All posts by villarosac

That’s All Thanks to Connolly

I’ve noticed through most of my academic career, regardless of now or back in high school, it all seemed kind of easy. I didn’t really think that I was putting that much effort into most of my work. I’d fluff papers up in order to meet the page requirements. I’d ask people last minute for interviews and slop stuff together. All of this combined, and I somehow currently have over a 3.8 GPA. This semester, however, I think I finally found a class that had a professor that didn’t buy my old techniques. Dan Connolly, professor of COM370, Digital Sports Writing.

“Too wordy.”

When I read that in the comments for some of my first few assignments, I was pretty surprised. I can’t think of a professor, besides maybe one, who left that comment on a paper of mine my entire time at college. I thought I had cracked the code, that I knew exactly what I needed to do to please every professor at Elizabethtown College. But Connolly, he wasn’t having it.

I was actually pretty excited. I finally had something that felt like a real challenge.  I love that. When it comes to video games, difficulty is fun for me. That rang true in sports writing, not only because I knew I had the power in me to write a good piece, but Connolly knew it too.

So overall, yes I still make a few mistakes here and there, but I think that after COM370, I’ve been able to find a better angle, a better story, a better question. That’s all thanks to Connolly.

I was able to talk to some people I could only dream of getting to talk to. Gerry, that’s Gerry with a ‘G’, Sandusky from WBAL. Jeff Zrebiec, Baltimore Ravens beat writer for the Baltimore Sun. I’ve looked up to these guys for so long. Ever since I enrolled at Elizabethtown I had hoped to learn the tricks to replicate them. Find a way to be able to become a voice in the NFL world. To actually be able to talk to them? That’s something I didn’t think would happen while at ETown. That’s all thanks to Connolly.

Do I want to be a print journalist? Probably not. I came in to the class wanting to be on television or radio, and coming out of this class I feel pretty much the same. This class did show me techniques that I need though; skills that help be a better story teller. Something that plenty of people, guys like Zrebiec, Sandusky, and Connolly are great at doing.  That’s all thanks to Connolly.

So yes, plenty of people complained about how hard the class was. Plenty of people thought that turning in a blog every week was a pain in the butt. However, that challenge made me show up to class every single day. I think that I have become a better writer, a better story teller, and now think that I might have a chance to get where I want to be. That’s all thanks to Connolly.

Division III has its own Characteristics Making it Worth a Watch

He’s an athletic director that went down from Division II to come back to his alma mater to help lead the Division III athletic program where he won a national soccer title. That’s Chris Morgan. He’s a former distance runner, who has taught his fair share of health classes, leading a women’s cross country team to the national stage. That’s Brian Falk. She’s a Division I field hockey athlete who decided to join a smaller program to get a good education, that’s Megan Epply. These are all faces of people involved in Division III athletics.

These three people all have their own reason of which they are a part of NCAA Division III athletics. Regardless of what those reasons are, they all have their own individual stories. This division, like others, has its difficulties. Like all of the other divisions of the NCAA, it deserves to be recognized.

In college sports, an athlete participates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA.  The NCAA is split into three divisions, I, II and III. Each one is divided based off skill level, with Division I being the strongest and Division III being the weakest. They all, however, feature strong competitors in each division, and some of the participants at the Division III level are good enough to play at the Division II or Division I levels.

Besides competition levels, another noticeable difference between the divisions would be the scholarship opportunities. Division III institutions are unable to give scholarships to athletes as per NCAA rules.

According to ScholarshipStats.com, the Division I institutions can give out plenty.  This includes 13 basketball scholarships per program, along with 85 football scholarships to an FBS program. These scholarship opportunities highlight differences between the divisions.

With the robust competition and ability for major scholarships, the Division I of the NCAA typically catches the spotlight. The division is most likely to be televised, and features athletes that are the most likely to make it out there in professional sports. While some may trickle in from the other divisions, that usually isn’t the case.

It is understandable that Division I is where spectators direct their attention, but that does not make any of the other divisions any less important. Each division holds its own story, and has student-athletes facing their own difficulties.  Division I varies in a gamut of ways compared to that of Division III, and not many know what those differences are. They range from competition, rules, and student-athlete lifestyle.

In terms of competition, there is an assortment of differences between Division I and Division III. These include not just the level of competition among athletes, but also includes the focus on where a team competes.

When it comes to Division I athletics, one of the biggest televised events is March Madness, the national college basketball tournament. There is also the national playoffs for college football. These, along with other types of tournaments and competitions that Division I teams participate are televised and focus on the national stage. Division III is a bit different.

The NCAA official website states: “Division III athletics encourages participation by maximizing the number and variety of athletics opportunities available to students, placing primary emphasis on regional in-season and conference competition.”

Conference competition and regional competition, as stated above, are a focus in Division III more so compared to Division I.  Division III athletics don’t involve as much travel and the region of the US that each team competes in shrinks compared to teams in the higher divisions. From this, Division III schools get to be home more, get to be in the classroom more. The rivalries, while not as well-known are bigger because of the proximity of each college to one another, and the fact that the teams see each other over and over again. The competition is not just about on the field, but it also takes place in recruitment because conference rivals are so close that they vie for students from the same towns and high schools. The pool of players to pick from is bigger than Division I, but so is the amount of schools trying to lure in an athlete in Division III.

“Recruiting is difficult for everyone.  Most small private colleges in this area compete with us for athletes, but so do the state schools and plenty of D1 universities,” Elizabethtown Cross Country coach, Brian Falk said.  “Every year we lose some recruiting battles to our peers and win some.  That’s part of the business, and you learn to let it go quickly.”

Another noticeable difference between the divisions are the rules that each division must follow. These include rules in terms of recruitment, competition guidelines, and academic guidelines.

The NCAA website states: “For sports other than football and basketball, Division I schools must play 100 percent of the minimum number of contests against Division I opponents — anything over the minimum number of games has to be 50 percent Division I.”

Each Division I school has stricter rules on who it can play, and how many times it can play a certain type of opponent. This is to ensure that they stay true to the higher level of competition that they advertise. For Division III, this rule doesn’t ring as true. They essentially compete with any other institution they want, whether it be in a recorded match or a scrimmage. The amount of rule differences between all three divisions is large.

“The idea of being DII allows coaches to have more time with their student athletes. The playing and practice seasons are greater versus Division III,” Chris Morgan, Elizabethtown Athletic Director said. “The budgets that the NCAA provides Division III institutions is actually greater than they provide Division III.”

The last difference to focus upon is the student-athlete lifestyle. Depending on which division an athlete chooses, it changes an athlete’s schedule completely. For each division, the competition forces more time commitment in both the amount of competition, as well as travel time to each competition. That together with training and other team activities puts a large load upon each athlete. Especially those in Division I.

Stack.com writes: “Division I athletics are often referred to as “a job” but that does not necessarily mean athletes cannot do other things in college or have ample time for studies and social life. However, when compared to Division III that time will be objectively less due to the rules written by the NCAA and the loopholes they create.”

“[In Division I] we would have a two hour practice every day. Every other day we would have a lifting or stretching day,” Megan Epply, a senior Elizabethtown field hockey player said. “I liked how [in Division III] there was less of that stress.”

Division I and Division III both have a variety of unique traits that separate them from one another. While the competition, rules, and lifestyle in both may differ, it takes a certain type of athlete to be able to thrive in the NCAA no matter what division they may be a part of.

 

I Want to Feel that Rush Again

Joe Flacco scrambled for a few yards only to be tackled with less than a minute left in the game. At that point I pretty much felt it was over. The Baltimore Ravens had one last play to try and tie the score in their divisional match with the Denver Broncos, and they needed Mother Mary to come and help them out.

As Flacco received the snap and dropped back, I could barely look. I shielded my eyes with my fingers, but as he launched the ball I couldn’t help but peak through the cracks, hoping that something amazing might happen. It did.

“Caught! Into the end-zone, Jacoby Jones,” CBS play-by-play announcer Greg Gumbel exclaimed. The ball slipped past falling safety Rahim Moore and landed right into the arms of wide receiver Jacoby Jones. He ran the ball into the end-zone with only a few seconds left in the game. Thanks to that touchdown, I had a little bit more Ravens football to watch.

The Ravens ended up winning that game off a Justin Tucker field goal in double overtime. It was one of the longest NFL games in years. To me, that game, that moment, was the most memorable football event I have ever experienced.

That playoff run by Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens will forever be remembered. From Flacco’s impressive 11 touchdowns to zero interception stat line, the “Mile High Miracle,” the Super Dome Black Out during the Super Bowl, to Ray Lewis’s final ride, there were plenty of great moments.

In my family, that Super Bowl run means even more. We have a cat named “Swidward,” she’s named after the SpongeBob character Squidward due to her large nose. My mom accidently misspelled her name. At halftime, of that Super Bowl, Swidward had five kittens. That along with the Ravens taking down the 49ers, made for a very happy day. Those cats of course were named after Ravens. Joe, Torrey, Dannell, Anquan, and Jacoby were those selected.

That Super Bowl saga capped off a great year of the NFL. My mother took me out of school when the team returned to Baltimore so we could join in on the celebration. Seeing my favorite player ever, Ed Reed, sing “Two Tickets to Paradise” made the entire trip, and I wouldn’t trade that time for the world.

This year, the Ravens have a formula that is almost reminiscent of their 2000 championship winning squad. Since that 2012-13 season, I’ve been hoping that I could get to experience that great feeling of watching the team that I love conquer the football world again. Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not? But the fact that there is still a chance for that feeling to return, has me turning in to CBS ever single week over and over again.

 

You better let Herr have his way

“That’s not good enough,” he said to me, as he once again scratched his scraggly ginger beard.

My coach, John Herr, then walked away as I sat there wondering if I should be happy with my performance or not. Yes, I did take third for the bronze medal in high jump at the Loyola Relays, but should I be excited? I once again failed to match the goal I had set that year, break the school record.

In Gary Smith’s piece, “Eyes of the Storm,” readers learn about the tenacity of women’s college basketball coach Pat Summitt. Her way of pushing all of her players to their limits reminded me of my years in high school on the Saint John’s Catholic Prep track and field team as well as my time running cross country. John Herr, an algebra teacher, was a wild man that made sure his team met its peak potential. Reading Smith’s story about such a passionate coach like Summitt, reminded me of Herr’s ways.

You could tell how tough he was as a coach by how he would focus on such minute details, punishing us in what I found to be the dumbest of ways. If you didn’t have pants for the warm up, even if it was around 65 degrees out, he’d force you to wear your khaki uniform pants. That was always uncomfortable. If you showed up even a minute late, he’d give you this look like you were dead to him, almost questioning why you even bothered to show up. Those tiny forms of ridicule strived all of my teammates to work harder, hoping that’d such an interesting and zany coach would accept us as good athletes.

“That’s your own fault,” he would say. “You should’ve drank more water before the meet. Let’s do abs to make up for it.”

I had gotten a calf cramp during our one mile cool down after a race, and had to walk it back to our meeting place. While yes, others had done the same, I felt that I had a reasonable excuse for running a bit slower than usual, but apparently it wasn’t good enough. We had to do planks for a while after that meet.  He showed no mercy. Keep in mind we won that match against St. Vincent Pallotti, but of course, in his mind we weren’t allowed to celebrate. That type of run you into the ground attitude made me hate him sometimes, but I can tell it worked out in the long run.

“You and Daniel got to go 95% on these 200s,” he said. “Fast. These need to be quick.”

Sure, it doesn’t sound that bad. Then you realize its 92 degrees out, and you didn’t drink any water during class. While I may have finished, cramping both of my legs to the point of being unable to walk afterwards, made it a bit tougher. Those types of workouts helped me get a spot on a college track and field team, but back then, I thought it was about to end my career. Herr’s methods were rough and intense, but had this weird amount of fun pleasure sprinkled in.

The way everyone loved Pat Summitt for her crazy style of coaching, Saint John’s loved John Herr. So I’d like to thank him for everything he did to get me up to this point. While we may have not agreed at times, if it weren’t for him I probably wouldn’t have made it to Elizabethtown College. So where ever you are Coach Herr, I want to say thanks, for all of that crap you put Me, Daniel, Chris, Marco and everyone else through.

Surviving the NFL Bye Week

In the National Football League, the bye week is a time for players of a team to get rest and heal up before embarking on a playoff push. It allows coaches to examine personnel, get film on upcoming opponents, and prepare for their next foe the following week. For a team, the bye week is an important time. The organization relishes that small vacation every year.

But if you are a fan like me, one who follows their team religiously, the bye brings up a time of nothingness and boredom, and finding ways to cope can sometimes be difficult.  Today I will go in depth on how I somehow make it through the pain of the bye week.

When I was younger, I mean it still sometimes happens but not as often, I would wake up ready to go and watch some football Sunday morning. I would get all of my Ravens gear on (I have a jersey of every color besides color rush to match the team that week), and practically cement myself on the couch, eyes glued to the television. But then, once 1 P.M. rolled around and I am treated to a shot of Heinz Field for the nationally televised Bengals and Steelers game, rather than the familiar views of M&T Bank Stadium, it hit me straight in the gut. My Ravens weren’t playing that week.

It’s kind of reflective of going through some type of loss. After the realization, come the periods of denial, bargaining, and so on. For me, I feel almost broken. I am a person of schedule, and when that falls apart, so do I. After that, it comes in to question whether or not there are any games worth paying attention to. If the Steelers aren’t off as well, I watch that game and pray that they lose, giving the Ravens a better chance at the playoffs. If not, I ask myself, if there is anything I need to get done.

There always is homework to do, so as I turn on a very less important game, like the thrill that will be the Giants and 49ers this week, on mute, I attempt to get some done. While some things get finished quickly, other times I bash my keyboard to forehead wondering where it all went wrong.

After the painful session of homework, I observe the scores and calculate if the bye ended up being a win or a loss for the Ravens. This involves seeing how other teams around the league did in the AFC and what playoff seed that slides the Ravens into at the time.  I sigh to myself excited for next week. I wish to see the Ravens play, but to do so I must painfully go through yet another week of the educational system.

So it may not be pretty, but the bye week, while maybe not good for a fan, is a great time for an organization. Getting healthy players back and preparing for the final stretch of the regular season makes it somewhat okay for even people like me, to have their team take a quick break from the action. Hopefully with the Ravens on bye this week, I will survive and be able to write yet another blog next time.