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The NFLs presentation of Draft day was over celebrated despite the looming possibility of no football next season.

Once again, i found myself getting all excited for Draft Day last Thursday Apr 28.

Me and a couple of friends of mine always go to a local bar to watch the coverage of the NFL draft and this year was no different.   And every year i watch as the Washington Redskins make good draft picks and yet they cant seem to put together a winning season.

As Mike Shanahan goes into his second year as Head coach, i thought he may have some tricks up his sleeves.   And that was exactly the case.   Since the Redskins had the tenth over all pick i was certain they were going to draft a quarterback because right now our team needs a leader.

After Donovan McNabb came to town and basically was mistreated by the Redskins organization, we have been forced to look else where for leadership.

Some of the players in the 2011 NFL draft that i thought we were going to pick were.

  • Blaine Gabbert
  • Julio Jones
  • Patrick Peterson
  • Nick Fairley

And at one point in time i even let myself think that Cam Newton would fall all the way down the draft to the Redskins with the number ten draft pick.

So, there i was just like every other year waiting for the Redskins to make their draft pick and i was pleasantly surprised.

Right before we were supposed to pick, i was informed that we had traded away our draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for quarterback Blaine Gabbert.   At first, i was confused but after hearing more information i was happy.

After the draft was all over with Mike Shanahan was able to create 13 draft picks for the Redskins.

I would have to say not a bad desicion considering this team needs to completely rebuild and find youth.   Last season the Redskins were one of the oldest teams in the league.   And now, with all our new rookies we should be able to mold and create a young group of excellent football players.

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Going into her sophomore year of high school in 1973, Carolyn Rodenburg was ready to leave behind the drama that was her family life.

As a child, her parents’ relationship was a constant struggle.   Her parents would fight for hours and would consistently overlook their children’s needs.   Carolyn grew up in a little three-bedroom house in downtown Manassas, Va., with her three brothers.

Sitting down in her dining room on April 11, 2011, Carolyn told me.   “Gary was the oldest.   He was the one we all looked up to.   He led by example.   He was a straight A student and was active in many school sports.”

“Dale was the second oldest,” Carolyn said.   “He followed in Garys’ footsteps and would always try to out-do Gary at any opportunity he could get; sometimes he would.   Gary and Dale would constantly compete.  But, the competition between them was a good thing because they were always pushing each other to be better.   All they had was the competition between them.   They used this as an escape.   I was the third child and the only girl.   My brothers looked after me. “

“Then came my younger brother Johnny,” Carolyn said.   “I was the closest one to him because my other two brothers were concerned with more mature things.   I raised Johnny and for a while we were best friends.”

Her walk from elementary school took her past Stonewall Jackson High School.   She would often stop for a little bit to study the cheerleader’s routines.   As the years rolled by, her family life got worse but her love for cheerleading became greater.   Cheerleading had become an escape for her.   She knew she wanted to be a high school cheerleader and she dreamed of one day wearing a Stonewall uniform.   She would practice the routines she saw with her younger brother Johnny in the front yard.

However, as her freshman year of high school got closer, her parents’ relationship was coming to an end.   The summer before she was to start high school at Stonewall, her mother discovered that her father had been seeing another woman.   The tension between her parents had put her dream of cheerleading one year out of reach.

After her parents finalized the divorce, her mother soon met another man and got married.   Carolyn was then informed she was going to move in with him.   She would no longer be attending the high school she had always dreamed of.   Instead she had to attend the rival school, Osbourne.   Her new step-father had no interest in raising kids and made that very apparent.

“I would always feel like he never wanted us,” Carolyn said.   “He would hardly ever talk to us, and when he did it would be something nasty.   He never took an interest in anything us kids did.   In fact, he would sometimes discourage us from doing things that would make us successful.   There was no love in that house and everybody knew it.   I had to find an escape.”

Cheerleading was her escape.

Because she had to move, she wasn’t able to register for cheerleading in time.   She still practiced daily because it made her feel good.   She knew that the very next year she would have her chance.

“The reason I loved cheerleading was because it gave me reason to get out of the home,” Carolyn said.    “It became more than just a sport to me, it became a passion.”

When her sophomore year came around, she finally tried out for the JV squad and made it.   Since she had never been on a squad before, it took her some time to learn and adjust.   Her dedication elevated her to one of the elite members on the squad.

In the summer after her sophomore year, she attended her first cheerleading camp at Old Dominion University.   The camp consisted of more than 50 schools from all around Virginia.   Each squad had to compete against each other until there was a clear-cut champion.   Her squad persevered all the way to the final round where she had to face none other than the school she idealized as a child, Stonewall.

As the results came in, she knew she had beaten the school she once dreamed of cheering for.

“It was at that moment that I knew I could do great things with cheerleading,” Carolyn said.   “The gratification and success had finally come.”

Little did Carolyn know that a video of her final cheer at camp had been sent to be judged nationally.   Her junior year had started, she made the varsity squad, and she was ready to improve her cheering skills.

“The principal called everyone in the school to the gymnasium and they announced that we were chosen as national champions for all the camps,” Carolyn said.

The Osbourne football program hadn’t won a game in 13 years, but after the announcement was made, the bleachers began to fill up.

“People had come to see us cheer,” Carolyn said.   “Sometimes, fans would forget there was a football game going on because they were too focused on us.”

After high school, Carolyn attended Radford University.   She had to work a job in the cafeteria at Manassas hospital in order to pay for her first year tuition.

“I loved being a Radford Highlander cheerleader,” Carolyn said.   “We got special privileges and got to travel to many different universities.”

In her sophomore year, she applied to be an instructor for the United States Cheerleading Association.   She gathered many photographs of herself and recommendations and sent them in for consideration.   They accepted her application and invited her to come to the first round of try outs at Ohio State University.

“In order to get there, I had to get an on-campus job as a proctor,” Carolyn said,   “where I would sit in the lobby of the men’s dorm and not let girls in.   I worked all through the nights on weekends.   The try-out day happened to be on a weekend.   So, I had to work all through the night, then drive up to Ohio State in the morning.

“After all this, I had to get ready to compete with hundreds of girls and boys from the East Coast.   There was literally no break I made it just in time and had to find the energy to compete in Ohio State’s football stadium.   It was all worth it because I made it to the second cut.”

The field had been narrowed from 500 people to 100.   Those 100 people selected had to go to Michigan State University to compete for the final 32 spots a month later.

Returning to Radford, she had a month to prepare for the final cut.   She spent that month trying to raise the money to travel to Michigan, but as bills piled up in her mail box, she realized she wasn’t going to be able to afford to make the trip.

“My mom never gave me a penny in my life,” Carolyn said.   “But this time she gave me $75 for a plane ride.   It was my first plane ride ever.”

With the financial help from her mom, she was able to afford a plane flight and a hotel room for one night.   The added boost allowed Carolyn to focus all of her energy on cheering.   She competed for one of the final 30 spots and succeeded.   They assigned her to the West Coast squad, which consisted of five girls and a chaperone.

“We went through 25 different states that summer,” Carolyn said.   “We would travel in a station wagon for three days then have camp for four days.   I got to see many different college campuses and meet all sorts of people.   I was truly blessed to be able to do this.”

Carolyn returned to Radford a more mature and experienced woman and was made captain of the cheerleading squad.

But, no matter how successful she became, she could not escape the problems that surrounded her family life.   On Thanksgiving Day, Carolyn received a call that would change her life forever.   Her mother had passed away unexpectedly earlier that day.

Her family was never the same.   She returned home for the funeral and sought comfort among her brothers.   Leaving the funeral, she said goodbye to her step-father for the last time.   Early in her drive back to Radford, Carolyn decided to visit her childhood home.   Like always when she got home in the past her younger brother Johnny was waiting for her.   This time was no different.

Carolyn graduated from Radford University in 1981.   She had accomplished something no cheerleader had ever accomplished.   She was the first four year cheerleader and two year captain Radford had ever had.

Like she had done so well in the past, she used cheerleading as an escape.   But no matter how much cheerleading she did, she could never fill that void of a loving family life.

Carolyn graduated from Radford University in 1981.   A couple years went by, and she decided to tryout to be a Washington Redskins cheerleader.   With all of her passion and determination, she made it past 300 women and to the final round of cuts.

But, just one day before the final round, she was hit with more information that would change her life.   She was pregnant.   She knew that the thing she used for so many years to escape had to come to an end.

On Oct 12, 1984, Carolyn gave birth to her first child, Stacy.

“As I looked at my new baby girl, I knew I had the family I had always dreamed of,” Carolyn said.   “I finally had something to really cheer about.   I was given a bigger purpose in life.   I taught my daughter everything I knew about cheerleading and I thank God every day for the opportunities I had.”

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After a heroic men’s basketball final four run in 2006, George Mason University has made itself more visible than ever before.

Athletic director Tom O’Connor visited George Mason University on Thursday April, 14.

“During the final four we had over a billion dollars of free advertisements,” O’Connor said.   “It gave the university visibility, it allowed us to tell our good stories because there were more inquiries.   There was a direct coorilation to the marketing of the university.”

GMU gained a lot of publicity and popularity after the final four run.   The huge success of the men’s basketball team generated more than just money for the university.

“It gave us a sense of community'” O’Connor said.

With the absence of a football program at GMU many students are left wondering, what if.

O’Connnor has done  five formal studies trying to imagine what a football program would do for the university.

“To build a football stadium it would cost $80 million,” O’Connor said.  “It would cost the university a three million dollar deficit each year.”

As it stands CAA football is costing, the universities who have them, between two point five and three million dollars a year.    Tuition would not raise for GMU students but student fees would.

However, there are many benefits to a football program, not to mention a bigger sense of community.

“It would help the other 22 sports at George Mason,” O’Connor said.   “Women’s sports would be fully funded.”

O’Connor would like to see a football program at GMU.   He has been around football for many years and understands the game.

As it stands GMU athletics break even at 16 million dollars a year.   A football program would change the face of GMU athletics.   O’Connor’s job is to make sure it will not affect the overall goal of the GMU athletics, which is quality, balance, sportsmanship, and fun.

“The university first and foremost is to educate,” O’Connor said.   “Make sure the athletes are learning something.   Being involved in community activities is over winning.   And  sportsmanship is huge.   Most of all I stress fun, you have to have fun”

As the debate rages on for a football program it appears the only chance GMU has is to catch fire.   O’Connor is not used to doing things on a small scale.   If he does introduce a football program to GMU we can rest assure knowing that he is going to do it big.

This means big opponents and big game days.   We can learn by the success of the GMU final four run.   If we beat big name teams and shoot for the championship we cannot fail.

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FAIRFAX — Fresh off a home victory against the James Madison Dukes, the Patriot’s mens baseball team stumbled 11-9 trying to capture the second game of the three-game series on Saturday at Spuhler Field.

The Patriots headed into the ninth inning tied at eight.   Patriots coach Bill Brown had some inspirational words for his Patriots going out in the ninth inning.

“You’ve got to focus on playing some defense and just try to get three outs clean,” Brown said.

But after a collision in the outfield cost the patriots a triple they weren’t able to recover.

“When you’re the home team, you’ve always got the last at bat, so you know what you have to do,” Brown said.   “We weren’t able to do it.   They started off on a ball where the two kids collided in the outfield.  That’s one of those fluke things where it turns into a triple right away and it’s tough to pitch out of that.   And then the one kid put a swing on the ball and got it up in the air enough and out it goes.  So all of a sudden you’re looking at making up three runs.”

With the score 11-8, the Patriots knew they needed to make some big plays to contend for the lead.

“So then you come back in and say if they can do it, we can do it,” Brown said.   “We swung the bat just as well as they did all day long.   And we got the tying run to the plate and quit honestly the winning run to the plate.   That’s all you can really ask of yourself at that point.   We had the opportunity to win and it just didn’t happen for us today.”

Senior outfielder Shane Davis had a triple and a home run at critical times to help the Patriots.   With a full count and two outs and with runners on first and third, Davis had his chance to put the exclamation point on an all-star day.   Unfortunately for Davis and the Patriots could not wrap up the game and series.

“Shane’s been spectacular for us,” Brown said.   “I mean, you saw what he did today.   You’re talking about a home run.   You’re talking about a triple; driving in critical runs.   He’s done that for us on a consistent basis.”

The Patriots will attempt to close out the series on Sunday at Spuhler Field.

“We have to win the series,” Brown said.   “We understand where we are in the league standings.   We are literally playing for our life every weekend.  We really emphasize coming in here and winning this series.   Madison is a good team, they have some injuries right now but they are a very good team.   And to have the opportunity to win the series is still encouraging.   If we can pull that off tomorrow we’ll look back and say this was a good weekend.”

Even with the loss to the Dukes, the Patriots still maintain a stellar home field record.   This game puts the Patriots at 9-4-1 at home.

“It’s a comfort level.  You’re familiar with, not just the field you play on, but your surroundings,” Brown said.   “You know you’re in your own locker room as opposed to traveling back and forth on buses.”

Bill Brown has been with many teams in his thirty years at George Mason University; but none quite like the one he has now.

“They all differ,” Brown said.   “This is kind of a team in transition.  At times it has been frustrating but we also have to temper that with the fact that this is a brand new team.   On the field right now, nobody played in the same position they did a year ago.   We don’t have anybody back.   We’re new all the way around.  It is tough because you have growing pains when that happens. And we have suffered some growing pains, but the flip side is it’s exciting.   You can see as you play you get better and you see what the future brings.”

The 2011 Patriots don’t have a lot of seniors on the roster, but they work with what they have got.   Senior pitcher Thomas J. O’Grady is playing his fifth and final season with the Patriots and his time has had its highs and its lows.   In 2009, O’Grady made just one appearance before suffering a season ending injury to his pitching-elbow.

“When you have Tommy John surgery it takes a while to come back,” Brown said.   “Normally it happens to someone early in the year.   It takes almost eighteen months to recover.   You can get back in twelve which puts you right back on the front end of the college season.  It is hard to do that so he has persevered.   That’s really almost a two year injury for a kid.   Now, obviously there’s a comfort level with how he throws.   He’s comfortable that he’s healthy and can do the things that he wants to do.   He’s back and I’m happy for him.  T.J. O’Grady has morphed into our Friday guy.   He was outstanding yesterday.   He’s the guy who gave us a chance to even win the series.   T.J.’s role has evolved.   He’s always been a bullpen guy for us but now he is the guy who starts off every weekend.”

With a good part of the season still remaining the Patriots are trying to maintain their composure.   They have already given up nine losses in the CAA and only have three wins.   They plan on improving that record, but for the time being they have to focus on the next game.

“Right now we have to live in the moment,” Brown said.  “There is nothing more important than what happens tomorrow against James Madison.   We understand the math.   We understand what we have to do.   We can make it a little bit easier on ourselves, as we move through the rest of the schedule, by winning the game tomorrow.  We just have to start somewhere and right now it is with winning a series.   We don’t have the luxury right now of thinking ahead even a week.”

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Richard Ben Cramer was editor of The Best American Sports Writing 2004.

Glenn Stout made Richard Ben Cramer editor for that year.

Richard Ben Cramer on sports stories

  • “But i do contend that, on any given day, sports will offer us stories — the most human stories — in richer supply, and more reliably, than any other branch of endeavor.
  • “Stories are how we understand our lives”

Richard Ben Cramer illustrates the epic that we call sports

  • “In sports we have heroes — attractive individuals attractive individuals with exemplary talents.   By their grace, dedication, courage, and the luck of the draw, they have a chance to achieve, not just for themselves but for something larger — for their families or fans, their team, their town or the nation, or history.   They must contend, against long odds and serial difficulties — their own human tendency to weakness or error and the villainy of rivals — to the end of the game, the tournament, or the season, where we have for our story clear winners and losers.”

Richard Ben Cramer on picking the stories to put in his edition

  • “I tend to like stories that treat a whole life, or atleast the connection between sports and the rest of life.”

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Glenn Stout is the series editor for The Best American Sports Writing series.

In 2004 Glenn Stout made Richard Ben Cramer editor for that year.

What Glenn Stout had to say about the sports writers.

  • “Sports writers have never had a higher profile”
  • The big money that is coming into sports these days helped spawn things like cable channels, Internet sites, and all sports radio, there has been a lot of spill-over for those who write about sports for a living
  • There may not be more jobs or more markets but there is unquestionably more opportunity to become famous and make money.

Glenn Stout on the new age of sports journalism.

  • “Many of today’s best-known sports writers are not celebrated for the quality of the work on the page, but for the volume of their words spoken on the airwaves.

In today’s day and age there are so many ways to get your thoughts on the airwaves.

How Glenn Stout feels about the new form of sports journalism.

  • “They may have become famous and they may have become rich, but very few have become better writers.”

Glenn Stout on being the series editor of the Best American Sports Writing series.

  • Every season he reads every issue of hundreds of sports and general interest magazines in search of writing that might merit inclusion in The Best American Sports Writing.
  • He also contacts the sports editors of some three hundred newspapers and request their submissions.
  • He also encourages writers, readers, and all other interested parties to send him stories they have written or read in the past year that they would like to see reprinted in the series.

Glenn Stout on his choice for editor of the 2004 edition.

  • “Richard Ben Cramer approached his duties this year with enthusiasm, and the result is a volume of which we are both justifiably proud.”

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Jeff Zillgitt met with my sports journalism class on Tuesday, March 29.

Jeff Zillgitt is an NBA beat reporter for USA Today.

Jeff Zillgitt on Frank DeFord

  • When he was around 20 years old he would spend hours reading Frank DeFord’s stories.  Most other people his age were out partying and socializing but Jeff could not tare himself away from the pages.
  • He wanted to write just like Frank DeFord.
  • “Your not going to be as good as your favorite writer” Jeff Stated.  “Just because your not gonna be frank doesn’t mean you wont find your place, it is up to you to find your place.”
  • He fond out what he could do well and It is possible frank couldn’t write about the NBA.   In Jeff’s job he has to turn out copy all the time.   Frank would sometimes spend a couple months on his stories.   Also Frank didn’t have to worry about twitter or some on-line blog.

A New Age in Journalism

  • College students today are in the heart of the new age of journalism
  • “I’m fairly chained to my phone, the digital age has made things very accessible.  I tweet from my phone and my e-mail is on my phone, it gets to be a little much.” Says Jeff.
  • You don’t want to miss a story, your gonna get beat you might not break every story but you don’t want to miss a story.
  • It never hurts to use the phone and call some people, it is a good way to gain some credibility.

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The Best American Sports Writing 2004

Episode 2: Misery Has More Company

By: Bob Ryan

” Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if the Red Sox could win one?”   This is the last sentence of the story.   You can only imagine what this story is about.   The only way you did not hear about this story is if you were living under a rock in the early 2000’s.

Yes, i am talking about the Boston Red Sox victory over the New York Yankees in the World Series.   I did have to figure this out considering that the author never did specify throughout the whole story.   It was an easy task to do but if you were living under a rock than sorry you will not understand what is being said in this story.

The mood of the story was very nastalgic.   I could tell that Bob Ryan is a big baseball fan and an even bigger Red Sox fan.   His note taking during the last game of the series was very thorough.  The game he was describing was an extremely exciting game.   The winner of this game was to go to the World Series.   Bob Ryan was sure that if the Red Sox did win that they would surely win the whole thing.

In actuality that is what happened.   I enjoyed the sense of disappointment in all Red Sox fans.   He did a good job painting a picture of failure in big games in Boston.   He said they were always in the big games but they were never drinking champagne.   However, in the game he wrote about they did.

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Mike Wise is a journalists, a sports radio announcer, and a jack of all trades.   I sat down with him last Thursday at WJFK studios in Fairfax, VA.   The discussion we had resignated in my head for a while after words.

The most important thing that i took away from the meeting was a story he told.   He was watching the Arsenial Hall show while sitting on his couch.   Eddie Murphy was a featured guest on the show.   Hall asked Murphy, “What was your back-up plan if you didn’t succeed in comedy.”   Eddie replied, “Back-up plan? I never had a back-up plan, as far as I am concerned a back-up plan is setting yourself up for failure.   You do what you have a passion to do, and you just do it.”

That resignated with me because i have never looked at my life that way.   My whole life i was striving for greatness but at the same time i was constructing a back-up plan in case i failed.   I suppose if i put the energy that was used to create my back-up plan into my dreams that i may be closer.  Lucky for me i am still young and have plenty of time to achieve greatness.   However, after hearing this i have stopped thinking about playing if safe and creating a back-up plan.

Another story that Mike Wise told was about his experiences with Shaquille O’Neil.   Because he focused on his dream of writing he placed himself among a distingueshed group of writers.   In fact, Shaq had asked him to write a book with him.   When the book was finished Shaq took him on a hunting trip in his helicopter.   They had a great time and Mike had a hell of an experience.

I wish some day i could tell a story that is remotely close to this one.   The meeting was very eye-opening and inspirational.   The main thing i took away from this meeting is to go a hundred percent into your dreams.

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The Best American Sports Writing 2004

Episode 1: Making a Play for Players

By: Lisa Olson

Apparently women will do anything these days to obtain fame.   The story starts out by describing two typical professional sports player hunters.   It seems as if one of the women is involved with a highly respected sports figure.   She is now well off.   She walks around the streets all day spending her man’s money.   Mostly she was spending money on herself.   Self-image seemed to be a major concern for these women.

The other women was not as well off as the first one.   In fact, she is in a huge amount of debt.   She works hard and tries to make a good amount of money.   This seems pretty average, but it’s not.   On the inside that women is still looking to find an athlete at any means nessesary.   Her friend funds her and allows her to be in a position to catch an unsuspecting athlete.

What these women are doing is highly unethical.   They know how to put themselves in positions of power.   All they have to do is use sex.   Of course, this can sometimes be a dangerous thing.   There is the possibility of being caught, catching a disease, getting pregnant, and in some cases things can get violent.

But how can you blame them.   Today the media focuses soo much attention on athletes that people will do anything just to see them.   Athletes have become some of the most desired people.   They make a lot of money, are in pretty good shape, and have access to a life of fame.

The fame is really what most of the women want.   They see that by using an athlete they can get plugged into a different social class.   A social class they may not be able to enter without giving themselves to an athlete.

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