Why Just Sticking To Sports Will Never Work

One of the hottest topics in the sportswriting niche of the world has been the following online debate, kicked off by Bryan Curtis over at The Ringer.  The name of his piece was "The End of 'Stick to Sports'", and it was a thinkpiece that truly got writing minds thinking.  "Sportswriters have been awakened by Donald Trump’s presidency," the byline read.  "Is that what their readers want?"

It's had an interesting effect on the entire sportswriting community - a response veering from general agreement, to "we never really did stick to sports anyway" and "I will always stick to sports and let others talk about politics."

What it isn't is cut and dry.  I think the problem with this so-called "debate" is that it attempts to make sportswriting into a binary choice - either you stick to sports or you have your sports explore other topics.

Art is not a series of binary choices, and if you agree sportswriting is a form of art, then "sticking to sports" will never work.  It's like saying to Lady Gaga "stick to singing show tunes".  It doesn't work that way.
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Lehigh’s 2017 Recruitment Class Big on Championships and Big on Versatility

(Photo Credit: Dan Gleiter/PennLive)

Head coach Andy Coen came into the conference room at Taylor Gym with a broad smile on his face - the type of face that comes from winning a Patriot League Championship last year, of course, but also the type of face that comes from a man quite happy with his incoming recruiting class.

The fifteen names in the incoming class, "with four extra guys to announce later [on]", Coen said, seemed to fill Lehigh's needs, the fifth consecutive year that Lehigh has been recruiting with the same type of  scholarships as the rest of FCS.

"We had to shore up some depth, we really had to get a little bit of everything," he said.  "We graduated a lot of guys in the secondary, so it was important to get a good group there this year, and I think we did that."

Four defensive backs were announced today as being a part of the incoming class, DB Divine Buckrham, DB Tre Cundiff, DB Tre Neal, and DB Jaylen Floyd.

"The four defensive backs are not only capable of being corners but can also play safety or potentially grow into our rover position," Coen explained in Lehigh's official release. "That's always good when you have kids who start out with the ability to be very versatile in our defense."

In fact, the theme for this entire incoming class could be one of versatility - versatile defensive backs, a versatile running back in RB Evan Chadbourn (a "triple threat type of guy", according to Andy), and even a versatile quarterback in QB Addison Shoup (who is listed as a pro-style quarterback but showed some running ability in his the highlight reel that Lehigh Athletics showed of all the recruits announced today).

"Addison is a very active quarterback," Coen said. "He has a strong arm and does a lot of different things with his feet. He's a little different from QB Nick Shafnisky as he's more of a pure passer than Nick but he's capable of beating defenses by throwing the ball and running with it."

It felt like the guys Andy announced today on offense and defense could be used in a variety of different roles, and that's just how he wanted it.

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Recruit Q+A With DB Dre Blue-Eli

In the run-up to signing day, I caught up with a few of the new recruits to ask them about their recruiting stories and their high school football career.

Today our subject is DB Dre Blue-Eli, who competed at Paulsboro High School in Paulsboro, New Jersey.

Paulsboro HS is considered the "home of Champions", largely to their football championship history.  The Red Raiders have won 18 sectional championships in their history, including a 29-26 win over Salem last season.

Playing at both wide receiver and defensive back, Blue-Eli had a critical fourth down stop on defense in that championship game deep in their territory.

The momentum from his stop led to a 67 yard touchdown run on the very next play, giving Paulsboro a lead they would never relinquish.

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Recruit Q+A With DB Divine Buckrham

In the run-up to signing day, I caught up with a few of the new recruits to ask them about their recruiting stories and their high school football career.

Today our subject is DB Divine Buckrham, who competed at The Kiski School, which is based just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.

The Kiski School is an all boys, small, private school with an enrollment of 210 students.

Despite its small size, it has a long, storied history of football, too.

"From the early 1950's to the present, it is well documented that Kiski has fielded teams deep in football lore and history," Kiski's team website says. "Many of the country's greatest football players of the time started their careers at Kiski."

Situated not far from State College, PA, Kiski graduates include QB Darryl Clark and RB Curtis Enis, two names which should be well known to Nittany Lions fans.


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The 2017 Pre-Signing Day Big Board for Lehigh

With a little over a week to signing day, the incoming football class of 2021 is in real focus.

I'm always hesitant to jump the gun on verbals to Lehigh.  I've been around this long enough to realize that commitments can change.

But I've also found that when you get this close to signing day, you've got a fairly good picture as to what the class looks like.

All verbals are considered "verbals" and are very much unofficial until signing day, but many student-athletes have tweeted their commitments and their tweets are included below.

So a week before signing day, here's some information as to what we know here at LFN about the incoming class.

(A huge thank-you to Rich Heelan and Todd Cuddington, who have done a great job as they always do tracking recruits.  Their constantly-updated spreadsheet is here.)
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Story Of Philadephia Eagles’ 1968 Mud Bowl Parallels 2016 Election

How do you write about sports when it doesn't feel like a game anymore?

This is the crux of the question I've been struggling with over the last few weeks.

Like many of you, I was shocked at the election of Donald Trump to become our next President.  Also like many of you, I paid as he did things differently when it came to talking about the political foes he defeated, how he went about assembling a cabinet, and how he engaged the press.

Everything about this point in time in history feels historic.  No set of Americans have ever elected someone like Donald Trump as President.  Nobody, not Trump of the mobs of Twitter people that seem to follow him, have used Twitter to attack people so directly almost like a weapon, especially focused at journalists that are trying to get at the truth.

Frankly, nobody knows what's coming next.

So how do you write about sports at a time like this?  How do you compartmentalize what you're feeling about the election, and crack open the vault which waxes philosophic about Lehigh's latest and greatest postseason award for football, or latest achievement in basketball or wrestling?

The answer appears to be to look to history - and to look to sports - to find narratives.  And I found one.

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Lehigh Football Recruiting: Analyzing Needs For Class of 2021

Is it already time to ask Santa for a bag filled with new Lehigh recruits?

Since the conclusion of Lehigh's championship 2016 football season, head coach Andy Coen and all of his assistant coaches have been on the trail recruiting the next great Lehigh football players.  While it's a "quiet period" now, as per the NCAA, the Mountain Hawks have been busy.

But what, exactly, does Lehigh need in regards to the offseason?

I forgot; that's why you're here.  Let me share what I think.
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2016 Season In Review: Mountain Hawks Complete Five Year Trek To Patriot League Championship

Kids come to play football at Lehigh because they want their games to matter.

They come to Lehigh willing to sacrifice so much, because they want to win games, of course, but they also play the game in order to win championships - Patriot League Championships.

They want those rings.

Sure, they get to square off against the Villanova's, James Madison's and New Hampshire's of the FCS world to measure themselves against the best of their division.  And they get to participate in the nation's most played Rivalry in all of college football, putting them in an elite club of players and into college football history.

All of those things are very important, of course, and allow them great playing memories and, in the case of the Lafayette game, perennial bragging rights.  

But 2015's heartbreak in Hamilton, the 49-42 loss to Colgate, really hurt on a fundamental level for this Lehigh team.  When that senior class was recruited, one of the things that is a part of the deal is that the Mountain Hawks have won Patriot League championships at least once in every four year span.  Until, that is, the class of 2016, though they came agonizingly close several times.

That disappointment seemed to inform this year's team, which also had a couple of fifth-year seniors in senior WR Derek Knott and senior ROV Laquan Lambert, that so many of last year's team didn't get the chance at the championship rings that they ended up earning this season.  

It informed them all the way to a championship, and rings.
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What Are You Doing the Night of Lehigh’s 2017 Home Opener?

I have this vision.

It's the weekend of the home opener at Murray Goodman Stadium, Labor Day weekend.  It could be a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.

And it's 6:00 PM.

In 2018, the Lehigh football team will open the season with a big celebration of the football program - at Navy, Lehigh's first game against an FBS team in over a decade.

In 2017, why not, as a one-off opportunity, try to have one Lehigh football game, the home opener, be the first-ever night game at Murray Goodman Stadium?

Will it cost money?  Yes.  Will it be easy?  Probably not.

However, is it doable?  I've got to believe the answer is "yes".


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Not A Bad Feast Of FBS and FCS College Football This Weekend

Still bummed that Lehigh's Patriot League Championship season is over?  Yeah, me too.

That doesn't mean that I've totally tuned out the college football landscape, though.

Starting tonight, there's some terrific games on TV and online streaming that I'll be watching, both at the FCS and the FBS level.  Happily, the FCS Round of 16 games are not all going up against each other like last week, so the opportunity is there to catch one or more of those games - and you can bet that I will be.

Below the flip, starting with the MAC championship game tonight, are my picks for games to watch, and - why not? - some picks as to who I think will win.

(Yes, it includes Penn State.  Stop asking.)
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The Bonds That Tie The Lehigh Family Are Strong, May They Never Be Broken