Monday, December 24, 2007


Craziness, madness, locura, lío, whatever other synonym you want to use. This is what it has been like lately getting ready for the wedding. Too many things to worry about--wedding, reception, honeymoon, Christmas, invitations, video, pictures, music, catering, cake, clothes, apartment, furniture, utilities, electronics and electronic services. There's more, of course, but I will spare you the details. The bottom line is...

So Patricia and I are very happy about that. It's all going down on Dec. 29...

Monday, December 10, 2007

NBA Individual Awards (Besides MVP)

Who will win the awards besides the MVP? Let's take a look:

Rookie of the Year

Contenders: Kevin Durant, Seattle; Al Horford, Atlanta; Yi Jianlian, Milwaukee; Juan Carlos Navarro, Memphis; Luis Scola, Houston
And the winner will be...Durant. KD will get as many shots as he likes in Seattle. He is currently averaging about 20 ppg, but shooting less than 40% from the field. He still will win the award, although Horford, a threat to average a double-double, will give him a challenge.

Defensive Player of the Year

Contenders: Josh Smith, Atlanta; Kevin Garnett, Boston; Tim Duncan, San Antonio; Bruce Bowen, San Antonio; Marcus Camby, Denver; Andrei Kirilenko, Utah; Dwight Howard, Orlando; Gerald Wallace, Charlotte; Ron Artest, Sacramento
And the winner will be...Smith. While I have not seen enough of Smith to know if he is a good one-on-one defender, he runs all over the place to swat shots. The total of blocks and steals he amasses this season may be too much to overlook. If someone else wins the award, I would pick Kirilenko or Bowen. Bruce never winning this award seems about as wrong as Jerry Sloan never being voted Coach of the Year. Believe it or not, The only previous winners on this list are Camby and Artest-not Duncan, Bowen or Kirilenko.

Sixth Man of the Year

Contenders: Manu Ginobili, San Antonio; Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix; Jason Terry, Dallas
And the winner will be...Ginobili. The other contenders are great, but in the early part of this season, Manu has been phenomenal. He has even inspired copycats around the league as Dallas has brought one of its big three, Terry, off the bench many times, and even perennial All-Star Vince Carter has played the sixth man role for New Jersey in some games. Still, Ginobili's biggest opposition for the award may be the threat of Coach Pop returning the Argentine to the starting lineup.

Most Improved Player

Contenders: Kelenna Azubuike, Golden State; Ronnie Brewer, Utah; LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland
And the winner will be...Brewer. The son of former NBA player Ron Brewer, Jr.'s big preseason performance helped him gain a spot in the Jazz's starting lineup. The increase in playing time will also mean an increase in other stats.

Coach of the Year

Contenders: Stan Van Gundy, Orlando; Gregg Popovich, San Antonio; Jerry Sloan, Utah; Phil Jackson, LA Lakers; Mike Woodson, Atlanta; Doc Rivers, Boston; Jim O'Brien, Indiana; Byron Scott, New Orleans
And the winner will be...Van Gundy. This award is based on overachieving, which will make it difficult for Popovich, Sloan and coaches of other elite teams with high expectations, such as the Suns' Mike D'Antoni, to win COY. In the early going, the Magic have been the best of the overachieving teams. Boston will have the biggest improvement in wins from last year, but the additions of KG and Ray-Ray will have more to do with that. Just ask Boston sports nut/columnist Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) what he thinks of Rivers. Jackson and and Scott have a chance if their teams win about 50 games; O'Brien and Woodson will be contenders if their teams sneak into the playoffs.

Friday, December 7, 2007

NBA Individual Awards: MVP

I got worn out doing the playoffs/individual award winners post, decided it was to long, cut out the MVP predictions and put them here. I thought I would continue with some more awards, but that will be another post ('Cuz this one is already long enought to scare people off).

On to the MVP Award:

The Contenders
Kevin Garnett, Celtics - Reasons he could win: Of all NBA teams, the C's will have the biggest improvement in wins from last year to this year. And he's an all-around stat machine.
Reasons he may not win: If Garnett and Ray Allen are added to a team with Paul Pierce, shouldn't they be expected to win a lot?
Steve Nash, Suns - Reasons he could win: The two-time MVP-and last year's runner up-is a real contender. The Suns don't run the same without their floor general.
Reasons he may not win: I don't know. Maybe all of the big perimeter scorers like LeBron, Kobe, T-Mac, et al. One factor might be the difficulty both the Suns and Nash will have in exceeding expectations.
LeBron James, Cavaliers - Reasons he could win: The stats will be off the charts. A combination of points, rebounds and assists perhaps not seen since the days of Oscar Robertson.
Reasons he may not win
: The team might not win enough. I would say the benchmark would be about 50 wins, or else no award for Bron-Bron.
Kobe Bryant, Lakers - Reasons he could win: This scoring machine lead the league in ppg the last two seasons and even dropped 81 points in a single game in 2006.
Reasons he may not win: Lack of team success. See the reasoning for LeBron not winning it.
Tim Duncan, Spurs - Reasons he could win: The Big Fundamental actually won two of these a few years back. Few players are as important to their teams as Duncan is to his.
Reasons he may not win: When it comes to the MVP award, Duncan has generally been a bridesmaid in recent years. He's usually in the top 5, but Timmy's days winning that trophy are done. Parker and Ginobili will carry a good portion of the offensive load, reducing Duncan's stats, but helping the Spurs win. TimVP wouldn't have it any other way.
Dwight Howard, Magic - Reasons he could win: He's an absolute monster inside. I wouldn't be surprised if he led the league in rebounding and/or field goal %, and he should be among the leaders in scoring and shot blocking. If I would have written this at the start of the season, he would have been a darkhorse. Now, he's a legit candidate.
Reasons he may not win: If the Magic don't continue their winning ways, Howard has no chance. Orlando is a young team; we'll see how they hold up through April.
Carlos Boozer, Jazz - Reasons he could win: The man known in Cleveland as Carlos Loozer is a nightly double-double. He has some of the best scoring and rebounding numbers around, and the Jazz are one of the top teams in the L.
Reasons he may not win: He kind of flies under the radar and is hidden in a remote outpost some call Utah. Plus, there are plenty of other worthy candidates.
Dirk Nowtizki, Mavericks - Reasons he could win: How many 7-footers in NBA history can knock down shots from the outiside like Dirk? His true shot % is usually off the charts. Last year, he was the only player to make at least 50% from the floor, 40% from 3, and 90% from the stripe (Steve Nash was mighty close, just missing with an .899 FT%). Plus, Dallas figures to be one of the winningest teams again.
Reasons he may not win: Quite simply, there is no way on earth D-No wins this award again this year. He embarassed the voters last year, when he and the Mavs petered out in the first round of the playoffs.
Tracy McGrady, Rockets - Reasons he could win: Pretty much can win games single-handedly when he catches fire.
Reasons he may not win: The injury bug is always threatening to bite T-Mac's bad back, and the Rockets have been a little slow out of the gates in 2007-08.
Yao Ming, Rockets - Reasons he could win: The dude is like what, 7'6"? That's TALL. Pundits had him as the replacement for Shaq as the league's best center, although Dwight Howard is suddenly changing some people's minds about that.
Reasons he may not win: see the comments on Tracy McGrady.

Darkhorses: 'Melo, D-Will, CP3, Amare, The Truth, Manu, Baron, CB4, Parker, J-Kidd, D-Wade, Chauncey and A.I.

My pick?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

NBA Playoff Picks

Here is the other part of my NBA preview--more than a month into the season.

I am going to predict the playoffs based on the matchups I predicted from the start of the season. That means Chicago will be in as the #1 seed in the East (I feel stupid), the Magic will be 7th and the Heat will be the top team in its division (I wish I could have those picks back!). In other words, the Bulls will be pitted against the No. 8 team in the East, and I will try to make my predictions as close as possible to what they would have been in the preseason, but of course I will let myself be biased by hindsight.

I have no idea what all that means.

First Round
(1) Chicago defeats (8) Toronto, 4-2
(5) Cleveland over (4) Miami, 4-3
(2) Detroit defeats (7) Orlando, 4-2
(3) Boston beats (6) New Jersey, 4-2

(1) Phoenix over (8) Golden State, 4-2
(4) Utah beats (5) Houston, 4-3
(2) Dallas defeats (7) New Orleans, 4-2
(3) San Antonio beats (6) Denver, 4-1

Conference Semifinals (2nd Round)
(1) Chicago over (5) Cleveland, 4-3
(2) Detroit defeats (3) Boston, 4-3

(1) Phoenix beats (4) Utah, 4-3
(3) San Antonio beats (2) Dallas, 4-3

Conference Finals
(2) Detroit defeats (1) Chicago, 4-2

(3) San Antonio over (1) Phoenix, 4-2

NBA Finals
San Antonio defeats Detroit, 4-3

So when it comes down to it, it's a repeat of the 2005 Finals. Confetti rains in the Alamo City once again. I actually wanted to see which other teams had real championship hopes-mainly to not be a homer-but I couldn't see anyone beating the Spurs in a seven-game series. I thought Dallas might match up best with them, though.
Caveats: At this point, I feel confident that some of these predictions will absolutely be wrong. For example, don't expect Chicago to be in the conference finals. Now, I would pick Boston to go against Detroit, with Orlando as the most likely party crasher. Besides that, it's a pretty safe bet that not every 2nd-round series will go the full seven games. And, the homer that I am, I almost took the Spurs in 5 over the Suns.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Haphazard NBA projections

Alright, so I wanted to do an NBA season preview. I believe the word preview has something to do with seeing things before they happen--at least trying to do so. Now that the season has already started, I think I will do a sort-of preview anyway.

Division standings (playoff seed in parentheses)

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
1. Boston Celtics (3) - The Big Three will make Boston tough to compete with in this division (I'm a rocket scientist, I know).
2. New Jersey Nets (6) - Tough pick for second place between the Nets and the Raps, but I stuck with Kidd, Carter, Jefferson and Krstic. Maybe I've been drinkin' a little too much of the ESPN Kool-Aid.
3. Toronto Raptors (8) - If All-Star Chris Bosh stays healthy, Bargnani continues to develop and the role players buy into the team concept like last year, this should be a playoff team.
4. New York Knicks - Plenty of talent (even ask Steph), but they may be on the outside looking in once again come playoff time.
5. Philadelphia 76ers - Won't make the playoffs. And Andre Iguodala got robbed in the 2006 dunk contest.

Central Division
1. Chicago Bulls (1) - You mean I just picked against Detroit? Well, they do have Deng, Gordon, Hinrich, Nocioni, Wallace and a cuppla recent lottery picks in Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah.
2. Detroit Pistons (2) - They still have one of the best starting lineups in the league. Are they hungry enough for a championship after being unceremoniously bounced out of the Eastern Conference Finals by Wonder Boy and the Cavs?
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (5) - The aforementioned LeBron needs Sideshow Bob to sign and something (anything) productive from Irishman Larry Hughes.
4. Milwaukee Bucks - They actually have some good pieces in place. Michael Redd is their scoring star, former No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut is improving, Mo Williams got some All-Star consideration last year, Desmond Mason is back, The Eyebrowless Man should be in an old movie with Charlton Heston and Yi Jianlian is a big "?"
5. Indiana Pacers - Last year, they missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade. They won't make it back this year, and their star, J.O., has been on the trading block.

Southeast Division
1. Miami Heat (4) - Wade begins the season hurt, Shaq is often injured and past his prime (but he can still dance), and somehow I am picking them to win their fourth straight division title.

2. Orlando Magic (7) - They made Rashard Lewis the most overpaid player in the Association and the perimeter complement to emerging big man Dwight Howard. Howard is a beast and Jameer Nelson is solid, too.
3. Washington Wizards - They have a good Big Three of their own--Agent Zero, Jamison and C-But (sorry for the nickname, Caron). They aren't especially adept at playing defense--or even wanting to play defense. That and their lack of an inside game will be their undoing when they lose in the first round or miss the playoffs entirely.
4. Atlanta Hawks - Like the Knicks, the young Hawks have plenty of talent; however, they will remain playoffless in the new millennium, at least through 2008.
5. Charlotte Bobcats - Injuries to May and Morrison hurt (no pun intended), but they still have Okafor, J-Rich, G. Wallace, Felton, Brezec and Fabio. They still have dues to pay, though.

Western Conference

Southwest Division
1. Dallas Mavericks (2) - Everyone says they are a regular season team and that they can't win the big one and Dirk isn't a real superstar in crunch time. This may be unfair to a team and a player that have had plenty of success. Still, they'll have to hear it until they prove otherwise.
2. San Antonio Spurs (3) - Yeah, it took some deliberation here, but I figure the Mavs have more motivation than the Spurs to win now--but look for the Spurs to go further in the postseason than Dallas.
3. Houston Rockets (5) - You could say it's a three-team race for the division title now that the dreaded Texas Triangle is tougher than ever.
4. New Orleans Hornets (7) -At the tender age of 22, Chris Paul is one of the top point guards in the league. If Peja can make a comeback, the Hornets could snag a playoff berth.
5. Memphis Grizzlies - If nothing else they have some of the most interesting names in the NBA: Darko, Pau, Stromile and Gay. They'll definitely win more than last year, though, when they had the worst win-loss record in the game.

Northwest Division
1. Utah Jazz (4) - I pick them to repeat their division championship because Coach Sloan won't let them slack off (too much). However, Boozer and D-Will need to bring their A-games all season long and AK-47 needs to pull his head out of the trash can. Or something like that.
2. Denver Nuggets (6) - These cats are a popular pick for the division title, in large part because of their two phenomenal scorers, 'Melo and AI. Kenyon Martin returns from injury to join Camby and Nene on the frontcourt.
3. Portland Trail Blazers - Losing top draft pick Greg Oden is huge, but fellow youngsters LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, last year's ROY, should help carry the load for a team with a bright future.
4. Seattle Supersonics - No more Ray Allen or Rashard Lewis, but the team is building around No. 2 draft pick Kevin Durant and No. 5 pick Jeff Green. And they might move to Oklahoma City.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves - Yeah, the team's not that great, but at least they have a bona fide superduperstar in KG. What? You mean he got traded?

Pacific Division
1. Phoenix Suns (1) - This is by far the easiest division champ to predict--even more so than Boston. Nash. Stoudemire. Marion. Barbosa. Bell. Hill. Diaw. But they still won't get by San Antonio if they meet in a seven-game series.
2. Golden State Warriors (8) - They traded away J-Rich for a youngster named Brandan Wright. Hmm...We'll see if they can match their 2007 playoff run. I'm a bit skeptical.
3. Los Angeles Lakers - What will they do with Kobe? Either way this team is first-round playoff fodder at best.
4. Los Angeles Clippers - With Elton Brand down for maybe the whole year, it figures to be a long one for the Clips.
5. Sacramento Kings - Oh, how the mighty have fallen. In 2002, Sac-town was thisclose to winning a title. That was also the year the Raiders were AFC champs. Go figure.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Why it's good to be a Spurs fan: Reason No. 9-Tony Parker

The Wee Frenchman (another nickname from ptr), who actually isn't that wee at 6'2", has been selected to play in the last two NBA All-Star games, and deservingly so. Tony also won the 2007 Finals MVP award. He was deserving of that, too. Parker is one of the quickest players in the league; no one can dribble down the court faster than he can.

Unfortunately for Tony, he loses a few points on my list because he seems to be the one Spur who cares about the limelight. Maybe I'm blinded by the fact that he has a Hollywood wife, or the fact that he makes ridiculous rap videos where he takes himself too seriously (I love the dancing fool on the right side of the screen of the Tony Parker Freestyle video at the '05 championship celebration), but it seems he cares more than other Spurs about getting recognized. It shows in his comments about being devastated during the years he didn't make the All-Star team. It shows when he pads his point totals late in a game that's pretty much out of reach. It shows...OK, maybe I'm just hatin' at this point.

Tony's had to take some tough love from Reason No. 10 (by the way, it's only coincidence Tony is Reason No. 9 and jersey No. 9), but that discipline has been a big part of his development. Hey everybody makes mistakes, but check out Pop's reaction after this play:

Priceless. For everything else, there's MasterCard.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why it's good to be a Spurs fan: Reason No. 10-The Coaching Staff

Starting off my countdown of the Top 10 Reasons to be a Spurs Fan, I've got the man who ridiculed me in front of reporters back in 2006: Coach Pop.

No one in major North American sports has come close to the coaching success of Gregg Popovich over the past decade. In that time, his teams have won more than 70% of their regular season games and nearly 65% of their postseason games. And then there's that little matter of the 4 championships.

And, as Stephon Marbury said of Isiah Thomas, "he can see the light."
Even shooting coach Chip Engelland has made a big impact. Before last season I would literally cringe when I would see Tony Parker line up a jump shot. Now I don't think it's such an unreasonable court decision when The French Layup Machine (thank you fires away from 15 feet.

This takes us to number 9 on our Spurs countdown...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Welcome to Provo

I currently reside in the town of Provo, Utah. Provo–especially BYU-has parking shortage problems. This may not be news to those of you who live in the town. You may have paid the $50 boot fee or the $121 fee to have your car unceremoniously dragged for two blocks. Not that I would know about that.

So anywho, on Wednesday night, I came home and my old car had disappeared. Because the car is in bad condition and I had bought a (slightly) newer ride, I hadn't driven the car for several weeks. I thought maybe someone had noticed that and called to tow it, but that would still have been a bit strange considering it was in one of my house's parking spots, which is on a lot that is basically part of a gravel backroad.

I called the towing company that had signs posted nearby and told them what had happened. They told me to call back in 20 minutes. I called back. They said they had the car. I told them it had been parked at my house. Their records said it was parked at an apartment complex nearby. They also said I could call the next morning and talk to Nancy, who handles such and such type of complaint.

The next morning I called and told them what had happened. Their phone answerer said sorry and that she thought they had already brought my car back that morning. I looked outside, and lo and behold, they had brought it back!

To make a long story short, be careful about where you park in the P-Town--even if it's just at your own home. They might tow your car!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today's video: cool sunglasses trick

Once in a while I'm going to put up a "video of the day." It won't be every day, it won't be every week and it won't even be at any regular interval. This kind of thing needs no structured schedule.

Anyway, today's video is a bit unusual: some guys catch sunglasses with their faces. Not a bad trick.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Making Friends 101

Hey peeps. I decided it wasn't enough to be published in The Tri-City Herald, The Daily Universe, Total Blue Sports and on the Web. So I figured I would get some of my writings in Schooled Magazine, too.

Schooled is aimed at college students, particularly the ones at BYU and Utah Valley State. I just had an article printed in the September issue. Check it out in the PDF version here and look for the article titled "Making Friends 101."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It Finally Happened!

So I feel like I've been engaged for a few weeks because Patricia and I have had our wedding date (12/29/07) set up for a while and we've been planning the wedding details and looking for an apartment, but I hadn't popped the question.

Until tonight.

9/17/07 is a date that will go down in infamy, when I made a proposal. I took my lady to Rock Canyon Park where we took blankets and a pillow to a grassy hill overlooking the city lights and the Provo Temple and underlooking (?) the stars.

You know what's cool? This headlight thingy that can be used for looking under carhoods, cleaning out clogged drains and making middle-of-the-night pit stops (not that I ever did any of that!) was used to help me propose.

It was dark outside, so naturally I strapped the light around my head, tried to get cozy, and read a temple prep manual to my sweetie. A little while later, I said I had another thing I wanted to read to her. She consented and I proceeded to read her a poem I had written recently. At the end of the poem, I asked if she would marry me. Something strange must have come over her to make her say yes.

Before we said good night, we went to her place, she called her parents and we chatted a little bit. She showed off her bling bling and her dad kidded me and mentioned that I really took my time to propose. Her mom cried when I re-read the poem over the webcam. I went home and woke up, er, called my parents and told them the news. Of course, they were happy, too.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Take a look at some things I've written lately

I just thought I would give my readers (that's right, plural--I'm referring to both of them) a little update on what I've done recently.
So here are some articles I have written in the last few months for The Daily Universe at BYU. There are sports articles and summaries of seminars/classes. Some are opinion columns, some are front-page stories, and so on. Yahoo and have posted some of these on their Web sites.

Education Week at BYU (all kinds of classes are taught during a week between summer and fall semesters at the Y)
Humor from Church Leaders: Funny, but not offensive
Why problems develop after marriage
The art of being gracious (frong page)
Men and Women: Unique insights on divine roles
First Vision
Seven striking features of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Rocky Mountain Revue/Basketball
Life for an NBA first round pick (also on
NBA summer league not a typical summer job (front page and reached #1 for most viewed at

NBA opinion columns
My prediction for the NBA Finals
The future of the Utah Jazz
Thoughts on the suspensions in the Suns-Spurs series

Max Hall's first game as BYU's quarterback
OR on Yahoo OR Newsnet
Success of BYU football recruiting
(front page)
OR on Yahoo
Bronco Mendenhall extends contract to coach BYU (front page):
OR on Yahoo

Season preview and preseason awards (BYU and Mountain West Conference)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My other review--Red Hot Chili Peppers

OK friends and fans, I figured it was time I put something else here. Anywho, I put up my Nacho Libre review for my feature writing class from last fall. Here is the other review from that class. Although I'm a bit critical, I am a fan of both things I reviewed; but it's a critic's job to critique, right?

Uncle Sam’s Music Reviews

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have talent – and money

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have made a career out of being unconventional. Too bad their “Greatest Hits and Videos” CD/DVD follows the conventional route – sort of.

The Chili Peppers use a number of marketing tricks to help sell this 2003 compilation. First, they combine a CD and a DVD into one package. Because of the burgeoning popularity of multimedia, this phenomenon has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. The CD is also sold separately for those who prefer not to cough up a few extra bucks to watch bass guitarist Flea jam out while dancing half-naked in the band’s music videos.

This leads us to their next marketing ploy. The songs on the CD are not all the same ones that are on the DVD. For example, the two biggest joints from the 2002 album “By the Way,” besides the title track, are “Can’t Stop” and “The Zephyr Song.” While these songs can be found on the greatest hits DVD, they are conspicuously missing from the CD. Considering “By the Way” was released only a year before “Greatest Hits,” it stands to reason that the band was hoping to sell some more albums in addition to the greatest hits disc.

Furthermore, the album’s release was carefully planned to allow it stocking-stuffer status in time for the holidays for the times when, you know, you just gotta have a new music CD.

Despite the usual shenanigans artists and record labels use to sell their product, the fact remains that the vast majority of the music on this disc is both unique and of high-caliber artistry. Their innovative fusion of rock, funk and rap have made them pioneers of a difficult-to-define genre that has musicians from “Around the World” – the title of one the band’s cuts – copying their style (on the off-chance that you’re Chilean, you may have heard of Chili Peppers sound-alike Chancho en Piedra – “Pig on Rock”).

Many of the videos are well produced and include relevant subject matter. The computer animation for the “Californication” video – whose lyrics and visual content are not what you would expect based on the track’s title – would probably challenge the graphics quality of the new PlayStation 3. The band members, as gaming characters, take turns running, swimming, jumping and generally avoiding destruction in the video. This destruction symbolizes Californication – buying into what Hollywood tells us is cool. A telling lyric from the song: “Pay your surgeon very well to break the spell of aging. Celebrity skin, is this your chin, or is that war your/you’re waging?”

The versatility of the Red Hot Chili Peppers shines through on “Greatest Hits.” They play the kind of stuff you can rock out to, such as the up-tempo, catchy “Fortune Faded,” one of the two mandatory previously unreleased songs, and the early ’90s classic “Give it Away.” However, although the Chili Peppers still know how to make you move with their pulsating beats and wailing guitars, they’ve added a finer sense of melody and usage of hooks, especially in their most recent albums, starting with “Californication” in 1999.

It is this ability to combine seemingly unrelated musical elements – driving rock, mellow ballads, classic funk sounds and even a Stevie Wonder cover – into a coherent end product that expands both the group’s audience and Chili Peppers’ wallets.

The release of greatest hits albums often signifies the end –or at least the beginning of the end – of a group. Not so with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In 2006, they released “Stadium Arcadium,” which has enjoyed both critical and commercial success, selling millions of copies worldwide.

Despite some flaws and the previously mentioned annoying marketing tricks, the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s greatest hits album delivers a combination of melodies, guitar riffs and percussion that show the true range and talent of this entertaining group.

Plus, Warner Bros. Records wanted to find a way to reach the fans who hadn’t yet bought any Chili Peppers albums.

Extras: cover/insert with photos and commentary; DVD commentaries/tours with the band and “making of” videos.

Overall grade: B

For comments, e-mail Uncle Sam at

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A movie review I did for a class way back in November

I'm not sure why I'm posting this now. I guess it's about time. We had to do some reviews for a class I took in the Fall 'o6 semester. I reviewed Nacho Libre because I thought it had some funny parts, and I figured I could write a funny review on it. The best part is that the teacher loved it and I got 30/30 points. The previous paper I had gotten kind of a disappointing grade.

My world had come crashing down.

Okay, it wasn't that big of a deal, but it was nice to get the good grade on this one.

Without further ado:

Uncle Sam’s Movie Review

Nacho packs plenty of cheese

Director Jared Hess, known for his cult classic “Napoleon Dynamite,” now has a more impressive film to add to his résumé: “Nacho Libre.”
But the man who really makes the movie is Jack Black.

Black stars as Ignacio, aka Nacho, a Mexican friar who works at a Catholic monastery, but secretly moonlights as a “luchador.” Nacho’s duties consist of preparing meals for orphan children and clergymen. Nacho is frustrated with his lack of ministerial duties, but you quickly understand why he rarely receives such assignments when he gives a eulogy for a supposed dead man who is, in fact, still alive.

Although he works at the monastery, Nacho develops a crush for the new (and only) woman at work – the lovely Sister Encarnación (Ana de la Reguera). Nacho goes so far as to make her an extra special salad, filled with lettuce, tomato, crushed chips and a veritable lake of ranch dressing. He also professes his love by sliding multiple slices of rock-hard toast under the bedroom door of the object of his affection.

The film has more conflict than what you see on the surface or in the previews. In fact, this is one of the movie’s ongoing themes, as Nacho’s devout Christianity clashes with wrestling partner Esqueleto’s (Hector Jimenez – his character’s name is Spanish for skeleton) ironically strict belief in science. Besides, the scrawny, brief-rocking, savage Esqueleto hates orphans, and Nacho works in an orphanage. Now that’s drama, folks!

Nacho’s inspiration to wrestle emerges when he sees a poster claiming a handsome cash reward for the winner of a wrestling tournament. Our hero and Esqueleto take their share of lumps in the ring from a gamut of unusual characters, including a tag team of ferocious midgets who wear masks of an unusual horned lion-like beast.

As much as I push the idea that this movie features romance, action and everything between, the fact remains that “Nacho Libre” is a comedy – a comedy with better wrestling scenes than you can find on cable television.

All the while, Nacho and Esqueleto form a beatable – yes, you read that correctly – wrestling duo, that, despite a sketchy win-loss record, earns enough money to provide field trips and better food for the orphans, while buying themselves some fancy duds. Nacho even tries to impress Sister Encarnación with his uber-tight “leisure clothes” one night.

On the other hand, if you don’t like seeing portly guys in pale blue stretchy pants with red underoos on the outside, maybe you should skip this movie. Better yet, just cover your eyes during those parts. As crazy as this movie is, if you’re a fan of slapstick, “Nacho” is your cup of salsa.

“Nacho” tries a little too hard to force laughter upon its audience. With Black’s cut-up singing and wacky lyrics/dialogue, the humor – similar to his performance in “School of Rock” – is a bit juvenile and overdone. For example, at one point Nacho sings a song about Sister Encarnación and his dedication to the ministry. He sweetly croons about the possibility of breaking his vows of celibacy: “No, no, no way, José! … Unless you want to. Then we’d break our vows together!”

(Maybe you like this version of the song!)

The basis of this somewhat flimsy plot: live a dream by becoming a wrestler, get the cash that comes with that, and help the orphans have a better life. Although the film is actually based loosely – we’re talking street corner-lady loose – on the life of a Mexican minister/wrestler who taught about God according to his manner, the content is a bit farfetched.

Additionally, the film falls well short of “Napoleon” in terms of quotability.

But now I’m just getting too picky. The truth is, this film is enjoyable if and when you are in the mood for some lighthearted viewing. Before you watch “Nacho,” just make sure you expect it to be stupid. That’s what I expected, and fortunately, the movie far exceeded my expectations. I even went back for a second helping of Nacho at the theater (bad pun intended).

As Nacho would say in that well-mimicked Mexican accent, “it’s fantastic!”

Rated PG for some violence and mature themes.
Uncle Sam’s grade: B+

For comments, e-mail Uncle Sam at

Friday, May 18, 2007

The work of photographer Heather Shimmin

There are many reasons why people become interested in hobbies. Some folks take on a leisure pursuit that their friends enjoy as a way to have fun together. Others develop likes and dislikes similar to those of their parents. Furthermore, some individuals look to go on their own and find their own unique interests.

Our experiences help shape who we are. The things we do and the things we discover lead to further action that may arouse our curiosity in new activities.

For Heather Shimmin, many interests have led her into her work as a photographer. Originally studying design, but wanting to work in a commercially viable art without spending all day in front of a computer, Shimmin eventually changed gears and earned her degree in photography from Utah Valley State.

The range of activities Shimmin has participated in is broad. She enjoys traveling, playing guitar, cycling, hiking and spending time outdoors. In her youth, Shimmin only dabbled in photography. However, all of her activities have, as she said, “bled” into her life of photography. Her love of outdoors and travel fit in perfectly with her love of art, particularly the art of taking pictures. Among her favorite subjects are cityscapes, travel photography and shots that portray lifestyle, preferring these to pictures of nature.

Now, with seven years of photographic experience under her belt, Shimmin shoots weddings and family activities, and takes product shots and business portraits. Though Shimmin said she views weddings as a photography staple within the state of Utah, she said she would rather take on a new assignment. For example, shooting a Jewish Bar Mitzvah would be fun, she said.

Despite some distaste for sitting in front of a computer, the new age of digital photography has required that she still spend many hours on a computer in order to do her work.

One benefit of digital photography, as opposed to film photography, is saving money. Digital cameras make it possible to delete photos that don’t turn out exactly as planned, rather than spending money to develop the film of every picture taken. The digital pictures are also easy to manipulate and store on computers. This allows the photographer to delete the pictures from the camera’s memory stick, creating room for new pictures to be taken.

“I like photography because it’s neat, not like a painting that takes so long,” Shimmin said, adding she enjoys the ability to immediately see and correct her photography, thanks to digital cameras. “Perhaps it’s the ADD coming through,” she joked.
Digital photography, however, is not without its disadvantages, at least as far as the professionals are concerned. It is now easier for everyone to become a photographer, Shimmin said.

“If there’s a family event, someone might say ‘Uncle Joe has camera. He can do it,’ so it makes it harder for professionals to find work,” Shimmin said.

Shimmin has found that certain elements are crucial to make her photography more than just ordinary. It’s important to notice what is interesting about a scene and to make that subject the focus of a given shot. Sometimes it is necessary to get closer to a subject to ensure it is adequately emphasized. Additionally, the location of the photographer is important, as some subjects will require unusually high or low camera angles.

Creativity is a vital part of good photography, Shimmin said. Many amateurs take pictures of the same cliché objects. For example, although a sunset may look nice, it does not stand out in the world of photography because most people have already seen and taken similar pictures, she said. For good photo ideas, Shimmin suggested looking at others’ work in magazines.

Proper lighting is essential to highlight a subject in a photo. Overcast skies are ideal for taking portraits because they create a giant softbox. In other words, you will only see soft shadows around a subject if you take the picture while the weather is overcast.

Being patient, taking time and taking many shots are other ways photographers can get the image quality they desire.

Just remember: patience is a virtue—and so is lighting, when it comes to photography.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Interview with media man and Pulitzer Prize winner John Hughes

Here is my interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Hughes, former editor of the Christian Science Monitor and the Deseret Morning News. The interview took place on April 2, 2007.

Scorup: Can you talk about some of the changes you saw in media that made you say “Wow! What’s going on?”

Hughes: Sure. Well, when I started in this business, we used to write our stories on something called a typewriter. And that was hard copy and it was edited at the copy desk by regional editors. Then it would go out to the composing room and there would be these old linotype machines that…well, it was molten lead. You had these slugs of lead and then you melted the lead and put it in and your story was re-keyboarded, and what they were doing was they were punching the letters as they were typing into the molten lead, which then they made the slugs the column width and they lay them in a form and it had a metal frame and then they screwed the frame tight. Then they put asbestos mat over it and transferred all the impressions form the type onto the mat. Then the mat was taken out and put onto a half-cylinder metal plate and then on one plate which made up one page, then the other page would be like that, and that’s how it was bolted onto the rollers onto the machine and then the press would set up. Today, nobody uses a typewriter. They use a computer. Reporters use laptops all the time. It goes right into the computer and [the] home office. It’s edited at a computer and moves from computer to computer around the newsroom. Then somebody presses a button and makes a page and the page is on the computer. Then you send it off.

So the whole process has changed tremendously. And for the better. Except that one of the problems it has created is there really is not much time between the time the story is written and the time it appears, or if it’s on television, it’s live. So the consequences of getting it right are much more important and the consequences of getting it wrong are much more serious because, if you’re reporting for a big network, all kinds of decisions could be made on the basis of what you wrote, and what you published may turn out to be false. You may be wrong. So that’s changed a lot.

Scorup: Were there any changes in media, maybe with new technology, that you saw as a kid or as an adult that you didn’t see coming that maybe would change everything?

Hughes: Yeah. I think none of us editors in my generation—a few maybe—but I don’t think any of us foresaw that the internet would become so pervasive so fast. At the paper I was most recently at, the Deseret Morning News, we had an internet new media group, maybe about nine people, and they were taking stuff out of the paper and putting it on the web and using some other stuff. [Photographers] would go to kids’ soccer matches , so they would not only take pictures of what you wanted for the paper, but they would take pictures of all the players, put them up on the Web, and mom and dad say “oh, I want a picture of Tommy.” Call the Deseret News, [pay] 25 bucks, send you whatever it is and you get a nice picture of your kid. So all that has changed, but it took quite a time for newspapers to figure out how to make money out of it, and that is just beginning to happen. The advertising is just beginning to understand the value of the internet, and the internet is becoming more and more important. So you have a problem with newspapers. On the one hand, they’re losing circulation because guys your age probably don’t read a print newspaper; you get your news on a computer. I’ve got CNN on my laptop here. So newspapers have to learn how to merge into the internet era. It’s causing a lot of problems.

Scorup: Did TV ever make you think news or the whole media game would change?

Hughes: No. I didn’t think TV was going to change it because we had radio before and it was “oh, radio! It’s the demise of the newspaper!” Then they said “TV! It’s the demise of the newspaper!” But I knew it wouldn’t be because it’s a different medium. Television is the medium of images. It’s pictures, pictures, pictures. People will tell you in television if you can’t get pictures, it’s hard to get the story on air. Newspapers, I think, are the medium of ideas. TV does a marvelous job of covering breaking news, and now, instantly. First of all, with radio, the world became wired for sound. Then with television, CNN, it became wired for pictures so that almost anything that happens anywhere you can see on the screen. But I think newspapers survive very well indeed in the TV era because [as] Walter Cronkite, who of course was a TV guy, said, if you count all the words in a 30-minute TV broadcast—which is 22 minutes, because you’ve got 8 minutes of ads—there are less than half-a-page of The New York Times.

I had a good friend, Gene Roberts, who was managing editor of The New York Times, and he said when there has been an amazing event somewhere—like a guy lands on the moon, and you can see that live on television, so the reader has seen the whole story of the guy walking on the moon, and so on—the circulation of The New York Times does not go down; it goes up. People want to read a story to explain the significance of what it was they saw. They want the sidebar and the analysis of what it means. So no, I don’t think television meant the demise of the newspaper; it’s competition. But I think there’s a very real question now as to whether the internet will mean the demise of the print newspaper. I don’t think it’s going to happen next year, but I think it is something we will have to watch.

Scorup: You’ve been the editor of the Christian Science Monitor and the Deseret Morning News. Tell me a little bit about those jobs and how they’re similar and how they’re different.

Hughes: They’re different in that the Christian Science Monitor is a newspaper mainly known for its international and national coverage. It’s not much of a local newspaper, whereas the Deseret News is very much a local/regional newspaper. Where at the Monitor you were dealing with a staff of foreign correspondents you sent abroad and they were in different countries and you had a big Washington bureau, at the Deseret News, most of the coverage you generated yourself was local. We had reporters in Salt Lake City, we had a reporter in St. George, we had a reporter in Washington, D.C. But the Washington reporter's job was to be absolutely focused on anything happening there affecting Utah. Some regional reporters go to Washington, and after six months they’re seduced by the White House and the Pentagon and the State Department. We don’t want that from our correspondent because we’ve got all that stuff. We’ve got the AP, we’ve got Reuters, [and] we’ve got The New York Times service. The Deseret News gets its national and international coverage from [them].

Scorup: You have extensive experience with international media. You’ve dealt with prime ministers and other foreign dignitaries. How has that influenced your life and did you ever picture that happening, say, a couple decades before it happened?

Hughes: No. Actually, I was astonished most of my life that someone would actually pay me to go out there to talk to prime ministers and presidents and cover wars and revolutions because, if you’re a journalist, you have a ringside seat on history in the making. It’s very exciting, so I never felt I had a dull day.

Scorup: They say sometimes the difference between news and history is a matter of minutes…

Hughes: That’s right. That’s right, and the newspaper is simply chronicling an event or an occurrence or an interview as it happened in that short period of time. The historian comes in afterwards and finds out maybe the prime minister lied to you, or whatever. You’re only writing a sliver of history each day with the newspaper, and if you get it wrong you have the obligation to correct it the next day. You have the opportunity to correct it, whereas a historian is looking at the whole breadth of a president’s life [for example] and digging into it and has to produce a biography which is accurate. Hopefully, what you do at a newspaper is accurate too, but occasionally you have [only] a piece of the story.

Scorup: What was it that got you into the media business and interested you in news? Maybe you grew up with the newspaper in your home…

Hughes: Oh, yeah. I grew up with newspapers in the home because in the time I lived in London, there were 5, 6, 7 big daily newspapers, but as a kid I wasn’t particularly interested in newspapers. But in high school, my masters [teachers] in chemistry and physics thought it would be a very good idea if I did not pursue a career in that direction, and by contrast, my master in English said “hey, you know, you really ought to get into newspapers, because you seem to have a flair for writing.”

Scorup: Speaking of schoolmasters, you’ve become one yourself—

Hughes: [laughter] I don’t know that I’m very good at it. I masquerade as being a professor.

Scorup: What do you think about that versus the other careers you’ve worked in?

Hughes: In the newspapers I’ve worked at, you’re probably not being involved with young journalists coming straight out of journalism school. Because of the size of that paper, you’ve probably told them to go away for a couple of years to work at a smaller newspaper, and then come back and try [working with] you. So most of the people working on the newspapers that I edited were fairly experienced. Obviously in journalism school, at a university, people are not experienced, although you have this wonderful opportunity here with the [Daily] Universe lab newspaper to learn something about newspapers and to practice. So I think it’s great. I think what I like about BYU is the interest of the journalism students in ethics, because we’ve had some bad guys—bad eggs—in journalism lately that plagiarized and made up stories and that’s given the profession a bad name. So I think it’s great that people from BYU who have the kind of background and ethics and principles that you do are going into the profession of journalism. Who better to reform it—if it needs reforming—than the people who treasure the kind of principles that you do?

Scorup: Sometimes I think the reporters get a bad rap for being sensationalist or dishonest or things like that. How much of that is fair, and since when have we seen that trend take place?

Hughes: Well, I think since Watergate, which is a big old scandal that shone a spotlight on the press more than it had been in the past. So what I think is that across the country, thousands of journalists are working conscientiously and honestly at their beats. [They are] covering city hall, covering the state legislature, covering activities in their areas—the news of which readers have to have because how are you going to make intelligent decisions about how to vote and how to live your life [and so on] without good information? Across the board, there are a huge number of journalists working probably longer than they should, probably not for the money they should get, very conscientiously. But, I think the competition between cable stations and the tabloids and traditional newspapers has caused, in some cases, a journalist to take shortcuts, or to rush into print with something that hasn’t been fully verified, and sadly, to rush into print—as we know from The New York Times and USA Today—with stories that were totally made up. I think those things create a bad impression across the board for other journalists, and I think those of us who feel very strongly about ethics and honesty and decency in journalism … are getting tarnished by the misdeeds of the guys who went off the track.

Scorup: Is there anything else you would want to tell me about media history involving your career or your experiences growing up?

Hughes: Well, it’s a great profession. If you have any talent, anybody should revel to get into [journalism]. You’re not going to make as much money as if you went to law school or medical school. I think it’s a great profession because newspapers—good newspapers—can be an incredibly constructive force for good in our communities and in our lives, and I think it’s a worthy profession to pursue.

Scorup: Thank you very much.

Hughes: You’re welcome. I hope it helps you.
Scorup: Yeah, I’m sure it will.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Totem Pole

This is a totem pole.

One definition of a totem pole: "A pole or post that has been carved and painted with totems or figures, such as animals, that serve as the emblems of clans or families. Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest often erected these poles in front of their houses."

People sometimes refer to the corporate ladder as a totem pole. Example: "I would talk to the boss, but I have no chance of convincing him since I'm at the bottom of the totem pole."

So what's my point?

Look to the right side of this blog and you will see a photographic totem pole. Now if you're picture is at the bottom of the totem pole--or not there at all--you shouldn't be offended; every part of the pole is important to its existence. But I do think something special should always be at the top. Don't you?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Now is the time to make fun of myself

Well, gente, it's time to poke fun at the serious folks who promote backpack-wearing safety. Of course, I include myself in this group of select human beings.

Let me explain: earlier this month I walked into the newsroom for BYU's The Daily Universe. I just wanted to use a computer for a few minutes, but the powers that be saw I was dressed up (I had a presentation in class that day), so they said I could "model" a backpack for an upcoming Universe story about the crisis of heavy backpacks plaguing college students. Starved for media attention, I decided to sign up for the job--unpaid, of course--and let my photogeneity (am I making up words now?) shine.

Of course people from class or my intramural team or church mentioned they saw my picture in the paper. They said I was famous. They said I was doing the world a service by promoting awareness about a new issue, blah, blah (ok, no one really said that).

I even got e-mails from friends about the picture. Below are some quotes from them.

"Very nice Scorup! I could learn a thing or two from you!"
"I didn't know you were an expert in the field of backpack safety"
"I would not be surprised if you get calls wanting you to model for a back pack company"
So there you have it, folks. The people have spoken.
Oh, yeah. The best/worst one of all is the caption that went with the photo:
"Sam Scorup demonstrates proper backpack-wearing techniques."
Whatever that means. The reporter told me the backpack shouldn't hang more than four inches below the waist. Good to know.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Photography 101: Learn the Basics

Even the greenest of photographers recognize there are techniques that make certain pictures more powerful than others. Most people, however, do not recognize what these characteristics are.

Mark Adams, a BYU graduate who has about two years of experience with photography, said lighting, risk taking and proper use of equipment are keys to good photography.

Lighting is important because objects can become shadowy if they are not properly lit. Taking pictures when the sun is starting to rise or set can be good for scenic photos because photographers can set up for the sunlight to be behind them, Adams said.

Lighting is often considered the most important element to good photography.

“If the light is not right, nothing else will be,” said Luciane Barros, who has shot photos for invitations and weddings and has taken photography classes.

The type of lighting needed depends on the situation and subjects of a photograph, Barros said. For example, the contrast and shadows for a pose in a serious picture would be different from the lighting in a picture of a laughing baby, which is different from the lighting for a picture of a landscape, Barros said. Light defines exactly what a photographer wants to show—mystery, joy and so on.

Adams suggested photographers avoid being shy with the camera. He said being willing to take many pictures can lead to some unexpected gems.

“Many times when you think something would look good in a photo, it looks terrible,” Adams said, “but, I’ll take the risk of wasting film on something that I wouldn’t expect to be good. These can turn out to be some of the best pictures.”

Tripods are important equipment for keeping pictures in the proper focus, Adams said. If the photographer doesn’t use equipment to keep the camera balanced, the slight shaking from the hand holding the camera can cause photos to come out blurry. Adams also takes several pictures of the same shot, playing with zoom levels, coloring and camera angles to find the best version of several similar photos.

Strobes, battery packs, umbrellas (to soften light), softboxes, external flash and studio backdrops are other equipment and features that can contribute to quality photography, Barros said.

The reasons for taking up photography vary from person to person. Preserving memories of special events, capturing images of unaware subjects and taking pictures of loved ones are all common purposes for photography.

BYU graduate Aisake Vuikadavu finds a level of comfort in the hobby and draws life lessons from the pictures he takes.

“It’s therapy; it’s like medication,” he said.

Vuikadavu said he enjoys looking at different elements of nature from a non-human perspective. For example, if he wants to imagine how a leaf or a rain drop looks to an ant, he lies low on the ground, looks up through the camera and takes a snapshot. He said people enjoy this type of photograph because it is a fresh idea many have never considered.

For Adams, who cited his father’s longtime interest of taking pictures of everyone and everything, the inspiration comes from nature.

Although the Provo residential areas don’t offer much in terms of scenic photography, other areas located farther from town, such as the mountains and Provo Canyon, make for some good photo opportunities, Adams said.

When asked why he picked up photography as a hobby, Adams said, “I saw nature and I thought it was so beautiful. I wanted to capture it and keep it for myself; I realized I could do that with a photograph.”

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The benefits—and drawbacks—of citizen journalism

An independent style of reaching the masses is gaining steam and entering the mainstream. With the advent of new technology and new media, the phenomenon known as “citizen journalism” has been taken to a new level.

Without a newsroom, journalists, bloggers and mere citizens have become able to send their messages to the masses. There is debate with respect to the viability, accuracy and importance of citizen journalism. Although leading news stations, such as ABC and CBS, have reported on the rise of citizen media (Online NewsHour), many leaders of news organizations are still trying to figure out whether or not participatory journalism, as it is also called, is needed in their companies. These leaders are filled with “concern and a healthy skepticism” (Outing).

Accoring to an article on the Poynter Institute’s Web site, there are many layers of citizen journalism. The first steps are to open up to public comment and include citizen add-on reporters (Outing). For example, some news Web sites allow their readers to comment on the articles they read. These observations can shed light on topics that were not thoroughly covered or properly explained by the writers. Unfortunately, some news organizations don’t allow this because they feel they are giving up too much control to the readers (Outing, Dorroh). They forget that an Internet post can give birth to significant discussions that keep news stories and relevant subjects in the minds and conversations of the people.

One such example of “indymedia” took place in 1999 in Seattle. During this time, there were riots at World Trade Organization meetings held in the Northwest. Self-appointed journalists were taking the initiative to report what was going on. In doing so, they painted a very different picture from what the local media portrayed as anarchy (Social Tech). A group called the Independent Media Center was formed, helping change the way journalism is done today (Social Tech). While such groups generally have trouble maintaining an objective point of view, they also can provide worthy alternative points of view.

Another similar group, Backfence, started up in May 2005 (Dorroh). Building their own technology with about $100,000 they earned as consultants on similar projects for major media outlets, Mark Potts and Susan DeFife founded an "all local" citizen journalism company in the Washington, D.C., area (Dorroh). For a relatively cheap price, the technology employed by Potts and DeFife allows its users to post information and photos, and to edit the posts of other citizen journalists. In this way, their Web site is like a hybrid blog-wiki.

Overseas, the citizen journalism trend has also taken root. Within 24 hours of the London bombings, the BBC received about 20,000 e-mails and 1,000 photos from citizens trying to contribute to the news (Woullard).

Some folks wonder if we have taken the idea of “freedom of the press” too far. While I have extolled some of the virtues, such as accessibility, of citizen journalism, critics remain opposed to the practice. The downside of allowing average Joes to publish their ideas is the possible harm done to reputations due to faulty or “suspect” information (Coursey).

“I am not a big fan of the ‘citizen journalism’ being practiced on the Internet these days,” David Coursey of wrote. “One of the tenets of ‘real’ journalism is that you don't distribute information that hasn't been checked. Citizen publishers are under no such obligation…”

Although corrections can be made to inaccurate posts, some readers or viewers may never see the corrections and assume the original story is true (Coursey). Besides, who wants to take the time to correct what Coursey calls “wacky Internet posts?”

There are pros and cons to citizens’ journalistic efforts. However, despite its drawbacks, the ability to get fresh and varied opinions and information make citizen journalism a significant part of media in the Information Age.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Welcome to the Blog!

Welcome to the Sam Scorup blog. It's a new site and has a limited number of features right now, but that will change. Take a look at some of the Web sites that I've posted links to. Also, you can scope out a couple of nice pictures. Thanks to everyone that helped with the photos and stuff. They're fantastic!

This blog is starting as an assignment for a class at BYU, but I'm hoping it turns out to be a fun project. I'm excited for it and I hope to be able to post some meaningful information and get some good discussion going on the site.

Feel free to read what I wrote about a hometown friend who plays on the BYU football team, the rise of international players in the NBA, and an article on the changes in marriage age among Latter-day Saints. The Keele article was published in the Tri-City Herald (you folks from home know this paper), and the other two were printed in BYU's The Daily Universe. However, here you can find the full text--not the cut-down, lame print versions. You know what that means--these versions are Sam Scorup exclusives, found only on this blog, baby! Consider yourselves lucky.

Que Dios los bendiga,

Basketball’s worldwide popularity changes face of NBA

Big Shot Rob put the finishing touches on his wardrobe, adjusting the collar on the jacket of his golden-colored suit after another San Antonio Spurs victory.

“Hey, Big Shot, do you got a minute?” this reporter asked.

A man who earned his nickname for his seemingly endless list of clutch performances in the playoffs, Robert Horry acquiesced to the correspondent’s request. But Horry wasn’t asked to talk about his exploits this time around; instead, he spoke about the influx of international talent in the NBA.

For the 2005-06 season, the NBA featured 82 international players from 38 countries and territories, according to

Aided by widespread media coverage, the NBA will never again be an all-American league; each of its 30 teams has or previously has had a player from outside the United States.

Intense training regimens for young athletes have contributed to the diversity of the NBA, said Horry, owner of six NBA championship rings.

“They [international players] go out and practice basic skills,” Horry said. “We [Americans] go to school and they go to [basketball] camps, basically. They teach them basketball 24/7. We don’t do that so that’s why the [international] explosion has [occurred]. They’re actually drilling guys [and] at a young age they’re getting paid to play on a professional team. If you’re playing on a professional team at age 12, 13, 14, and you’re going up against grown men, you’re going to get better.”

However, the NBA’s culture hasn’t changed completely, Horry said.

“They’re in the United States, so they adapt to our ways,” he said. “There are so many cultures in this country. They find a restaurant they like or whatever they want to do. It’s a country so diverse anyway; it really doesn’t matter if they’re playing ball or not.”

So how does someone from a country traditionally crazed with soccer make it to the NBA?

“[In my youth], I played a little soccer but I think because of my height and my friends I got involved in basketball,” said Spurs forward Fabricio Oberto, who stands 6-feet-10 and hails from Argentina. “It was my passion since I was young. I started playing at age 7, so I’ve been playing for quite a while.”

Increasing the worldwide representation of the league is a natural result of the improved basketball skill from international players, said Oberto, an NBA rookie and member of Argentina’s Olympic gold medal-winning national team.

“Being the best [basketball] league in the world, I think the NBA grows and looks for the best players in the world,” Oberto said.

Although it was once unforeseeable that a U.S. team of NBA stars could lose to a foreign team, Argentina’s Olympic victory was not unprecedented.

In 2002, at the World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis, Argentina became the first team to defeat an American team featuring NBA players in international competition. The Argentines won the silver medal, losing to Yugoslavia in overtime in the finals.

In 2004, at the Olympic games in Athens, Greece, Argentina defeated the American team in the semifinals and went on to win gold. Together with its gold medal in soccer that same year, it was Argentina’s first summer Olympics gold medals in any sport in 52 years.

The previous successes of the U.S. team motivated other teams to improve, with the hope to eventually beat the Americans, Oberto said.

Members of the Argentine team may still not fully understand the gravity of their victory, Oberto said.

“It’s incredible to be on that [short] list [of teams that have won Olympic gold in men’s basketball],” he said.

Some of the same Olympians are also impacting their teams professionally in the United States.

In the past, the Spurs relied more heavily on Tim Duncan, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands. In recent years, however, other players from around the world have stepped up their games, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.

“The maturation of Tony Parker [of France] and Manu [Ginobili, of Argentina] really helps us be more balanced and able to have as much of a perimeter and fastbreak game as an inside game,” Popovich said.

Devin Brown, who won a championship with the Spurs and currently plays for the Utah Jazz, said he enjoyed his experiences with teammates from around the world, including a training camp in Parker’s homeland.

“You get a chance to learn about everybody’s background [and] see how they grew up,” Brown said. “It’s very interesting that they all came from different places. That’s one of the things about having so many games and spending a lot of time together; they know a little bit about you and you get to know something about them.”

Don’t expect the flood of international talent to the NBA to slow down, Brown said.

“[International scouting] is intense. Not only in the NBA, but in college, too,” he said. “You start finding more diamonds in the rough, so to speak. It’s a great chance for them to represent their country.”

Marriage Age Among LDS Church Members Climbing

Latter-day Saint young adults have had mixed reactions to the trend showing an increase in the average marriage age among LDS church members.

Although the 2000-2003 U.S. Census Bureau data showed Utah had the lowest average age of marriage in the country—about 24 years of age for men and 22 for women, some three years younger than the national average for each gender—the age has increased among Latter-day Saints, said Elder Dallin H. Oaks, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“This tendency to postpone adult responsibilities, including marriage and family, is surely visible among our LDS young adults,” said Elder Oaks at a CES Fireside in 2005. “The average age at marriage has increased in the last few decades, and the number of children born to LDS married couples has decreased.”

BYU students have also seen signs of the tendency to delay marriage.

“People are scared of commitment,” said Dean Stonehocker, 24, s sociology major from Bonners Ferry, Idaho. “Girls don’t want to get married as much as they did when my parents went to college. They talk about it, but they run away.”

In the 1994 book "Contemporary Mormonism," a compilation of information about the LDS Church, data showed the average marriage age for Latter-day Saints was 22.3 years for males and 21.0 years for females. Although the average marriage age for Utahns may not mirror that of Latter-day Saints, there is a strong correlation between the two.

Bruce Chadwick, a sociology professor at BYU, said he noted the change in marriage age and attitudes among the LDS population.

"You can see the age of marriage has moved up," Chadwick said. "It used to be that you would see someone come back from a mission and get married in 6 months; now, you see people unmarried in their mid-30s."

The current economic situation demands a higher level of education, which sometimes causes delays in marriage, Chadwick said.

"People say 'I can't get married.' It's a big responsibility and they fear one of the spouses would have to drop out of school."

While some adults are anti-marriage, most Latter-day Saints plan on getting married, Chadwick said. However, a need for financial security, higher education and a desire to buy luxuries lead some people to put marriage on the backburner.

The push for education is often misinterpreted as a priority that replaces marriage, Stonehocker said. Even prominent media figures are joining in on the bandwagon when it comes to putting off marriage.

"It's kind of a world trend," Stonehocker said. "Dr. Laura says you shouldn't get married until you're 30."

Stonehocker bemoaned the societal consequences of this trend, such as later marriages resulting in fewer children. This has led to a decreased population in Europe, while in the United States the birthrate has led to only minor population growth recently. Possible pitfalls include a social security crisis resulting from too few youth to care for the elderly, Stonehocker said.

Waiting for marriage has both good and bad repercussions, Chadwick said. On one hand, couples may be more mature if they are older when they get married. On the other hand, waiting longer for marriage can cause some to fall into temptation and moral sin, Chadwick said.

Benjamin Groves, 21, a sophomore from Naches, Wash., majoring in molecular biology, said he noticed a lot of people putting off marriage in his mission country of Nicaragua. Men would return home from missions, lose sight of their goals and fail to seek out a future spouse. They decided to get an education and a job before marriage. Groves said people who weren't married by the time they were 30 years old may have become accustomed to single life, and therefore were comfortable in the lifestyle, sapping them of their desire to find their better halves.

Female BYU students shared similar opinions.

Rikki Purdy, a freshman from Peachtree City, Ga., said the media emphasize career first, then marriage, while highlighting pretty, stable, single women who can live a financially independent lifestyle.

Purdy said she plans to enjoy her youth while she can.

"You're only young once and there's only a certain amount of time to do things married couples can't," she said. "I love the idea of being an independent musician before I have to settle down and think about marriage."

Heather Wilcox, a sophomore from Peachtree City, Ga., said the emphasis on career and education has changed perceptions about the importance of marriage and motherhood.

Additionally, current social ideology emphasizes later marriage, Wilcox said.

"I think timing in marriage is something very personal and something a young woman can only know for herself," she said. "I would hope that young women today don't put off marriage for temporal or selfish reasons, but do make the time to be certain that such an important decision is right."

Stonehocker said people should actively search for a spouse, but not simply rush into marriage.

"People don't need to be jumping in unprepared, but they need to be willing to jump in," Stonehocker said.

And Groves' final advice?

"Go get married, then find me a date," he said.

Othello's Eddie Keele finds meaning in injury

Eddie Keele’s football season and college athletics career ended on Sept. 16.

After tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament, Keele’s dream of playing professional football was in serious jeopardy. Perhaps worse, he wouldn’t be able to take the field for the better part of his senior season, one that held high hopes for the BYU Cougars.

As he lay on the field in Boston, both knees were in pain. Though the injury to his right knee is what cost him much of the season, the left one felt worse at first.

“I thought maybe I had strained something, but nothing bad,” Keele said. “It didn’t really hurt that bad.”

The next morning though, Keele knew something was wrong when he noticed extreme swelling.

The week after the injury, Keele said he had already come to grips with the season-ending injury. He said he was fine. But he was not fine.

Keele later admitted that he had alternated between feeling fine and feeling depressed for the first weeks after the injury. He and his wife, Jennie, cried for a couple of days.

“It was almost harder for her [Jennie] than it was for me,” Keele said. “I’m still a little upset when I think about it. I was shocked for a week straight and didn’t know what to think about it.”

He went with Jennie to his hometown of Othello, Wash., for a few days to shake off the bitter disappointment that accompanies a crushed dream. He didn’t visit anybody besides his family.

Eventually, Keele came to grips with the situation.

“There was a lot of crying the first few weeks,” Keele said. “But now I’m OK.”

Keele still has hopes of playing in the National Football League. Keele said he has made contact with about 15 agents, but at the present time is focusing on rehabilitating his knee. Despite the injury, Keele’s conversations with agents have continued at their normal pace, he said. Perhaps the injury is less crucial to an offensive lineman than it would be to a player who must cut and change direction more often, such as a running back, Keele said.

For a quarterback or running back, racking up big statistics in yards and touchdowns are measuring sticks for performance. Keele’s success on the field, however, can be measured with one number – zero. As in zero sacks allowed in the 2005 season.

This stat is one of the reasons why Keele has gotten looks from agents. And Keele still does what he can so his football career may progress. In fact, Jay Omer the head strength and conditioning coach for BYU athletics, said Keele’s work ethic has helped him add 30 pounds to his bench press since his surgery in September.

BYU’s starting right guard, Travis Bright, said because of hard work, he expects Keele to soon improve on the 535-lb. mark on the bench.

“He comes in well before anyone else to do his rehab,” Bright said. “He’s probably one of the hardest-working guys on the team; he’s always that person that’s going to do that little extra.”

Bright also said he and Keele push each further when working out. Keele is also careful to put in the necessary time to study offensive line coach Jeff Grimes’ plays, Bright said.

Despite the importance place football has in Keele’s life, he recognizes the other important aspects of his life. Keele’s beliefs and support system have been paramount to his ability to cope with the injury. Faith and family fuel him. He even found a silver lining to his injury: more time for church responsibilities. Hours after arriving home from the Boston College game, some of Keele’s ecclesiastical leaders called him to be a counselor in his elders’ quorum.

“Things happen for a reason, and I’m trying really hard to do what I’m supposed to,” Keele said. “Tearing my ACL is not the end of my world. I can keep working and hopefully fulfill my church callings. I’ll do better at school and be a better husband, hopefully, and focus on things that matter even more [than football].”

Jennie Keele, who is a starter on BYU’s basketball team, praised her husband for how he has handled adversity and maintained his priorities.

“He’s always been positive and he looks for the best in everything,” Keele said.

Eddie Keele returned the compliment, saying his wife helps him stay optimistic and confident.

“She always tells me how good I am,” Keele said. “It helps me feel tough.”

Working through hard times usually leads to some kind of good result, Keele said. He has seen others deal with difficulty. For example, the father of one of Keele’s friends and teammates passed away recently. While Keele has had his own set of hardships, he said they are nothing compared to what his teammate goes through.

The injury may open up avenues for Keele to achieve other dreams, such as coaching, teaching and working in the field of pharmaceuticals. If he is unable to make a living from football, he would prefer to work in pharmaceuticals because, as he said with some embarrassment for fear of sounding selfish, he’ll need the money. If he is already financially established, Keele would prefer to coach and teach at a high school.

It’s no surprise Keele would want to work at a social job. The smile on his face while he teaches P.E. and Health at Timpview High School (Provo, Utah) for his internship shows Keele loves to be around people, Bright said.

At Bright’s first college game, Keele was the first person to calm his nerves.

“He said the right things,” Bright said. “He told me to treat it like it was just another practice.”

Whether Keele is lending a comforting word to a teammate, or cracking jokes at offensive line meetings, Bright said Keele gives the team a calm assurance.

“[With Keele], you get the feeling everything’s going to work out,” Bright said. “He’s going to do his job…and the team feeds off that confidence.”

It’s that same confidence that lets Keele know – happen whatever may – everything is going to work out fine.