January 20, 2009 6:21 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
WASHINGTON -- In the next several days, you're likely to read many accounts of these days by special columnists (even some sportswriters) who have spent the last few days being whisked from inaugural ball to celebrity gala, who've worn tuxedos to fine restaurants and will sit in special boxes watching the swearing-in -- so close to the podium as to see the pebble-grain pattern on the Bible. You will be treated to first-person stories written expressly to help you live this historic moment through their privileged eyes.
None of these will include sleeping two hours in a truck stop in Maryland, then sitting in four a.m. traffic among a sea of cars with license plates as far-flung as Oregon, Florida and New Mexico (honk, honk -- hello, Rhode Island!). Very few will mention the Greenbelt Metro station, heat packs, sharing Nutri-Grain bars with strangers, buying goofy XXL Obama-head t-shirts for the folks back home, or watching history unfold on a Jumbotron with 2 million new friends.
And that's all well and good. There's a long history of sending representatives from the hoi polloi into high society to send back missives on they've found, and a history just as long of those reporters becoming drunk on their own power of the press. But this time, the whole cycle feels incredibly inauthentic. That wasn't the way this moment was put together. Like a successful mid-major basketball team, this was built from the ground up, with no silver spoons or legacy or reputation to fall back on.
But we're not here to talk politics. All I know is that as of 12 noon Eastern time, there will be a basketball player in the White House. This wasn't something we could miss out on being a part of.
Hello, Bally Tuesday
As promised, a winner in last week's find-the-article contest. Chip W., step forward and claim your new orange friend. Use the form to send your mailing address, and use the same e-mail you used when you sent in your submission.
We're going to have to take one more week off to ease the Bally backlog; it's been a trying week here at TMM Mobile HQ, and we're focusing on making sure other things happen. A Bally-out, if you will.
While I'm still a little heartbroken that Jose Juan Barea didn't call up and take care of our sudden operating deficit in one swoop, I have to thank the many donors who have brought us more than halfway to our total. I see a lot of names I know in the list, and also a lot of names I don't. It's very humbling to know that I'm doing a good enough job to merit this kind of consideration from total strangers, and I can only hope to continue to live up to your trust.
By Sunday, pessimism had given way to optimism that this could actually happen; raising over $1,000 with nothing more than a 1,000-word essay (over a holiday weekend, no less) was a complete surprise. By Monday there was enough momentum that I spent a lot of time thinking about the future of the site. Assuming that I no longer have a traditional national outlet in 2009-10, and considering that the low click-through advertising rate makes corporate sponsorship unlikely, pledge drives may be a regular feature here. The trick now is to invent incentives for people to give.
Here's the short-term plan, a test of what could be a future of improved interactivity. Because ESPN.com can't afford to send me to a BracketBuster as in years past, and my audience can, where I go will be up to you. If and when we get to $4,000, everybody who sends a donation -- no matter how big or small -- will receive a ballot by e-mail, and will be invited to vote on which game I cover for this site. I will fly to that location, write posts (including my insanoid game capsules, which will find a new home here) and take pictures, then slip back into my regular schedule.
Does that sound exciting? Like the future of sports journalism? If you haven't done so, please consider doing so.
This could all end up being very interesting. It's not a new idea, but imagine a Season 6 with an itinerary that's voted on by donors to the site -- you tell me where to go, and I go there and cover the games. Of the people, by the people... the way it oughta be.
Atlantic Sun: In last night's biggest OH Suh-NAP! game, East Tennessee State (7-1) destroyed three-time champion Belmont at home by 30 by holding the Bruins to 28 percent shooting and dominating them on the glass. Life's been tough for the Bucs since being relegated to the A-Sun from the SoCon three years ago (a league they had to abandon when the school voted to drop American-style football): all the talent in the conference, but no rings. Superguard Courtney Pigram may be a name you know if you keep half an eye on the league, but Kevin Tiggs is the team's scoring star. He shot 9-for-13 for 22 points against Belmont, which fell to 6-2. Jacksonville, which easily won at Campbell's new building over the weekend, is the other 7-1 team in what promises to be a great three-horse race down the stretch.
MEAC: Howard started the season on a 14-game win streak, but it might surprise you to know that it wasn't all guarantees... the school is rich enough that it doesn't have to play that many. The Bison (2-3) won their second straight last night in our game, a nine-point ESPNU-er over S.C. State. They'll get league co-leader Morgan State next, which was down in Florida last night chomping on Bethune-Cookman by 34 points. The Bears share the lead with Florida A&M, which held off Coppin State, 60-56.
SWAC: The Prairie View feel-good story continues; that team is now 5-0 in the SWAC and has drawn even to 9-9 (highest win total in six years... in mid-January!) on the season as a whole. In our MLK G!O!T!N!, the Panthers disposed of Jackson State 70-59, a victory keyed by the team's third straight outrebounding scenario. Jan. 31 is shaping up to be a huge day in this league, as that's when PVAM will go up against the other current undefeated, Alabama State. The Hornets are enjoying their bye week after winning at cross-state rival Alabama A&M by 12 last Saturday.
U'useless Stat of the Day
You may have heard from coaches that the most (u')useless stat in basketball is the block. If you're the home team, you get a big ovation out of a swat, but when it comes down to it, the ball usually goes out of bounds and the other team gets to reset with an inbound play or a quick hitter under the basket.
So far in Division I-only contests, there have been 108 examples of teams having double-digit blocks in a game. Just 41 of those were by teams beneath the Red Line. In the top 10 blocking performances by mids, five of those teams lost. Furthermore, the top three single-game leading teams fell short. On Dec. 19, High Point compiled 17 blocks but lost by three to Youngstown State (Cruz Daniels had eight). North Texas overcame Louisiana-Lafayette's 15 swats the day before, despite just one of its own; the Mean Green still won that sun Belt tilt by 14. Fairleigh Dickinson blocked 15 shots in an NEC game but fell by eight. Blocks: who needs 'em?
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