Archive for July, 2008

I want to be a sponge, not a colander

Thursday, July 31st, 2008
Patrick Newell

I watch, I listen, and I take notes – either by writing them down or absorbing the always-valuable mental notes. It is my job as a reporter and writer to glean facts and knowledge, and use that material to inform the public. In the process of gathering, the sagacity of the ones I study may rub off – or at least I have stored a few crumbs of their genius.
A few men and women I have watched and learned from the past few years also happen to be those I see several times a week around town or at the Norwich YMCA. In no way do I believe they are attempting to mentor me, although I do believe they have indirectly set a standard for me to attain. They do it not just by what they say, but what they do.
For instance, one of my former teachers at Norwich Middle School, Dave Doughty, astutely noted several months ago my fixation on weighing myself. I cannot recall the exact words of the conversation, but he asked me how I felt. I told him I felt great. He said something else about feeling good about one’s self, and although he was not getting philosophical about life’s meaning, I understood the point he was making.
In other words, if you feel healthy and you’re still able to do the things you want to do – and your waistline has not outgrown your pants – then why fixate on what a scale says?
Since that time, my scale watching has dropped off to almost zero. Almost grudgingly and without much concern, I weighed myself earlier this week for the first time in nearly two months. That is a big step since I regularly weighed myself nearly every day at the YMCA for over seven years.

Note: Read Patrick Newell’s full column in the Friday, Aug. 1 print edition of The Evening Sun.

The Learning Curve

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

Any time you start a new job, there is a learning curve. Not only are you getting familiar with the ins and outs of your new organization and the nitty gritty of your new position, but in the course of settling in you also learn things about yourself. Sometimes those things aren’t flattering.

I’ve had to admit to myself that I’ve gotten soft. Freelance writing is like vacation compared to writing on deadline every day. Curling up in my pajamas with my laptop or waking up in the middle of the night to grab said laptop, never truly felt like work. It was just how I wrote. And I love to write.

Now it’s my alarm, not inspiration, waking me before 5 a.m. And it just isn’t the same.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been what you’d call a morning person. Not that I’m one of those people. You know, the ones that do little more than grunt before they’ve had the requisite 2.5 cups of coffee. I just like sleep. I haven’t consistently gotten up this early since I tried (twice) to row crew in college.

It’s not that I don’t like being awake in the morning. I actually do. Listening to birds chirping while watching the sun rise and the fog lift over acres of dew-kissed fields…What’s not to love? It’s the actual requirement of getting up, showering and driving 20 minutes to work before writing that is killing me.

I know I’ll get into the swing. I’ll get used to writing on deadline without having it feel like I’m pulling out my own teeth. I’ll stop feeling anxious about using a gleaming white Mac instead of my not-so-gleaming laptop with all of its familiar Windows-based applications.

Some day I’ll even be comfortable enough with it all to not feel the need to be in the office an hour before everyone else. Maybe then I can go back to sleeping in.

Boxing can take a lesson from mixed martial arts

Monday, July 28th, 2008
Patrick Newell

It’s too bad boxing could not have more nights like last Saturday’s WBA welterweight championship in Las Vegas. Not only were two of the division’s best fighters paired, but arguably each fighter was perhaps among the top five or six pound-for-pound fighters in any division.
The challenger, Mexico’s own Antonio Margarito, outworked and wore down unbeaten champion Miguel Cotto winning by 11th-round stoppage. I stayed up late Saturday night following the blow-by-blow coverage on espn.com. The aggressive styles of each fighter made for an instant classic, and by all accounts that I have read, it may end up as the fight of the year.
The problem with these types of fights is that it leaves you wanting for more. Unfortunately, the way boxing works today, you’re lucky if you get two or three marquee matchups a year. Promotors wrangling and arguing; contractual and money issues, and great fighters retiring, unretiring, and retiring (read Floyd Mayweather) conspire against the best facing the best.
I love the sport of boxing, but it has fallen so far from the mainstream that great fights only happen on pay-per-view – or pay channels such as HBO or Showtime.
My mother used to tell about my grandfather’s passion for boxing. He religiously tuned in to watch Friday Night Fights – on regular television no less. My grandfather was not unlike many dyed-in-the-wool boxing fans in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, who were able to easily witness the greatest fighters of their day. And the greatest fighters of the day fought the other greats of the day. There was no confusion over sanctioning bodies and watered-down championship belts. The best faced the best on a regular basis.
As recently as the late 1970s and early 1980s, some of the best fights were still aired on cable television. I caught my first glimpse of the great Muhammad Ali in the mid-’70s fighting his nemesis Joe Frazier in the second bout of a thrilling trilogy. Ali won a close decision in a rematch of two eventual Hall of Famers. I saw Ali’s last victory as well – a 15-round decision over Leon Spinks, and I also witnessed the coming of age of Larry Holmes when he outpointed Ken Norton for the heavyweight title in 1978. What are the chances we would see a fight of that caliber today?
Cable viewers interested in fighting sports are turning to mixed martial arts. Why, you say? For one, great fight cards are put together at least once and sometimes twice a month; two, cable networks regularly broadcast those cards; and three, great fighters do not hem and haw, delay, and put off the opportunity to face another premier fighter. While it seems UFC is almost monopolizing the mixed martial arts game, the best thing to come out of it is that dream matchups are not the exception, they are the rule. It is that fact that has MMA on the rise, while boxing interest wanes.
Give us boxing fans more Margaritos versus Cottos, and that trend may change.

A blessing or a curse?

Friday, July 25th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

I’m still trying to put together all of the information on this gas drilling issue, but so far I’ve picked up a couple subtle facts. Depending on which side of the issue you seem to be on, it will either save Chenango County from a horrid poverty-filled future, or it will single handedly destroy the environment and the community.

I wish I was exaggerating, but this is clearly one of the most divisive topics in Chenango County. One group seems to think anyone who has a gas lease will quickly make money with no consequences, while the other group seems to think the drilling will destroy drinking water, drop property values and leave everyone in the county much worse off than they were before.

I for one think the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Is gas drilling going to save the economy, probably not, but it could help some. Is it going to destroy life as we know it, probably not, but I’m sure there will be environmental consequences. Gas drilling, to the extent that is currently being discussed, is a new concept in the area, and as with anything, I’m sure there will be problems and issues that will not be fully understood until much later in the game.

The fact of the matter is that everything we do has an impact on the environment. Our cars, our houses, our energy usage, our garbage, everything we do has an effect. The question each person has to determine for themselves is how much of an effect they are willing to have.

An indoctrination to motocross racing, part 2

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
Patrick Newell

While I was a neophyte to American motocross racing, my photographer, Frank, had zero pre-race knowledge. Normally confident at just about any sporting event, Frank expressed a number of concerns. For one, he had no idea who to focus on. My answer, take pictures of the leader. Two, he didn’t know where to stand. Frank figured that answer out on his own: He followed around the rest of the seasoned photographers. And three, he wondered how we would identify the riders. I told him, “no problem, the numbers are on the motorcycles, and I had a printed roster of all the competitors. He followed up, “what if the number isn’t showing?” To satisfy this query, I told him I would make up a generic photo caption or simply not use the picture. After allaying Frank’s concerns – and he proved quite tenacious with his grievances – we began to focus on the task at hand. Moving through the crowd to find a nice vantage point was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, especially since attendance was probably around 10,000 people. Shortly after the start of the first moto in the 125cc motocross lites, I began to open my eyes. The speed of the bikes was impressive, and I soon noticed how grueling and punishing it is for riders. Taking large jumps – particularly “gravity cavity ” – and also using their legs to steady themselves through hairpin turns, it became easy to understand why the career span of a top-level motocross rider is so short. The most interesting aspect of the day was my visit to the pits among the mechanics and various crew members during the first 250cc moto. James Stewart blew away everyone; however, the competition behind him was fierce. I watched as pit row members gave their riders brief messages on erasable-marker clipboards. Sometimes it was conveying lap times, perhaps it gave quick advice as to the best places to make a pass, and there were also notes offering suggestions or adjustments. I held my spot in mechanics’ row until the third moto of the day when I was told to leave by a track official. Seems my sandals were not appropriate footwear. One thing is for sure, motocross has found a new fan, and next year I will not forget my shoes.

My first time at Unadilla Valley Sports Center, part one

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
Patrick Newell

Sunday was my official indoctrination into motocross racing at its highest level. Since 1996, my first summer working at The Evening Sun, I had another work commitment or was taking vacation time the weekend AMA made its stop at Unadilla Valley Sports Center. The slate was clean in 2008, so I made arrangements for press credentials with AMA’s media contact representative, Brandon Short. About the only thing left to do was study up. Other than the premier name in the sport – James Stewart – along with retired greats Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, and Bob “Hurricane” Hannah, the depth of my motocross knowledge and top riders was shallow.
Earlier this month, Short began to send out media materials and press releases. I noticed the sponsor that presents this year’s races was not the same as the previous 12 years. Toyota is the lead sponsor this year, however, Toyota is just one of a few major names over my tenure that have taken that lofty mantle. Lead sponsors come and go, but what has stayed the same at Unadilla Valley Sports Center is the phenomenal fan turnout for what is likely the largest sporting event within a 20- to 25-mile radius of Norwich. Anywhere from 10 to 15 thousand fans for Sunday’s main events is not uncommon.
In my decade-plus covering sports in Chenango County, typically, I had no problem finding someone interested in covering the event – especially photographically – while AMA usually released an excellent wrapup of the 125cc and 250cc motos.
The time to forego such a large-scale event was over, my calendar was clear – and my photographer, Frank Speziale, graciously offered to drive.
Part two of Patrick Newell’s Unadilla Valley Sport Center blog will appear Wednesday night, July 23 on www.evesun.com.

New excuses to avoid veggies

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Since I don’t eat meat, I always thought the chances of getting sick from the foods I eat was relatively slim. I don’t remember hearing too many stories about tainted spinach when I was a kid. But in the recent years, stories about tainted lettuce, tomatoes, cantaloupe, scallions, spinach and peppers (and those are just the ones I can remember) are all over the news, providing kids with a great excuse not to eat their vegetables.

The danger of eating undercooked meat is obvious, and it’s also pretty gross, but eating raw vegetables shouldn’t be a risky activity. Unfortunately, with more and more of the produce sold in the grocery stores being shipped in from various places around the country and the world, no food is really “safe” anymore.

That is unless you buy from local producers. I think it’s safe to say that none of the food you grow in your own garden or that you purchase at the local farmers’ market is going to give you salmonella unless you marinade it in raw chicken. It might be more work. It might take a little more time, but I like the idea that my son can walk into the garden and pick a tomato off the vine and take a bite, and the only danger is eating a little dirt. I’d be willing to sacrifice more than a little free time for that peace of mind.

The role of Mike McGuire is now being played by …

Monday, July 21st, 2008
Jeff Genung

 

My goodness! People come and go so quickly around here …

 

Sometimes when I think about my staff here at The Evening Sun, I share in Dorothy’s marvel about the denizens of Oz. Much like the Emerald City, characters here seem to pop in and out with amazing regularity.

 

Astute readers who made it to the end of Mike McGuire’s column in Thursday’s edition know that he’s come to the end of his tenure with Chenango County’s Hometown Daily. In fact, like the song says, he’s already gone.

 

Mike cleverly avoided saying where he was going in that column … I’ll not divulge the details here as I’ve agreed to the terms set forth by the Witness Protection Program. 

 

This, however, is not a eulogy for my boy Mike. He’s not the first to leave my little journalistic nest … in fact I’d dare say he’s somewhere in the upper 30s. 

 

It’s a transient business, being a reporter – and even more so at a small newspaper in a small market. We work ‘em like dogs while we can, write them a letter of recommendation and send them on their merry way when it comes time to try greener pastures. (Mike would appreciate the pasture reference, I’m sure).

 

Still, it’s hard sometimes to watch the door revolve. Believe it or not, I do sometimes get attached to my underlings. The good news is, I’ll have that opportunity again. Today was Melissa Stagnaro’s first day at The Evening Sun. An Oxford Academy grad like myself, I’m sure she’s destined for greatness. You’ll be reading more about her (and by her) in the days to come. 

Macker in Norwich a no-brainer

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008
Patrick Newell

Gus Macker’s 3-on-3 tournament came to Norwich for the first time in 1996, and it could not have come at a better time. Looking back, it seems like such a no-brainer.
Then-Norwich mayor Joseph Biviano oversaw the brainstorming process to bring a large community event to summer. Norwich YMCA employee Michelle Gleason brought the idea of a basketball tournament to her superiors at the YMCA, and they grabbed the ball (pardon the pun) and dribbled it over to our city’s leaders. The idea was proposed in the winter months, contract negotiations began with Scott McNeal’s “Gus Macker 3-on-3 Tournament,” and Norwich signed the first of its three-year contracts with the organization.
The late Tom Schwan, a longtime correspondent for The Evening Sun, phoned me in January of ‘96 to discuss the publicity of the tournament. He was excited, and he should have been. Schwan was front and center covering back-to-back basketball state championships at Norwich, and the basketball programs – boys and girls have thrived for more than 15 years at Norwich with few setbacks. I had little doubt a street basketball tournament would be met with nothing less than full acceptance. And I was right.
Other than the first year in which just over 200 teams participated and rain swept away most of the opening day, the tournament has been a boon to Norwich. I chalk up the opening year as the beginning of a learning curve and some hesitancy due to the unknown quantity of 3-on-3 basketball. That reticence quickly dissipated, and participation had to eventually be capped after an explosion of entries in the fourth year.

*Patrick Newell’s full column on the Gus Macker Tournament will appear in the Saturday, July 12 edition of The Evening Sun.