Archives for November 2009

Luke Harangody Reacts to 1st Loss of Season


By Paul M. Banks

Luke Harangody received more votes for the AP All-American team than any other player in the nation. The 2 time All-American senior forward is also the Big East preseason player of the year. Here’s how he reacted to #23 Notre Dame’s first loss of the season, coming at the hands of Northwestern, who beat the Irish 72-58. Harangody led the Irish with 21 points, but shot an ugly 7-19 from the field

Northwestern Gives #23 Notre Dame 1st loss of season


It’s official, ND is once again overrated. And NU is once again underrated. In the Chicago Invitational Challenge at the UIC Pavilion, John Shurna, Juice Thompson and the Northwestern Wildcats gave Luke Harangody and the Notre Dame their first loss of the season, in dramatic upset fashion 72-58.

So is this redemption for the loss to Butler a couple weeks ago?

“Butler is a good team, and that was obviously a tough loss, but any win you got to feel happy about, and when it’s against a like Notre Dame, it makes it all the more sweet,” said John Shurna who lead all scorers with 25 points, on 3-5 from behind the arc.

At the beginning of the game, Notre Dame’s fans were firmly in control of the crowd, they were essentially the home team. But towards the end, we heard a lot of “Let’s go Cats” chants from UIC Pavilion ticket holders.

“It was a fun environment to play in, with two almost Chicagoland schools, a fun atmosphere,” Shurna said.

It was certainly a fun place for the legions of college sports fans who despise Notre Dame. Not only did the Irish suffer their first loss of the season, but their star duo (Luke Harangody and Ben Hansbrough), who so many fans dislike suffered through a very off night. Luke shot 7-19 from the field, Ben 1-10.

“If you would have told me Hansbrough would be 0-7 {on three-pointers} I don’t know if I would have believed that. Five of them were great looks, and he’s been shooting a pretty good clip. He’s got to score more than 4 for us, if we’re going to be a successful team against anybody,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey.

Read how and why by clicking here.

And in case you’re in the mood for the fight song, watch the video below

Northwestern-Notre Dame Private School Battle for Chicago’s Heart


By Paul M. Banks

Welcome to the Chicago Invitational Challenge Live blog day one. It’s both an invitational and a challenge. Not just an invitational, nor merely a challenge, or tournament. But a challenge and an invitational. The fun started at noon today with the mid-majors going at it, but the action ramps up with Iowa St. vs. Saint Louis. Where it’s currently 30-27 ISU.

This is actually a pretty good undercard bout as the Cyclones boast two players who have a very high chance of going in the first round of the NBA Draft: forwards Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap. And SLU has former ESPN analyst and coaching legend Rick Majerus at the helm. He’s spent most of the first half here at the UIC pavilion pacing back and forth in front of me. And at approximately 7:30 we’ll move on to the main event, the title fight, Notre Dame-Northwestern, the battle between two of Chicago’s most beloved private schools. Never mind the fact that ND is a longer drive from the Second City than Champaign, and in another state and time zone from Chicago, this will truly be a match-up between two Chicago teams. Here at the “Chicago Invitational Challenge”

In the words of the Black Eyed Peas, “Let’s get it started in here! Let’s get it started in HAAAHHHHH!”

ISU-SLU 41-31 14 min left.

Attendance here is…a bit sparse. As are pretty much all holiday tournaments. Mostly because everyone plays on an out of town neutral court, so it’s harder to get people to travel. But  that’s truly a shame, as some of the basketball that’s played at these things is about as good as you’ll find all season. It’s still early, I’m guessing more people will come for the battle between “the two schools full of private snobs, and elitists,” or whatever people say to deride these two schools with a very high tuition. After my experience at the Bears game earlier this month, and at every Cubs game I’ve ever attended, I think elitist and snob is a complement. Pro sports, or at least the people who ended up sitting next to me at Cubs and Bears games, could learn a thing or two from the “snobs” and “elitists”. Maybe that’s why I like college sports so much better than the pros, less people on parole (or will be someday) in the stands next to you.

Or simply Bears fans are utterly disgusting sometimes…then again you heard what a Notre Dame fan did to Jimmy Clausen. And from what I hear, Clausen provoked him. Gives a new meaning to the term “Fighting Irish.”



If I knew how to photoshop, I would put Clausen’s head on the leprecaun, with two black eyes, and have him lying on his back.

alright enough with the distractions, Iowa St. has opened a bigger lead on the Billikens now, and they’re threatening to turn this into a route. Both teams are undefeated and unranked currently, but the ‘Clones are the only team that looks like they should be ranked right now. Reigning Big 12 player of the week Craig Brackins leads the way with 15 pts so far, ISU 56-SLU 43, 4 min to go.

Iowa St. Head Coach Greg McDermott sums up the last game perfectly, “we found a way to win an ugly game, we finally got our offense in rhythm during the 2nd half.” Exactly ISU wins the 65-54. After falling behind in the 2nd half, the Cyclones stopped the Billikens on 9/10 offensive series.

Craig Brackins was a fun interview subject, one of the reporters asked him about his Tweets today. I hyperlinked his Twitter if you want to follow him, but he has to approve each and every one of his followers. If I were him, or in his situation, I would do the same. A lot of weirdoes out there, especially on online.

I have to admit I like the ND band. They play more original music, like Jimmy Buffett “Fins” and Styx “Come Sail Away”.

ND owns the series over NU 63-23-1. and this is their first meeting since 1984, which the Irish won by about 20.


I hope this game moves at a much higher tempo than the last one. So far, not so much. ND leads 5-4 with 16:10 left in 1st half. So far they seem to be owning the paint on both ends. Stats would not exactly confirm that, but they’re using the superior size and more athletic bigs to intimidate the Cats from getting down low. I think that’s why Bill Carmody started Kyle Rowley tonight. He’s the biggest guy on the roster, even though he’s…well he’s far from leading the team in minutes per game for a good reason.

Northwestern takes their first lead on a Juice Thompson field goal, 9-8 with 13 min left in half. Now that Minnesota has knocked off Butler, NU’s lone loss this season looks a bit worse than it did before Wednesday. That said, they can redeem themselves here by giving #23 Notre Dame their first loss of the season. Good defense in this game so far, and bad shooting at both ends.

TSB readers know what I think of Tyler Hansbrough, well tonight I get to watch his little brother Ben, a two guard for the Irish. A good excuse to put my all time favorite Tyler H. pic. even though I loved Beeker from the muppets, so I hate doing that to Beeker.


Duke N Carolina Basketball

Shooting getting uglier, but Northwestern takes a 16-10 advantage with just udner 8 min left in half. 6 pts in a game like this is…15 I guess. And what I mean by that is if you lose a game 90-82. that’s a much closer game and a lot better effort than say a 58-50 game. Seriously, the margin is the same, but it makes a difference trust me. We need a scale for this. we need a stat to measure this.

When NU forward/center Luka Mirkovic took and missed a turnaround baseline jumper, I heard someone on the NU coaching staff say “what the hell”? classic.

Even better than Rick Majerus tell one of his players “you gotta watch the f–king press” right in front of me last game.

At another timeout I hear that the new coach at Notre Dame, football I mean this time, will be Bob Stoops. seriously. And of course, every time you mention Charlie Weiss, a fat joke must follow. But I’m a professional, so I’ll let people in the comment threads handle that…if they so desire.

25 all with a min left in half. low-scoring like soccer here tonight.

John Shurna hits a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng three as time expires to give NU a 30-27 advantage heading to the break. Shurna is starting to maybe come into his own this year. His time spent playing with the under 19 national team is paying off. He’s made a big leap from his freshman year.

When Shurna was at the podium last year, his soft-spoken, quiet nervousness reminded me of Paulie Bleeker (the guy played by Michael Cera) in the indie smash “Juno”. They kind of look alike too. I think at least.


So when the All-American team decided to have a “white-out,” naming 3/5 Caucasian players to the first team, for no inexplicable reason, Luke Harangody received more votes than any other player in the nation. The nation? are you serious? the nation’s best player? as Duke Vitale, whoops I meant to say Dick Vitale would say ARE YOUUU SERRIOUSSSSSSSS??!!!!

I just don’t see it. I know this hasn’t exactly been Harangody’s best half ever, as he’s 3-9 shooting for 7 pts so far. Shurna leads the game with 14 pts on 5-10 from the floor. Still I don’t see what all the Harangody hullabalooza is all about.

On the strength of two Juice Thompson 3 pt FGs, NU leads 41-38 with 15:27 to go. You knew the Juice would start hitting those sometime, and that time is now.

I still love the ND band, their 80s music choices are killer. Just heard the “A Team” theme after some “867-5309 Jenny”

46-38 Northwestern now with 13:55 left. A big Jeremy Nash 3 pointer right after a Juice Thompson drive to the hole. The Juice is indeed loose.



If you believe in “halftime adjustments” and I sure do, then Carmody really has made some great adjsutments in the locker room. Cats lead 50-38 with 11:42 left. Upset alert?

Yes, very much upset alert. The Irish can’t seem to find a way to consistently solve NU’s smothering defense.

Hi drama here as NU’s lead gets all the more slimmer. 57-51 just over 5 minutes to play.

Usually a coach should be happy when one of his players makes a 3. But on Alex Marcotullio’s last 3 bomb, which he made. Carmody looked about as dejected and frustrated as a coach can look.

61-56 Cats 1 min to go. The upset is a brewing, remember in 1995 when no one gave NU a chance to beat ND in football, and they won 17-15 sending shockwaves throughout the sports nerd world? Some dude here has a shirt with that score on it today, and they showed him on the jumbotron!

Illini Don’t Embarrass Selves, Program or School Against Cincinnati


By Paul Schmidt

No one expected the Illini to win, let’s be perfectly honest.

But, as 18.5-point underdogs, most expected the Illini to get run right out of Nippert Stadium by the number-5 ranked Cincinnati Bearcats.

And while the final score, 49-36, certainly indicates problems, there a couple of things that come out of the game that really reflected well on the Illini.

First of all, the offense finally looked potent, and did so against a team that still has national title hopes and dreams.

This isn’t a groundbreaking occurrence. The biggest knock against the Bearcats this season is that their defense isn’t exactly national-title-caliber. The flip side to that argument is obviously that when you do any one thing as well as the Bearcats do on offense, how good does the defense have to be?

That being said, Cincinnati still was only allowing 20 points per game — a tally the Illini blew by in scoring 36. Obviously the Illini production raises all sorts of questions about where this was all season, but for now, quite simply, revel in the production.

Juice Williams was inaccurate all game long, but still threw for 288 yards with a 60 percent completion percentage, plus 3 TDs. He also rushed for 67 more yards, and crossed the 10,000 yard mark for total offense in his career (becoming just the 6th player in Big Ten history to reach that mark).

Clearly it’s not a great Cincinnati defense, but the Illinois offense was good enough to keep them in the game.

The second thing is that the Illini never quit in a game that meant nothing to their season.

This is probably the more impressive thing, because after taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, the Bearcats ran off 28 unanswered points to take control of the game.

The Illini, however, were undaunted, and kept the game right around the two score mark for the rest of the game.

It bodes well for the team and for Ron Zook’s job that they were able to stay focused and invested in the result of the game.  Zook’s problem this entire season has been with keeping the team focused and motivated — today, whatever he did and said to his team worked.  I’m a firm believer in giving credit when credit is due.

And yes, it certainly is an issue that the Illini spent the whole season looking disinterested in football in general, and only now, now that they are eliminated from any Bowl contention, do the seem interested in playing for their pride and for the programs’.

But you have to take your victories as they come. At least the Illini looked like they cared.


Tiger Woods Injured in Car Accident?


By: Melissa S. Wollering

Preliminary reports, cited from Florida State Highway Patrol documents, say Tiger Woods was injured in a car accident early Friday morning. According to the report, he was driving and hit a fire hydrant  or tree near his Florida home.  Alcohol doesn’t appear to be involved whatsoever.  However, the report does indicate he suffered injuries as a result of his accident. It begs the question: why don’t athletes with major dollars rely on hired drivers regardless of the situation? [Read more…]

2010 NBA Rookie of the Year Race

tyreke kings

By: David Kay

1. Brandon Jennings, Bucks (Last Week Ranking: #1)
’09-’10: 23.4 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 spg
My ’09-’10 Prediction: 12 ppg, 7 apg, 2 spg

He is single-handedly reviving the Bucks franchise as they are out to an 8-5 start.  Jennings scoring has dipped since Michael Redd returned from injury, but more so because Jennings has shot 10-36 in those two games.

2. Tyreke Evans, Kings (LWR: #2)
’09-’10: 19.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg
My ’09-’10 Prediction: 17.1 ppg, 5 rpg, 6 apg, 2 spg

All of my Tyreke Evans gushing is definitely paying off.  Evans has shown his ability to attack the basket and has an improving mid-range game.  He is turning the ball over at a high rate, but that is to be expected playing on a terrible Kings team.  I still no have question that he will be something special in the NBA.

3. Stephen Curry, Warriors (LWR: #5)
’09-’10: 10.2 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.1 rpg, 1.4 spg
My ’09-’10 Prediction: 12 ppg, 4 apg, 3 rpg

The trade of Stephen Jackson for Raja Bell, who is injured, has opened up the opportunity for Curry to see consistent playing time.  He has shot the ball well from deep and proved more than capable of running the point in the NBA.

4. Jonny Flynn, Timberwolves (LWR: #4)
’09-’10: 14.1 ppg, 3.2 apg, 2.5 rpg, 1.1 spg
My ’09-’10 Prediction: 15 ppg, 7 apg, 1.75 spg

Through 15 games, Flynn has five more turnovers than assists which is a bit startling.  He has not shot the ball exceptionally well as the T-Wolves have now lost 14 straight since winning their season opener against New Jersey.

5. Terrence Williams, Nets (LWR: #3)
’09-’10: 10.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, .6 spg
’09-’10 Prediction: 7 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2 spg

With Devin Harris and Courtney Lee back in the line-up, Williams’ playing time will likely take a hit.  Still, he has done a lot of nice things for the winless Nets though his numbers should drop due to his decreased playing time.

Check out the rest of the Rookie of the Year Rankings.

2010 NBA Draft Stock Report

wall layup uk_clarion

By: David Kay

Every week The Sports Bank’s David Kay breaks down which players in college hoops are helping or hurting their NBA Draft stock.  You can check out my complete 2010 Mock Draft and if you are as nerdy as I am, a 2011 Mock Draft as well.

John Wall, PG, Kentucky, Fr.
It is hard for someone’s stock to go up when he is the unanimous choice for the top overall pick in the 2010 Draft, but Wall has lived up to the hype thus far.  He hit a game-winner in his first collegiate game and put together a 21 point, 11 assist outing against Rider.  His ability to drive to the basket is truly Derrick Rose-esque which also earns him a great amount of trips to the free throw line.  His only flaw thus far is his high number of turnovers (18 in five games.)  But he is the real deal, folks.

Yancy Gates, PF, Cincinnati, So.
Gates was a beast in the Maui Invite as Cincy finished runner-up to Gonzaga.  He was very physical and active inside as he posted double-doubles against Vandy and Maryland.  Gates forced a few shots against the Zags and still needs to work on his face-up game on the offensive end, but has the potential to be a first round pick in a year or two.

Omar Semhan, C, St. Mary’s, Sr.

Semhan is a big body who has helped the Gaels successfully transition to life post-Patty Mills and Diamin Simpson.  Semhan had 17 points and 16 boards in a win against San Diego State and followed that by owning Vandy’s A.J. Ogilvy (a legit NBA center prospect) to the tune of 25 points and 18 boards.  Semhan wasn’t done as he dropped 33 and 12 his next game.  He is not the greatest athlete, but is physical and crafty around the basket which could get him some second round looks.

Quincy Pondexter, F, Washington, Sr.

After three years of not living up to expectations at Washington, Pondexter is coming into his own as a senior.  He is averaging 24 points and 12 boards a game including a 30 point, 15 rebound (both career-highs) performance against San Jose State.  Pondexter is only 6-6 and has been playing a lot of the four for the Huskies this season, but will need to be a wing player at the next level.  His mid-range game is effective, but until he proves he can knock it down from deep, he will remain a second round pick.

I am selling  a pair of Big Ten players draft stock.  Click here to check out who.

Joakim Noah is the NBA’s Leading Rebounder


By Paul M. Banks

Just before the season tipped off, I wrote a column asking if Joakim Noah would make “the leap” this season. I saw something in him during the preseason that made me believe it would happen. Now bear in mind that making the leap forward for someone like Noah isn’t about scoring. It’s defined by becoming a dominant defender and rebounder- Or basically answering the $64 million question that Ben Wallace resoundingly did not. Noah is now giving the Bulls exactly what they paid a lot of money for, but never got in the Wallace signing three years ago.

At just under 12 boards a game, Noah is ahead of both Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace for the number one spot in rebounding. By also averaging over 11 points a game, he’s put out a double-double every night. And he’s setting a new career high in blocks so far, so I guess the answer is yes, Noah is indeed making the leap.

I recently had an exclusive with Noah, and asked him what led to his cleaning the glass like Windex this year (but not in those words). “I think it was just minutes, just being out there. The way it is in this league, the more time you’re on the court, the more productive you’ll be. You’ll pick up on things after games, crafty moves, holding someone’s arm, doing some dirty things down there that maybe you weren’t accustomed to doing when you were in college,” Noah responded candidly; and sounding a bit like Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer in their primes.

Another significant reason for his development is the ten pounds he gained from hitting the weight room hard this season. “It was something I needed to do in order to help the team this year, it was something I needed to focus on in the off-season, I feel like in that series against Boston, I was being pushed around a little too much, and now I feel a lot stronger, and I feel I’ve put on good weight cause I’m still running the floor well,” Joakim stated.noah

And given his role within the Bulls offense, which emphasizes the drive-and-kick in most offensive sets, He’ll get lots of opportunities to grab offensive boards. “Oh, the drive and kick game is huge. We’re a team that at all five positions on the court, we can play that draw and kick game.”

But perhaps more than schematics, or even physical development, Noah’s mental growth is contributing to his new found superior statistics. “I think he’s made another step- both physically and mentally. He’s starting to understand what it takes,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said about the third year center.

Noah, the former Florida Gator loves watching his old college team, but he also enjoys taking in a lot of NBA games on television, but he obviously doesn’t view the game the way we do.

“I look at the game differently now than I did in college or when I was coming into the league. You have an admiration for the players you grew up watching, and now they’re like your enemy. There’s no admiration anymore, sometime in my first year I felt like I would see guys like Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kobe, and you’re like oh my God wow, I grew up having the jersey of some these guys on, I once had a Garnett jersey on.” He said.

So I then inquired about him viewing these NBA superstars as heroes, and now they’re his peers. ‘Not peers, definitely not peers,” he responded.

And that shows a tremendous out of humility and maturity on this part. With those two traits, expect him to continue his fantastic play this season. And Noah’s career arc should continue trending positive.

Luol Deng Coming Correct this Season


By Paul M. Banks

Heading into this season, Luol Deng had been regressing. Not just stagnating, regressing. Especially for a guy who signed a six year deal worth $71 million, $80 including incentives. After statistically peaking across the board in 2006-07, Deng suffered a step backward in ’08, and then another even worse year in 08-09 that was cut drastically short by injury. After major off-season injury, I bet the Bulls organization was hoping for a refund on that contract.

But that’s all changed through the first 13 games of this season in which Deng’s numbers would set new career highs in scoring (17.5 ppg) rebounds (8.2 rpg) as well as three-point attempts, made, and percentage. As their leader Derrick Rose continues to convalesce, Deng has been the team’s most important player on the court; filling the void when the team’s most talented contributor is not playing at 100%.

The pinnacle for Deng on this young season was his performance in a 83-81 win over Milwaukee on November 3rd. Luol had a career high rebounds (20) to complement his 24 points. He had one of the rarest of NBA feats: a 20-20 game.

“I honestly didn’t know until close to the end of the game how many rebounds I had, just one of those nights the ball kept coming to me, Brad (Miller) was doing a good job boxing out and then you have him, lucky day I guess,” Deng said in the Bulls locker room post game. So what was the key to his success that night?

“I felt like I had a lot of energy, even before the game,” Deng responded.

Illinois Basketball’s Key: Improved Depth


By Paul Schmidt

A very different Illini team is taking the court this season in the Assembly Hall in Champaign, and this fact gives the Illini options a-plenty.

Though defensively the team has seemed to take a step back, offensively they have as diverse and dynamic of an offense as the team has displayed in 20 years — Yes, since the Flyin’ Illini.

One of the more exciting aspects for the Illini is that the offense will push the limits this season, for certain.

“I want to run; that’s our strength, our athleticism,” Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said. “Last year, when I wouldn’t run, that’s all I heard was, ‘Why don’t you run??’ So now, we’re running.”Illinois

Weber was obviously not buckling to the pressure of the media, and was kidding in those post-game comments. It does illustrate the point that everyone knows that this team is deep and has a bunch of moving parts that can come in and out of the game.

Following the 78-64 win over Wofford, the toughest game they’ve had all year, Bruce was candid about the clash in styles between this year and last.

“Tonight we still had 78 points, and last year that would be like a season high, so we’ve obviously made some strides this year,” Weber said about the game.

He had some great things to say about his reserves after their 80-61 win over Northern Illinois.

“I thought Tyler Griffey and Richard Semrau both played well, Griffey really gave us some nice minutes,” Weber said.

“Dominique Keller gave us a nice spark, and Bill Cole, though he did not take a shot, played 14 very solid minutes, good defensively, did the little things and didn’t try to do too much defensively. We have a +/- chart (illustrates whether the team has a positive or negative scoring margin while you are on the court), and it’ll be interesting, because I believe while he was in there we had some pretty good runs.”

Indeed, the play of the reserves will be extremely important as the season progresses. Weber currently runs the rotation 10-deep, and as fatigue and/or injuries take hold during the season the bench players’ minutes will progress.

“That’s the best thing about our team,” Weber said. “We’ve got other people we can put in that can do some things and help us survive some runs when we get in trouble.”

“I honestly believe that we have 7 or 8 guys on this team that could start, and then a couple more that could play big minutes anywhere in the country,” Weber added. “At least I hope we do, because that’s my mindset. I know a lot of these guys would love to start. The key is that we need everyone to buy into their role.”

Demetri McCamey is one of those players that has had to adjust to a different role this season. Once thought to be the next great Illini scorer, McCamey has had to take a back seat in the scoring and become a more-true point guard, distributing the ball and getting everyone else involved.

This hasn’t bothered McCamey in the least and you get the impression that that unselfishness runs all the way down the roster.

“I think we’re gelling pretty fine. It’s like I said last week, you never know who is going to score, whether it’s me, Mike Davis, Brandon (Paul), D. J. (Richardson), Alex (Legion)…we’ve got a lot of guys that can score, so different nights, it’s different people,” McCamey said. “As long as we’re happy, and winning basketball games, we all don’t have to go out there and score.  Everyone will be gelling, and we’ll all be on one page.”

The biggest issue with the depth is inexperience. The Illini are, largely, a young team, and still learning how to run and gun the entire game, yet remain controlled with the basketball.

“It’d be nice if we could win all of our games by 40, but I don’t think that that’s going to happen,” Weber said. “We’re going to have game situations and runs by teams where you’re going to have to learn how to deal with it. You have to learn how to play when you have a lead, and how to run the clock.”

For Weber, however, it’s always about finding the style of basketball to fit the roster, and with the amount of webercontributors this team has, a faster pace is the way to go.

“I don’t mind pushing the basketball and outscoring people,” Weber said. “I always want to push the basketball. But I also want to win, so if we don’t have scorers, we have to play possession basketball. Then you’ve got to guard, you’ve got to play in the halfcourt. I think that’s the one thing that I learned from Coach Keady, working with him for all those years — You’ve got to be flexible. A good coach is flexible, and he changes with his talent.”

Favre, Peyton bring Midwest Sports into National Focus Part 2


By Paul M. Banks

Brett Favre’s incessant media circus and Peyton Manning’s undefeated Colts have put national spotlight on the Midwest, I discuss this and the future of sports media with Midwest Sports’s Jerod Morris.

(PMB) What do you think about this whole movement towards niche specialization?…MLB Network, NBA TV, ESPN Chicago, ESPN Dallas, ESPN Boston (even though regular ESPN is already fixated on Boston) and then on the internet too with fan-centric sites within multi-layered networks like True Hoop, SB Nation etc.

Big Ten Network host/bikini model Melanie Collins

Big Ten Network host/bikini model Melanie Collins

(JM) I love the specialization. I don’t know that I’m a big fan of ESPN’s local sites — there’s still just something about reading Chicago news from the Tribune or Sun-Times that doesn’t translate to the faceless pages of – but I love knowing that there is a place I can go that is devoted to the Big Ten, and then another place devoted to MLB, and so on.

ESPN gives us the cliff’s notes version of sports. Networks like the Big Ten Network and MLB Network, and websites for particular leagues and teams, give us the entire book. Sometimes you want the summary and sometimes you want to read the book. Now sports fans have the option to choose whatever they wish.

This is good; again, it comes down to who is the most forward-thinking from a business standpoint and can monetize what is, overall, a better (though more fragmented in ownership) product for consumers.

One advantage that local papers and news stations always had over the ESPNs of the world was their ability to cover the local beat with more depth, wisdom, and experience. Now that ESPN has launched ESPNChicago, ESPNBoston, ESPNDallas, and then the next 755 of them that they are planning after that, for the first time we are seeing a national sports media outlet really be able to compete for the eyeballs looking for a perspective that is grounded in local history and tradition.

(PMB) Well, it will certainly be interesting to see how it all plays out. As long as guys like you and me get our piece, I’m fine with whatever. After the whole Favre soap opera, what do you think the next big Midwestern sports story will be to take over the national consciousness?

(JM) The re-emergence of Indiana basketball to a national powerhouse in Tom Crean’s second season.

Damn, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face…although I do think the Hoosiers can be a .500 team this year and I think Crean is the right guy at the right time for the job.

No, the next big Midwest sports story has to be Peyton Manning’s continued greatness. Certainly if the Colts stay undefeated it is a story that will dominate everything. But even when they ultimately lose a game or two, this is a team that has to be considered a Super Bowl favorite for one reason and one reason only: Peyton.

Growing up I used to listen to my Dad tell me about Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and Bill Russell and his favorite football player, Archie Manning. Someday, we’ll all be telling our kids about Michael Jordan and Albert Pujols and Peyton Manning.peytoneli

Hey, look at that. I just named off the three guys that many sports fans of our generation will look back on someday as the best of the best. And what cities did they play in? Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis.

See, it all comes back to the Midwest.

(PMB) Where I’m based, Chicago is a good place to start looking for that next big thing, but there are two main obstacles in the way.

1.) We haven’t had a real winner in our history other than MJ and the Bulls.

2.) The people here are psychotically obsessed with two teams that overshadow everyone, the Bears and Cubs. They also happen to be two teams horribly mismanaged at all levels of the organization. Both clubs also treat both the media and their fans like subhuman trash. Your thoughts?

(JM) I think the city of Chicago has wasted its collective energy on the Cubs for more than a century. Sadly, I don’t see it changing, neither the city’s incongruous obsession with the “lovable losers” nor their lovable losing.

As for the Bears, their lack of success should not be surprising. If we’ve learned anything over 40 years of NFL football it is that stability at the top of an organization and in the head coach/QB relationship breeds winning. One-year wonders can emerge (like the Bears’ recent Super Bowl participant) but they won’t be built to last.

For a prime example of how to build a consistent winner, shoot down I-65 to Indy. They’ve got the blueprint…you just need to find a Peyton Manning.CT 00294379E_Sox0628_23.JPG

The city of Chicago has long baffled me. I think I am a White Sox fan in part because of my contrarian nature. All of my friends growing up were Cubs fans and I couldn’t understand it. What has this team done to deserve such adoration? It is immensely fitting and appropriate to me that the White Sox were the team to finally break the city’s baseball curse.

Unfortunately for Chicago football fans, there is no alternative to the Bears.

(PMB) Couldn’t have said it any better myself, about both of Chicago’s lovable losers. I think you might have articulated why I’m a White Sox fan as well.

Readers, be sure to check out Midwest Sports early and often!

Favre, Peyton bring Midwest Sports into National Focus Part 1


By Paul M. Banks

Brett Favre’s incessant media circus and Peyton Manning’s undefeated Colts have put national spotlight on the Midwest, I discuss this and the future of sports media with Midwest Sports’s Jerod Morris.

(PMB) Last weekend, I was at a party and referred to ESPN as Eastern Seaboard Programming Network, as I always do. Someone said to me non-jokingly, “Is that what it really stands for?” And with the non-stop emphasis on New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox, Duke-North Carolina and the unhealthy man-crush that they (along with seemingly every other journalist in this country) seems to have on Florida QB Tim Tebow, I do wonder if it’s literally true.

Of course, they also unjustifiably blanket teams like USC and Notre Dame which appeal to large numbers of frat boy front-runner types who don’t really like sports, but pretend to. Your thoughts on bias, East Coast or otherwise?duke_vitale

(JM) By now I think it is pretty clear to everyone that a strong bias exists not just at ESPN but at all major television networks; and the bias can be boiled down into one nice, neat, tidy word: ratings.

ESPN is no longer just the upstart underdog from Bristol. They are now a Disney-owned, worldwide conglomerate with serious stakeholders to answer to. No longer can they be “every sports persons’ network”; rather, they must be “every sports plurality’s network”, and by this I mean that they must, in the majority of cases, broadcast whatever they can get their hands on in each time slot that will drive the highest ratings.

We can bitch about it all we want (and we do!) but Yankees-Red Sox will always drive more viewers than White Sox-Twins, no matter how good the teams are. Duke-North Carolina will always drive more visitors than a game for first place in the Big Ten between Michigan State and Purdue. It is what it is. And it just so happens that most of the ratings drivers are East Coast-based teams and the majority of the country is on Central or Eastern time.

I would think that by now sports fans would be conditioned to the reality that sports is a business. We hear the athletes say it all the time, and I think that despite our frustrations we have to understand that the same is true for those who broadcast them.

And if we don’t like it, there’s always the Big Ten Network!erinandrewswis

(PMB) As polarizing a figure as Brett Favre is, and he’s certainly done a few things to warrant that hatred people have of him, he made the 1600lb. gorilla in the sports media room ESPN focus on the upper midwest, Wisconsin and Minnesota particularly, and that never happens. Was this a good thing for Midwestern sports fans? Not just for your site, but also actual people who can legitimately be described with this designation?

(JM) I guess it depends on whether you were in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

It has been great for Minnesota. Not only has Brett Favre’s arrival created more excitement in the city, but the team has a serious shot to be playing playoff games at home and possibly even go to a Super Bowl. And think about how much revenue was generated just from the reporters being dispatched to the Twin Cities to cover the Favre saga. I may stereotyping here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most sports reporters can eat; the restaurants were no doubt pleased.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, lost one of their favorite sports idols to a rival. So they couldn’t be too happy and it’s doubtful they see it as a “good thing”.

In all seriousness, I’m not sure what the Favre story really does for the Midwest per se because anything involving Favre is such a national story now. I’m sure that Vikings and Packers blogs, plus the papers that cover the two teams, enjoyed a nice spike in eyeballs but the real winner was the NFL. Favre = ratings, jersey sales, and ticket sales. Cha-ching.

(PMB) You became somewhat of a sports media star this past summer, even appearing on ESPN Outside the Lines. I know you’ve likely told the story a million times, so I apologize, but please tell us what you learned from the experience and how you use those lessons today…

(JM) I learned more than anything that I’m not just writing in my own little personal sports diary at MSF. Every word I write is open to be consumed by anyone on the web, and that includes the possibility that my meaning could be misunderstood as well as the chance that real lives can be affected by what I write.

Bloggers may not be journalists, nor ever aspire to be, but the platform – especially if you are actively promoting yourself to drive traffic – should compel us all to be accountable for what we say. I don’t believe that means that bloggers should necessarily be held to the same standards and “rules” as the mainstream media, but I do believe that there is a minimum level of accountability that any person publishing work for public consumption should adhere to.favre02_600

Fortunately, I felt no need to back down from or apologize for the spirit of my post, and that is one thing I always make sure of now before I hit “publish”: am I prepared to defend these words if necessary? If I believe in what I am saying and am writing without malice, I am confident in the final result.

The whole Ibanez situation helped me to realize this.

(PMB) One thing that was sort of lost in the experience was your personal story, as well as that of your site, Midwest Sports Fans

(JM) It’s pretty simple really. I grew up in Indiana, lived in the Midwest my entire life save for a few years down in Miami after graduating college, and am a devoted fan of the Hoosiers, White Sox, and Browns…an eclectic mix to be sure.

Once I moved to Dallas in April in 2008, I wanted a way to stay connected to my Midwestern roots. I started working for a social media and online reputation management firm and starting MSF ended up being a great way to get hands-on experience with what we were doing.

It’s been a labor of love that I’ve truly enjoyed ever since.

(PMB) So you must truly know a lot about SEO then. Everyone has been beaten over the head with the story of newspapers dying out. But what do you see as the future of sports media? What might the next apparatus to die out after print? And also, no a brighter note, what do you envision as the future of the industry to be? Beyond “blogging” of course.

(JM) The future is that we are going to continue to see the lines blurred…between everything.

National writers put things into national perspectives. Local writers obviously localize the perspective. The local papers are already on thin ice as it is; if the ESPNs continue stealing their readers, how will they survive?

And, of course, blogs are a part of that. But I don’t see it as a zero sum game. If the MSM sees blogs as a threat, rather than an opportunity, they will get killed. The same is true for blogs with the MSM and other blogs. More synergy will lead to better, more intertwined, richer content. If the user experience is enhanced, the time spent will increase.benetton

I think this is a formula still to be unlocked.

In general, I think we are going to continue to see fragmentation of coverage with more and more specialization, which I think will ultimately lead to a better product for consumers. Those who are forward-thinking and strategic enough to build strong revenue models around the content will prosper. Others will fall by the wayside, and it should be clear by now to everyone that clinging to the status quo is a recipe for doom.

(PMB) Very true, less than 100% of sportswriters today have the luxury of making a living with the old “just write your story and send it in” approach that I was trained with in the newspaper industry. Those days are dinosaur.

Readers, be sure to check out Midwest Sports early and often!