The Emperor’s Rules – World’s Best* F1 Blog

I am now the Emperor of Formula 1. I am Mr. Liberty (Mr. Media? Whatever). I am the one who knocks.

And with my newfound powers, I have some ideas for ways to improve our beloved sport. I have some ideas that might turn it upside down. Here is the World’s Best* version of Formula 1.

  • Australia. Season opener. Forever.
  • Every year on the Thursday at Bahrain, a lottery is held to determine which of the three layouts will be contested for the weekend.
  • Make Monaco abide by the 305km rule. More Monaco. Always more Monaco.
  • Each team shall have one joker livery to use each season. Whether it’s a different color scheme, new design style, or raw carbon fiber, every team must have one weekend a year where they redesign the livery.
  • Wave a white flag for the final lap. No more of a guy just sticking his finger out a window. Leave the fingers for cricket umpires.
  • We have three tire compounds each weekend. All three must be used.
  • I don’t much care for the season finale being in Abu Dhabi. I think we need to change the finale to Kymi. In December.
  • The start at Monaco is a bit cramped so let’s change it up. All the drivers will start standing in the swimming pool. When the lights go out they must get from the pool to their car as quickly as possible (dunking a fellow driver under momentarily to gain advantage shall be allowed). Once in the car it’s a classic Le Mans start to get out of the pits and onto the track to start the race.
  • The Miami track shall be amended so the cars go through the stadium.
  • Annual European events in perpetuity: Britain, Monaco, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary.
  • European events put into a rotation: France, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, San Marino (the Emilia Romagna name has got to go), and Austria. Each track hosts at least three times a decade.
  • Fuck it, we’re running Macau.
  • One oval a year. Not a Bahrain Outer Circuit “hey guys it’s like an oval but actually more in the shape of a squished cheese Danish.” One real oval a year. I recommend starting at Bristol.
  • And lastly, refueling will return….but the drivers must fill the car themselves.

Thanks for reading. It may not actually be the world’s best F1 blog, but I think it’s pretty ok. As thanks for sticking with it to the bottom, enjoy a moment with Bella.

And before you go, here’s one for the road…

 

 

Imola Recap but It’s My Dog – World’s Best* F1 Blog

That was a fun race for teams not clad in silver or red.

The opener of the European season provided a good bit of chaos and shook up the standings a bit ahead of the inaugural Miami GP in a few weeks.

But you watched the race and read what you’re going to read by now. So the real question: what if the race recap was just my dog? I’ve done the necessary work to figure it out and enlisted my one-year-old purebred mutt Bella to assist with the visual aids.

I promise she was rewarded with many scritches, snacks, and a trip to the park for the work she provided.

Max Verstappen

Like Bella enjoying a happy day out at the park, Max’s race on Sunday was a leisurely drive through Northern Italy. An exciting win in the sprint gave way to a dominant lights-to-flag win on Sunday. It was indeed a very lovely Sunday for the world champion.

On a scale of 1-5 good bois it was definitely five good bois for car #1.

Sergio Perez

A cheeky smile for a cheeky driver and a cheeky drive for Checo. The sprint got him up to third, and his drive Sunday was excellent. It’s been wonderful seeing Perez get comfortable in the Red Bull. After being a fan of his for more than a decade, it’s been great seeing him finally get his opportunity with the world watching.

Rating: 5 good bois

Lando Norris

Confident. Strong. An eye towards future success. That was Bella on Easter Sunday and that was Lando at Imola. The future looks bright for the McLarens this year. I’m hopeful Lando finally gets win #1 this year.

Rating: 4.5 good bois

George Russell

Smiling? Sure. Still upside down and unsure of the next move? Yes. It’s always confusion in the morning for Bella, and it’s been confusion for the Mercs this season. George wrangled the car to P4, yet another good finish, but huge problems remain for Mercedes that need solving sooner than later.

An excellent drive, but either the car falls off a cliff or Brackley figures it out this spring.

Rating: 4 good bois

Valtteri Bottas

Look at that dog. Too cool for school.

Look at Valtteri Bottas. Too cool to let contact ruin his day. To whom it may concern, Bottas is here. Bottas is ready to get back on the podium. Bottas is ready to keep picking up the points. Porridge has never been so badass.

Rating: 5 good bois

Charles Leclerc

Everything was set for Charlie to stand on the podium to the adoring cheers of the tifosi. Instead, the Monagasque was bitten with some of his personal Monaco luck a month before the race on the Mediterranean.

It should have been P3 at worst for Leclerc, but instead it was a disappointing P6. Double disappointing with the Bulls owning the weekend.

Bella winces.

Rating: 2.5 good bois

Yuki Tsunoda

Surprise! I think Yuki has finally arrived.

An awesome bounceback race after a dismal showing in Melbourne seemed to show that Tsunoda is ready to make the step up to being a legitimate midfield contender, and maybe even sneak onto a podium.

Here’s hoping to more points for car 22.

Rating: 4.5 good bois

Lewis Hamilton

Here’s Bella stuck in a cage, not of her own making. She’s stuck in the cage because she finds ways to chew on everything in the house when left alone. It’s not intrinsically her fault. She’s young, energetic, and bouncy.

And here is Lewis Hamilton stuck in a terrible car, not of his own making. He’s stuck in the car because Mercedes made numerous mistakes in developing a car to the new regulations. It’s not Hamilton’s fault. The car is young, energetic, and bouncy.

I hope Bella grows out of her muzzle. I hope the Mercedes grows into a championship-worthy car.

Rating: .5 good bois

Carlos Sainz

Rating: no good bois

Thanks for reading. This might not actually be the world’s best F1 blog, but I think it’s pretty ok. And now here’s one for the road….#BrockhamptonForever

 

Modified Season – World’s Best* F1 Blog

Growing up in New England means watching the modifieds in the summer with my dad. I love getting to the short tracks that dot the region and seeing these beautiful bastards tear ass across the ovals.

But the term “modified” comes from the fact that it is heavily modified in relation to a stock car so NASCAR’s lone open-wheel division isn’t about development.

Where the true modifieds lie is here in Formula 1, where a car is never finished and everything can be tinkered with. It makes F1 a radically different racing ecosystem than almost any other series.

Strategy, whether fuel, tire, or setup, can be a fun chess match, but no other series features practices with garden gates attached to cars or parts doused in neon paint.

And with the European season set to begin this week, and teams able to work more from their home base, the development battle is set to go supernova, and I am here for it.

I had forgotten what beautiful carnage development chaos can bring. The last two years were basically the same car and so little was allowed to be changed. Now we have cars with hammocks in the sidepods, cars with no sidepods, and everyone wound up with gills in the sidepods.

Everyone is porpoising (which probably needs a new, more land-based name) and no one can truly solve it. Ferrari is king, could have an even better engine showing up soon, and the million-dollar question is can anyone catch them before it turns into 2002 again.

It’s so much fun and been a breath of fresh air this year.

Last season was an all-timer. It felt like after Max won from pole in Abu Dhabi in 2020 that 2021 would bring a Verstappen-Hamilton duel, and the season did not disappoint.

But now Red Bull is down. Mercedes could be porpoising their way right off the mountaintop. And suddenly the Prancing Horse and its customers are back at the table while Mercedes’ minions can’t get out of their own way or, in Lance’s case, the way of others.

One of the many beauties of F1 is how the concrete never really sets. Upgrades can come at any time for any team and flip the season on its head. With Ferrari looking to be on the precipice of taking the season over, I’m looking forward to seeing how the other teams fight back through the development battle.

Modified season is picking up in New England. Modified season begins this week in Imola. Can’t wait for it.

Thanks for reading. This may not actually be the world’s best F1 blog, but I think it’s pretty ok. Enjoy one for the road…

 

A Soul for What Exactly? – World’s Best* F1 Blog

When I first got into F1, Australia was always the opener. It was one of the most fun weekends of the year. I would burn the midnight oil to stay awake for the late-night start, and it was always worth it.

Now though it is race three as the calendar, and the dynamics, of Formula 1 have changed massively over the last few years.

One of the conversations I saw pop up throughout the fallout from the Saudi weekend centered around what the future of the sport will look like. There was a lot of discussion about the rise of races in west Asia and in America.

By 2024, the two regions will have seven races on the calendar (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Austin, Miami, Las Vegas). That’ll be roughly a third of the schedule. The fear of many is that the grand old tracks in Europe will fade away and become only memories.

The sport will continue on like it has for almost 75 years. Will it lose its soul though?

But for that matter, what even is the soul of a sport? Does it have one? Intrinsically, no, at least I don’t think so. Racing has always been part research/development and part money-making operation, just like everything else in our wonderful corporate landscape.

The sport does have meaning though, and what it means to me will be different from you or your neighbor. For me, F1 is a glamorous global circus exhibited at almost 220 mph. I love how over the top it is and how ridiculous the people are that live inside the F1 bubble.

And, at least for me, F1 will still be F1 even as tracks fall away. Germany is gone. France may go soon and has been gone before in the recent past (RIP Magny-Cours). But the sport abides and finds ways to thrive.

As an American, I’m thrilled that the sport finally has some type of fanbase in the country. I remember my teenage years, when NASCAR got super popular, and friends would just stare at me blankly when I would try talking to them about Formula 1.

But now F1 is hot in the streets and continuing to grow in the country. To me it parallels the rise the UFC saw in the early 2000s. Sure, it eventually cooled off, but when it did it stabilized in a far more popular place than it was initially.

Is that F1 giving up its soul for the money? I see F1 as one of the ultimate forms of theater, and the combo of art & commerce tends to end poorly for the art. Hopefully, at least, the races won’t get too gimmicky because the product on track is as good a spectacle as anything in sports.

I love how accessible it is. A NASCAR race is going to be 3-4 hours, but a grand prix is two hours at most and usually less. I can closely follow the season without having to devote dozens of weekend days churning through laps as a fan to watch it.

That still begs the question of what is the soul of F1, and what is lost as it continues to evolve? Is anything lost? The coolest music tends to be what we attached ourselves to between the ages of 10-25. Could the F1 fanbase be feeling the same kind of way?

I don’t want to see tracks like Silverstone or Spa disappear. Since I got into F1 Spa has always meant the unofficial end to summer. Hearing Sam Posey wax poetic about the cars snaking through the Ardennes ahead of SPEED TV’s broadcasts were some of the formative moments of my F1 fandom when I found the sport as a teenager.

Something would certainly be lost if the grand old tracks of the sport fade to the past or become sporadic events.

However, the sport would still find a way to thrive, and I’m excited to follow along. With the new cars this year, and the new engines in 2026, I feel that one of the wildest decades in the history of the sport awaits us.

Thanks for reading. It may not actually be the world’s best F1 blog, but I think it’s pretty ok. Here’s one for the road.

 

The World’s Best* F1 Blog – Bahraining Fire and Flames

What makes an F1 race so fun is the ability for everything to turn in a minute. Sure, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen had danced the desert night away for the lead midway through the race, but eventually things settled down into a rhythm.

Charles held firm in the lead. Max fell behind. Carlos rounded out the podium.

F1 is the pinnacle of racing science and technology with some of the best drivers on earth. It’s also dumb as shit and showed why in the final 10 laps of the race.

I was actually able to get an interview with one of the real, honest-to-goodness Red Bull engines used in the race last night. I asked what it felt about the drivers running it in Sakhir and it responded with a song.

Pierre’s caught fire. Max’s hiccuped. Checo’s was a brat. For all the hype behind this year’s Red Bull power unit and all the simping toward the team after testing, race one sure was a kick in the nuts.

With all the “Honda” engines crapping out Ferrari was easily able to run away with a 1-2 in the closing laps.

Three of the four drivers in the Red Bull teams fail to finish with Yuki pulling points with an eighth-place finish. I reckon this was just a perfect storm of a nightmare, similar to the tires for Mercedes at the British GP in 2020.

But man, what if it’s more than that. What it it’s something more? It’d be hilarious for all the R&D to lead to a twitchy, overpowered, unreliable engine right as the freeze comes in.

F1 is better when it’s weird. I hope this weird sticks around at least for a little while.

 

I’m not sure what was sexier: the new Ferrari or it’s driver lineup. Regardless, what a day it was for the prancing horse. The fine equines blasted off into the night and more or less controlled proceedings for the duration.

Carlos Sainz could father my damn children and I’d be cool with it. I’m so excited to be able to see him get his first win this season because it’s going to happen. I bet it’ll be Australia.

I’m hype for Ferrari to be good again. It really felt like the team was back at a world title level again, and that’s good for the sport. It’s more fun when Ferrari is at the top of the table. You love them. You hate them. You care. Sports are at their best when they’re their most theatrical, and there isn’t much theater better than the red machine blasting off down the track.

Also, that Monagasque national anthem sure sounded like something they’d play at the circus while parading the elephants around the ring.

HALFTIME……Take a look at my dog. Bella’s a cutie.

How about Guenther’s dynamic door boys. No smashing in Bahrain, except a smashing good performance from Kevin and Mick.

What a race from Haas. After replacing Nikita “sanktsii” Mazepin with Kevin “my god that bear is dreamy” Magnussen, the team has taken off. K-Mag stepped right back into the car and brought it home P5. Mick finished P11.

This team is going to be beautiful to watch this year. A failed car this season would have meant the end of the team after punting on 2021 and focusing solely on developing the car to the new regs.

The gamble has worked. This car will take points consistently and it will challenge for podiums on the right day. I won’t say it can win, but that Alpha Tauri in 2020 wasn’t built to win either. Same for the Alpine last season.

It’ll be fun to watch Schumacher continue to grow as a driver and be able to gauge himself against someone of F1 quality. And it’ll be fun to watch K-Mag have a banger car that the can fight with atop the field. Would be lovely to see him get that white whale of a second podium he’s been chasing since his debut.

PORRIDGE POWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New team, new vibe for Valtteri Bottas and I am here for it. He started sixth. He ended sixth. I chuckle when he qualified on the same row as Hamilton on Saturday because some things never change.

And some things do change. A lot. Like Alfa’s points chances this season with a vastly improved Ferrari engine in the back. I like this. Sauber has been chasing a quality season for a long time, and this one might be it.

Bottas is the sixth-most experienced driver on the grid, with 179 starts including Bahrain. To have Bottas in the fold after losing Kimi Raikkonen is huge for Alfa Romeo. A veteran hand was needed in a big way with the new car and a brand new F1 driver in Guanyu Zhou, who also scored on Sunday, to hopefully push the team up the grid.

What a time to be alive. What a season this will be. Thanks for reading. Here’s one for the road.

* – This may not, in fact, be the world’s greatest F1 blog but I think it’s pretty fun any way.

THP #32: Time

March 6, 2022 – Waltham, Massachusetts
Bentley vs Franklin Pierce
Northeast-10 Championship Game
Men’s Basketball

I don’t feel time passing. I don’t think any of us actually do. I know time’s gone by when I can triangulate myself with a point in the past.

I was at Bentley for the final stop of the season and felt the passage of time in a major way.

Looking up at the rafters I saw the 2007 and 2008 Elite Eight banners. I remember being in the gym with my father at those games when I was a teenager. I remember the stifling energy of the room. I remember guys like Jason Westrol stealing the show.

That was 15 years ago. In my head, I don’t realize that 15 years have passed. I’m trying to live my best life today, but seeing those banners brought back the memories and made me take a step back and realize just how much time had gone by since then.

Time is infinite, but college basketball is finite. Players get four years to wear their school colors and then they’re off to the rest of their lives. But the sport keeps plugging along. Each year a new roster. Each year another crack at a championship.

I traverse the roads of New England so I can mark myself in time. Each stop is a moment in my life I can go back to and remember and think about where I am today by looking at yesterday.

Everyone has anchor points in their life. College basketball is one of mine.

The Campus

When I first went to Bentley it was a college, but it 2008 it became a university. Specializing in business disciplines, Bentley is one of the top business schools in the region.

It was founded in Boston in 1917 as a school for accounting and finance, and today is a university with 4,200 undergrads in Waltham, 13 miles west of Boston.

With a fresh snow on the ground, the campus looked lovely. The school is split into upper and lower campus with Beaver Street acting as the separator. Upper Campus, which plays up to its name by being located on a moderately steep hill, houses the academic buildings and the dorms while Lower Campus is home to the athletics facilities. There is also North Campus, a short drive up the road, which is just dorms.

And there was one singular construction motif: brick.

Bentley Library, which is on the school’s official logo.
The Student Center
The Rauch Administration Center

Abutting Beaver Street is the Bentley Arena. Opened in 2018 to house the Falcons Division I hockey team, the arena is one of the greenest sports venues in America.

With a capacity of just under 2,000, and built on land that was formerly just six tennis courts, it makes for a cozy atmosphere for hockey.

Bentley Arena on opening night 2/16/2018 – Credit: Me

The Dana Center

The Dana Center is unlike any other college basketball venue in New England. Home to the basketball and volleyball teams, the Dana Center is also the home to all the offices of the athletic department along with multiple classrooms, weight rooms, and other facilities.

But where it stands out from every other venue in New England across all the divisions is that there’s a damn restaurant in the lobby.

Immediately on your left when you walk in you see a jumbotron hanging over a seating area. The screens play ESPN and other sports channels.

But within is a Currito, a burrito chain with 24 locations in seven states. When I first came to the Dana back in 2007 my mind was blown to smithereens. There were no oversteamed hot dogs and potentially stale bags of lays, there was a real damn restaurant right here.

Back then there was also an A&W burger restaurant but that’s long gone, replaced by a GrubHub pickup station for Currito.

So when in Rome, or Waltham, you have a damn burrito before the basketball game.

I’m more of a bowl guy these days and treated myself to the steak. Currito is far and away my favorite of the fast-casual Mexican chains. Having mix-ins like caramelized onions and cucumbers will instantly make me a fan of you.

It was delicious from start to finish. Add in a chocolate chip cookie, one of the top-three chain cookies with Arby’s and Wendy’s, and you have a damn fine if unusual pregame meal.

Before we jump into the game let’s take a quick break and have a moment with Bella.

The Game

Bentley has long history of athletic success, especially in basketball. That’s evident by a trophy case just for the sport.

The Dana Center is also the first venue to feature a national championship banner for the 2014 women’s team that went 35-0 and won all but three games by double figures.

With a max capacity of 3,920, the Dana Center is the largest lower division venue in New England by max capacity.

It also features a center-hung scoreboard which makes it feel just a little more big-time than a standard gymnasium.

And it was a big game with the Northeast-10 title on the line. For Bentley, it was a chance to win an 11th conference title. For Franklin Pierce, it was a chance to win its first.

The host Falcons got the better of it early, jumping to an 11-4 lead four minutes into the game.

Eventually, the Ravens found a way to plug the leak and cut the gap to three four minutes later.

The game then fell into a pattern of the Falcons finding ways to stay ahead while the Ravens gave chase. Bentley couldn’t break away Franklin Pierce found ways to make key shots.

This three from Max Zegarowski made it a five-point game late in the half.

Mohamed Traore cut it to three just seconds later thanks to a steal and a dime from Isaiah Moore.

Isaiah Moore, only a junior, is one of the top players in all of Division II. He is sixth nationally with 23 points a game and 18th in the country with 5.4 assists a game. He’ll finish this one with 20 points.

But Bentley kept finding ways to respond and went into halftime up 40-34 thanks to 10 points each from Jordan Mello-Klein and Colton Lawrence.

Out of halftime the script flipped. Franklin Pierce came out and smacked the Falcons hard for six minutes. When Isaiah Moore flashed by his defender for this layup the Ravens led by four.

And so a rock fight ensued. Gritty, intense basketball. Bentley retook the lead but the Ravens went shot for shot with the home team. It was thrilling.

Bentley opened up a six-point lead. Franklin Pierce stayed with them.

Down the stretch the game grew more claustrophobic. There was no floor artistry. It was all about brute force trying to put the ball in the bucket. Pete Blust punched the ball in to put the Falcons up eight with three minutes to play in a play emblematic of how difficult the game had been.

But then Moore hit a three to cut the gap to five to set up the final two minutes with a conference title on the line.

 

Mello-Klein hit his free throws to put a bow on a win and a conference title.

Bentley 68, Franklin Pierce 62. Final
Player of The Game: Jordan Mello-Klein – 23 points, seven rebounds
Time of Game: 1:30:31

Before the game started I saw a guy walking across the court and could have sworn I knew him. Watching him find his seat I realized I did know him.

I walked on up to where he was sitting. It was the first time I’d seen Don and Al in a couple of years. Ever since I was a young kid I’d been seeing these two at games. They’re constants in an ever-changing world.

When I was younger going to games with my father, Don and Al were always there but we never talked with them. Eventually, probably 10 or 12 years ago we introduced ourselves and have been friendly ever since.

Time goes by but Don and Al stay the same. Both are from the North Shore. Maybe Beverly. Maybe Marblehead. I don’t remember. I don’t know their last names and we have never exchanged phone numbers. We only ever talk when our paths cross on the road.

Don’s a self-important asshole, and I say that with love. Always wearing a Frozen Four hat and a black and gray and blue knockoff starter jacket he probably bought before I was alive, Don always has “very important opinions” about everything from the pros to the refs to every minute aspect of the games.

Al is much more my speed. A gentle, kind man who just wants to enjoy a night out at the gym or the rink with friends. He always make sure to tell me that the Chicago Bears, my father’s favorite team, are terrible. That never fails to get a smile out of me. It’s a small inside joke that remains after all these years.

I’ve run into these guys in New Hampshire at the NCAA hockey tournament, college basketball all across eastern Massachusetts, the Beanpot, and high school hockey.

My relationship with Don and Al is the most freeing relationship I have with any people I know. It’s eternal and never changing. We bump into each out at a game, chat sports and enjoy the show for a few hours, and then we go our separate ways with no expecations. Maybe we see each other a week later, maybe it’s four years later.

Whenever I see them I can forget that time has passed for those few hours. I’m a teenager again talking sports with some local townies who enjoy the game the same way I do. I hope everyone has a relationship like that in their life.

And that brings an end to season three of The Hoops Project. Ten games, four states, three divisions. It was a fun, chaotic season. A lot happened since I walked into Bryant back in October, and I’m grateful to have been able to document the journey along the way.

If you’ve read any of these pieces, thank you. This project is a deep passion of mine, and I love sharing the sport I love and the region I love.

I’m already got plans for season four and it includes a whole lot of miles and a whole lot of weird. I hope you’re around to share the journey with me.

And with that, one last time this year, here’s one for the road…

 

THP #31: As Good As It Gets

February 26,2022 – Dartmouth, Massachusetts
UMass-Dartmouth vs Keene State
Little East Conference Championship Game
Men’s Basketball

There’s a chasm separating a good game from a great game.

A good game can happen any day of the week. It can be the season opener. It can be a random non-conference game in the middle of December. It can be a late January matinee. A good game is competitive and entertaining to watch.

A great game is different. Great games don’t happen every day. Great games need something special: stakes or a story.

Stakes instantly imbue a game with an added intensity and energy that a regular January matchup simply doesn’t have. Stakes come this time of the year thanks to conference tournaments and the Big Dance.

A game with story is harder to pin down. It can be a perfect set of circumstances coming together, like Chris Beard’s first game back in Lubbock after taking the Texas job. It can be an annual attraction like Duke-Carolina or the rock fight that is the Big East with long history and many famous characters playing big roles along the way.

And then you get a game like my friend Alex and I were at last Saturday. A game with stakes and story played at the highest level in front of a massive crowd that built to a crescendo so phenomenal that the final flourish truly was the beautiful embodiment of March and the chaos this game brings.

But first, I have a whale to show you.

The City

Dartmouth is a suburb in every sense. With a town motto that translates from Latin to “Useful and Agreeable”, and a population just under 34,000, Dartmouth sits along the South Coast and Buzzards Bay.

The third-largest town in Massachusetts by area, Dartmouth has a long agricultural history and a long history with the sea.

However, bordering Dartmouth to the east is the city of New Bedford. America’s most lucrative fishing port for decades, New Bedford is one of the most underrated cities in New England.

Downtown New Bedford

With a population of 102,000, it’s the largest city on the South Coast. Long a hub for fishing and whaling, New Bedford showcases its long history with the sea. The New Bedford Whaling Museum sits right on the waterfront and features galleries of art and exhibits about the history of whaling and its connection to New Bedford.

There’s also a huge whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling right when you walk in.

Whale

A few years ago I was invited to a wedding at the museum. The ceremony was held in the amphitheater (more weddings need stadium seating) and cocktail hour happened in a room with The Lagoda, a half-sized model of a whaling ship which is also the world’s largest. It was a fun time.

The Folk Festival in the summer is a favorite of my wife and I. The whole downtown area shuts down and becomes pedestrian-only with live music, food trucks, and vendors hawking their wares. It really is one of a kind.

Me in the boat.

I can’t wait to get back their with the wife and the dog. Speaking of that, here’s a moment with Bella.

The Good Eats

New Bedford, and the South Coast in general, is home to the largest Luso-American (or people of Portuguese descent) population in the country. Nearby Fall River has the most Luso-Americans in the country and New Bedford is second. New York City is third with less than half the number of Portuguese as New Bedford.

With that comes culture and food. The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament every summer is the largest Portuguese cultural festival in the world. And for me, on this day, it meant my first encounter with linguica.

Located on Purchase Street, the Whaling City Diner is a quintessential American diner. Serving breakfast and lunch, it had everything you’d want to fill your stomach the day after a big snowstorm.

I went with the eggs, home fries, and linguica with a pancake. Linguica is a Portuguese sausage. Smoke cured, it’s traditionally seasoned with garlic and paprika. And it was damn good.

Rather than the herbacious, almost floral, notes of a traditional breakfast sausage, the smokiness came through along with the deeper flavor of paprika. Honestly, I’d rather every diner switch to linguica for their sausage option. 10/10, will come back.

The Campus

UMass-Dartmouth has a long, winding history. The university was created on the back of combining the Bradford Durfee College of Technology and the New Bedford Institute of Textiles and Technology in 1964.

In 1969 the school became known as Southeastern Massachusetts University before getting its current name in 1991 when it was incorporated into the UMass system.

The history of the school can be seen inside the athletic center where every school seal is on display.

The campus is laid out perfectly. A ring road encircles the majority of the campus and makes getting around incredibly easy. However, in terms of looks, the campus looked barren and desolate.

This was due in no small part to the majority of buildings being concrete brutalist structures built more than half a century ago.

Combined with a fresh snow, the concrete gave an eerie feel to the campus. No one was out and walking around. All the architecture felt harsh. It was an incredibly strange vibe.

It was made even stranger when we got to the library and saw this outdoor amphitheater which looked like it could have been a set from Hunger Games.

The Game

After a long walk through campus, we found our way to the home of Corsairs athletics, the Tripp Athletic Center. A corsair is a synonym for a pirate or a privateer.

The Tripp sits in a complex with the other UMD athletic fields. Upon entering there’s a small lobby with a large hall of fame/trophy case.

The gym was quite large by Division III standards. A crowd of 3,217 would be in attendance for the game. Banners to past success and a wonderful old scoreboard highlighted the far wall as two large sets of wooden bleachers filled the room.

The conference title and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament were up for grabs, but it was more than that for Keene State. If the Owls lost their season was over. For UMass-Dartmouth, a 24-3 season meant that by all accounts a loss here would still have them in a strong position for an at-large bid.

And early on it was a back and forth affair with neither team getting more than a handful of points ahead.

Let’s meet the first of our protagonists: James Anozie. The 6’6 senior form Poughkeepsie, NY was the engine on the inside for the Owls. Against a fast, dynamic Corsairs team, he would be needed to play large on the inside on both ends of the court. And excellent he was throughout his 26 minutes of play.

As the first half progressed it was clear that neither team was going to dominate. The lead flipped six times in the opening 20 minutes, and neither team led by more than six points.

Every rebound. Every loose ball. It was a battle on both ends. A byproduct of being not just the conference final, but also the third meeting between the teams this season. Both were won by the Corsairs.

Marcus Azor. I don’t gamble much, but I’d wager that the senior from Brockton will make it onto one of the national All-America lists this year. He’s been spectacular all season and would be today.

His stat line for the game would read like a cheat code (16 pts, 10 rbd, 10 ast, 5 stl, 2 blk).

The Owls would go into halftime leading 37-31. It was a fine first half, but after the intermission the energy in the building found a different level. The game rose to a different level to meet it.

Keene opened the lead up to 12 points early in the second half before the Corsairs answered. That three by Sean Leahy cut the gap to seven with 16 minutes to play.

Then Jake Ashworth stepped out from the wing.

Owls by five.

Two minutes later Azor pulled up from the elbow. Owls by three.

And so it went with the Corsairs hitting big shots and the Owls just finding ways to stay ahead. Having James Anozie certainly helped.

Anozie was paired on the inside with Jeff Hunter. Both would finish with double-doubles and 19 points each. The Owls would need every one thanks in no small part to Adam Seablom.

The senior from Lakeville, Mass recorded his 1000th career point earlier in the season and played with a chip on his shoulder all game. This backside finish to end a crazy play tied the game at 54 with six minutes to go.

Seablom would have 15 of his game-high 24 points after halftime.

And so it went down the stretch. Neither team able to break free by more than two points. Everything on a knife’s edge.

With 35 seconds left, and the game tied at 58, Keene State had an inbound in front of their bench with three seconds left on the shot clock.

60-58 Keene. But of course, there was still ample time for Corsairs to figure something out.

I turned to Alex, who by that point was on the edge of his seat as his Owls were moments from a tournament bid, and said “if I’m Dartmouth I’m running Seablom on a cut backdoor.” Well…

Tied at 60. And the Owls would get three cracks at the win. The first two were well defended and led to inbounds plays under the basket. The third came with 1.7 seconds left from the corner in front of the Keene bench.

Watch that clip a handful of times. There’s so much to see. The coach in the red jacket ready to pop off. The student section seeing the season flash in front of them. The Owl bench losing it and having to regroup. You can hear Alex next to me “It was halfway down!” It was. I don’t know how it didn’t fall.

Either way, five more minutes were put on the clock.

Leahy from Azor put the Corsairs up a bucket with 3:45 to play.

But yet again, when the Owls needed a key bucket, Anozie was there to tie the game.

As the game hit its final minute it did what all great games do to go supernova: it got weird. As the pressure builds, the players make decisions that cascade into myth.

It makes for the most entertaining version of sports on earth, and it took all of us in the crowd along for the ride.

With 20 seconds left Anozie took a hard foul under the bucket to send him to the line for a one-and-one. The crowd was delighted. Anozie was a 58 percent free throw shooter and had missed all six of shots from the line in the game. Get a rebound off the miss and the Corsairs could win it.

But on a night when he would score a season high, Anozie made his last point count to put the Owls up by two.

A great game can be ruined by a shit finish. A contest with a great rhythm and flow can turn ugly late due to fouls. A bad call by a ref could send people home sour. A poor coaching decision could be the main talking point even after a classic.

This game ended as it should have: with chaos in its bones, a freaky final bucket, and a hell of a memory for everyone who was there.

 

Nate Siow. Jeff Hunter. Dunk for the win.

Keene State 71, UMass-Dartmouth 69. Final (OT).
Player of the game: James Anozie – 19 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks
Time of game: 1:46:44

This was a special day. As we walked back to the car I said to Alex “This is my drug.” That type of energy. That type of moment. That type of theater. That’s what I chase. There’s no greater thrill for me than that moment I mentally turn everything off and am just one with that instant.

Any game you go to is a bet. Sometimes it’s a 25-point thumping and you’re waiting for the clock to run out. Other times it’s something like this, and games like this are so rare that when I come upon them it truly feels like magic. What a game.

Thanks for reading. Now, here’s one of the great athletic feats of our time…

 

 

 

 

THP #30: Growing Up, Staying Young

February 22, 2022 – Chicopee, Massachusetts
Elms College vs Colby-Sawyer
GNAC Tournament – First Round
Women’s Basketball

When I was a kid I invested everything of myself into following sports. It didn’t matter what it was or where it was played, I was determined to know everything that was going on.

It truly was an obsession. Staying up until 3 am watching college football. Working both of my parents’ computers and the big TV with March Madness on demand back in 2008 to watch as much of the Big Dance as I could (thank god for the TV deal with Turner getting every game on TV).

I once threw a tantrum because I couldn’t go to a college hockey game because I screwed up in school. That was in October, 2001. In my defense, I was 10.

Now I’m 30. I’m married. We have a dog. Hopefully, a child is in the near future. With those changes comes a change in priorities. I don’t watch much sports on TV anymore. It’s mostly just college basketball, Formula 1, and a little soccer and hockey. My wants and desires have changed and making sure I know wholly and completely who the best football team in the Big 12 is just doesn’t matter anymore.

But I still want some of that chaos in my life, some of that roller coaster that comes from investing yourself into deeply following something and giving a piece of yourself over to it. I may be getting older, but I still want to be a little bit reckless.

And with this blog I can be reckless. I can hop in the car and drive seven hours into Maine for a basketball game. I can find myself muttering “what the fuck” to myself as I roll down questionable roads deep in the woods trying to find a campus.

I can pull off at some random shack and get the best meal I’ve ever had. I don’t know what I don’t know when I hit the road, and that’s the thrill. My life will continue to change and go up and down, but this will remain.

I love doing this. I love the purpose and drive it’s given me. I love how close I feel to New England and everything I’ve learned so far and will continue to learn going forward.

And now, here is your moment with Bella.

The City

On this day, the weather was absolutely brutal. Rain all day and rain all night. With that, I didn’t get to see much of Chicopee, but it’s a city with an interesting history.

With a population of just over 55,000, it’s the second-largest city in Western Massachusetts and has a long history of weapons manufacturing dating back to the Civil War. The winner of the annual Chicopee High-Chicopee Comprehensive football game wins a sword manufactured in the city in the 1890s.

The city is also home to Westover Air Reserve Base, the largest Air Force Reserve base in the country. And the Duryea brothers, Charles and Frank, were the first Americans to manufacture a gasoline-powered car back in 1893.

The Good Eats

Lots of good food options in Chicopee. With a large German and Polish population, there are many different types of places to eat. However, tonight I wanted quick and easy, and that made an easy answer: pizza.

You can’t miss the bright red sign of Milano’s as it beckons into the night.

My order was simple: a cheese pizza, a bottle of water, and a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

The pizza was excellent. Chewy, toothsome, well seasoned. This pizza was exactly what I’m looking for. No grease puddles. No cheese trying to escape because it wasn’t constructed to code. You probably won’t find many better pies in Hampden County.

On the other hand, the cookie was big, as evidenced by how much of that box it takes up. And that superlatives end there because it was underbaked, lacking flavor, and disintegrated in my mouth. It tasted like cookies I would get with lunch in high school.

When you go to Milano’s stick with the pizza: it’ll satisfy every time.

The Campus

Officially known as the the College of Our Lage of the Elms, Elms College opened in 1897 as a girls prep academy in Pittsfield, more than 50 miles west of the current campus.

Two years later the Sisters of Saint Joseph, and the Diocese of Springfield bought the current location and created a normal school on the site. After petitioning the Commonwealth to charter a women’s college specializing in teaching in 1927, the school officially opened its doors as a college in 1928.

The school started admitting men in 1998.

Today, Elms features an enrollment of just over 1,200 students and caters to students who are the first in their family to go to college.

With just 14 buildings on campus, it’s a small and compact place to go to school.

Berchman’s Hall, which looms large over Keating Quadrangle

I’m always curious as to what draws someone to go to school like Elms? For the 2021-2022 school year the total admission fee was a tick over $54,000. While there’s certainly a glut of colleges in New England, what draws people to a small college in a suburb of Springfield? There are many other small colleges in the Northeast, and many Catholic institutions too.

How do the coaches recruit athletes? What’s the student life like at a small school like this? If you went to a small, lesser-known school like Elms, shoot me a message. I’d love to know how you found your way to the school and what your experience was like.

The Game

Known as the Blazers for an old school tradition of sophomores getting a blazer as a right of passage, Elms athletics revolve around the Maguire Center.

Home to the gym, offices, and classrooms, the Maguire Center acts as the nerve center for Blazer sports.

And tonight it was playoff basketball for the Blazers as they welcomed the Colby-Sawyer Chargers down from New Hampshire.

A small, cozy gym was made raucous due to the running track that circled the court from above.

During the game it became the peanut gallery from hell thanks to a large student turnout.

And the Blazers came flying out of the gate early. Elms jumped the Chargers in the first quarter and led 14-5 midway through the period.

After a quarter it was 24-13 Elms and it felt like, even that early, that the Blazers were going to roll. First-year guard Aiyanalee Lopez (first video) was dialed in from jump street.

Grad student Angelica Peguero-Flores (second video), from nearby Springfield, had a crazy first quarter with nine points, six boards, and a block.

In the second, the Blazers kept pouring it on. The lead grew to 14 as Elms was feeling it. The students were loud, the vibe was rocking, and it felt like the Blazers were right on the precipice of turning the corner and turning the game into one big party.

But tournament basketball rarely goes that way. Slowly and without too much fanfare, Colby-Sawyer slowly chipped away at the gap and got it back into single digits.

At half, Elms led by eight. Immediately out of halftime bang: a three from Emily Parent cut the lead to five.

And suddenly the game devolved into a rock fight as the Chargers clawed back into it. Back and forth it went throughout the third quarter. Peguero-Flores did everything she could for the Blazers to keep them ahead.

But by hook or by crook, the Chargers found a way. With under a minute to go in the third quarter, the game was tied at 47.

Enter Rahmia Johnston. After a first half that saw her play just seven minutes due to foul trouble, the sophomore from Trumbull, Conn. put the Blazers on her back.

That falling layup in the waning seconds of the third quarter ignited a 13-0 run for the Blazers that lasted until midway through the fourth. Johnston had nine of the 13 points.

The run was enough to give the Blazers the breathing room they needed to loosen up, and her teammates closed the show.

Johnston finished with 11 points. Peguero-Flores had a monster game with 24 points (including her 1,000th career point), 12 rebounds and four blocks.

Emily Parent put Colby-Sawyer on her back, but her 18-point performance just wasn’t enough.

Elms 66, Colby-Sawyer 59. Final.
Player of the game: Aiyanalee Lopes – 20 pts, 17 rbds, 4 ast, 2 stl
Time of game: 1:29:44

Always fun to get to a small D3 school. I try to tell everyone I can: go support your local D2 or D3 school. It’s the best deal in town, there was no admission fee for this game, and the intimate settings bring a special type of energy that larger arenas can’t match.

Elms can consider me a fan going forward and I’ll try to catch them at my other GNAC stops.

Thanks for reading. Here’s one for the road.

 

 

THP #29: Hometown Check-in

January 25, 2022 – Worcester, Massachusetts
Assumption vs Southern Connecticut State
Women’s Basketball

This was the first of four stops in my adopted hometown of Worcester. My wife and I moved into our house here in July, 2021. With keeping it local for this blog I wanted to look back at the first quarter of The Hoops Project thus far and take stock in what this project is and what I hope for it to become.

The Hoops Project started as a pie-in-the-sky idea in the summer of 2019. The idea, in my head, was to go see a game at all 120 four-year colleges in New England and write a travelogue-esque blog about each one.

It has since become a personal monastic journey into myself with basketball as the crux that drives it forward. Those early posts I thought I was very important by documenting these places and these schools. This blog is important to me, sure, and it’s a footnote of a footnote in the long history of college basketball in America at best.

I love this project. In a way I look at it as my first kid. I’ve had a long career in sports media. I had my first byline in 2008 at the age of 16. I’ve covered NCAA tournaments across all sorts of sports, the NHL, the NBA. I’ve seen all sorts of future pros back in their high school days. I’ve done some TV as well.

Almost all of it runs together. All the football and field hockey and lacrosse and soccer and hockey games have been great experiences; they’re just a jumbled mess of the last 14 years of my life to one degree or another.

With this, it is my own. I have two friends who give me some feedback in the process, but other than that it all comes from me for me. I’m grateful to be in a position to be able to do this. I feel more complete as me when I’m on the road going off to these far-flung places.

So far I’ve driven just roughly 4,500 miles (or just about the distance from my home in Worcester to Anchorage) and added another three miles by foot to get to this project to where it is today. And in all of that travel I’ve learned a few things about myself, basketball, and New England.

I’m more comfortable being alone at a game

Being a high school sports writer makes for many a lonely night on the road. However, when I have my notebook and my laptop I’m working. Like many others, when I’m working I just want to do work and go home.

However, I never would go to a game myself alone as a spectator. It felt wrong. A game should be experienced with a group, with others. But I learned to deeply love being invisible in the crowd.

I’m still a part of the energy and vibe of the crowd, and I can just do my own thing when I want. If I want to chat someone up I can. If I want to sit in a corner and just enjoy ball I can. It’s incredibly freeing to be able to enjoy a game exclusively on your own terms. I recommend everyone try it at least once. It’s the ultimate in relaxation.

Maine is fucking huge

New England is the area of the country with all the small states, but Maine is sneaky big and almost the size of the other five New England states combined.

Maine’s total area: 35,380 square miles
MA, NH, CT, RI, & VT combined: 36, 608 square miles

Maine is bigger than South Carolina and almost the same size as Indiana. That feels so wrong to say, but it’s the truth. My first trip was to Fort Kent, the town atop the East Coast and more north than Montreal and Quebec City.

At the time I was living just north of Boston and it was 420 miles each way to Fort Kent. For context, if I had driven south that same distance I would have ended in the suburbs between Baltimore and Washington.

Traveling the Pine Tree State is no joke. I love The Great State of Maine.

I’ve become a keen follower of higher ed in the region.

The engine that drives this project is college basketball. There needs to be colleges with teams to travel to. Since the project started a handful of schools have closed up shop, and the initial 120 has dwindled to 114. Small colleges like Pine Manor and Becker and Southern Vermont and Newbury are all gone to the universe now.

My current philosophy is to hit as many small private schools as I can as soon as I can. Boston College and UConn will be there in 10-20 years. Will small schools like Rivier or Eastern Nazarene still exist in that time? Who knows? That’s why I’m chasing them now so I’m not regretting missing a school like I did with Pine Manor and Becker.

My white whales

There are two things I’m desperately trying to see on this journey. The first is a buzzer beater at the horn to win a game. I came damn close once before, but the shot didn’t end the game. I’d just love to be able to document one buzzer beater for this series.

The other is a game that goes under 80 minutes in length. While I wasn’t officially timing it like I do now, the game at Fitchburg State went 81 minutes and would have gone under if the losing coach hadn’t called a timeout with less than a minute to go.

It’s so coveted because it takes very specific circumstances to occur. I’ve seen plenty of games go under 90 minutes, but to have those last 10 off is ridiculously difficult.

It needs to be a D2 or D3 game without commercial breaks. The game needs to be close enough to keep the starters in for most of it but spread out just enough so that the end of the game doesn’t become a calvalcade of timeouts and fouls. The refs need to keep the whistles to a minimum and free throws need to almost be non-existent.

It’s such a perfect storm of circumstances to occur that I’ve become enamored by the concept of it. One day. Hopefully.

And with that, here’s your moment with Bella.

The Good Eats

Worcester is a great food town. And in the three future stops in town I’ll be exploring it all from a nationally-ranked diner, to one of the best hot dogs in New England. But today, it was chain eating.

D’Angelo/Papa Gino’s (two parts of one larger company) is a New England-specific chain offering pizza and sandwiches. It’s one of my favorite places to get a sandwich, and the pizza is solid too.

I love fast food too much and always enjoy trying chains around the country when I travel. Zaxby’s and Raising Cane’s are my favorites, although the later does exist in Boston, but ask someone for a New England fast food chain and the answer you’ll almost always get is Dunkin Donuts.

I don’t drink coffee and I like good donuts and muffins so I don’t patronize Dunks all that much. However, D’Angelo makes damn good sandwiches that are vastly superior to Subway or a place like Firehouse.

Considering it was a combo restaurant I got a little of each. It was a slice of cheese and a Korean barbecue steak sandwich.

It’s a good slice. Of all the chain pizza places this is the one I would always take, hands down. Unlike the other pizza papa, it tastes like good pizza and not a cardboard box.

As a sports writer, when you’re a high-level game (D1 college, pros, lower division NCAA tournaments) there’s always some sort of meal for the media and the arena staff. Some are catered. Some are just sandwiches from a local shop. All are passable to excellent. The only time I’ve ever forgone the free meal was when it was Papa John’s pizza. Had it once, never again. Would rather pay than eat it for free.

The sandwich rules. Sirloin, American cheese, cilantro, Sriracha cole slaw, and a spicy Korean BBQ sauce on a toasted sub roll. It’s just so damn good that I can’t recommend it enough. With the chips and drink it is, in my opinion, a perfect meal.

The Campus

Assumption University (Assumption College until 2020) is one of four colleges inside Worcester limits and the lone school with Division II sports.

Founded in 1904 by the Augustinians of the Assumption, the college was located in North Worcester and educated mainly local men of French-Canadian descent.

The famous Worcester tornado of 1953 ripped through and destroyed a good chunk of the campus, and the college moved to its current location on the west side of town in 1956. The old campus is now home to Quinsigamond Community College.

With an undergraduate enrollment just under 2,000, it’s a small and cozy campus. Tsotsis Family Academic Center

Tsotsis Family Academic Center

Emmanuel D’Alzon Library
Richard J. and Sophia Catrambone Health Sciences Building
Chapel of The Holy Spirit

Two types of campuses always strike me as quintessential New England: The small, ivory towers liberal arts school and the small Catholic college. Assumption definitely falls into the latter with a mix of mid-50s brick architecture and newer, glassy modern buildings.

I liked it and definitely want to be back. The football field is named after famous alum, and noted Southerner, Brian Kelly. The school has a lovely charm tucked away in a residential section of the city. Yes, Worcester has 200,000 people but Assumption is anything but a “city” school.

The Game

Separated by a campus road, the Plourde Recreation Center and Laska Gymnasium are the beating heart of Greyhounds athletics and wellness. The Plourde is home to the swim team and houses fitness rooms, boxing and fitness classes, and is the place for the student body to workout.

Laska Gym, named for longtime basketball coach Andrew Laska, is the beating heart of the athletic program. Home to offices, locker rooms, and the gymnasium, Greyhound sports are powered by Laska.

Laska Gymnasium

And they have a helluva logo.

The gym itself is unique in that it’s one of the few lower-division facilities in the region with seating on all four sides. Everything is bright and the school colors of blue & white.

A quirk of the gym are placards adorning the walls on either side with the names of fellow Northeast-10 conference members. However, they need an update. As you can see below, UMass-Lowell is still on the wall despite having transitioned up to Division 1 almost a decage ago.

Merrimack, which went D1 in 2019, was on a placard on the opposite side of the gym paired with LeMoyne.

The game itself featured a cross-division matchup with the Hounds hosting the SCSU Owls. Southern Connecticut came ready to play with Jessica Fressle, who ranked in the top-60 nationally in both points and rebounds per game.

And SCSU came ready to go.

Early on, the Greyhounds opened up a seven-point lead thanks to strong shooting and good ball movement. But thanks to seven points from Fressle, the Owls were able to close the gap to one point by the end of the first quarter.

This Katie Williamson bucket early in the second quarter cut it to 18-16 Assumption.

But then, like greyhounds tend to do, Assumption raced away. Assumption scored 11 points in the next 1:48 to open a 13-point lead. Lauren Hammersley had a pair of triples. Meghan Cramb had a three. And just like that, the rout was on.

The lead stayed in the teens all the way to halftime. Assumption kept finding ways to score, and the Owls couldn’t figure out the best way to adjust to the Greyhounds. Hammersley had 11 of her 14 points for Assumption in the second quarter.

Any chance of a comeback after halftime was extinguished almost immediately. Assumption scored the first 10 points out of the break to take a 50-25 lead.

And that was it. The rest of the game was maintenance from Assumption. The Owls never cut the deficit to less than 20, and Assumption led by as many as 30 points in the fourth quarter.

Even with an excellent 16-point, 14-rebound performance from Fressle, Southern Connecticut could do nothing except do themselves in. The Owls turned the ball over 23 times and shot just 32.1 percent from the field.

Assumption had 17 assists, SCSU had 6. Assumption had 32 points off the bench, SCSU had one. Assumption had 20 offensive rebounds, SCSU had 13.

It was all Greyhounds all day as they rolled in a rout.

Assumption 76, Southern Connecticut State 48. Final.
Time of game: 1:36:16
Player of the game: Marina Callahan (Assumption) – 14 pts, 10 rbd, 5 ast, 2 blk

I certainly enjoyed the short drive to this one, and Division II basketball is the four-leaf clover of New England. With so few programs it’s always a treat to see and experience. The Greyhound women have a long history of success.

Earlier this season Kerry Phayre, now in her 26th season, notched her 400th win as coach of Assumption. She’s made multiple NCAA tournaments and has kept Assumption in the thick of the Northeast-10 hunt for years.

I love supporting schools like this. I love getting out to the D2 and D3 campuses and shining a light on them. Duke and Ohio State and UCLA will get plenty of publicity, but your local small school won’t. Go support them. You’ll be glad you did.

Thanks for reading. Here’s one for the road, and it’s one I listen to every time I’m traveling for The Hoops Project.

THP #28: Hot Mic

January 8, 2022 – Framingham, Massachusetts
Framingham State vs. Westfield State
Men’s Basketball

Along with writing I also broadcast games. You’ll get to hear me in the video clips in the game recap below, at least as much as gets through due to the mask.

I never took a single broadcast class in college. I’ve just always loved the rhythm of a good broadcast and learned it all by observing. And in my short time on the mic I think I’ve done a lot. Five different sports, all three divisions, games on ESPN +/3/ocho, and I even did a game on TV. It’s been a blast.

I enjoy the small, local beat. After a decade of covering high school and college sports for papers and websites of all sizes it’s nice to be able to be done with work when the horn sounds instead of just getting started.

And with that I want to peel back the curtain for anyone interested in becoming a broadcaster or just curious as to how it all works and give you four tips and factoids about small-time broadcasting

It’s a dance.

That’s great that you know the history of the last 10 years of a team you’re covering, but if you can’t showcase that information in an entertaining way then it’s best left unsaid. If you’re in a two-person booth, the ability to flow and work well with your partner supersedes everything else.

The play-by-play person should work to make whoever is on color look good and vice versa. It’s a vocal dance, and you want to move with your partner, not against them.

For color analysts: don’t look at the ball

I heard Cris Collinsworth say this in an interview years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. The play-by-play is looking at the ball. The camera is following the ball. The fans at home are watching the ball. As the analyst, you need to be looking anywhere else.

It can be hard and chaotic, and you get better at it over time. If you want to be a good broadcaster it is definitely a worthwhile skill to learn.

It’s harder than it looks

“Oh c’mon, you’re just talking about a game you’re paid to be at. That’s a dream job!”

Yeah, it’s fun. It’s still hard. It took me a while to realize that me broadcasting is almost like being a pro wrestling character. It took me several years to find my broadcasting voice and learn how to talk with out ums and uhs on the air.

Working at the local level also means that I rarely work with the same partner on multiple games. So knowing the mechanics of how to talk on air allows me and my partner to mesh quick and work a good show.

Once you find your voice and have a rhythm, you can do any game. The only difference between a small D2 game and the Super Bowl becomes a factor of scale. The mechanics stay the same.

Focusing can be the other difficult part. If it’s an 80-50 basketball game with lots of fouls, you can’t just check out to chat with friends or go grab a pizza slice from the kitchen. Staying engaged in those types of games can be brutal.

Sometimes ESPN doesn’t mean ESPN

I’ve done a few dozen games on ESPN+/3. The only “ESPN” thing about them has been the graphics and the streaming site you watch it on. Everything else is a mix of a team of freelancers, students, and a small handful of full-time university staff.

ESPN, and other networks are the same on the streaming side, is mostly just a distribution house in this instance. With every league having broadcast deals the network simply can’t staff every one with full-time network broadcasters.

So, in order to make the games make the screen, there’s a massive group of freelancers and students across the country helping to make them happen. And we’ll travel. I only do games in Massachusetts and New Hampshire but one guy I’ve worked with lives in Connecticut and casts a wide net that includes schools in Boston, New Jersey, and New York.

That’s a little bit of inside baseball on local broadcasting. Hope you enjoyed it as much I as love doing it.

And with that, here’s your moment with Bella.

The Good Eats

Framingham sits in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts, which is a group of cities and towns between Boston and Worcester. A city in its own right, with a population of just over 72,000, Framingham is the most populous municipality in the region.

Being Jewish means always knowing where the best deli is, and I’ve had Kugel’s circled for a long time. As bare bones as it gets, Kugel’s is all about the food.

I started with the matzo ball soup, and while it looked the part it was sadly lacking for one thing: seasoning in the matzo ball. The chicken noodle soup in the bowl was amazing, there just needed to be a bit more salt in the ball itself.

I also treated myself to two meat knishes. It’s finely ground beef and dough, what’s not to love? The ones I grew up eating for Rosh Hashanah were from a deli that used a cakier dough, and these ones were more in the puff pastry family. Regardless, they were excellent.

The main event was a chicken salad club on rye with the works.

A monster of a sandwich, it satisfied in a big way. And the sides shined. The fries rocked, the cole slaw was great, and half-sour pickles are the best flavor of pickle. An awesome way to cap the meal.

Things to Do

By now you know I’m a sucker for an art museum, and just down the road from the main campus there was one of the sneaky best art museums I’ve been to in New England. The second floor of the art building just off of Framingham Common, the Danforth Museum may be the most hidden hidden gem.

When you get off the elevator it immediately dumps you into the museum, and for $7 there is a whole lot to see. My personal favorite was Foiled Again by J. Jones. For one, the name was a pun, and the colors of the piece made me do a double take.

Usually I’m not a still life fan, but the works on display made me question that. So bright and vibrant and full of life, I much preferred the work here than the “classic” still lifes like Sunflowers.

On permanent display was an exhibit on Meta Vaux Warwick Fuller. One of America’s first prominent Black sculptors, she lived and created in Framingham for the last 60 years of her life. The exhibit included a full recreation of her attic studio as well as showcasing her works.

The thing I love most about museums is that they can always surprise you with something new. Sometimes you stumble upon a full-sized T-Rex and sometimes you come across an art piece made in a way you never knew existed.

Rebec Player by Esther Geller

Geller made this using encaustic, which is the method of heating and mixing dry pigment with wax. The picture doesn’t do it justice. The colors were so rich, and the texture was a mix of grainy pitting and reflective shine.

Geller painted Rebec Player in 1947. It was in her obituary photo when she passed at 93 in 2015, and here it is still moving people today. Four years earlier, Kenny Sailors unleashed the jump shot onto the world of basketball, and a beautiful rainbow still moves people today.

One of the galleries was focused on indigenous art and what “American” art even is. My favorite was this bright, bouncy piece from Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

From the Salish & Kootenai tribes in what is known today as Montana, Smith’s work showcased Native art styles and forced the conversation about what is history and who gets to curate it.

40,000 Years

Being in this gallery got me thinking of my own place in this chaotic America. Being Jewish, I’m always wondering if I’m welcome in certain spaces and how much of myself I can set free. What it means to be “American”.

Growing up in New England there is little to no Native culture. I live on the historic land of the Nipmuc and grew up on the land of the Pentucket. So much is named for tribes and their landmarks but little time is given to their history or current existence. Nipmuc and Pentucket are both the names of local high schools.

Who is American? What is American? I feel like those questions will always have a changing, nebulous answer based on what the asker wants the response to be.

The Campus

Framingham State is one of the nine small state universities in the Massachusetts State Universities system, which is separate from the UMass system.

With the exception of MassArt, which doesn’t have sports, they all share an athletic conference (Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference/MASCAC). More than that they were all founded in the 19th century as teacher’s colleges, then called normal schools.

Framingham State is the second-oldest school in the league, founded in 1839, but certainly looked modern and up-to-date even under a fresh coat of snow.

The McCarthy Center is the beating heart of campus, as most student unions are, and is a sleek, contemporary building that stands out from the crowd of older brick and stone facades.

Dwight Hall, home of the president’s office

With roughly 3,200 undergrads, and 4,500 students overall, Framingham State is mid-sized compared to the rest of the MASCAC.

The Game

The Athletic and Recreation Center is home to the campus store as well as classrooms, multiple gymnasiums, as well as offices and other facilities for the school’s 14 teams. Opened in 2001, the $12 million facility feels like it was just opened this year.

A quirk of the layout means that the gym itself is down a few dozen stairs from the entry way, giving way to a slightly ominous view up from the lobby.

And then there’s the high ceiling. With seating for roughly 1,000 people, the ceiling can make the gym feel like a cavern even if it is well-lit.

And on this day it was Brendon Hamilton and the Westfield State Owls in town. Hamilton entered the game second in all of Division III with 15.7 rebounds a game to go with his 15.4 points a night. At just 6’6, I was excited to see him go to work, and he did not disappoint.

On paper, the 10-2 Owls looked to easily be favored but the early going was anyone’s game.

Ivan Nyantenji and Jahden Erold did everything they could for Framingham in the first half. Nyantenji led the Rams with 17 points and ran the point smoothly.

Erold pitched in with 10 of his own.

The problem was that no one else scored for the Rams in the first half, and the Owls kept the offense diverse and put their mark on the game heading into halftime.

Westfield went into the break up seven and never let the Rams get closer than six in the second half and Hamilton was a big reason why.

It was such a pleasure to see him play. He was three or four plays ahead from those around him when he was on the floor and made it all look effortless. Now, he certainly has good teammates around him, but when he had the ball he was like watching a dancer entrance you on stage.

While Erold finished with 27 points, and Nyantenji had 20, only one other Ram had more than two points. Nine players for Westfield had more than two points.

And even in just 28 minutes, Hamilton stole the show.

Westfield State 69, Framingham State 60. Final.
Player of the game: Brendon Hamilton (WSU) – 18 pts, 13 rbd, 6 blks, 2 stls
Time of Game: 1:31:38

This was a fun one. The MASCAC will always have a special place for me because it was the first league I ever saw live way back in the late 90s. I remember seeing Framingham in the 2004 conference final get taken apart by a monstrous Salem State team. The MASCAC has always been the backbone of my love for D3 basketball even if I’m not around as much as I used to be. And the Danforth was one heckuva hidden gem.

Lastly, my friend Clayton Trutor has a book coming out next month chronicling the rise of professional sports in Atlanta and the intersection of politics, economics, and a whole lot more. I read some drafts early on and it is a rollicking good time. If you’re a fan of sports, history, politics, or any combination I’d love if you check it out here. Thank you.

And in honor of that final score, here’s one for the road…