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September 4, 2014

Joan Rivers: June 8, 1933 - Sept. 4, 2014

By Erik Hall

Joan Rivers is a legend. I’ve been a fan since the first time I saw her cover Miss Piggy in makeup during “The Muppets take Manhattan.”

I feel lucky right now that I got to hear Joan perform her standup act at the Missouri Theater in Columbia, Mo., on Friday, March 15, 2013. Here is an excerpt of that performance.

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August 25, 2014
Jason Collins says he’s received death threats, plans to decide on his future in mid-September

Openly gay NBA center Jason Colins spoke at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association conference in Chicago on Aug. 23. He made several interesting comments in his hour on stage with ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz. 



August 8, 2014
Attention on Michael Sam in preseason game is disappointing

By Erik Hall

The television coverage of Michael Sam’s first preseason game is disappointing through the first half.

The game is being broadcast by the NFL Network — or the Rams Broadcasting Network, which the logos on the screen say exists. Even though the show “Total Access” on the NFL Network immediately before the game touted Sam as being one of the top players in the upcoming preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, the announcers in the booth are mostly ignoring him.

Sam was on the field about five or six plays in the final five minutes of the first quarter, but the announcers did not mention him. 

Play-by-play announcer Andrew Siciliano finally mentioned Sam at the start of the second quarter. But Siciliano incorrectly said at the start of the second quarter about Sam that, “It’s the first time we’ve seen him.” Siciliano then said that Sam had just been mentioned by the public address announcer and basically admitted he needed the P.A. guy’s help to realize Sam took the field. 

With about 12 minutes, 15 seconds left in the second quarter, Siciliano and the couple color guys in the booth with him talked about Sam some. Sam made his only tackle of the first half. “Michael Sam makes a play on Khiry Robinson,” Siciliano said when Sam wrapped up the Saints’ running back from behind. 

One of the color guys then said, “That’s what he’s got to do more of to make this team.” 

Siciliano’s wise retort was, “We’ve called his name twice today.”

The only other mention about Sam to that point was that he had taken the field.

The color guys on the game are former Rams Super Bowl champions Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt. I haven’t heard them enough to distinguish the two just by their voice.

Siciliano, Faulk and Holt have failed viewers with their lack of acknowledgement about Sam’s historic game. They have not talked at all about Sam being the NFL’s first openly gay player. It does not seem important to them. They seem to be ignoring him. 

Sam has just one tackle, but he’s been on the field at least a dozen plays in the first half. 

This is the first openly gay player in a National Football League game, and the game’s announcers do not want to acknowledge it. 

Announcers usually slobber to talk about a great story, and this is a great story. 

I hope the attitude of the announcers changes in the second half, because so far, they are a failure. 

*The announcers did not talk about Michael Sam at all in the second half. The only time he was mentioned after halftime was coming out of the halftime break, Siciliano simply said that Sam had played in the first half. Sam did not play any during the fourth quarter.

July 26, 2014
Brian Boitano, Tom Daley weren’t news to Greg Louganis

Recently did an interview with four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis for the San Diego Union-Tribune. This isn’t going to make the cut for the story, but I thought it was interesting.

By Erik Hall           

            In addition to Robbie Rogers, Jason Collins and Michael Sam being openly gay in male team sports, prominent individual male athletes Tom Daley, Brian Boitano and Ian Thorpe announced their homosexuality in recent months. But for Greg Louganis, those weren’t all news to him.

            “I thought he was out,” Louganis says of his reaction to Boitano’s announcement in December.

            Louganis and Boitano both reached their peak of athletic prominence in 1988, which is the year Boitano won the men’s figure skating gold at the Calgary Winter Olympics. Louganis says he regularly talks to Boitano at events, but they have not talked since December.

            “That has just been Brian’s journey. There is a difference between secrets that are harmful and there is privacy,” Louganis says of he and Boitano coming out 19 years apart. “If you want to keep your private life private then you have to respect that. I’m not for outing people.”

            He also kept private Daley’s relationship with Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black. Louganis saw Daley and Black frequently at diving’s 2013 World Championships in Barcelona.

            “He and Lance kept saying, ‘Greg, come out with us. We’re going to go dancing,’” Louganis says.

            But Louganis had to decline. Daley and Black weren’t starting their night until 11 p.m., and that was too late for him.

            “They were really sweet to reach out and to include me,” Louganis says.

April 24, 2014
Buzz Bissinger looks for ‘timeless’ stories

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By Erik Hall 

Buzz Bissinger is most known for writing the 1990 book “Friday Night Lights.” Bissinger also goes by H.G. Bissinger, which stands for Harry Gerard, according to his IMDB.com page. The 60-year-old Bissinger has also written the books “A Prayer for the City,” “Three Nights in August,” “Shooting Stars” and “Father’s Day.”

Magazine writing is also a prominent part of Bissinger’s portfolio. He has been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine since 1996, according to Bissinger’s website. He started writing sports columns for Newsweek/The Daily Beast in 2009.

For this assignment, I looked at four articles that Bissinger wrote for Vanity Fair and one of his Newsweek columns. The Newsweek column I looked at was published on Sept. 3, 2012, and it is titled “Winning: To hell with the doping charges. Lance Armstrong performed miracles. Stop tearing down our idols. Why I still believe.”

The first Vanity Fair story that I looked at was published in September 2000, and its title is “For Love of DiMaggio: Perhaps no figure in 20th-century America was worshipped like Joe DiMaggio and perhaps none had a more tortured relationship with those who loved him. Buzz Bissinger gets an exclusive interview with the one man whose devotion outstripped the legendary ball player’s distrust: Morris Engelberg, the lawyer who attended to DiMaggio’s every whim, built him a fortune, and was privy to his deepest hatreds (Clinton, the Kennedys, and Sinatra) and his greatest love, Marilyn Monroe.”

The second Vanity Fair story that I read is from August 2007. It is titled, “Gone Like the Wind: None of them had ever seen a horse like Barbaro: the speed of a rocket, the spirit of a champion in his eyes. Not owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson, or trainer, Michael Matz, or veterinarian Dean Richardson, or jockey Edgar Prado, who rode him to victory at the 2006 Kentucky Derby. After the horse’s devastating injury at the Preakness, with the world watching, they would struggle to save him. But Barbaro was betrayed by his own Thoroughbred body.”

His third story in Vanity Fair that I read was printed in March 2009. That story has the title, “Inventing Ford Country: The 1939 movie ‘Stagecoach’ created three icons: John Wayne, John Ford, and the 30,000 acres of glory on the Utah-Arizona border known as Monument Valley. It was pioneering rancher, Harry Goulding, who brought Hollywood to his home, and helped America’s vision of the West.”

The most recent Bissinger story I read from Vanity Fair was published in October 2012. That story has the title, “America’s Golden Girl: It’s obvious that Gabby Douglas’s world will never be the same. But the 16-year-old, who this summer became the first black woman of any nationality (and only the fourth American) to win gold in the individual all-around in women’s gymnastics, didn’t get there by living a normal life. In London, where Douglas’s poise far exceeds that of the journalists swarming her, Buzz Bissinger talks to the sweetheart of the 2012 Olympics and finds the real story is about a family’s love.”

The story written differently from the rest in the set was the Newsweek story. It was a column stating Bissinger’s desire to believe Lance Armstrong’s innocence at the time Bissinger wrote the piece in September 2012.

Armstrong had never failed a drug test, and he had not admitted to his performance-enhancing drug use at the time Bissinger wrote the column. Bissinger emphasizes the corruption in cycling that so far excluded Armstrong, and the tactic serves as cover for Bissinger’s view in hindsight with Armstrong’s admission of drug use. Bissinger shows the corruption in cycling by citing a New York Times story that a third of the top-10 finishers have admitted or been suspected of doping. “If Armstrong used banned substances, he was leveling the playing field. He was still the one who overcame all odds.”

Bissinger makes the point that so many cancer survivors and their families  see Armstrong as inspiration for overcoming cancer, and Bissinger says that makes Armstrong’s doping irrelevant.

Writing about Armstrong, Bissinger also makes the column personal by talking about his 21-year-old son Caleb in the lead. Bissinger says his son wanted to emulate Armstrong. Bissinger wrote, “Caleb is not blind. He said it was hard not to read the statement and conclude that … what lay below the outrage was an admission that he may well have cheated with performance enhancers in order to win.” Bissinger shows the reader right away why this matters to him.

I found it interesting that at the end of the column, Bissinger is not afraid to take kind of a personal shot at Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti Doping Association. Bissinger wrote in the penultimate paragraph, “Perhaps Travis Tygart, before trying to destroy Lance Armstrong for his own job security, should get his ass out of the chair in his office and try it himself.”

I did not talk to Bissinger about his column when I interviewed him. I focused on his Vanity Fair stories that I read.

The Vanity Fair story that was most different of the four was the one about Gabby Douglas. It was the only of the four stories that Bissinger was there in person for events he described. The Douglas story was also the shortest of the four Vanity Fair stories.

“Gabby Douglas, frankly, was kind of a quick-hit piece, because we wanted to get something out quickly to tie it to — to make it as close to the Olympics as we could,” Bissinger said in a phone interview. “So on a piece like that, because the deadline is tight, you just really have to rely on being there. It was much harder to draw a full narrative line.”

The lede to the Douglas piece starts with a description of the media throng around Douglas. He talks several times about how Douglas handles the media in the early parts of the piece. But a point Bissinger made about the Douglas piece while being interviewed was how much he gives people a chance to respond when they are a subject in one of his magazine stories. Douglas had a bad experience being bullied at Excalibur Gymnastics in Virginia Beach. Bissinger tried hard to give the staff at Excalibur a chance to respond to Douglas’ accusations.

“I give people every opportunity to respond,” Bissinger said. “I believe in that. Normally, what I will do is I will write out written questions that are very, very specific. I don’t try to hide anything. I want people to be able to respond, and then I look at the responses. And if there are things that are just wrong or assertions that I’ve made, they will be corrected. Every Vanity Fair piece is also read by a lawyer.”

He continued by talking specifically about the Douglas story.

“I know the Gabby Douglas piece, the issue of how she was treated at the gym in Virginia Beach. I mean I must have called the mother 10 times to make sure I had it all correct,” Bissinger said. “The owners would not talk to me, but I wrote a letter. I got their email, and I think I FedEx’ed them a letter. I’ve done that in all my pieces. It’s not to do just sort of do it for the hell of it to cover all bases. It’s because they should and often they will point out things that maybe I need to take a second look at. I want to give them every opportunity.”

One thing that made the Douglas piece distinct from the other Vanity Fair stories I compared it to was that Douglas was still alive. The horse Barbaro was the center of that story, and he was dead. John Wayne, John Ford and Harry Goulding were all dead when Bissinger intertwined their stories. Joe DiMaggio was dead, and that was the main focus of that story. Even though it was Morris Engelberg’s life, too, and Engelberg was alive. Engelberg did whatever DiMaggio wanted, so Engelberg was almost only living DiMaggio’s life.

But by writing about someone who is alive like Douglas unlike the other primary subjects, it allows Bissinger to be there for the events and use dialogue. Bissinger did not use dialogue in the Barbaro, Ford or DiMaggio stories that was more than a few sentences.

“Dialogue reconstruction can be risky,” Bissinger said. “You never quite know where it’s coming from. I think in those instances, you want to rely more on the actual quote just to give it more credibility and authenticity.”

Not being able to use dialogue or see events currently happening may be a drawback of profiling a dead person. It is not all bad.

“When they’re dead, frankly it’s better because they’re not around to say you screwed it up or you’re wrong,” Bissinger said. “You do apply the rigors of reporting, but let’s face it, you’re going to have more latitude. When they’re alive, you do have a greater responsibility, ‘cause they’re alive. And it’s not just you’re worried about them being mad at you — you really do want to get it right.”

Dead or alive does not determine if Bissinger decides to write a story. The thing that leads him to his magazine stories is the lasting relevance of the topic.

“It is what in a sense is timeless,” Bissinger said of his story topics. “Barbaro was a timeless story. I was able to come up with enough new material and able to write it as a narrative piece about Barbaro. It’s a profile of a horse, basically. I figured people would read it because it had been in stories so much in the public view. So I knew that there was an interest level there, and it’s up to the piece to convey new material — one way or another.”

His ability to convey his stories is something that Bissinger still sees improving.

“There were a lot of purple pros at the beginning. I think ‘Friday Night Lights’ — I understand why — was written with a youthful passion, much like the team that I was writing about,” Bissinger said. “For me, I write with a lot of emotion, and I write with a lot of power. It’s also learning to tone it down so it doesn’t sound like over-the-top yelling. Still, the reporting aspect is really fun. It’s like putting together … a huge puzzle.

Bissinger pointed out one distinct difference for him when writing a book compared to his magazine pieces. The writer does not have to have a story about a grand topic in every magazine story.

“To a degree, I want my books to be greater than simply what I am writing about,” Bissinger said. “Some stories are just great stories. You don’t want to shove some social theme down the reader’s throat because the readers are smart enough to realize that this is pretty much bullshit.”

Written for Jennifer Rowe’s intermediate writing class. 

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Joe DiMaggio at Fenway Park in Boston during 1938. (Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)

April 19, 2014

Missouri baseball loses to Mississippi State 6-2 on Saturday

Photos by Erik Hall

Top center: Missouri starting pitcher John Miles delivers the first pitch against Mississippi  State on Saturday, April 19, 2014, at Taylor Stadium.  Mississippi State won 6-2. Miles was the losing pitcher. He threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on five hits.

Top left: Missouri baseball players enjoy their time in the dugout during the top of the third inning against Mississippi State on Saturday, April 19, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. Standing in back, from left, are Steven Diel, No. 18, Brett Graves and Case Munson. Standing in front, from left, are Zach Lavy, Alec Rash and Andrew Hohn, No. 52.

Top right: Missouri’s Brett Peel dives back to first base safely under the tag of Mississippi State first baseman Alex Detz, No. 3, during the third inning Saturday, April 19, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. Peel batted 1-for-5 with one RBI in the loss.

Middle: Missouri right fielder Logan Pearson dives to catch a fly ball in the top of the fourth inning against Mississippi State on Saturday, April 19, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. The fly ball was hit by Mississippi State’s Seth Heck.

Bottom left: Missouri catcher Dylan Kelly, No. 55, tags out Mississippi State’s Derrick Armstrong at home in the top of the fifth inning Saturday, April 19, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. Armstrong tried to score after a wild throw got past Missouri third baseman Ryan Howard, but Howard recovered the ball in time to throw out Armstrong at home.

Bottom right: Former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kyle McClellan smiles between signing autographs at Taylor Stadium on Saturday, April 19, 2014. McClellan threw out the first pitch before Saturday’s game between Missouri and Mississippi State.

April 18, 2014

Missouri baseball loses 3-2 in 11 innings.

Photos by Erik Hall

Top left: Members of the Missouri baseball team huddle in left field before a game against Mississippi State on Friday, April 18, 2014, at Taylor Stadium.

Top right: Missouri senior Eric Anderson slides into third base as Mississippi State third baseman Matthew Britton attempts to apply the tag Friday, April 18, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. Anderson was called out on the play.

Center top: Third base umpire Todd Henderson calls out Missouri senior Eric Anderson, No. 44, at third base on a fielder’s choice and Anderson objects to the call Friday, April 18, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. Missouri sophomore Josh Lester bunted to try to move Anderson to third base.

Center second from top: Missouri starting pitcher Brett Graves delivers a pitch in the second inning of a game against Mississippi State on Friday, April 18, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. Graves pitched seven innings and allowed two runs on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. Graves got a no decision.

Bottom left: Players in the Mississippi State dugout signal to Gavin Collins after he hit a two-run double in the fourth inning while Missouri catcher Dylan Kelly waits for play to resume Friday, April 18, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. Collins’ double put Mississippi State ahead 2-1 in the fourth inning.

Bottom right: Missouri senior Dillon Everett shows frustration after striking out swinging in the fourth inning while home plate umpire Jeff Head signals Everett is out and Misissippi State catcher Gavin Collins prepares to throw the ball back to the pitcher Friday, April 18, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. Everett was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts Friday.

April 16, 2014

Missouri diving coach Jamie Sweeney convinced me to jump from the 10-meter platform while I was at their practice today. Watch out David Boudia, I’m getting ready for Rio 2016.

April 6, 2014

Photos by Erik Hall, KBIA

Missouri baseball beat Georgia 4-2 on Sunday, April 6, 2014. Missouri starting pitcher Eric Anderson threw a complete game allowing two runs on six hits with no walks and a career-high 12 strikeouts. It was Anderson’s first complete game of his Missouri career. 

Anderson also batted 1-for-3 with two runs. Dylan Kelly, Ryan Howard, Jake Ivory and Jake Ring each also had one hit Sunday.

The Tigers improved to 14-16 overall, 4-8 in the Southeastern Conference.

Missouri wore special hats with a flag motif to honor “hometown heroes” this weekend.

Missouri freshman Jordan Getzelman is pictured wearing a cast because he underwent left wrist surgery March 25. Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said Getzelman’s recovery will take four to five months, so he will miss the rest of the 2014 season. 

April 5, 2014
Georgia baseball takes a 4-0 lead on Mizzou in the 4th inning

By Erik Hall

Georgia baseball scored four runs in the fourth inning. Missouri put two runners on base in the bottom half of the inning but left them stranded. 

A correction from what the Vine says. Georgia scored two runs on the Lester error to go up 4-0.

April 5, 2014
Food at the ballpark

By Erik Hall

People don’t come to Taylor Stadium for the hot dogs and hamburgers, but they’re a good option once you are there. 

April 5, 2014
Mizzou baseball prepares to play Georgia in Game 2

By Erik Hall

March 19, 2014

Not everyone at Missouri is happy about Michael Sam

By Erik Hall

I asked for emails sent and received by Missouri athletic director Mike Alden following Michael Sam’s announcement. The most revealing email was one sent by a Missouri journalism student.

He’s a broadcast journalism student from Kansas City and Catholic is all that can be told about his identity from the email. But whoever it is, he makes it clear that Michael Sam did not have the full support of the University of Missouri. 

The essence of his email to Alden is in the paragraph he says, “Mr. Alden, I cannot support your stance on the recent situation with Michael Sam. To contradict one of the founding principles of human nature is something I will never do, nor should anyone else.”

Alden’s response to the student’s email is succinct. Alden says, “Thank you for your letter (redacted name). I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond. We appreciate your thoughts and your personal position. Best wishes. Mike Alden.”

The student sent the email Feb. 10, 2014, at 1:40 p.m. Alden responded to the email Feb. 12, 2014, at 1:15 p.m.

In Alden’s response, he CC’d the following people: Chad Moller, Cathy Scroggs, Struby Struble, Mary Jo Banken, Ann McGruder, Marv Austin, Douglas Giffin, Kevin Hayward, Timothy Hickman, Bryan Maggard, Sandy Matheny, and Sarah Reesman.

March 10, 2014

Photos by Erik Hall

Missouri baseball lost to Southern Mississippi 2-1 on March 9, 2014, at Taylor Stadium. 

Photos originally published by KBIA Sports Extra on March 9, 2014. 

March 9, 2014

(Photos by Erik Hall)

By Erik Hall

COLUMBIA — The Missouri baseball team clinched its first series win of the season Saturday.

Missouri beat Southern Mississippi 6-4 in the second game of the three-game series. Missouri won Friday’s series opener 4-1.

“Winning series, it’s awesome,” Missouri center fielder Jake Ring said. “It’s what’s expected. We expect noting less than to just win a series like this, ’cause we definitely have the talent.”

Ring batted 1-for-4 with a run and a stolen base Saturday. Ring stole home on a double steal in the eighth inning.

Missouri designated hitter Eric Anderson and first baseman Kendall Keeton both had multiple hits for the Tigers. Anderson went 2-for-5 with one run scored, and Keeton batted 2-for-4 with two runs.

Starting pitcher John Miles earned the win on the mound. The junior right-hander improved to 2-0 after throwing 5 1/3 innings allowing four runs, two earned runs and five hits with six strikeouts and one walk.

The Missouri offense aided Miles early with three first-inning runs and two more in the second. The runs gave Missouri an 5-0 lead.

“It just gives us confidence. That’s the biggest thing,” Miles said of the team’s early offense. “If you have confidence, you can win. That’s the bottom line. If you don’t have confidence, you’re never going to win. No matter how good you are if you never have confidence, you’re never going to win. If you’re horrible and you have confidence, you still got a chance to win.”

Keaton Steele earned the save Saturday — his fourth of the season. A.J. Glasshof took the loss for Southern Mississippi.

Missouri improves to 6-6 overall entering Sunday’s series finale at noon. Southern Mississippi is now 6-9 this year.

“Very seldom do you have an opportunity to sweep somebody,” Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said. “You want to make sure you give it your greatest, best effort. We are at .500 now. We get over .500 if we win tomorrow. And that’s another thing you want to be able to do.

If we win tomorrow, it will be because we outplayed Southern Mississippi. If we lose tomorrow, it will be because we weren’t ready.”

Story originally published by KBIA Sports Extra on Saturday, March 8, 2014.