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Vol. 51, No. 2 • January 2014 • .pdf version
Record-setting number of entries in best-writing contest
A record-setting number of entries turned the USBWA's best-writing contest into one of the most competitive in several years.
There were no double place-winners for the first time in several years among a total of 179 entries, an average of nearly 36 per category.
The USBWA judge also reported that there were more entries from women than ever before. Women took three of the five places in magazine-length features.
This year's winners were Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com in magazine writing, Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated in game coverage/spot news, John Feinstein of the Washington Post in enterprise/investigative, Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton Daily News in column writing and Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports for moderate length features.
The contest is sponsored by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
O'Neil won the magazine categories for her story on basketball in Indiana. She wrote:
"What separates Indiana from other places with a steady hoops heartbeat – Kentucky, Kansas, Tobacco Road – is that here, it is not simply about the Hoosiers.
"The love affair is far more personal and intimate, almost in reverse of everyplace else. It doesn't start with devotion to IU – or even Butler's famed Hinkle Fieldhouse – that trickles down.
"It starts with the basketball goal that, by its mere presence, redefines a space from a simple driveway or hayloft into a gym, and trickles up.
"Locals love to tell stories about how they played on goals nailed to pretty much anything old-fashioned ingenuity could conjure …
"As I drove along Route 50, there it was, on a farm off the left side of the road – a gigantic silver silo, and stuck on its front, a basketball goal – a vision of Hoosier nostalgia and heartland hope. …
"I stared at the silo for a bit … but as I continued my weeklong visit through the state, I found myself thinking of it again and again and what it represented.
"California has its wineries; New Jersey its shore towns. In Massachusetts, you can walk the Freedom Trail; in Kentucky, you travel the Bourbon Trail.
"In Indiana, it is the gyms defined by the hanging of a basketball goal – hung majestically at Assembly Hall, where IU plays, or simply on the side of a silo – that connect the state."
Winn won the game coverage/spot news category for his account of the horrific injury suffered by Louisville's Kevin Ware during the NCAA tournament:
"While coach Rick Pitino was delivering an impassioned message about Ware – 'If we don't get him home to Atlanta (near where he attended high school, and the site of the Final Four), it wasn't worth playing this season' – equipment manager Vinny Tatum had an idea to get some of Ware's spirit back on the floor.
"With just over eight minutes left, and the Cardinals' halftime lead of three having ballooned to 16, Tatum sent a manager to the locker room to dig Ware's jersey out of a duffel bag and bring it to the bench. In the final minute it was handed to forward Chane Behanan, who calls Ware his 'blood brother' and had been so distraught after the injury that Pitino had to remove him from the game. Behanan removed his own jersey and replaced it with Ware's, and thumped his blood brother's number with his fist as the final seconds counted down. 'We did this for Kevin,' Behanan said. 'I just wanted him to be there.'"
Archdeacon delivered his award-winning column about a middle-school basketball tournament:
"Thirteen months ago – when her lively young son suddenly died following surgery for a just-discovered brain tumor – Sheila Bernard was left reeling.
"Her world dark, her grief suffocating, she said she was looking for some 'little glimmer' that would help her cope with the loss of her 11-year-old boy, Parker.
"Tonight, she, her husband Scott, their 18-year-old daughter Peyton and many of Parker's school friends, family members and fellow hoops players in the area basketball fraternity he was so much a part of will get some glimmer.
"It will come when Chester Golson – minus one leg, but with a brand new kidney and some renewed zip in his step – walks onto the court at Bellbrook Middle School and tosses up the ball for the ceremonial opening tip of the second annual Parker Bernard Basketball Tournament, a three-day, three-gym event involving 54 third- to seventh-grade teams from across south- west and central Ohio. "The 54-year-old Golson is alive thanks to Parker's donated kidney."
Feinstein won the enterprise/investigative category by writing about coaches – including Northern Illinois' Mark Montgomery, Jeff Jones of American, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Butler's Brad Stevens, Syracuse assistant Tim O'Toole and former Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus – in a series of stories over consecutive Sundays.
Goodman, who now works for ESPN, won the moderate-length feature category for the story of Southwest Minnesota State coach Brad Bigler, who within the same year lost his mother-in-law to a kayaking accident and his son to a collision involving a drunk driver.
Goodman wrote: "When Bigler turned the corner at the courthouse, he saw him. Dana Schoen. His child's killer. Their eyes met for a split second, and Schoen immediately dropped his head. The adrenaline had begun to consume Bigler, but he grabbed his wife, now sobbing at the sight of Schoen, and walked up the stairs.
"It was Dec. 4 at the plea hearing. The Biglers had since learned the accident had marked the third time that Schoen was arrested for driving while intoxicated. They had yet to hear anything from the man who was convicted in 2000 and again in 2005. In both instances, his blood-alcohol content was greater than 0.20 percent, or 2½ times the legal limit in the state. There had been no apology, no remorse, no contact.
"However, the Biglers won't allow themselves to be overcome with rage, despite the fact Schoen took their youngest child 168 days into his life. The community has been extremely supportive of Bigler, who was basically raised in the Southwest Minnesota State program as a player, assistant coach and now head coach of the Mustangs. Within a week of the car accident, a meal-and-work calendar had been filled out through November, with families delivering meals, mowing the lawn and doing other chores to ease the burden. A Drake Philip Bigler memorial was established, and more than $20,000 has been raised in the past five-plus months.
"He's a better person than we are," said Southwest Minnesota State Director of Athletics Chris Hmielewski. "The way he and his family have handled the tragedies over the past year. We have all learned from Brad and Heather – and can continue to learn from their strength."
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