba has a two-match European ban. (BBC)

– Break up the U.S. men’s rugby sevens, which beat Thailand 62-0 and will play in another Cup quarterfinal. Will the USA turn into a rugby power now that the sport’s in the Olympics? (USOC)

– Tony Benshoof is the Terminator of luge. He’s having back surgery and says he might return for another season. (AP)

– Dana White talks often about the Internet being the future of broadcasting, and maybe he’s not kidding: The Ultimate Fighter will have tons of archival footage and extras online. (FanHouse)

– South Africa’s Carter Semenya, whose gender is still in question, has not been cleared to run. (AP)

– The collection of strange Diego Maradona headlines continues: He was treated at a hospital after being bitten by one of his dogs. Are the media too obsessed with him, or is his life that strange? (Reuters)

How I got here

Updated October 2017

Or “How did a philosophy and music major end up as a sports journalist?”

The answer isn’t simple, which I why I’ve prepared this narrative as a companion to the simple work history presented in my resume. If you’re not interested in the whole story, the short answer is that my versatility has allowed me to hop between several career tracks in journalism. I’m an experienced editor and writer, a former page designer and an early adopter on the Web. I’m one of the few people to make the jump from print to Web, then back to print, then back to the Web, then halfway back to print. My experience is nothing if not diverse: covering high school basketball in rural North Carolina, designing the syndicated “That’s Racin'” NASCAR page, doing live election coverage in the early days of the Web, coordinating coverage of the Winter Olympics from Salt Lake City, researching a graduate thesis on new media, writing a soccer column that ensures an entertaining stream of e-mail to my inbox and jumping on the emerging sport of mixed martial arts.

Here’s the long version:

chronicleAs I went through my undergraduate years at Duke, I wound up spending more and more time working for The Chronicle, the independent student newspaper. As arts editor my junior year, I re-organized the paper’s sporadic coverage into a twice-weekly section with a full calendar. By my senior year, I virtually lived at the office. I spent a semester as managing editor, guided newcomers through their first assignments, edited the monthly magazine supplement Currents and wrote for every section. (In 2017, I joined The Chronicle‘s board as Strategic Committee chair.)

A rational mentor would have talked me into going to law school or graduate school, most likely in music. Fortunately, no such mentor existed. Though I had no professional experience and no journalism professors to recommend me for top jobs, I chased every newspaper lead I could find in the shaky economy of 1991.

nine-toesI landed on the copy desk of the Morning Star in Wilmington, North Carolina, where I did all the basic desk tasks: editing stories, writing headlines, designing pages and picking wire stories. Thanks to a hiring freeze, I wound up as a stopgap assistant city editor at the tender age of 22. After 18 months, I moved to the sports section. Desk work was still my main responsibility, but in a department of five, I had ample opportunity to write a column and the occasional game story.

After three years in Wilmington, I was ready to move on to a newspaper I’d long admired, the News & Record in Greensboro. Here, I learned much more about page design, which gave me a chance to work in both the news and sports sections. Once again, I took on management duties, scheduling shifts for my co-workers and supervising the editorial assistants.

By 1995, I had joined the ad hoc team that ran the newspaper’s first foray into the Internet. The next year, the paper put together a full-fledged Web site, and I was hired as coordinating producer.

parlowWe were one of the fortunate newspaper site staffs given the freedom to do more than a simple rehashing of the print version. We took turns writing a column about the Internet for the paper, and we helped local groups and businesses develop their sites within our virtual community. I did live scene coverage under primitive circumstances, wandering around during an election or a golf tournament while making frequent trips back to the office or media tent, all using a state-of-the-art digital camera the size of a shoebox. Best of all, I put together original material to cover local sports teams with “Carolina” in their names: Panthers (NFL), Hurricanes (NHL), Dynamo (A-League soccer).

Being in Greensboro also gave me the chance to commute each week to my alma mater, Duke, to work on a master’s degree in liberal studies. I broadened my education in a series of interdisciplinary courses in environmental studies, education, political science, history and sociology. I constantly sought to relate my classes to journalism and often wrote term papers combining my work interests and academic pursuits.

In 1998, I was ready to move on. More importantly, I was engaged, and we were ready to move somewhere near Washington. My fiancee landed a job first, and I moved up with her to find a job. To my surprise, I ended up back in print, designing and editing a daily page of national and world news for Knight Ridder Tribune News Service (now McClatchy-Tribune). The page was canceled after six weeks, and I moved on to the weekly “That’s Racin'” page of auto racing news, along with other design projects and regular shifts on the news desk. Here, I started a weekly column on Major League Soccer and wrote a few pieces on the Women’s World Cup in 1999. I also continued my graduate studies, doing an independent study on the history of objectivity in American journalism. All this, of course, was balanced with my wedding plans.

A year later, I was back on the Web at USATODAY.com, where I helped to develop the site’s interactive features. We started with message boards and moved on to chats. I continued to write a soccer column and filled in for the paper’s soccer writer when the MLS playoffs overlapped with the 2000 Summer Olympics. I also helped the Web site with its coverage of the Sydney Games, all part of a tough two-month stretch in which I was doing three very different jobs. Meanwhile, I finished my graduate studies with a thesis on the changing role of journalists in new media. (The thesis is available online.)

When it was over, the sports department needed me more than the interactive department. I was asked to take over coverage of Olympic sports and soccer while also taking supervisory shifts and continuing to write my column.

The exciting job of planning Olympic coverage, a crucial task for USA TODAY, grew more difficult as the economy went sour. The staff was reorganized one month before the Games, and golf was added to my plate.

My immediate task was to keep our Salt Lake City coverage on track despite all the changes at the site. A couple of months later, I was responsible for our coverage of the World Cup, though I did not travel with the newspaper staff to Korea.

More changes came in August 2002. I took over our hockey coverage and gave up golf.

In 2004, I cut my hours to spend more time with my baby boy. My job for the first eight months was to build our coverage of the Athens Olympics. I worked with designers and programmers to get our site and the results feed in order. I also developed original content such as the Olympic Athlete of the Week awards, the 10.0 series of athlete interviews, brief bios on U.S. athletes and introductions to each sport.

After the Olympics, I moved into a role developing projects and original content for all sports. For the better part of a year, I worked on an overhaul of our automated feeds, which segued neatly into development of the results feed for the Torino Olympics. I went to Torino to do live coverage by blog.

I didn’t take a second trans-Atlantic trip for the World Cup, but I still blogged about the event. (Sadly, the archives for Torino and the World Cup were wiped out.) I spent the next 18 months focused on our new general sports blog, Sports Scope, while contributing features to USA TODAY’s soccer coverage.

lrg15In 2008, I took a quick leave of absence from USA TODAY to work on my first book, Long-Range Goals: The Success Story of Major League Soccer. When I returned, my job was redefined once again. Among my many gigs, I was the beat writer and online content developer for soccer and “emerging sports.”

The sport that “emerged” was MMA, and it quickly became a big part of my job. My assignment was to follow the surging UFC and the other organizations trying to surge along with it.

Soccer never left my desk, nor did Olympic sports. In 2008, I helped to get the online section running, then raced all over Beijing and surrounding cities to cover soccer and many other sports.

The next 18 months were fantastic and fulfilling. I did legitimate multimedia journalism, adding video and audio to my work. In 2010, I was assigned to Whistler for the Winter Olympics, covering the Nordic sports and biathlon.

But the job also ate into my family time. I had two kids. I had a lot of projects I wanted to do. It was time to leave.

So after 10 years, 4 months and a few days, I left USA TODAY at the end of March 2010, having gained invaluable experience in soccer, MMA, Olympic sports, golf, hockey, high school sports, horse racing, XSL, automated stats, blogs, video, audio, Twitter, Flash and some other things I’ve probably blocked from my memory.

germany-opening

The next year, I got the call to make another extended trip — this time to the Women’s World Cup in Germany, which I covered for espnW and ESPN. I kept up steady freelance work with ESPN through early 2012, covering the demise of Women’s Professional Soccer.

Since then, I’ve finished but not sold a book on MMA, written and self-published Enduring Spirit: Restoring Professional Women’s Soccer to Washington, written Single-Digit Soccer: Keeping Sanity in the Earliest Ages of the Beautiful Game, and written for outlets such as The Guardian, Four Four Two, Fox Soccer, OZY, Popdose and The Huffington Post.

In 2017, having spent much of my recent time on youth soccer, I launched Ranting Soccer Dad as a podcast/blog.

Twitter highlights: Eight venues in one day

One day in Beijing, I hit eight venues in one day, Twittering and taking photos along the way. I got the photos uploaded through the day and provided most of the info for a graphic.

To see the Twitter feed without making people dig all the way back, here’s an unedited re-creation (as opposed to “unedited recreation,” which sounds like fun):