Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In which I take on Rick Reilly and defend Jimmer

AP Photo

So, the day after BYU loses to Florida and the season is suddenly over, this comes up on ESPN.com, saddening Cougar fans even further:

"Jimmer grows dimmer" by Rick Reilly

Of course, Reilly has every right to his opinion, and even to express it on ESPN. But this viewpoint of his just seemed totally unfair and mean-spirited. He literally based his whole interpretation of Jimmermania on one bad game. And he doesn't pass up a chance to laugh at us Mormons.

So, I had to respond.

Here's what I said, in today's Daily Universe:

A single game (I would have picked another headline, I think)

I hope you BYU fans enjoy it!

I also had another story in today's paper, just a quick one about the awards Jimmer got yesterday (rather ironic, don't you think, Reilly?) Even though the story's just eight inches long, I think I did a good job of giving it some voice and personality.

Honoring the Jimmer

Friday, March 25, 2011

And...the Last Edition from N'Awlins

And, just like that, I'm heading home.

It was quite a game tonight. I'm glad I was here - now I can say that I've been to an NCAA game. (Depending on my future career, I hope I get to go to a lot more.) And it's always great to see the Cougars.

But it was heartbreaking and disappointing. It's such a strange way to end the sports season, to lose one game and all of a sudden it's time to go home. It's especially a strange way to end a college basketball career, for Jimmer, Jackson and Logan.

In the 48 hours I was here, I was very productive. Besides writing five stories for The Daily Universe, I also saw a lot of the French Quarter and the surrounding area.

I like New Orleans a lot. It's definitely got something that no other city has. In a lot of ways it's like Las Vegas. But even if the "hedonistic" lifestyle is the same in both cities, Vegas is sleeker and shinier, more futuristic. New Orleans looks and feels 200 years old, and it's not as clean as Vegas. But that gives it its own appeal.

Today, I spent the morning roaming the French Quarter, looking for BYU fans to talk to and also took a ton of photos. It was a little bit strange being a tourist all alone, I wish Erin and Allisyn were with me. But I saw a lot of cool stuff.

Here's the story I wrote:

New Orleans: A different way of life

And, here's a link to my Facebook photo album with all the photos (I set it so that "Everyone" could see it, so you shouldn't have any trouble accessing it):


I'll put some photos here too, just to make my blog pretty:

Then, I walked over to the arena for the game. When I got to my assigned seat, I discovered how lucky I was to be here:

Doesn't get much better than that.

At the media buffet, I met Matt Marheine from The Daily Cardinal, one of Wisconsin's student newspapers. It was great to meet him and chat with him. He even offered to loan his photos of the BYU vs. Florida game to The Daily Universe, which was super nice.

Also before the game, I got my chance to meet Andy Katz. I came up to him and said hi, and that I was the student newspaper guy who Pat Forde talked to. He seemed to remember me from that article. He didn't have anything to say, and I couldn't think of anything. (It was a few minutes before the game, so he was probably a little busy.) So it was a little awkward. Afterward I was thinking, "Duh! I should have told him that I'm a big fan of his and love listening to his podcast and thanks for watching and supporting BYU all year." But, too late. I was awkward. (Now I'll never get a job at ESPN! Just kidding.)

Then it was game time. It was tough to not be vocal! I felt like the team sometimes needed one more voice to cheer for them. But, all in all, the guys worked hard and definitely deserve to be commended, not only for making it to the Sweet 16 but for everything they've done all year.

Of course, even though I was prepared for either a Butler or a Wisconsin preview, now I couldn't use that. Instead, I filled up that newspaper space with an extra story on this being the last game for Jimmer, Jackson and Logan. At the press conference, I asked Jimmer and Jackson about the emotions they were feeling and the thoughts running through their head, and they said a lot of nice things, enough for me to come up with a separate story. It was probably the fastest story I've ever written!

You can see all three stories in Friday's Daily Universe. Or, right here on my blog!

(The link to my BYU fans in New Orleans story is above.)

Sweet ride comes to an end

BYU seniors go out with a memorable season

Oh, I almost forgot: Cory Giger tweeted me to ask if I would be on his show again! This time just to talk about the game. It was pretty cool, and I think the interview went well.

And this one is available online!

Sports Central with Cory Giger 3/24/11 (Go to the 1:02:55 mark to get to my interview.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Early Edition from N'Awlins

Hey there, everybody.

I'm blogging directly from the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans, Louisiana, here for BYU's first Sweet 16 game in 30 years.

Although I'm here with a crew of broadcast students, it kind of feels like I'm in solo mode. Which is strange. I sure have a lot of work to do! I did two stories before I even got to the hotel, and Thursday I'm expecting to do three more.

Here's what I did for the day before the game:

Cougars will need best effort to defeat Florida

Viewpoint: Thanks for the respect

I spent a lot of time on the last one, but I think it's turned out to be one of my best editorials so far. It's basically a response to "With honor," an editorial written in Florida's student newspaper. I was very impressed with the Florida campus way of handling BYU, especially when contrasted with the San Diego State way. And Florida coach Billy Donovan and player Chandler Parsons had some nice things to say in today's press conference...and by that, I mean they had nothing to say. A reporter tried to get them into a discussion about BYU and the Honor Code and how it wouldn't work at Florida or any normal college, and Donovan and Parsons declined to participate.

(I thought the reporter was trying to maybe stir up some controversy or something...but instead, he used the non-answers to write an article that actually makes BYU look pretty good: "What if Billy Donovan, Gators had to live by the Honor Code?" I especially like the article's last line.)

I'll briefly give you the story of how I finally ended up in New Orleans:

- I tried for a 12:55 a.m. flight from Salt Lake City to Atlanta. But since I fly standby (thanks to my dad, a Delta Air Lines mechanic), there's always a risk that there won't be a seat for me. And that's exactly what happened. No seat for me.

- So, I found a corner to curl up in and slept for a few hours at the airport before a 7:05 a.m. flight to Atlanta. I did get a seat on that flight.

- For some reason, as we were taxiing to the gate in Atlanta, I started feeling really sick and miserable. I was sure I would throw up. Fortunately I didn't, but I did get super sweaty and queasy. After finally reaching land for a while, I started to feel better.

- I touched down in New Orleans right in the middle of BYU's press conference at the New Orleans Arena. (I would have made it in time if I got on that 12:55 flight.) I was pretty frustrated about missing the press conference, but thanks to modern technology I knew I could find the audio online. But then, even better, the transcripts of the press conferences were emailed to me personally! That was nice. I worked on the preview story for a while at the airport, then I got picked up and taken to the arena where I finished up both stories.

- I was there later at the arena for a long time, until there weren't many media people left. One guy who stuck around working was none other than Andy Katz from ESPN. I wanted to introduce myself, and I even thought maybe he would sort of know who I was. But I still looked like someone who had spent the night in the Salt Lake airport, so I decided against it. I hope that wasn't my only chance to meet him though!

- Then, I rode the shuttle to the labyrinth of a hotel. I couldn't figure out how to get to wherever I wanted to go. But I think I have it down now.

- Tonight, I went for a walk down Canal Street and a little bit of Bourbon Street until I couldn't handle it anymore, haha. Here are some photos:

The view outside New Orleans Arena.

Statue in the hotel lobby. Also, the namesake of New Orleans' international airport.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Vegas Roundup

I'm back in Provo after a great experience in Las Vegas at the Mountain West Conference Tournament. The last game for BYU was a tough one, but not all hope is lost. It's hard to beat a good team three times in one season (evidenced by New Mexico in the same tournament).

Our Daily Universe crew was super productive. Altogether we wrote 13 stories! Here's where you can find them, in reverse chronological order:

By me:

BYU worriers can rest assured

Nothing less than phenomenal

Back on track to break the curse of the Lobos

Rams win would be a Cougars win too

Not down and out, just turning out

By one of our men's basketball writers, Steve McCall:

So close, yet so very far away

San Diego State challenges BYU a third time this year

Fredette's 52 points help Cougars get revenge on New Mexico

Cougars survive quarterfinals scare

Cougars start conference tourney vs. Horned Frogs

By one of our women's basketball writers, Whitney Brooks:

Jimmer does it again

BYU women lose last-second upset to rival Utah

Semifinal draws rivalry for Cougars

For photos, check out The Daily Universe website.

And, these stories were done here in Provo, having to do with Selection Sunday:

BYU a 3 seed, will play Wofford
- by Kristian Ekenes

How to craft the winning bracket - by Kirsten Bowe

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nothing less than phenomenal

Photo by Chris Bunker for The Daily Universe

What a game!

Here's the viewpoint I wrote:

Nothing less than phenomenal

And that it was.

I'll never forget this game. I'll be able to tell my grandkids I was there. I was there when Jimmer made 52 freaking points in a conference game. (Wish I could have said "52 freaking points" in the newspaper, haha.)

Sometimes, it's good to be a sports writer.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Conquering all the desks!

Oh, I almost forgot...

On Thursday morning, I covered some breaking news on campus. With this story, it means I've done a story for every single one of the desks at The Daily Universe!

One for the metro desk...

Two for the arts & entertainment desk...

Now one for the campus desk...

And, of course, tons of sports stories.

Anyway, check out my campus story!

BYU receives multi-million dollar donation from alumni

Catchin' up in Vegas

Now that the long day is over, I think I'll relax and do a blog update or two.


First, I'll follow up on my brief stint as a celebrity. Since my last post about it, not too much has happened other than I did the Israel Sports Radio interview with Jasmine Marcus. It was a lot of fun, and it was great to talk to someone who was so interested. You can listen to the interview here (look for "Jumpshots with Jasmine- BYU sports editor JJ Despain, Ari Bluestein, Cornell squash club Dan O’Connor and YU basketball star Jeremy Pressman").

Oh, on my way to Las Vegas I was catching up on my podcasts. And I was sort of mentioned in one! It was the ESPNU College Basketball podcast, with Dana O'Neil and Eamonn Brennan. What was cool was that it was Dana who called me last week, but Eamonn who brought me up in the podcast. It's cool to think of all these people in Bristol talking about me.

Go to the podcast here and go to the 6:47 mark if you want to skip all the way to where I come in.

Also, a couple of friends from the newsroom are involved with a project called "Her Campus: A Collegiette's Guide to Life." It's like Seventeen magazine, but online and for college-age girls. Tiffany, Lauren and Darrian are involved with BYU's HerCampus.com site, and they have a "Campus Celebrities" section (not to be confused with the "Campus Cuties" section, haha). Anyway, Darrian asked me a few questions and I guess I'll be on their site! That should be cool. By being featured on a site somewhat linked to Seventeen, I'm well on my way to Justin Bieber's path to stardom.

The last thing is that I got some feedback from Cory Giger, the DJ at ESPN Radio 1450 AM. He sent me some direct messages on Twitter:

That was nice to hear from him again, although it's too bad he doesn't have that audio available. And it's nice that, even though he doesn't like the Honor Code, he's respectable about it.


This weekend, I'm in Las Vegas for the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament. I'm here as a sports columnist representing The Daily Universe. And I've already cranked out three editorials!

This one I wrote literally in the van while we were pulling into Las Vegas. I was very impressed to see how many BYU students were planning on coming to the tournament and supporting their Cougars, instead of writing off the season after the Brandon Davies announcement and the embarrassing New Mexico loss that followed.

Yesterday and this morning I was probably thinking more about the Colorado State vs. New Mexico game than the BYU vs. TCU game, to be honest. For some reason I've just been really intrigued by coach Tim Miles and the Rams this season. I was rooting for them to get into the NCAA Tournament, although it looks now like they've definitely missed that chance.

Anyway, I wrote this viewpoint to discuss how Colorado State could win against New Mexico (and why that would be good for us). I knew that the viewpoint would only be relevant for about six hours, haha. In fact, I don't know if it was ever published on the website, just on my blog. But I wrote it for fun, and now you guys can read it if you're interested.

This is what I wrote after it turned out Colorado State lost to New Mexico (after a really good fight). During both the BYU game and the Colorado State game, I was sort of struggling to think of what to write. But this is what I finally came up with. Hits newsstands in about six hours, but you can read it here first!

And it's too bad Colorado State didn't win, because I wrote two different beginnings to my editorial so that I would be ready for either outcome and I liked my Colorado State winning one better:

The Colorado State Rams overcame the New Mexico Lobos __-__ yesterday, even though they trailed about __ percent of the game.
Around the 12-minute mark in the second half, Wes Eikmeier made a big three that kept the Lobos from running away with a win. Eikmeier's shot was followed by a steal and breakaway layup from Pierce Hornung to take back the lead and make the score 47-46. ... New Mexico kept the game close, very close. The Lobos even grabbed the lead __ more times. But CSU coach Tim Miles and his Rams persevered and kept their finesse until the final buzzer.
While the Rams celebrated their miracle win, BYU was probably celebrating just as much.
During the conference season, BYU swept every team in the league but could not get past New Mexico. Fortunately for Cougar Nation, Colorado State nicely pushed them out of the way for us.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rams win would be a Cougars win too

I cranked out this editorial this morning in my hotel room. It will be obsolete in about 5 1/2 hours, so I'll put it here in case it doesn't get on The Daily Universe's website in time.

Rams win would be a Cougars win too

by J.J. Despain

LAS VEGAS – The BYU vs. TCU match-up today isn’t the only game I will be paying attention to.
Immediately after the Cougars and the Horned Frogs take their turn at the Thomas & Mack Center, Colorado State and New Mexico step onto the floor. Whoever wins between those two will be BYU’s next opponent (as long as TCU goes down, like it has by an average of 19.5 points to BYU this season).
Although in MWC Tournament history BYU is 3-1 against New Mexico and 1-1 against Colorado State, the Lobos have clamped down on BYU since 2009. A victory for the Rams would be almost as beneficial for BYU as it would be for them.
Granted, either team will not be a cake walk for the Cougars. Colorado State, led by coach Tim Miles, has stayed in the top four of the conference all year, earned its highest seed ever in the MWC Tournament and is working hard to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.
But the Cougars have a game plan for Colorado State, while they can’t seem to brush off New Mexico. So if Colorado State can beat New Mexico, BYU will have almost as much to celebrate as the Rams will.
Colorado State and New Mexico split their season series, with the home team winning each time. The Rams are the most recent winner, with a close 68-62 win in Fort Collins on Feb. 12. But since then, the Rams went 2-4, including a 17-point loss to the MWC No. 6 seed Air Force Falcons.
Heading into both Lobos games, the Rams knew they would have to focus on rebounding. Even though Colorado State has the conference’s fourth best rebounder in Andy Ogide, New Mexico won the board battle 46-29 in January and had 14 second-chance points in their first meeting. But by February, the Rams caught up enough to get within six rebounds of New Mexico. Colorado State will need to keep up the improvement and rule the territory under the basket today.
One weapon the Rams have is their shooting. Colorado State and Ogide himself both lead the MWC in field goal percentage, with 47.3 percent for the Rams and 58.8 percent for Ogide. Adam Nigon is third-best in the conference for three-point percentage with 41.2 percent and seventh-best in three-pointers made (two spots ahead of New Mexico’s Phillip McDonald). Dairese Gary leads New Mexico with 14.5 points per game, but Ogide has him beat with 17 points per game.
As a team, though, Colorado State is behind New Mexico in scoring offense and scoring defense. So Ogide and Nigon will have to depend on the rest of their team if they are to ultimately knock out the Lobos from the tournament and keep them out of BYU’s way.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Week of Davies

I am rapidly becoming the national media's resident expert on the BYU Honor Code.

The announcement came Tuesday night that Brandon Davies, BYU's third leading scorer, would be suspended for the rest of this season because of an Honor Code violation.

I was actually on my way to a Real Salt Lake match when it happened. I had never been to one, and I thought I'd take a chance to go before I graduate and no longer can represent The Daily Universe. (I still need to get to a Jazz game.) Anyway, here's the story I did (didn't end up making it into the paper, haha):

Real Salt Lake makes history

Anyway, back to the basketball bad news. I knew immediately that I would write a viewpoint on it on Wednesday. But it turns out I would be depended on for a lot more.

I was in the DU newsroom when there was a call on the phone for me. It was none other than Pat Forde of ESPN.com. He was looking for a campus perspective on the Davies news, and after calling somewhere at BYU was eventually routed to the campus newspaper and then to me. Forde used some of what I had to say in a column:

BYU puts principle over performance

Pretty cool to see my name on ESPN.com!

Then, I wrote my editorial, which is in today's paper:

Honoring the Code

As I was leaving the newsroom, I saw that an e-mail came from Deseret News looking for someone to do a campus story for them. I decided I was too busy, but I handed it over to our man Chuck Krebs who did a great job.

Fans' reaction to Brandon Davies suspension
(We had it in The Daily Universe too, but it looks like it's not on the website yet.)

The rest of the night I stayed in a pretty depressive state while I watched the game.

This morning, I saw that I had a Facebook message from Jasmine Marcus, who introduced herself as the host of Jumpshots with Jasmine, a radio show at Israel Sports Radio based out of Jerusalem. How 'bout that, huh? After going back and forth, I'm scheduled to be on Jasmine's radio show next Tuesday at 9 a.m. MST. From the looks of the website, it looks like you'll be able to listen there, if not live then at least soon after. Be sure to listen in!

Then, today at work, I got a call on my cell phone from Dana O'Neil, another ESPN.com writer. She wasn't writing anything else, she said she just had some questions out of curiosity. She said she got my number from Pat Forde, and that I've become ESPN's go-to guy about the Honor Code.

After that, I got a call from Cory Giger, a DJ for ESPN Radio 1450 AM in State College, PA. I wanted to call me back about a half hour later to go live on his radio show out there. Even though I wasn't too nervous to talk to Pat Forde, Jasmine Marcus, or Dana O'Neil, I was a little nervous to be on live radio. But excited at the same time. Then, I looked him up on Twitter, and he seemed like he might have some animosity toward the Honor Code and maybe toward me. So I got nervous again. Fortunately though, if he had any animosity he didn't express any of that toward me. It went well.

(One interesting question, and probably the most confrontational: He asked me what percentage of students I would predict are out having sex even though they did sign the Honor Code. I told him I know the sex and the alcohol exists around here, but to be honest I wouldn't even know where to look for it. Maybe I just don't know where to look, but I really think it's minimal around here.)

Unfortunately, I don't know where to listen to it online. The 1450 AM website is very outdated. It looks like it might show up at this UStream site eventually, but so far I haven't seen anything. I'll be sure to spread the word the moment I know.

So, even with a website and two radio shows down, that wasn't the end.

Now, there's a possibility I might be on TV.

I got a Facebook message from Sheryll Lamothe from Inside Edition. From what I know about Inside Edition, it seems a kind of gossipy, E! channel style of journalism. But Sheryll was very respectful and interested in what I had to say. She said she read my Daily Universe editorial and was interested in interviewing me for the show. All she has done so far is put me on her list of possible interviews, so nothing is set up yet. And I'm not sure how I would be on TV unless someone from Inside Edition comes to Provo. I guess that will come up later. Anyway, I'm on a TV producer's list!

As far as my actual thoughts on the whole situation, it's basically summed up in my Daily Universe editorial. There's not a whole lot to add other than that.

Originally, I thought that although Davies will be missed, I didn't think it was enough to change game outcomes. We might win by less, or lose by more, but I didn't think it would change Ws to Ls and vice versa.

But after last night, that view might not be accurate. The game against New Mexico was pretty atrocious. I don't think it was a direct result of Davies being missing, but probably indirectly. The whole team was pretty dead. And I don't blame them, I felt pretty dead too. (It doesn't help either that New Mexico was doing really well.) I hope the team can shake this off soon.
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