Lance Armstrong does not like jack-o’-lanterns

Lance Armstrong does not like jack-o’-lanterns. This is the father of five who beat cancer and treated bicycle races through mountain ranges like a walk in the park. But when it comes time to carve the pumpkins every Halloween, he leaves the room and lets mom take over.

It’s a haunting reminder of the autumn day more than 15 years ago when his life changed forever. A headache came on suddenly during a night out with friends. He played it off on the drinks they’d been having, but when he coughed up a sink-full of blood the next morning, he knew it was serious.

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Canisius Team of the Year selection 2011-12

The last poll at the end of the student senate elections last weekend asked students to nominate a varsity athletic team of the year. In a down year for Canisius sports across the board, I can understand why some people thought this was a joke, but it actually is a real award.

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Belardo, two others leaving Canisius basketball

Following a coaching change from Tom Parrotta to Jim Baron, Canisius point guard Gaby Belardo announced today he will not be retuning to the program.

Freshman Franklin Milian and sophomore David Santiago will also leave the team, Canisius announced.

Belardo — who played one year at South Florida, transferred to Canisius, redshirted and then played two years for the Griffs — has one year of eligibility remaining. He already earned his undergraduate degree and will make use of an NCAA rule to allows students to transfer without having to sit out if they already have a degree.

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Tim Graham’s seven tips to a great sports blog

Tim Graham is a former ESPN reporter who currently works for the Buffalo News. He is also an adjunct professor at Canisius College, where he instructs a sports journalism class. Today’s lesson was on running a sports blog, an area he became an expert in by operating ESPN’s AFC East blog until this past summer. He has given me permission to share the lesson with you here. Follow Tim on Twitter if you don’t already.

Above all else, Tim Graham says a sports blog should be unique. Don’t rehash what everyone has already said. He points to personality, voice, unusual analysis, humor and sources as traits that make a blog unique.

Your “sources” don’t have to be high-up league officials with confidential information. Anyone who provides quality (or otherwise interesting) insight can be effective for your blog. Tim, in this example, is my “source.”

Here are his seven tips for running a successful blog, in order of importance. “If you don’t do No. 1 and No. 2, nobody’s even going to care about the other five,” he says.

1. Credibility

The standards for blogs should be the same as for journalism. Your blog is only as good as your name. If you start blowing stories, no one will trust you.

A subcategory under credibility is balance. Balanced coverage lends trustworthiness. If you cover the good along with the bad, readers feel you’re being honest with them. Tim refuses to read what he calls “homer blogs” and “hater blogs” because they don’t give you anything new or insightful. Every post promotes the same agenda and is a repeat of what that blogger has already said.

2. Over-edit

With an average sports blog, there is no editorial board. You’re the writer, copy editor, headline writer and layout editor. Your work doesn’t end when you finish writing. Read your posts two and three times before publishing.

The look of the page is also on you. Most blogging sites allow you to pick a theme, but sprucing it up is your job. Nobody expects Average Joe sports blogger to have a site that looks like the homepage for [insert your favorite professional news outlet here], but making it look attractive isn’t asking much. Lastly, follow AP Style. Don’t let the grammar and punctuation of your work — or lack thereof — distract from the meaning.

3. Be conversational

Make it fun. That can be easier said than done, but if you love what you’re covering, it should come natural. This leads into the next point…

4. Be interactive

Giving your readers a chance to talk back is a given. That’s Web 2.0 — “so 27 seconds ago,” in terms of social media. Be active on Twitter and Facebook and use comments, polls and chats to your advantage.

Tim says comments are especially important because they keep people on your page. Plus, you get more hits when people come back to your site to argue with each other. And if people visit to your site without you having to do any extra work, that’s always good.

5. Keep readers guessing

Remember in “The Mighty Ducks 2” when Miss McKay had to coach the team and wanted them to switch lines and yelled “Change it up!”? That’s what I thought of when Tim introduced his fifth point. Throw in different types of things. Post a photo and say “hey, write a caption for this.” Audio, video, podcasts and chats are all ways to give readers something different from an average post.

Tim also noted sometimes it’s interesting to change the times of your posts with the timer function on your blog. I find that I’m always finishing up at different times of day, but if you have a routine you are in for posting, change that up too. See what your audience is like at different times of day.

6. Be a clearing house

Make your site the place to go for your topic. Link to other things that are out there (with attribution!). You can’t cover it all (especially if you’re not making any money for blogging), but if readers know your site has it all, they’ll come back for more.

Tim also mentioned how newspaper philosophy has changed over the last few years. It went from “it didn’t happen unless we report it/can confirm it” to writing the story as “so-and-so is reporting…” This makes your job as a blogger easier, because you can link to anything to tell your readers here’s what going on in the news.

7. Take chances

A great thing about the Web is that you have unlimited space. If you swing and miss, so what? Write again in 45 minutes. It’s not like the newspaper where you’re limited to so much space every day. Go big or go home, right?

Loose ends: Answering your Jim Baron questions

Since Jim Baron’s introductory press conference as Canisius basketball coach, The Griffin has been rounding up answers to many of the questions regarding the hiring. Questions are in bold with responses below.

What are the expectations for Jim Baron?

School president John Hurley: “We looked at his ability to build a winner in a tough situation. He did it at St. Francis and he did it at Bonaventure and he did it at Rhode Island. I think he’s ready to do it again.

“… [Baron] asked me how long did I think it would take [to contend in the MAAC], and I said I don’t know because I don’t do this for a living. I said I have an expectation in the next four or five years that you’re going to be able to hit that level. I hope it happens sooner. I think he thinks that we have some good returning players and the short term is actually a little bit better than other kinds of situations that he’s walked into. It’s not like he has to go out and recruit a whole team.

Baron: “Expectations are to go out there and play as hard as we can.”

Was Canisius worried about Baron’s age?

Athletic Director Bill Maher: “No, not at all … experience as a head coach was one of the key elements we wanted. And thankfully we had a lot of that in our candidate pool. But Jim has been experienced as a head coach at the Division I level for 25 years, and for that I think it’s a level of experience and a level of savvy that he’ll bring to our sideline and into our program that will help us be successful in the league.

“There [are] some great coaches in the MAAC. There’s not as many assistant coaches who are moving up to be [first-time] head coaches. If you look at many of the hires, they’ve been experienced guys who have come from different levels and I think you’re probably going to see a little bit of a trend in that direction.”

What demands did Baron make regarding his staff?

Hurley: “There were two positions that he wanted added in addition to the assistant coaches. But we really had to upgrade the salary pool for the assistant coaches to allow him to hire the people he wanted. Also, he wanted a basketball operations position, kind of a logistics coordinator and a video person, and also some administrative support. Then there were some things in the recruiting budget that he looked at, so he’s willing to work generally within the confines, but we did have to upgrade, so we talked to him about those things and we said yeah, let’s go for it. … We haven’t sorted [the cost] all out yet, but it’s north of $100,000.”

What did players think about the hire?

Junior point guard Gaby Belardo: “He looked like a really tough guy, but that’s just how coaches are. He was really straightforward with us, he told us what he was all about – he was all about winning and school – and everybody felt very comfortable with him.

“A lot of people felt very comfortable with Jayson Gee also, but everybody knew that Jim was the right one. … He had the head coaching experience and that’s what we wanted.”

Sophomore forward Chris Manhertz said he is optimistic for the future, but added you “can’t really please everybody” with a new hire. He also mentioned many players liked Jayson Gee.

What style of play will Baron bring?

Baron says he coaches a high-energy brand of basketball that will score points. He noted that Rhode Island upgraded from a 3,000-seat arena to 8,000-seater under his leadership. “I think a lot of it is because we brought a style of excitement, scored a lot of points, [played] up-tempo, pressured the ball. It’s a very, very exciting style of play.”

Are the reports accurate that Baron’s son Billy will stay at Rhode Island?

Baron wouldn’t say much on the topic but implied Billy will not being suiting for the Griffs. “He’s finishing up and doing what he needs to do there. That’s the most important thing now.”

What’s Tom Parrotta up to?

Belardo said “it breaks my heart to see Coach P go, but it’s for the best.” There have been no official announcements on Parrotta getting a new job yet. His house is still on the market and his wife still grabs lunch with the players most days in Old Main. Junior guard Alshwan Hymes said the players have talked to Parrotta and they think he’ll be fine. “He’s a big boy,” Hymes said.

What was the deal with original contract report in the Buffalo News?

Canisius stands by the claim that that report was inaccurate and originally said it had asked the News to correct the story.

“When that was in the news, I was in the middle of a ten-day trip to Florida and hadn’t even met Jim baron at the time the story ran,” Hurley said. “[Baron] was on the list from the list from the start, but it was one of those things we didn’t know was he going to be interested in coming to Canisius, could we put a deal together that would be attractive to him or not.”

Will Baron have any attachment to current players?

Baron: “What I told the players is I’m a little bit different type of coach. Other coaches come in and they look at the players and say ‘they’re not my players.’ Every program that I’ve been a part of, the program’s players become my players. I become part of the program. It’s our program. It’s our team. It’s our family. And I told these guys, you’re part of the tradition, you’re part of the program and you’re going to be a part of what we do. And you’re an important part of what we do.”

Why wasn’t Freddy Asprilla at the press conference?

Multiple sources told The Griffin Asprilla was in class at the time of the conference. The school said Baron instructed players that class took precedence.

What teams are on tap for next year?

The dates haven’t been set yet, but both UB and St. Bonaventure will visit the Koessler Athletic Center this year. The rest of the nonleague opponents are not finalized, but the Griffs plan to go back out to Las Vegas for another game with UNLV and owe a return game to Maryland-Baltimore County. Other home nonconference opponents include Boston University, UMKC and Longwood. Canisius will be on the road for the ESPN BracketBuster game.

Follow along on Twitter for updates on the Canisius basketball team @NickVeronica.