05 Jun 2012

But seriously, what should I wear?

So for our spring Olympics class, I put together a presentation on how to pack for a long trip abroad–mostly from the perspective of being a terrible, terrible packer. You know, someone who doesn’t break their new shoes in ahead of time, grossly overestimates their upper-body strength and dresses entirely inappropriately for the weather. (I also get sick on all forms of moving transportation. I should hate traveling! And yet I adore it.)

Learn from my mistakes!

1.) On a three-week trip to Italy once, I insisted on wearing a lovely pair of black leather boots, which not only gave me bleeding blisters but also disintegrated off my feet in the Venice rain. I then bought a replacement pair on the road that, while beautiful and costing as much as my first car, caused me to come home and make multiple visits to a podiatrist. And I was in my early 20s.

So just wear sneakers. Everyone wears sneakers now, even stylish Europeans. I mean, not big white gym-shoe sneakers, and not those beautiful European women you’ll see tottering through historic ruins on their stilettos. But your feet will feel better than theirs. Trust me on this.

2.) A few years ago, because I fear boredom and like related reading material, I traveled around the entire country of Ireland with the complete works of William Butler Yeats, the complete works of Lady Gregory, the complete works of James Joyce and a stack of Eyewitness Travel books that weighed approximately 17 pounds each. Strangers had to help me get my travel tote into the overhead. And I read a total of about four pages.

But this summer I will be taking my new Kindle, which not only can hold the entirety of English literature (and even some travel books) but weighs nothing and only costs 80 bucks. So if I lose it, I don’t have to cry. At least not much.

3.) The last time I went to the UK, in summer 2010, I had a 2-year-old with me and didn’t even attempt to pack light. That’s how I ended up claiming a black duffel bag filled with diapers, table salt, shampoo, hand sanitizer, peanut-butter crackers, socks, plastic bags and microwave popcorn at the Birmingham airport. Which is totally something you want to deal with after you fly eight hours with a 2-year-old.

News flash: They sell things in Europe! You can get toothpaste and nail clippers there! You are not going on a trek to the undiscovered North Pole. So buy stuff there. And the packages will be different and it won’t cost much more and it will be fun.

Remind me of all this next week when I start packing.

Colleen Steffen l Features Editor

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05 Jun 2012

Tumbling down memory lane

Today I made the trip to St. Louis, Mo., with USA Gymnastics for the Visa Championships. It is such a great opportunity, and I am looking forward to all that is to come over the course of my trip. I was presented with this opportunity while in Dallas for the Team USA Media Summit. Many thanks go out to Chris Taylor, for it was his connections with the media that made it possible for me to be here, and I am extremely grateful.

For the next week, I will be doing video work for USA Gymnastics. This includes conducting interviews as well as videoing routines during the women’s junior competition and the men’s first day of competition. As Chris put it, I am in my element.

Many people do not know about my past with gymnastics, but for 16 years I ate, drank and slept the sport. I was never at the level of the athletes competing this weekend, but I have always heavily followed USA Gymnastics, and it is special to me that I get to be part of the action at this year’s Visa Championships.

In 2005, the Visa Championships were held in Indianapolis. I remember watching from the stands and hoping that one day I would get the chance to be a part of this event, even if I was not competing. Seven years later, here I am.

Monday and Tuesday are registration days for the athletes. Competition begins on Thursday and will continue through Sunday. This is the last stop for gymnasts before the Olympic Trials on July 1, where the team for London will be selected.

Emily Barker |  Sports Reporter
@EmPBarker

 

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29 May 2012

Olympic Games, cool—but I want to see some cricket

London! It’s not exactly the city that never sleeps, but with the 2012 Olympic Games coming to town, there probably won’t be much sleeping going on.

I know a lot of people are excited to see the Olympic Games and to experience them for themselves, but for me the Games are going to be my job while I’m there. As a photographer I find it difficult to really enjoy an event that I am covering since I’m so focused on what’s going on. Where do I need to be for this shot? Where do I think the action is going to happen? What do I need to do to get the effect that I want? And even though I may not cover any actual sporting event, covering the action surrounding the Olympic Games will make them part of my job.

This isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean that I am tending to look outside the main events for the pleasure-seeking part of my trip. For me, one of the more exciting parts of going to the U.K. will be the possibility of going to explore the land of my ancestors: Wales. My family on my father’s side is Welsh and German. I traveled to Germany my junior year of high school, and ever since then I’ve wanted to go to Wales to be able to say that I’ve visited the country where my family name comes from.

Being able to make this connection with my ancestral culture and heritage is one of the things I’m looking forward to this summer. Of course, I’m excited to be covering the Olympic Games and getting to see the best that London has to offer, but I’m a person of simple taste, making it the awesome cherry on top of my cultural sundae.

I’m also a fan of cricket. Yes, that’s the weird British sport with the big paddles for bats and the sticks with the funny name. However, being an American makes for a dull life as a cricket fan. For the past couple of years I have been forced to enjoy my cricket matches at 3 in the morning while yelling at my Internet for freezing on a key play of the match. So another exciting thing for me is that I might be able to see a real professional cricket match in person, something that I am saving my money for already.

There are so many things to look forward to, and I can’t really list all of them, but these are the two things that I think will make me the happiest. Of course I could always be surprised, which is something that I wouldn’t mind.

Bobby Ellis  |  Photographer
@bobbydellis

 

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21 May 2012

Behind every great story—a great relationship

Errol Spence, Jr., doesn’t know what I am about to write.  Neither does Eric Shanteau.  But I am convinced those two individuals entered my life for a reason this week.

The same holds true for Thomas Finchum, Kayla Harrison, Travis Stevens, Joseph Diaz, Jr., and David Boudia.

And even though I haven’t met Miles Chamley-Watson in person yet, you can put a check by his name too.  Chalk one up for the good guys (and gals).

Even though this is my first blog post about this amazing Olympic experience, the relationships have been building for many months. It was more than evident in Dallas.

Maybe it was because I was sitting inside the boxing ring at Maple Avenue Boxing Gym in Downtown Dallas, but it hit me harder than Spence’s signature south-paw punch, and I couldn’t have been happier.

While more than 450 other media members packed into a room to listen to Michael Phelps or First Lady Michelle Obama over at the Hilton Anatole, Josh Blessing and I were forming a bond with Spence, his coach, Derrick James, and his father, Spence Sr.—a bond that, after four days, will last a lifetime.  Sign me up, I am officially a member of Team Spence.

I’ve worked in sports my whole life, and by this time, my instincts never have proven me wrong. I knew going to Dallas this was a chance to do something special.  Just do a quick Google search on Errol Spence, Jr., and USA Boxing, and you’ll see what I mean.

His story is amazing.  From the tiny, rundown Vivero Boxing Gym in Oak Cliff to becoming a three-time national welterweight champion and Olympic medalist hopeful in London.  Oh, and he’s only 22 years old. He’s the son of a Jamaican immigrant.  His biggest influence is his mother (mine too).

Josh and I spent the better part of our trip researching, making connections and shooting video for this story.  Instinct.

When I picked up Errol from the hotel and we drove together to Maple Avenue for the interview, we connected.  Not since working with former Ball State athlete, John Wooden Award winner and dear friend Peyton Stovall have I seen a smile or the charisma Spence has.

I can’t wait to unleash my own creativity and experience with Josh on this story.  Spence deserves my best, and he’ll get it.  And I’ll be in London—hopefully in the stands as often as I can—to support Spence every step of the way.  He deserves that too.

Less than two hours later, it was the inspirational Shanteau who delivered the knock out.

We talked about his journey over the last four years as a cancer survivor, the loss of his father to the same dreaded disease and his mission to spread cancer awareness in young adults.

It too was more than an interview. We spent an hour talking about life and how it changed for him. Little did he know, it was changing for me too. We connected.

I collected more than 75 business cards in Dallas, shared stories and worked with our students in an environment I will never forget. We met with more than 100 athletes and logged more than 600 minutes of interviews. There’s more coming.  Heck, we haven’t even made it to London yet.

But it’s more than just the connections and the stories, it’s the people.  It’s building relationships. It’s being real, having a passion for what you do and caring for people.

Spence and Shanteau know all about those things.

Chris Taylor  |  Adviser

@BallStateCT

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18 May 2012

Media Summit yields more than 100 interviews

During the 2012 U.S. Olympic Media Summit, media members were split up into print and broadcast groups, as was our class.  I went to the broadcast side, where we would get Olympic athletes of all different kinds ushered in and out of our room over the three days. Unlike our partners on the print side, we were much more jammed for time. As opposed to bringing all of the writers to the athlete, they had to bring the athlete to the broadcasters.  This meant we had a time limit—six minutes—from when they walked in to when they walked out. This provided an incredible challenge. It usually took about a minute to get the athlete all wired up and get the cameras focused. All of a sudden we were down to five minutes.We shared the room with the Armed Forces Network and WebMD.  The AFN crew needed a personal message from the athlete to the troops and then for the athlete to do a station ID. This took about two minutes,  meaning we and the WebMD folks had a whopping three minutes, whether it was with a hopeful for the final spot on the gymnastics team or U.S. Soccer star Alex Morgan.This meant our questions had to be from the cream of the crop, and it was tough to get them to give us information. This also meant we had to be prepared.  We couldn’t simply ask questions to gather information about an athlete’s background. We had to know the background or else we would run out of time before we even had a chance for a quality question.On average we would get two questions from the athlete. Sometimes we lucked out and got three, other times only one, and occasionally if running late, we wouldn’t get a question at all.  There were about 50 broadcast media, and as you can imagine, “BSU at the Games” wasn’t a top priority (although the fact that we were a priority when ESPN, NBC and Sports Illustrated were within shouting distance was more than humbling).

A common question we would ask is, what does wearing the red, white and blue and representing your country mean to you?  It was incredible hearing all the different answers.  Responses ranged from “it’s pretty cool” and “it’s an honor” to having the athlete nearly in tears.

Often we were able to quickly research the athlete when they walked in the room and find an interesting angle for our story.

For example, Wallace Spearmon is the U.S.’s top runner in the 200 and has beaten Usain Bolt. But what we were able to dig up was that in 2008 he won a bronze medal only to moments later have it taken away due to being disqualified for stepping out of his lane.  As you can imagine, even four years later, he still is emotional about it.

We also found stories of a swimmer who had heart surgery and was forced to keep a defibrillator on site whenever she swam because doctors said her heart could give out at any time.

We heard stories of athletes growing up in poverty to make it, stories of athletes who were caught in drug scandals and have turned their lives around, stories of Paralympic athletes who lost limbs in the military and still compete at the highest levels of their sports.

It was an incredible process over the three days that saw us interview more than 100 athletes. Some personal highlights, of course, were the big names like Nastia Luikin, Maya Moore, Wallace Spearmon and, my personal favorite, Alex Morgan (guys reading won’t be asking follow-up questions as to why she was my favorite interview).

Coming to Dallas I was a bit apprehensive that I didn’t have enough material for London. Now we have so much material and so many story possibilities that we’re going to have to cut out some very good stories.

Be on the lookout for these interviews on the website.

Pat Boylan  |  Sports Reporter

@patboylanbsu

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17 May 2012

Thoughts from a plane over Dallas

So I waited to write this blog on the flight home for two reasons: 1) because these past six days for me have been so fast-paced I haven’t had time and 2) I honestly didn’t know what I would say, so I figured I’d use it as reflection. I’ll do my best to keep you guys entertained.

I first wanted to give a shout out to Pat, C.T., Brandon, Ryan, Emily (Thompson) and Emily (Barker) for somehow figuring out a way to make this flight in the first place with minutes to spare … Don’t ask.

I remember walking to class months ago when Ryan came up to me about the idea of traveling to London for the Olympic Games. If I said I wasn’t skeptical at first, well, I’d be lying. But after these past few days working alongside some of the top journalists in the country and speaking with some of the best athletes in the world, it’s safe to say I made the right decision to jump on board.

Being the only college students at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit, I assumed we wouldn’t get a fair chance. I assumed we would be shoved to the side and given limited access. Not the case—not even close. We had just as much of an opportunity to speak with the big athletes as anyone else, and we took full advantage of that.

As I registered, the lady behind the desk goes, “Oh, Ball State? We’ve heard about you guys.” We were respected. People knew who we were and we’d just arrived.

Perhaps the defining moment for all of us was the opening reception. There we were,  a bunch of college kids (plus C.T. and Ryan) sitting at a table as America’s top athletes strolled on by. Having athletes come up to me and say they loved my USA Diving piece on Thomas Finchum … nothing can beat that. Nothing.

Interviewing one of the world’s top boxers, Errol Spence, Jr., in the middle of a boxing ring in downtown Dallas, are you  kidding me? I’m just a college kid, I shouldn’t have these opportunities— but for whatever reason, I do. And amidst it all I never once took it for granted.  I’ll admit I may or may not have gotten flustered when Olympic Beijing gold medalist Nastia Luikin stepped into the room. That’s because, well … no comment.

I could go on forever. I could sit here 30,000 feet up and ramble on about this trip and go through every connection I made or every amazing athlete I came across, but I won’t because I don’t know how long blogs typically go and I feel like I’m near that limit.

BSU at the Games has a chance to do something special here. We have the chance to build our résumés and gain experience in ways other college students will only dream of. This is our chance to stand out from the rest of the  universities and show them what we do in sports media and journalism at Ball State.  Let’s embrace this opportunity and hold onto it. I know I am. See you guys in London.

2014 Russian Winter Games … Any takers? I’m down.

Josh Blessing  |  Sports Reporter

@joshjblessing

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17 May 2012

Star athletes prove down to earth

Olympic athletes are pretty nice people. Seriously! They are.

With all the well-deserved fame and media attention these athletes get, one would think it would get to their heads at some point. But I haven’t detected one small sign of an ego. All of these athletes are outstanding on the field. But they’re even better people.

A lot of them aren’t much different than we are as students. In fact, a lot of Olympic athletes are students.

Alexander Massialas is a member of the U.S Fencing National Team. He’s 18 years old. Like me, he enjoys basketball a lot. We share a favorite videogame in NBA 2K12. Massialas is also a big Zion I fan. Safe to say he knows good hip-hop when he hears it.

April Ross is a member of the U.S. beach volleyball team. Her favorite hobby is mini-golf. I happen to be quite the Putt-Putt enthusiast myself.

And my man Phil Dalhausser, another beach volleyball player, loves women in bikinis. Me too.

The point I’m trying to make here is that there’s not a lot that separates us, and that makes the Olympic coverage all the sweeter. We listen to the same music, play the same games, and watch the same movies and TV shows. And while what we do for a living may be different, our goal in the end is the same. To do our best, be our best and aspire for higher.

I’ll never forget the connections I’ve made with these athletes. It personalizes the London Games for us. I’ll be sure to root them on as they represent our country this summer.

Brandon Pope  |  Sports Reporter

@bpopeizdope

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14 May 2012

Former tumbler in awe of Olympic gymnasts

As a former gymnast myself, I was most excited about having the opportunity to talk to some of the U.S.’s top gymnasts at the Media Summit in Dallas. Even though we had been waking up early the past few days, I felt full of energy because the atmosphere was so exciting.

Having the chance to talk to Olympians Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson and Jonathan Horton was a dream come true. In 2008 I watched them compete in Beijing and saw them win their medals, so it was an honor to be in the same room with them. At first talking to them was extremely intimidating because they are such a big deal to me, but after a few minutes they just felt like regular people.

When I was watching the 2008 Olympic Games, I was 16 years old, the age of many of the contenders for a spot on the 2012 team. They are only in high school, and yet they have the chance to represent the United States in the biggest athletic event in the world. That blows my mind.

Jordyn Wieber, 16, said the pressure doesn’t really get to her because she competes all the time and she is ready for the trials. This was the case with several of the athletes; they handle their nerves like veterans, yet they are only teenagers.

Dallas has been such an amazing experience for me and I am even more excited about getting to London in July.

Emily Barker  |  Sports Reporter

@empbarker

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14 May 2012

Why be a journalist? Hint: not the salary

Alright. Time to ‘fess up. I had an ulterior motive in starting this Olympic program—getting back to Ball State’s awesome Worcester Centre in Worcester, U.K., where I spent summer 2010 with my family and about 35 BSU students.

But that’s only partially true.

The other reason that I wanted to go to the Games was to show my journalism students just how cool it can be to be a working journalist.

It can be hard sometimes to show that back at Ball State. Oh, most of us try in our own way, but all too often it’s tempered with news of newspaper layoffs and starting your careers in some backwater market that pays under 20K a year. And that’s not cool.

But there’s something magical about this job. Colleen actually calls it “journalism magic.” And it’s true. It works. It’s this cool Zen moment when all of your training and all of your instincts come together in this perfect combination. And you are on it. You are living in the moment and you can’t be stopped. You can’t wait to get back to your computer to input photos (like I’m doing now at 2 a.m.) or bang out a story or edit that package.

Coming to Dallas reminded me of it. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had picking up a camera again and shooting sports—shooting people for that matter.

It’s brought the coolness back to me.

And I’m hoping it does for my students too. I hope that when they go home from London they reflect back and think, “That’s what I want to do everyday for the rest of my life.” And I hope that they bring that kind of passion back with them to the DN or to Ball Bearings or to Sports Link, because lord knows journalism needs passion right now.

We need to be cool again.

Ryan Sparrow  |  Adviser

@rjsparrow

 

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14 May 2012

Pressure + time = diamonds

Sat down with Alexander Massialas of USA Fencing. We talked about what it’s like to be a young Olympian. He walked me through his daily routine, which consists of fencing two to three hours a day, every day. And it shows. Since he only uses one arm for fencing, his right arm is bigger than his left.  It’s also longer.  Noticeably longer. Don’t believe me?  Check out the picture.

Alexander is a guy I could really connect with. We both share a favorite band in hip-hop duo Zion I and  love basketball, and his favorite videogame is NBA 2k12.

Another thing the men’s foil champion said that stuck with me was that “pressure separates the good from the great.”

I couldn’t agree more. As the days roll by and the Olympic Games get closer, the pressure rises. How we as a team handle that pressure will show in the quality and quantity of our work.

 

 Brandon Pope  |  Sports Reporter

@bpopeizdope

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