High School Football and the Politics of Coverage

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) has announced a “partnership” with the Arizona Repugnant:

“Azcentral.com have unveiled a partnership that makes azcentral.com the state’s only site to feature every score and schedule for all AIA member schools in each sport, providing the most comprehensive, updated coverage.”

Yeah, no. This was announced this psat Thursday. In yesterday’s (Saturday’s) edition, there was absolutely NO coverage of high school football. So much for this vaunted partnership.

24-7Football.com still provides more information, more up-to-date scores, and more in-depth analysis than anything the misinformed hacks at the Repugnant could come up with.

The 24-7 site’s admins are on recruiters’ speed-dial. The coaches prefer to deal with the 24-7 folks over newspaper columnists any day of the week. The AIA has proven themselves to be three-years behind the times in everything technology-related. This “announcement” is just Much Ado About Nothing.

The columnists that cover high school sports are only interested in covering the Phoenix-metro big schools (4A/5A). They have one or two folks that attempt to cover everything else (1A – 3A) and they fail miserably. You can follow the threads on multiple forums about how bad their coverage is, how badly they mess up their team rankings due to being uninformed, and how apathetic they are when it comes to anything that resides outside Maricopa County.

Which brings me to Geoff Grammer of the Tucson Citizen.

Now, I love the Citizen. I used to work there. I fondly look back on that place as the place that gave me a chance to get into the work force and show what I could do. The people were top-notch. The writing made me almost want to be a journalist (if the pay was close to technology, I probably would’ve switched). The editors knew what they were doing.

And now they have Geoff Grammer who has the title of “Varsity Sports Editor”.

I had posted on his site, and, of course, my post had a link back to the DKC Rankings. He did actually link back to the rankings, so I emailed him a quick thank you. However, in that thank you, I raised a question to him: (sent on 9/18/07)

Looks like you linked the DKC ratings. Thanks for that.

I been meaning to ask – why is it that the Citizen, which always has the best HS coverage anyway in S. Arizona, always seems to omit the 1A / 2A / 3A schools?

It’s not like Tucson and the surrounding area doesn’t have small schools –

St. David
(Tucson) Tanque Verde
(Elfrida) Valley Union

(Oro Valley) Pusch Ridge Christian

(Tucson / Vail) Empire

The Citizen reports on Casa Grande and Buena (both in different counties), why not the rest of the schools in Cochise county and those actually in Pima county?

Prior to this email in 2007, under Grammer’s “reign”, the Citizen’s Varsity sports largely ignored the small schools in Southern Arizona, despite the profession that the Citizen was the voice of Southern Arizona. You can look back to this date (9/18/07) and see the coverage of small schools increased dramatically from that point onward. AND the coverage is way better than the Repugnant. Now, I can’t imagine how long Grammer had been there prior to my email, but it was very disappointing to see this lack of coverage, which is why I had to ask him what was going on.

Mr. Grammer never deigned to respond to that email.

However, he did post on his blog after Sunnyside shut out Salpointe 17-0 in week 4 of 2007 and instead of moving UP in the rankings, Sunnyside dropped from #2 to #3:

An interesting note… the DKC rankings aren’t subjective at all. They’re based on a formula of some sort, which has to be why Sunnyside, after a 17-0 shutout of a 5A-I Salpointe team, dropped in the rankings this past week.

So I responded with a pretty straightforward explanation of what actually happened, which was because Marcos de Niza thumped Yuma by 39 points and moved up to #2. Wasn’t anything that SS did wrong, it was because de Niza did it right. (Again, Mr. Grammer sent no response.)

Ever since then, Mr. Grammer has been very standoffish about what I do and where I fit in the grand scheme of things. The link from his site “mysteriously” disappeared as well. [EDIT: The link was on one specific blog, and it has since “rolled” off. I have found it and readded it here.]

Now however, Mr. Grammer has begun posting on the 24-7 site (as of today 8/30/08, Mr. Grammer has exactly _28_ posts to his name. Yes, _28_.) Yet, Mr. Grammer has only posted in the big school forum (4A/5A). I guess, once again, the small schools are beneath him. It’s actually sorta sad, because he’s posting there but his posts consist of “Here’s my So. Arizona Top 10 for the week, for anyone who cares.” (That’s verbatim, by the way.) And there are responses to the tune of “Southern Arizona?” (Again, verbatim.)

So, just like everyone else, I ignore the Arizona Repugnant “rankings”, since they have no clue, and Mr. Grammer’s “rankings” because he just combines all Southern Arizona 4A/5A schools into one “top ten” group, which doesn’t really do anything for anyone. I don’t read Mr. Grammer’s blog anymore because he’s really just a plea for attention (posts on a major forum asking to “check out my list” with a link are pretty self-explanatory). I don’t read the Repugnant’s worthless dribble on high school sports previews/coverage/etc. either.

When I want my info, I go to 24-7 Football, Friday Night Football (3A schools only) or I go to the Arizona Sports Network. 24-7 has the info, FNF has the scoop on the 3A schools, and AZSportsNet has the daily/weekly broadcasts and the experience.

And as of this past Thursday, I’m partnered with AZSportsNet, so it’s even better. They get all the statistics they can handle along with the network of information I’ve uncovered, and I get the benefit of their experience. Win-win. 🙂

March of Dimes

So, last night I attended the annual Nurses of the Year awards gala presented by the March of Dimes. This is an annual event that I volunteer at because if it weren’t for the March of Dimes and their work and the work of those connected with MoD, my daughter wouldn’t be here today.

Now the MC of the event for the past couple of years was Pat McMahon, a local TV host here in the Valley. Nice enough guy, until he finds the cocktail bar, then all bets are off. Many times in the past couple of years, I found that it was hard to listen to him because he slurred words, he’d forget what he was saying, or he’d just flat out say things incorrectly – much to the embarrassment of the MoD people, I’m sure.

So this year, the MC was Gayle Bass, who ironically is the “Click Chick” for KTAR newsradio – yes, the same station that I wrote about in a previous post here. She’s pretty good. Better than McMahon, I have to say.

However, since this is a Nurses’ appreciation dinner, one would maybe think that as MC you don’t tick off the people you are here to celebrate – which she managed to do in a sort-of light-hearted not-so-subtle way.

See, Ms. Bass is a graduate of Arizona State University (no, it’s not worth my time to link to ASU, go look it up yourself if you’re that interested), and there’s a long-standing “history” between ASU and the University of Arizona (ASU is, in effect, UofA’s little brother – UofA has been around much longer than ASU, and ASU was originally a Teacher’s College, not a University). So ASU grads and UA grads are always barking at each other.

And wouldn’t you know it, some of the best nurses in the state happen to work at University Medical Center, which is on the UofA campus. You can see where this is going.

Anyway, throughout the evening, Ms. Bass would throw a “Go Devils” into her speech, much to the annoyance of personnel from UofA, Northern Arizona University, and Grand Canyon University. She didn’t make any new friends with a half-hearted, semi-sarcastic “Go ‘Lopes” (GCU’s mascot) either.

So, it was much to my delight – along with several others’ at my table, none of which are UA or ASU grads, by the way – when the raffle game was being played. It was a simple game of heads or tails – if you purchased a raffle ticket, you got to play. Before the coin was flipped, you indicated “heads” by putting your hands on your head, or “tails” by placing your hands on your backside. Obviously if you “won”, you moved on, and if you “lost” you sat down in your chair again.

Three flips into the game, Ms. Bass forgot how to play the game, telling two people to stand up because they had tails and the coin said heads. Then, after the MoD director corrected Ms. Bass, she exclaimed “I’ve forgotten how to play the game!”

To which I remarked to the rest of my table: “Ms. Bass must be an ASU grad.”

All in all, I will love to see Ms. Bass back as MC as she did an outstanding job otherwise. She just needs to remember who her audience is.

Dave Burns is Idiot #1

I listen to the radio occasionally on my way to/from work. Usually my radio listening is a very narrow scope – either 96.9 MIX FM, 98.7 The Peak FM, Sports 620 KTAR AM, or Xtra Sports 910 AM.

Now, obviously the first two are music stations, while the latter two are sports-talk – the focus of this post.

It’s just a shame that the Valley has a dearth of sports-talk stations. 620, 910, and “The Fan” 1060 are the only three out there. 620 is the ESPN affiliate, 910 is the Fox Sports affiliate, and 1060 is the Sporting News affiliate (“who?” you ask… yeah, yeah, I know.)

Now, I used to love getting up in the early morning driving to work and listening to Mike and Mike in the morning on Sports 620. (Now I have to get up early and turn on ESPN2 on TV…) At the beginning of the year, Sports 620 instead brought in two guys who are “passable” – Doug Franz and Ron Wolfley. And after listening to them for most of the year (albeit only about 30-45 min worth each weekday), I think they’re ok. I have more respect for Wolfley because he was an All-Pro NFL player for many years, and because the chemistry between the two co-hosts is pretty remarkable.

I love to listen after 9am for Colin Cowherd – this is an actual (tape delayed) feed from ESPN directly for the next four hours. Colin is astounding. He’s good, he doesn’t hold back, and he’s very, very knowledgeable. He “gets it” on many levels.

Then Sports 620 follows that class act up with … whatever you want to call them – these two hosts jumped ship from Xtra Sports 910 to Sports 620 at the beginning of the year as well, Jon Gambadoro and Mark Asher. Neither of them really played any professional sports, though Gambo actually played high school baseball. (Asher admitted earlier in the year to being a professional model when he was younger… you can extrapolate from there.) The tag line for their show is “Everyone has opinions, theirs just mean something.”

The difficultly in listening to these two mouthpieces for the Cardinals/Diamondbacks/Suns is that even though they’ve got a pretty loyal following here in the Valley, their opinions aren’t actually all that meaningful – many times it’s hard to tell if what they say is really their own or just PR feed from one of the big three (Cards/Dbacks/Suns) instead. Good examples of this are when they do their predictions of things like the NCAA March Madness, NBA games, or talking player trades. Their failures on all these are out for anyone to see at any time on the radio’s website blogs. Gambo has recently stopped predicting trades because he’s been getting inside information from the big three, so he doesn’t want to get his source in trouble.

Mark Asher by himself (when Gambadoro is on vacation or traveling) is actually the worse of the two hosts. I honestly believe that Gambadoro carries Asher on many a day in the show, because Asher is just relatively boring. Gambadoro, at least, brings an energy to the show that Asher lacks – this is probably due to his New York upbringing, of which he is not ashamed of mentioning. But both hosts have a specific disdain for any college not named “ASU” (even Asher’s alma mater NAU gets the “suck” treatment), which completely plays to the Valley radio. So, they get props for “knowing their audience”, but they also alienate listeners on almost a daily basis.

Between 1pm and 3pm though, if I’m listening to the radio, though, I switch over to Xtra Sports 910. Why? Because Dan Patrick has his show during that time frame. Dan Patrick, formerly of ESPN Radio and ESPN itself, is now going solo. His radio show during the afternoons was THE program to listen to and – here’s the fun part – he used to regularly BEAT Gambo and Ash in the afternoon ratings when 620 had his syndicated radio on at the same time as Xtra Sports 910’s Gambo and Ash. Maybe it’s because he’s just good. Or maybe it’s because he’s really knowledgeable about sports on a National level, not just the ASU-hype that 620 likes to pride itself in.

But the Idiot that takes the cake is “Sportsline 620’s” Dave Burns. His show follows the Gambo and Ash show daily, but people also know that Burns also has to do the sports updates every 20 minutes DURING the Gambo and Ash show. (Gambo has mentioned several times on air of what he thinks of Burns, especially when Burns, in the span of the one minute he has to make the updates, manages to mangle player names, mispronounce locations, or completely be off base with scores. Usually Gambo says this in jest, but the listeners out there really do get tired of Burns’ half-hearted, lazy reporting.)

Usually I turn this self-proclaimed “expert” off when he comes on. It’s not hard. The CD button is easily accessible. To say that this guy is annoying is being generous. If you listen to him talk for the first 5-10 minutes of his show, you can tell right off several things:

  • He likes to hear himself talk
  • He rephrases his major topic (or two, if he’s lucky to have two) at least four times while still managing not to add anything new to it
  • He sounds authoritative on all subjects, but his words betray him
  • He mentions the name of his radio show at least 10 times in the first 10 minutes in shameless self-promotion.
  • He likes to hear himself talk

Normally, this is just enough to either turn him off or listen in order to mock him (a la Rocky Horror Picture Show). However, last night was exceptionally bad enough that I have now declared Dave Burns to officially be an idiot. Here’s why:

  1. He claimed that the Olympics were like watching the Transformers movie – “It was great, but you can’t remember anything 15 minutes after watching it.”
  2. I beg to differ – the average joe can watch any number of movies and will remember SOMETHING about those movies, for better or worse, 15 minutes after watching them. The Olympics always leaves a bigger impression, again for better or worse, than a movie does, and the average joe will remember SOMETHING about the Olympics.

  3. He believes that the idea of more kids signing up for swimming due to Michael Phelps’ performance is “laughable”.
  4. Not a couple of hours earlier on the same radio station, a caller in to Gambo and Ash’s show identified himself as a former member of USA Swimming in California. He said that after the ’04 Olympics, participation in USA Swimming jumped over 100% in California alone, and across the country participation was extremely high. And that’s just USA Swimming. Who knows about all the private, YMCA, or school clubs as well.

    Certainly not The Idiot.

  5. He has distilled the Olympics into a generic ratings stunt – he claims that they are a ratings hit because “a) There’s nothing else on TV due to the NFL not being in season, the NBA not being in season, and MLB not having drama until September, and b) Men and women watch together because men want to watch someone win and lose while women just want to watch” gymnastics, diving, and those kind of sports. (I paraphrase the examples – I wasn’t writing down his exact words fast enough, but he did go through some examples.)
  6. Wow, if that’s not a sexist comment, I don’t know what is. Men don’t just want to watch someone win and someone lose, and women don’t just tune in to watch gymnastics.

    Now, for some people across the country – yes, they watch because there is nothing else more compelling on (CNN? no thanks…). For others, maybe this IS more compelling TV to watch – nation vs. nation, the world vs. the U.S.A. How can drama get more down to earth than the Russian (from Russia) and Georgian (who hail from Brazil) beach volleyball teams going at it first on the court, then in the post-game press conference afterwards? How about the judo match between Russian and Georgia athletes, where people are getting tossed around and punched?

    Burns fails miserably to realise that the Olympics are not JUST about sport, but also about DRAMA. And that’s why the ratings are so high, and that’s why it’s Must Watch TV.

  7. Burns admits on the radio that he is “good friends” with Dan Bickley, the idiot columnist for the Arizona Republic.
  8. I’ve ranted about Bickley’s uninformed, lackadaisical, inciteful, poorly written journalism before. He’s just been moved to Idiot #2 for now. Or maybe #1A.

The only thankful part of Dave Burns is that his show is the one that gets pre-empted for Dbacks baseball games, or Suns games if it’s that season. There have been many a time where I’ll tune in to 620 and he’ll have exactly 15 minutes before they cut to the pre-game warmup show for the Dbacks or the Suns. That’s when it’s humorous to hear him try to cram some important topic of the day into the 8 or so minutes he actually has in between the top-of-the-hour sports update and the commercial break that has to take place around 12-13 minutes after the hour. 🙂

Overall, though, that 15 minutes of humor on a less-than-regular basis is not enough to overcome the fact that he’s a boorish, self-serving radio host in a timeslot that is close to the death knell of time slots (only the overnight 1am-4am slot is worse). There’s a reason why he’s stuck in that time slot, he just hasn’t figured it out yet.

Ah, These Olympics

I’ve enjoyed watching the Olympics, even knowing that nothing on TV is “Live” (despite what NBC might try to convince you in the corner of the screen), and that many of the theatrics of the site/location must be taken with a very large grain of salt.

As much as possible, I flip through the channels at night to watch men’s and women’s swimming, women’s diving, beach volleyball, softball and basketball (if I’m awake early enough). I find it distressing that the rumors are abundant that the Chinese women’s gymnastics team looks like they’re 12 – and there’s enough anecdotal evidence supporting that notion floating around the ‘net that the IOC should seriously investigate. I find it humourous that people are up in arms about the computer enhancements that made the Opening Ceremonies so spectacular. I find it appalling that China made a girl lip-sync during the Opening Ceremonies.

But I love the drama. I watch beach volleyball and find myself telling my son “watch, he’s going to hit the ball down the line” or “look at the spin on the ball.” My daughter even more so is infatuated with volleyball and wants to play when she gets older. (I’d be happy if she played softball, given that she’s probably never going to be exceptionally tall.)

I know that so many people get that Olympic high after the Games and get their kids involved in more sports after the Games. I think that’s a great thing. What I really hope for though is that those same parents do NOT let their kids quit after things get tough for them. Those parents have to remember that these athletes train for days, weeks, months, years – what we see on the screen is the result of all that training and, this is the most important point, those athletes MAKE IT LOOK EASY.

It’s not. I speak from years and years of experience in volleyball, both indoor and sand, and from coaching basketball and soccer. There’s a lot of hard work that’s involved. My son takes karate now and he’s into his second year now. He’s finally realized that he likes it and he wants to become a black belt. That’s another three years from now, given his pace. That’s ok by me. My daughter wants to take karate as well, in between wanting to act on stage and flying to the moon. So, maybe we’ll start her with soccer. 🙂

My advice to all those parents: cherish the fact that the kids want to play – Lord knows that we’ve got a generation of kids nowadays that want to just be couch potatoes and are overweight – and encourage them to do so. Just don’t let them quit. Show them that perseverance and hard work do pay off – that’s a Life Lesson they can take with them always.