Sunday, November 30, 2008

Michigan's Weekend O' Prep Football Still A Great Value

For all the nay-saying and negative news pouring out of Michigan these days, there's still a lot to brag about in our state. We still have the charter game of the marquee weekend in pro football's regular season with the Thanksgiving Day matinee. Yes, the Detroit Lions haven't been compelling theater in nearly three consecutive presidential terms, but I'll address that later.

Following the annual Turkey Day game, the Michigan High School Athletic Association holds it's yearly football finals at Ford Field, another Michigan tradition since the mid-to-late 1970s at the Pontiac Silverdome. There was a tremendous crowd for yesterday's Lake Orion - Rockford matchup, the gold stamp contest among eight different championship games over Friday and Saturday. I would guesstimate the assembled masses at near 20,000 for the Division I final, and I'm surprised it wasn't significantly more.

I'm surprised because we've all heard so much about our dying economy's terrifying effects of the last nearly two years. There's thousands of houses in foreclosure, jobs literally evaporating, credit virtually impossible to secure, the list is endless. Yet the Lions, at 0-11 and practically begging for people to buy tickets, get a sellout on Thanksgiving at over $40 a ticket and parking around the stadium going for $50 a car. The MHSAA? Despite the great turnout, they still had seats to spare in the endzones of the lower bowl in Ford Field. For the cost of a $10 ticket, a fan gets four games and parking locked in at $6 per car at a handful of lots, making the day-long experience of four games at Ford Field less than dinner for two at a coney island.

I'm very surprised that more fans don't take advantage of the incredible value that is the MHSAA football finals. Yes, this is a Lions town and Detroit fans have supported their team in even the most head-turning times (for example, this year, right?), so that much I understand. It's this loyalty that makes Detroit one of the nation's great sports towns.

I've sometimes been critical of the MHSAA, like many coaches, administrators, fans and fellow officials have been on many different issues. That's life. Sometimes my writing and refereeing is seen as dead-on and other times it's viewed with a less complimentary eye. After two years of attending the football finals in two different capacities, I'm floored at how effective a small army of dedicated athletic administrators, aka the MHSAA, are at transforming a mammoth, 65,000-seat facility that earned a SuperBowl and a Final Four into an incredible experience for 16 competing schools and all the marching bands, cheer squads, pom-pon teams and dance corps that accompany the championship teams. The MHSAA is to be applauded for that.

Last year I volunteered as a down box linesman for two of the eight games, and this year I covered the Lake Orion - Rockford matchup for The Oakland Press. You can read my championship game sidebar story that ran in today's edition here, and the Lake Orion - Dearborn Fordson retrospective that ran last week is linked here. I've often wondered aloud why the MHSAA doesn't share it's championship experience with a greater pool of officials, and the MHSAA has begun to address this very issue in a more proactive manner. Yet after this weekend, I can say with absolute conviction that Michigan's football finals is an incredible experience in a mesmerizing venue and it's something anyone associated with prep football should support in earnest. That might mean pushing hard to earn a finals assignment as a contest official, or volunteer as an administrator or coach, or simply purchase a few tickets and bring the family.

It's really an incredible undertaking and one that is done for the kids, which makes it all the more remarkable in today's economic climate. There are game site options available to the MHSAA that would be much more cost-friendly than Ford Field. The MHSAA gets no discount to play their championship at the Lions' facility because to Ford Field, it's just another date that could be booked with a different event, and you don't stay in business giving your product away all the time. There's no media discount either -- the cost to hook up to Ford Field's BlueZone internet service on a per day, per reporter basis was $30, the same as a Lions game. Yet the finals continue to be held at the state's premiere facility because our Michigan schools, stocked by Michigan families, expect no less of an experience than the generation before them, and the MHSAA is committed to delivering on that promise.

Our state's communities get a SuperBowl-quality experience in a SuperBowl venue -- and how many prep football fans around the country can say that?

~ T.C. Cameron is writing Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due in August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

How Do You Kill Something That Doesn't Exist?

I'm officially on a mission to kill a word, a word that isn't really a word but one that, nonetheless, manages to be misused, overused and has become an icon of the cheesy television announcer guy.

Trickeration. It's not even a damn word!

Don't believe me? Check it out yourself at

Nobody's a worse offender than ESPN's Reese Davis, with the constant 'trickeration' references that dot the blizzard of college football highlights on any given Saturday. How has this non-word become a word so synonymous with any number of football gadget plays is beyond me.

What really gnaws at me isn't that the word is used so much as much as who transformed the pseudo-word into an accepted part of college football vernacular. Real journalists from real journalism schools! No, not the meatheads and ex-jocks that have managed to infiltrate the press box, but rather the writers, reporters and media professionals made this non-entry in any working dictionary into a word that's not yet a real word.

Clearly, the writer in me is getting the best of me, whatever that 'best' is...

No 'Trickeration' Needed For Lake Orion: I was as shocked as anyone at the ease and precision the Lake Orion Dragons executed with in dismantling undefeated Dearborn Fordson. The Tractors had run on everyone and anyone -- at will -- until the semifinal matchup at Troy Athens.

The Dragons looked they were breathing fire -- not cold air -- in the ferocity with which they attacked Fordson, who looked frustrated and thoroughly confused from the jump in Orion's 38-0 runaway win. Even the first play, a Fordson pass, was a runaway train going the other way in the form of an intercepted pass returned for a score, not that I saw it. I was walking up to the stadium, filled with about 7,500 fans -- a beautiful sight -- and it was already 7-0 before 30 seconds elapsed from the game clock.

By the way, let me echo Tom Markowski, who joined myself and Oakland Press guru Keith Dunlap in the cozy confines of the press box at Athens, in saying athletic director Bob Dowd and Athens did a fabulous job hosting their third-straight semifinals. Parking is plentiful, ingress and egress to and from the school campus is accomodating and the facility is first-rate. I think Athens should be an easy choice to join Ferndale's Division I (formerly Class A) boys' quarterfinal in Oakland County as an annual site for an annual playoff game.

As for the upcoming championships, Lake Orion and Warren De LaSalle have a chance to deliver the two marquee championships to the metropolitan area, the east side of the state, in a year when it looked like the west side of the state would run away any and all hardware available to the statewide contingency of schools offering football. That and it'll be interesting to see if Detroit Country Day has learned anything from their runners-up defeat last year towards winning a championship.

Book's For Sale At Ford Field: Copies of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries will be available at the Michigan High School Athletic Association's football finals at Ford Field on Friday and Saturday.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Officials For Kids, the charitable arm of the MHSAA's corp of registered officials.

Come watch some great football -- $10 gets you four games and two locals schools each day -- and buy the book as a gift for you or someone else and most importantly, help some kids who deserve it more than anything else!

The book will be parked by the Lighthouse Sportswear station in the main atrium and will be advertised on the LED scoreboards during the games!

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, a follow-up of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries, and blogs for The Oakland Press at

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oakland County Leads East Side Comeback

If you had asked most prep football fans after Week Three of the 2008 MHSAA football season where the strength of the state lied in terms of regional supremacy, more would have voted for the lower west side of the state than voted for Barack Obama two weeks ago.

Thanks to Oakland County's strong showing and a handful of schools in and around metro Detroit, any mandate from the voters 10 weeks ago carries about as much clout as a restaurant bill signed on behalf of the City of Detroit by county inmate Kwame Kilpatrick.

Three of the four schools from the Division I semifinals were metro Detroit schools, including Lake Orion, who was breathing fire instead of cold breath in a start-to-finish domination of the Dearborn Fordson Tractors at Troy Athens tonight. Livonia Stevenson has made back-to-back trips to the semifinals, a strong testament to the quality of play in the Kensington Lakes league.

Detroit Country Day, Bloomfield Hills Lahser, Southfield High, Warren DeLaSalle and Inkster's Vikings all made it to the semifinal showdowns today, with DCD, Inkster and DeLaSalle advancing to next week's chapionships at Ford Field. The possibility of having four Oakland County schools playing for championships didn't come to fruition but it's still an impressive feat that the possibility even existed. The Yellowjackets are returning for a back-to-back finals appearance and there's a chance that two Oakland County teams and four metropolitan schools could earn titles next weekend.

Obviously Lake Orion's rematch with Rockford will be the most highly-discussed game in some time because a start and finish bookend games between two East-West superpowers is also about as likely as the Lions beating Tennessee on Turkey Day. The two schools opened the season at Eastern Michigan University's Rynearson Stadium and the Rams emerged as 17-7 victors.

Now we as a community and region must support our own cause. Two mega days of prep football at Ford Field. It's time to bolster our own economy and and show the flag of the east side of the state. Our youth from four local schools located in three different counties will be ready, willing and able on the field -- will we return the favor in the stands?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Metro Detroit's Thanksgiving Football Tradtion Worth Keeping

As the Detroit Lions continue to stumble towards the finish line of one of the more miserable seasons in their 75-year history, journalists of local and national flavor alike have bantered the possibility of Detroit losing their signature Thanksgiving Day game.

It's never good when the home team loses, loses a lot and loses in a manner that's of an embarrassing nature, week after week, and this subject matter that threatens the viability of the Turkey Day game is a by-product of that losing culture. However, losing this game would be a great injustice for many reasons, but it's a subject rooted in America's ugly side of entitlement more than any other reason. The donut-eaters who fill press boxes at national sporting events feel compelled to tell you that they deserve an amazing, competitive game to cover, write about, televise or report upon every year. Yes, there's truth that the National Football League ought to be concerned at the long stretch of uncompetitive games, seasons and Thanksgiving Day contests the Lions' have played in the last 10 years. At the same time, this game, it's roots and traditions go back to a time when the NFL was struggling to earn a national fan base of any kind, and it leaned on the passionate Detroit football fans in 1934 to begin a rite of passage in America that's survived nearly five generations.

What's also of interest is what was sacrificed in the southeastern Michigan region from the Thumb to the state line in Toledo for this national-televised Thanksgiving Day game. Specifically, many high school and collegiate traditions that were shuttered in the 1950s and 60s, resurrected only when the Lions opened play in the Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium, better known as the Silverdome.

Many marquee, signature games within the prep landscape in Michigan were played on Thanksgiving Day. In metro Detroit, Royal Oak High's Acorns and Birmingham High's Maples played 45 times on Turkey Day, starting in 1915 or 1916, the first year of play unconfirmed. It was Royal Oak High's Eva Moore, a counselor at the now-closed school on Washington Avenue, who drummed up the idea for a trophy, a ceramic brown jug. Birmingham end John Sheppard painted the jug red, white and blue to symbolize the school colors of both schools. The Acorns to the south end of Woodward Avenue took 24 wins to Birmingham's 14, while seven games ended in a tie. Royal Oak forfeited the 1925 game but it's '35 squad earned recognition as the state's football champion.

In Saginaw, Arthur Hill High and Saginaw High commenced their spirited rivalry on the famed Thursday day of feast. Former Detroit Tiger broadcaster Paul Carey watched many a game from the sidelines as his father, a long-respected game official, worked the contest as the game's Referee. These games were the staple of the high school season for many years in the Midland-Bay City-Saginaw region. Yes, there's a tradition in 'The Valley' that speaks to basketball prowess but before the hardwood game came to prominence as we know it today, football was king in Saginaw.

The Goodfellows Game at Briggs Stadium pitted the Detroit's Catholic League champion versus the Detroit public school league champion, then known as the Metropolitan League. Often the winner earned distinction in state media polls as the state's title winner. That game ceased in 1967, but it's legacy lives on in the memories of so many former players and coaches.

Today, the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) stages the championship games of it's annual football tournament on Thanksgiving weekend at Ford Field. From 1983-2002, prep title games were played in one of the only facilities to host a Super Bowl after the Silverdome successfully hosted Super Bowl XVI, still one of the highest-rated Super Bowl in television history. After Detroit successfully hosted Super Bowl XL, the same will be said of every championship game played at Ford Field since 2006.

How many state associations can say that? For what was sacrificed to make the pro game possible here, should our football community have to lose the charter Thanksgiving Day game just because the Lions are lacking in the left side of the win-loss ledger?

These traditions, along with Detroit's Thanksgiving Day parade and NFL football game, were built upon the backbone of Detroit's prep football history and the region's sporting passion. It was WWJ-950 AM that took the initiative of broadcasting the first professional Thanksgiving Day game to a national radio audience, a 19-16 victory that the Chicago Bears took from the Lions at the now-demolished University of Detroit stadium. The Bears, under legendary coach George Halas, were gross favorites that day but were entangled in a dogfight by the Lions, who had recently relocated from Ohio, where they were known as the Spartans. It was that game effort that endeared the Lions to their new neighbors. NFL football on Turkey Day was then just a dream that became reality in Detroit.

Thanksgiving Day in Detroit and the traditions that surround this one game go back further than any of us have been alive, and that should be taken in account by the many journalists, executives, and decision-makers that offer, make or enforce opinion as it relates to the Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

From Irreverant To Irrelevant On A Rainy Saturday

It's a lousy day to be outside, so I'm rocking it from the home office today. There's a ton of good college football on the television after a mother load of great prep football playoff games last night in metro Detroit.

First, Detroit Southeastern and their Jungaleers seemto have fought the good fight, save for a handful of turnovers in the third quarter, versus regional champion Dearborn Fordson in a 29-18 Tractor win. Lake Orion kicks a 49-yard field goal on the last play after Rick Bye's Stevenson Titans came back from 28 points down last night?Croswell-Lexington also kicked a game-winning field goal versus Clintondale and the Spartans of Livonia Stevenson notched two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to defeat Plymouth Canton 38-31.

A fabulous Friday of football, except for the idiots who populated's East Michigan Ffootball forum (what's new, right?) with a ton of fake scores for the Lake Orion -Stevenson outcome. Shame on the talentless clowns who did this. I was alerted to it this morning, checked it out myself and have to say, it instantly vindicated every parent, booster club, coach and athletic director who forbids posting on this forum. You cannot trust what you read on M-Live, but we already knew that, right J49?

Do you have a Top Ten I-Pod list? I was thinking about this last night because as an official, you hear all the 'in' music at the local gyms and fields of the high schools, which is one of the reasons I like officiating -- you never lose that hip edge. So, I went through the 140 songs I have listed on my I-Pod and came up with my Top 10 classic rock / hard rock songs. Here goes...

10. Frankenstein by Edgar Winter 9. Rebel Rebel by David Bowie 8. Misty Mountain Hop by Led Zeppelin 7. Power by Rainbow (love the hard riffs from guitarist Ritchie Blackmore!) 6. Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo by Rick Derringer 5. Thunderstruck by AC/DC (quite possibly the greatest sports anthem ever) 4. Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin 3. Life During Wartime ("Heard about Houston, heard about Dee-troit, heard about Pittsburgh, PA...") from the Talking Heads 2. Bang Your Head by Quiet Riot 1. Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin.

Can you tell I'm a Led Zeppelin fanatic? I seriously could have replaced any of those three Zep tunes for 10 other Zep tunes and still been in good graces with the world's greatest rock band of all time. There's a monstrous coffee-table book called Whole Lotta Led and it's a must-see, must-read for any serious rock fan or Zeppelin fanatic.

Speaking of music and fanatics, two weeks ago I wrote about the emerging death of the old platform of publishing that we all grew up with in the pre-Internet age. I specifically lamented that Rolling Stone is abandoning it's near-poster sized publication format for a smaller, more eco/cost-friendly format. Then Rolling Stone came out and pronounced Aretha Franklin the greatest rock singer of the rock era.

OK, I take all of that back! Just keep going, going, and be gone, in the words of legendary Yankee shill-man Mel Allen. If Aretha Franklin is the greatest rock singer of all-time, I'm fully qualified to be the Referee in this year's Super Bowl. Maybe it's because I live in metro Detroit and know of the many creditors Franklin has stiffed, of the house she was rumored to have had burned down in toney Bloomfield Hills or the fact that she now looks like former Chicago Bear tackle William "The Refrigerator" Perry, but how can Rolling Stone be taken seriously when it ignores so many other great singers and songwriters and instead selects everyone's favorite Energy Pig this side of Al Gore?

Rolling Stone, you really ain't gettin' any government bailout money now. Being a liberal rag is one thing, but naming Aretha the greatest rock singer? While you're at it, why not put Madonna in the Rock n' Roll Hall-Of-Fame, or put the Rock n' Roll Hall-Of-Fame in Cleveland, or call Cleveland the birthplace of rock music. Christ, what's next? Al Gore really did invent the Internet?

Can't R-E-S-P-E-C-T any of that garbage. Detroit Rock City, baby!

OK, I'm done now. Rock the day!

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing

Friday, November 14, 2008

Contract Locked For Basketball Book!!

I'm proud to announce the final contracts have been signed and Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries from Arcadia Publishing has been formally green-lighted!

Of course, there's some significant changes that have taken place in the few months between the football and basketball book. One, I have the necessary time to find images with a bit more careful eye, nearly four more months than I did in the football book. That also means I'll be able to I.D subjects that time didn't permit with the football book. Written in a scant 45 days that also included securing one-shot photo rights, photo scans and book layout, 'Football Rivalries' was put together on a truncated time table to say the least.

Another significant change is I'm represented by a real literary agent instead of me, myself and I. Being a member ofASJA brought me in contact with Terry Whalin of The Whalin Literary Agency. That justified any and all dues paid, as did moderating the ASJA blogging seminar in NYC last April. That experience gave me a healthy dose of confidence -- being able to pull together a well-received session on a national stage changed a lot of things for me. If you have even the smallest bug to write, attending a writer's conference can be an energizing experience and I have two book contracts to attest to that fact.

Finally, I've come to the realization that despite my very best efforts, tired eyes can easily be defeated, so I've farmed out some help. That lets me focus on some of the bigger fish in the large scope of putting a book together, no matter the genre or publication format. Learn and live kind of thing, for sure.

So, with the formalities, legalese and small print out of the way, it's time to dive onto the floor, through the trophy cases and yearbook archives of metro Detroit's very best prep basketball from the hardwood pines, as John Fountain, the famous honey-toned voice of Eastern Michigan Hurons basketball, might say. From Pontiac to Mt. Clemens, Grosse Pointe to River Rouge, the PSL and all points in between, the ball's rolling once again!

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Few Official Points To Consider

This morning Detroit Free Press preps writer Mick McCabe grabbed the attention of every official in the metro Detroit area, and probably many statewide, too.

McCabe wrote about the standard to bear for a game official to be assigned the tournament finals, including the way an official receives a rating, a lack of accountability if an official makes a mistake and finally, why the best officials aren't always on the biggest games because the state has a five-year respite rule for officials between finals' assignments.

A great read and a good snapshot of the officiating culture in the MHSAA footprint, except for one missing point, a large point of contention if you ask me and many others, and it has to do with why officials who work the finals can't receive the same assignment for another five seasons.

The five-year respite rule is in place because the same officials from the same zones got the same championship assignments for years and years and years under former leadership. Why did that happen? One, there was no such rule to prohibit the practice. Second, every officiating association is asked to submit a list of 10 names for the annual, championship tournaments. Many years the favorite sons of the power brokers in these associations were penned in at the expense of other deserving officials, sometimes under an erase-and-replace scenario. I know -- it's happened to me and many others.

That's politics, to make it short and sweet. Give MHSAA Associate Director Mark Uyl and the MHSAA credit for trying to share the playoff experience by expanding the field of qualified officials. This motivates more officials to work harder to polish their craft and helps extinguish the belief that the playoffs are an exclusive club for a select few officials. McCabe points out a handful of mistakes in last week's games as evidence that this policy is misguided. That's a fair complaint. There's a few growing pains, but expanding the pool of qualified playoff officials won't come without a few bumps and bruises. No one wants to see a mistake impact a game, and no athletic director wants to have that mistake happen in their school's game, but how do you expand that pool and expect perfection? Something's got to give.

I used to wonder how I can work three sports collegiately, one at the Division-I level, and not get past the quarterfinal in every state tournament since I became eligible except one. Then I got a good look at the nomination process, and the truth is, being a good politician goes a lot further than being a good official. I'm not saying good officials don't get good assignments, but I am saying I'm not the first official to feel this way. On the other hand, it's always easy to feel slighted because every good official feels they're not moving up the ladder the way they should. I've made some mistakes in my officiating career, so I'm humble enough to be thankful for what I have been assigned and not lament what I haven't been assigned.

McCabe points out a fairly accurate number of flaws in the ratings system but there's a caveat to the coaches' ratings that was overlooked. A lot of officials pass on the right call, the tough call and sometimes, the call that is both of those things to keep a good rating in tact. That's not wrong, that's simply playing by the rules. That McCabe has never seen a flagged waved off all year could be a possible example of this. Most qualified officials know some coaches don't know the rules or don't recognize all the indicators of a good official, so they protect themselves from a bad rating from the coaches. That's simply insulating yourself from a bad mark from those who have the most influence.

Is that any different than any other workplace culture in America? No.

The MHSAA represents the schools, so ultimately, it's the schools that are comfortable with these decisions. The flaws in the ratings system that McCabe illustrated are correct. Trust me when I say the schools, the MHSAA, the coaches and officials across the state know the rating system is flawed when it comes to giving an accurate picture of an official's true acumen. But there's little resource to offer anything else at the high school level. It's not a perfect world.

I think the MHSAA is doing the right thing, slowly but surely, in expanding the pool of qualified officials. It will take some time. The officials will make some mistakes. The MHSAA will make an assignment or two they regret. Mistakes will happen. There's some conflict-of-interest issues and some repetitive assignment issues to still be ironed out. It takes a long time to change long-held beliefs and cultures. Be patient.

The MHSAA and the schools they represent can't expect their best officials to be able to officiate forever. Officiating isn't a growth industry and the MHSAA is doing what they can to change that, so you can't expect progress without a few mistakes.

Prep sports is ultimately about doing your best, working hard to improve yourself and your team and being a good representative of your community. The MHSAA's officiating platform has to be allowed to expand under the same guidelines.

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

No Foul On Further Review Column

If you watched Michigan State University's improbable 25-24 win over the University of Wisconsin last Saturday as I did, you might have come to the same head-scratching conclusion as I did: How did that happen?

What grabs my attention today is the stark difference in focus one state's group of fans and journalists are taking in comparison to the other state's like group. MSU fans and journalists are concerned with the program's confident turnaround, the school's disciplined leader and the resolute attitude from players. Wisconsin is talking about penalties, officiating and lack or leadership. Did this one-point game reveal more than what we saw on Saturday? Completely dominated for the great majority of the game, Michigan State made just enough plays when it counted the most to evade a certain defeat. It was the kind of game fans have grown accustomed to watching Michigan -- not Michigan State -- win over the past 40 years. Maybe this is truly a year of change in this state and this country, after all. Michigan State was out-rushed by the Badgers in a staggering 281-25 differential. The Badgers led for almost 50 minutes, most of that time in convincing fashion. The Spartans led for less than seven whole seconds, yet the Spartans won, because they led at the most crucial time, when there was no time left, even if it was by the slimmest of margins.

As I exited Spartan Stadium among a jubilant throng of green and white, I was consumed by the differences in opinion being, shall we say, spewed into the atmosphere, by the fans of each team. The Wisconsin faithful weren't forgiving a holding call that scrubbed a 3rd-and-1 conversion and subsequent 1st-and-goal late in the game that would have salted the victory away for Wisconsin. Instead, a false start tacked on five more yards and turned a 1st-and-goal into a 3rd-and-16 that Wisconsin didn't convert. After the Badgers punted the football, the Spartans drove down the field for a game-winning field goal on the next-to-last play of the game.
For the game, the Spartans were penalized twice for 30 yards while the Badgers absorbed 12 penalties for 121 yards.

Yesterday, in my attempt to silence the political drone early in the day, I started looking online for the Madison / Wisconsin papers to address the game's stark differences in that category via the US Sports Pages site . Among the many I found at, I came across an article titled After Further Review by Mike Lucas from The Capital Times in Madison. Lucas took a different tact in addressing the issues of officiating. He wrote a fair, balanced op-ed about the different forces at play during Saturday's discourse in frustration for Wisconsin's football fortunes.

It's not the only article of this particular game's officiating emanating from Wisconsin, just merely the one article that takes a fair look at the game's officiating with any balance or credible source quotes. Tom Mulhern wrote about Badger coach Bret Bielema's task of eliminating penalties. Mulhern also writes about Bielema's Monday press conference in regards to Saturday's penalties and Bielema's lack of contrition. Columnist Andy Baggot wrote an irresponsible piece that suggested officials are instituting a revenge policy for Bielema's first two years as coach. I want to give the piece the benefit of the doubt and say it was a blog, but it looks like America's longest run-on sentence. Finally, columnist Tom Oates wrote of Bielema's role in garnering a 15-yard unsportsmanlike foul against his team.

There's no shortage for opinion in the Cheese state about this game. Let me also say I have a lot more respect for coaches, players and officials than I do for some of these writers. It's much easier to avoid critical mistakes when you watch games from afar inside cozy press boxes. Based on what I can cull from their writing, some of these men don't have a particularly strong acumen for what gets invested into these games from a professional, physical and emotional standpoint. If that seems harsh, I make no apologies for calling it like I see it. I've done their job, and I know they've never done mine.

Lucas sourced some of his information from, a site I used to write for. I didn't appreciate the less-than-timely pay or the belief that quality writing shouldn't be compensated with more than a few peanuts but I can say the site's template allows for the dispersal of instant opinion from the informed writer or referee. There's a thorough dissection of the holding call that drew the ire of the Badger fans that Lucas references in his article.

What's of interest to me is that Lucas used a healthy amount of relevant, historical background, specifically the 1991 Wisconsin-Iowa game that featured another controversial holding call involving then Iowa Hawkeye Bret Bielema, sprinkled in some common-sense application about earning your place at the table and veered away from the usual angry vitriol that fuels most columns about officiating. It was the kind of balanced opinion-writing that we're missing more and more in today's 'How can we create Shock & Awe' journalism game.

The column speaks to me because of the reasoned opinion, statistical fact and credible sources Lucas credits. He let the story tell the story and gave the reader enough fact to make a decision on their own instead of trying to march into history as another op-ed beatdown of the faceless ref or coach turned punching bag.

Like I said, it truly looks and feels like a season of change.

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Print Media's Amber Alert Won't Be Issued

The American media model we all grew up with, grew accustomed with and embraced as our informational drinking fountains are drying up. News papers, magazines and other resources are crackling into oblivion like dry trees in a raging wildfire. The print world is being replaced with URL's, hyperlinks and CCS templates to accompany terms like Web 2.0 and blogosphere.

This isn't your father's media, that's for sure.

This morning I opened my daily news primer, courtesy of MediaBistro. If you haven't checked out M-B, it's well worth the fee, which is a few dollars more than a high school varsity football official will make in one game to get a year's worth of access to the national scope of what's news in the media industry. It's an electronic buffet of the best magazine, newspaper and electronic media news from all relevant corners of the country.

That brings me to the dichotomy that so many papers and magazines are facing: At what point to they admit theonline ventures they've engaged themselves in are indeed the future media model to follow and subsequently ditch the hard copy version they were chartered from?

The Christian Science Monitor made huge headlines last month when it announced it was discontinuing the staple magazine-format that had made her famous. I can still remember my dearly-departed journalism professor, the unforgettable Curt Stadtfeld (pictured above), from the fourth floor of Eastern Michigan University's Pray-Harold building, telling us he "missed reading the Christian Science Monitor like an old love; like a taste on the tip of my tongue..." How much do I remember Stadtfeld's lectures? I can still see his outdated shirts in my mind and his voice resonates within my head, his lessons lasting like the thunder of a college fight song's dramatic crescendo.

Rolling Stone is no longer publishing the large, almost poster-sized template that it was pioneered upon. Many national newspaper sites in the larger-than-life media markets like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have instituted subscription requirements for online access.
One of the more interesting arguments I hear from the old guard at the many small and medium sized newspapers within metro Detroit is that neither the paper or online versions of their product have enough demand to justify eliminating one in favor of the other. My question is how much is one bleeding traffic from the other and vice-versa? I have to believe that the pool of readers and viewers of one is diluted by the other simultaneously.

What if The Oakland Press, Pontiac's flagship news source, ceased publication of the paper to produce a subscription-only online product? If you haven't checked out the new Michigan Prep Zone , you can get a quick look at what the future of a writer's mainstream media will look like. I can't speak for the O-P, or the Free Press or News for that matter, but you can't tell me that day isn't coming. If nothing else, the resources that go into a newspaper are a ten-fold increase over an online edition.

Paper to print upon and delivery of that product from a mill. A facility to produce the paper. Machinery to crank out papers by the thousands. Operational manpower to run the machinery, bundle, package and deliver the paper. Finally, a pool of hungry sharks to procure enough ad revenue to keep the publication afloat while a top-notch editorial staff goes out and pounds the pavement to cultivate a keep an attentive audience.

Conversely, with an exclusive online edition, you have to implement an expensive army of servers with an ocean's worth of mainframe storage and custom CCS creation. Add editors, writers, photographers and design professionals. No expensive machinery to buy, lease or fix. A mountain's worth of savings from a physical production standpoint.

You can see why the old newspaper model is going to fail. When I hear writers lamenting the small fees they are offered to write online, I wonder if they understand that until one or the other fails first, there simply isn't enough cash in the kitty left to pay a good writer what he or she is worth. Further, if a writer wants to get paid, where's the least amount of overhead to be found to pay writers from.

The world is online -- how soon will the writers who could benefit most from it embrace that fact is still open for debate. As for the media world Stadtfeld left behind? I 'Googled' his name and found a pair of letters Stadtfeld penned to Harper's Magazine in the late 1960s as a response to an issue that riled him up beyond mere opinion, because Curtis K. Stadtfeld was never without words. When I clicked on the links to read them in whole, I was told in a matter of words:

"Of course you can read them -- you just have to subscribe for as low as $16.97 a year."

It's time to subscribe to the new media world.

~T.C. Cameron is writing his second book, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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