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Citizen Sports racks up honors with LSWA

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Citizen Sports racks up honors with LSWA

The Ouachita Citizen placed in multiple categories in the 2019 Louisiana Sports Writers Association. 

Sports editor Jake Martin was named Class II Prep Writer of the Year, and the Ouachita Citizen drew third place for best sports section in Class II. 

Below are the results of the 2019 LSWA contest with The Ouachita Citizen honors in bold: 

Judge’s comments: A dramatic, detailed story about Tiger Woods’ historic march to his fifth Masters championship. The well-written lead describes the golfer playing with Woods as wearing “the sorrowful, caged look of a guy caught at an opera he didn’t want to attend, much less be in.” The writer also sprinkles the story with historical perspective.

2. Larry Holder, The Athletic New Orleans. Story on Saints vs. Rams regular season game in which Drew Brees suffers injury.

3. Brooks Kubena, The Advocate. Story on Saints controversial loss to Rams in NFC Championship Game.

HM. Amie Just, The Advocate. Story on Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater leading the team to a fifth-straight win.

 

1. AMIE JUST, NOLA.com / The Times-Picayune. Story on LSU’s senior gymnasts at the NCAA Championships.

Judge’s comments: Vivid story-telling that captures a big moment. It’s one thing to paint a picture but this story went beyond that with depth. It read quickly, always the mark of a well-written story.

2. Jerit Roser, TigerDetails.com. Story on LSU’s first basketball title since 2009 amid a protest atmosphere.

HM. Brooks Kubena, The Advocate. Story on LSU taking down Alabama for first time since 2011.

 

PRO/COLLEGE EVENT – CLASS II

1. CHRIS SINGLETON, The Courier/Daily Comet. Story on New Orleans Saints win over the Houston Texans.

Judge’s comments: The writer had a game-winning 58-yard field goal with which to work, but he/she nailed it with this story about the lack of “panic” the Saints felt in the final seconds. Good quotes. Good description of the kick.

2. Mike Gegenheimer, The Courier/Daily Comet. Story on Nicholls football wild win in River Bell Classic

3. Raymond Partsch III, The Daily Iberian. Story on Texas’ victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

 

1. ROD WALKER, The Advocate. Story on Newman quarterback Arch Manning’s first high school football game.

Judge’s comments: By far the best in this category. The writer captured the debut of the heir to the throne of Manning football royalty with a tale so engaging I temporarily forgot I was judging a contest. It had all the details that put me in the moment, but also captured the grandness of the spectacle. Perhaps most important, the writer managed to craft it clearly without trying to compete with the story itself. And he didn’t bore me with inane statistics. Hallelujah!

2. Adam Hunsucker, Monroe News-Star. Oak Grove blows out White Castle in Class 1A championship game.

3. Bruce Brown, The Daily Advertiser. Acadiana Rams get sloppy for one quarter but hold on for artistic victory.

HM. Lenny Vangilder, Crescent City Sports. Story on the high school bowling championships.

 

PREP/AMATEUR EVENT – CLASS II

1. CHRIS SINGLETON, The Courier/Daily Comet. Story on St. James winning first football state championship in 40 years.

Judge’s comments: It’s a long read, but the writer managed to capture the enormity of the moment up high before breaking off into deadline play by play.

2. Bobby Ardoin, The Daily World. Story on football game between Eunice and Northwest.

3. Raymond Partsch III, The Daily Iberian. Story on stoppage time goal sparks ESA to playoff victory.

 

1. JEFF DUNCAN, The Athletic New Orleans. Column on fallout/reaction from the 2019 NFC Championship Game.

Judge’s comments: The writer did an excellent job of explaining why the Saints’ crushing loss was so devastating to New Orleans, a unique and passionate place that’s unlike any other NFL city.

2. Jim Derry, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune. Column on the 25 other things to do than watch the Super Bowl.

3. Scooter Hobbs, Lake Charles American Press. Column on NFC no-call robs Saints of spot in the Super Bowl.

HM. Luke Johnson, The Advocate. Column on how Saints season appeared over after Drew Brees injury.

 

1. LES EAST, SaturdayDownSouth.com. Column on LSU athletic director Scott Woodward and the Tiger Athletic Foundation.

Judge’s comments: This column takes a strong stance on an important topic and is written by someone who knows the subject extremely well. It is informed by research that produced salient facts used skillfully to support the author’s point. I appreciated that (the) author made an effort not to demean the value of football in comparison to education — which would have been a too-easy choice — and instead emphasized how they had, previously, been symbiotic at LSU.

2. John Marcase, The Town Talk. Column on LSU football loud on and off the field.

3. Scooter Hobbs, Lake Charles American Press. Column on LSU enters new world with clutch win over Texas

HM. Scott Rabalais, The Advocate. Column on LSU basketball team losing without suspended coach Will Wade.

 

1. JOHN MARCASE, The Town Talk. Column on LHSAA forcing Vidalia football coach Dee Faircloth to retire.

Judge’s comments: The first-place story is a fantastic demonstration of how to call out a clearly flawed rule, and the writer just so happened to have a fantastic example to lead with.

2. Scooter Hobbs, Lake Charles American Press. Column on the best prep star that never existed.

3. Rod Walker, The Advocate. Column on Edna Karr winning fourth straight title.

GENERAL COLUMN – CLASS II

1. RAYMOND PARTSCH III, The Daily Iberian. Column on how childish behavior widens LHSAA split.

Judge’s comments: The winner got down to the nitty gritty on a controversial topic.

2. Mike Gegenheimer, The Courier/Daily Comet. Column on what the redemption of Ed Orgeron says about life.

3. Chris Singleton, The Courier/Daily Comet. Column on Louisiana Tech football star Amik Robertson.

HM. Kelly McElroy, The Courier/Daily Comet. Column on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

 

1. TEDDY ALLEN, The Shreveport Times. Story on Anthony “Booger” McFarland.

Judge’s comments: Who doesn’t like a good “Booger” story? And certainly, this is one. The writer does a good job of introducing us to Booger and explaining the nickname, while also providing insight into what makes him, well, “Booger.” Nice work.

2. Les East, Crescent City Sports. Story on professional baseball’s departure from New Orleans area.

3. Amie Just, The Advocate. Story on Demario Davis and how his faith led him from jail to New Orleans.

HM. Glenn Guilbeau, USA TODAY-Louisiana. Story on Saints JV team playing well without Drew Brees.

 

COLLEGE FEATURE – CLASS I

1. LUKE JOHNSON, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune. Story on legacy of Delgado baseball coach Joe Scheuermann.

Judge’s comments: This profile brings a family’s generations-long devotion to light. The lede drew the reader in, the stories painted a picture and the tempo of this story was perfect from start to finish. It made you care about the Scheuermann family – and about Delgado baseball.

2. Brooks Kubena, The Advocate. Story on why and how Joe Burrow can lead LSU.

3. Jeffrey Marx, The Advocate. Story on LSU gymnast Lexie Priessmann.

HM. Teddy Allen, The Shreveport Times. Story on Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Nitz.

 

1. ROBIN FAMBROUGH, The Advocate. Story on Catholic-Pointe Coupee David Simoneaux juggling triumph, tragedy.

Judge’s comments: This piece perfectly sets the scene with details includings sights and sounds that connect you to the setting. Quotes are perfectly woven in, offering insight that couldn’t be found elsewhere and helps the reader develop an emotional connection to what they’re reading.

2. Larry Holder, The Athletic New Orleans. Story on kicker Manuel Pastor, foreign exchange student to eliminate Peyton Manning, Newman.

3. Lamar Gafford, The Town Talk. Story on Peabody basketball coach Charles Smith before induction into Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

HM. Jeff Duncan, The Athletic New Orleans. Story on Newman School quarterback Arch Manning.

 

GENERAL FEATURE – CLASS II

1. TONY TAGLAVORE, 318 Forum Magazine. Feature on sports talk host Tim Fletcher

Judge’s comments: This is the kind of story people naturally gravitate to, one that finds the subject, who has enjoyed great success, take a step out of his comfort zone for personal reasons and finds success again. Here’s a tip of the cap to Fletch, and to the writer who told his story in fine fashion.

2. Chris Singleton, The Courier/Daily Comet. Feature on death of Assumption High athlete Armond “Ziggy” Landry.

3. Mike Gegenheimer, The Courier/Daily Comet. Feature on Nicholls wide receiver Mason Roberts set to join Secret Service.

HM. Jake Martin, Ouachita Citizen. Feature on Graves duo shares bond over playing days.

 

BREAKING NEWS – OPEN CLASS

1. TIM BUCKLEY, The Daily Advertiser. Coverage of the death of Ragin’ Cajuns baseball coach Tony Robichaux.

Judge’s comments: The obituary, through an industrious use of clips and current interviews, took a full account of a man who might have been well known as a successful baseball coach but told readers much more — about his folksy manner, the conflict about missing his boys youth baseball career, and how the sport was a vehicle for him to connect with his players.

2. Robin Fambrough, The Advocate. Story on select schools forming LSA to execute logistics of stand-alone playoffs.

3. Rod Walker, The Advocate. Story on prep coaching legend Otis Washington passing away at age 80.

HM. Glenn Guilbeau, USA TODAY-Louisiana. Story on firing of LSU athletic director Joe Alleva.

 

GENERAL SPORTS – OPEN CLASS

1. JEFF DUNCAN, The Athletic New Orleans. Investigative story on the Carver High School football stadium.

Judge’s comments: Superb job of covering this story from every angle. The writer interviewed everyone connected with the story. Author did an excellent job of trying to explain something that is unexplainable. Or, more accurately, inexcusable.

3. Rod Walker, The Advocate. Story on death of famed PGA Tour caddie Alfred Dyer.

HM. John Simerman, The Advocate. Story on how failure at track can end in heartbreak for Louisiana race horses.

 

OUTDOORS WRITING – OPEN CLASS

1. RAYMOND PARTSCH III, 1037TheGame.com. Feature on impact state’s first Bassmaster Classic champion has had on state championship winning fisherman.

Judge’s comments: Good story about the relationship between a man and his grandson, and not just the typical guy bragging about his grandkid. Good job providing background on both individuals and plenty of excellent quotes.

2. Tony Marks, Ville Platte Gazette. Feature on Lafayette teenager killing an alligator at Miller’s Lake.

3. Joe Macaluso, The Advocate. Falling from a tree stand can put you in the ER – or worse.

HM. Don Shoopman, The Daily Iberian. Story on Loreauville outdoorsman, son, friends enjoying bountiful dove hunt.

 

1.THE DAILY ADVERTISER. 10th Anniversary of Saints Super Bowl season.

Judge’s comments: Getting the fronts from the other Louisiana newspapers from that day was a wonderful touch. Alternating those pages with the original content kept things fresh and interesting. The mix of stories did a nice job of connecting that 2009 team to the current team. A great concept executed extremely well.

2. The Advocate. LSU-Alabama football preview.

3. The Advocate. LSU-Oklahoma Peach Bowl preview.

 

1. MINDEN PRESS-HERALD. 2019 Football Preview Section.

Judge’s comments: Very slick design! This looks like one of those glossy preview magazines you see on a store shelf. Great use of colors throughout and nice little touches, like the little football shape cutout for the page number. The writing is concise and ‘big picture.’ This is something to be proud of.

2.The Daily Iberian. 2019 High School Preview Section.

3. The Courier/Daily Comet. 2019 Football Preview Section.

 

COLLEGE/PRO PHOTOGRAPHY – OPEN CLASS

1. DAVID GRUNFELD, NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune. Photo from NFC Championship Game between the New Orleans Saints and L.A. Rams.

Judge’s comments: No brainer here… a great action photo that tells the story, and elicits a blood pressure raising reaction from every Saints fan ever. While there are earlier images of the Ram taking the Saints’ receiver out of the play before the ball arrives, clearly making it pass interference, this image still gets the story told.

2. Bill Feig, The Advocate. Photo of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow being carried off the field after another victory.

3. Travis Spradling, The Advocate. Photo of LSU quarterback gesturing to the North end zone Student section.

HM. Clint Domingue, 1037TheGame.com. Photo of UL’s Trajan Wesley driving to the basket against Southeastern Louisiana.

 

PREP/AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHY – OPEN CLASS

1. BILL FEIG, The Advocate. Photo of LSU signee Rammie Noel leaping over a goalie en route to scoring a goal during a soccer club match.

Judge’s comments: Clearly the best of the bunch. Action, overachieving, scared, determination, and rejection all in one photo. Best sports image that I judged in any category.

2. Hilary Scheinuk, The Advocate. Photo of University High quarterback Tanner Lawson losing the ball on a sack by a Madison Prep player.

3. Travis Spradling, The Advocate. Photo of couple from Plaquemine crossing the finish line of a 10K.

HM. Tony Marks, Oakdale Journal. Photo of the Oberlin baseball team winning state title.

 

Judge’s comments: The Advocate is considered one of the best papers in the country, and the examples in this entry shows why.

2. Lake Charles American-Press

3. The Daily Advertiser

 

1. THE COURIER / DAILY COMET

Judge’s comments: In a very tight race, The Courier/Daily Comet wins out by having the best mix of immediate content packaged with coverage from previous days.

1. ROBIN FAMBROUGH, The Advocate.

Judge’s comments: Impressive diversity in this group of stories. From a moving story on the death of a coach’s mom due to Alzheimer’s disease to a very vivid retrospective on Augustus’ legend to pointed criticism of the LHSAA split championship format, the writer shows depth, versatility and the ability to recognize a good story.

2. Les East, Crescent City Sports/Varsity Sports Louisiana.

3. Eric Narcisse, The Daily Advertiser.

HM. Jim Derry, St. Tammany Farmer/The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate.

 

1. JAKE MARTIN, Ouachita Citizen

Judge’s comments: I liked this selection of stories and the themes of dealing with failure and falling just short of winning titles in the baseball and softball stories.

2. Bobby Ardoin, The Daily World.

3. Chris Singleton, The Courier/Daily Comet.

HM. J.J. Marshall, Minden Press-Herald.

 

1. SCOTT RABALAIS, The Advocate.

Judge’s comments: This columnist captured three events with great perspective and stylish writing. He hit the key points in the events and molded them into a mosaic of words that provided opinion and insight to his readers. Lots of historical perspective in the columns and a rhythm in the writing.

2. Larry Holder, The Athletic New Orleans.

3. Lenny Vangilder, Crescent City Sports.

HM. Les East, Crescent City Sports/Saturday Down South.

 

1. MIKE GEGENHEIMER, The Courier/Daily Comet.

Judge’s comments: I liked that there were strong opinions clearly expressed in all of the columns. Whether you agree or not, it’s always good to know where the columnist stands on the topic.

2. J.J. Marshall, The Minden Press Herald.

3. Raymond Partsch III, The Daily Iberian.

HM. Kelly McElroy, The Courier/Daily Comet.

 

JEFF DUNCAN, The Athletic New Orleans. Investigative story on the Carver High School football stadium.

Judge’s comments: Lot of excellent entries, as usual, and difficult to compare the apples and oranges of gamers and columns to features. But one entry stood out for the depth of the reporting and its investigative tone. At first, I thought the story about George Washington Carver High and its football stadium was going to have a happy ending. Then the writer got my attention by telling me the stadium hadn’t been built and more than $1 million went missing. The mystery grabbed me.

It was a difficult, complicated narrative to tell but it was done well and kept me on edge. The amount of reporting required far exceeded the other entries and the writing was smartly matter-of-fact, a reader-friendly method with a story of this length. I wanted to know who did what to whom and the writer painted a pretty clear picture of that but did it in an objective way that allowed me to draw my own conclusions on who were the real culprits and villains.

Ultimately, it’s a story of another epic fail caused by a government getting involved. Quotes aren’t often great kickers but this one, “It’s weeds,” said it all in two words. A great job of organization, reporting and story-telling. My message to the writer: Thanks for writing this piece.

 

CHRIS SINGLETON, The Courier / Daily Comet

Awarded to the writer who accumulates the most points (points awarded on a 3-2-1 basis) in regular writing categories. Points are NOT awarded for Prep Writer of the Year, Columnist of the Year, or Story of the Year.

Chris Singleton 9 (two 1st, one 2nd, one 3rd)

Raymond Partsch III 8 (two 1st, two 3rd)

Rod Walker 6 (one 1st, three 3rd)

John Marcase 5 (one 1st, one 2nd)

Mike Gegenheimer 5 (two 2nd, one 3rd)

Robin Fambrough 5 (one 1st, one 2nd)

Les East 5 (one 1st, one 2nd)

Amie Just 4 (one 1st, one 3rd)

Scooter Hobbs 4 (one 2nd, two 3rd)

Tony Taglavore 3 (one 1st)

J.J. Marshall 3 (one 2nd, one 3rd)

Brooks Kubena 3 (one 2nd, one 3rd)

Adam Hunsucker 2 (one 2nd)

Lamar Gafford 1 (one 3rd)

Bruce Brown 1 (one 3rd)

 

(points awarded on a 3-2-1 basis except for Story of the Year)

The Advocate 38 (six 1st, five 2nd, 10 3rd)

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune 12 (three 1st, one 2nd, one 3rd)

The Athletic New Orleans 12 (two 1st, three 2nd)

The Daily Advertiser 9 (two 1st, three 3rd)

Lake Charles American-Press 6 (two 2nd, two 3rd)

The Town Talk 6 (one 1st, one 2nd, one 3rd)

Shreveport Times 3 (one 1st)

Ville Platte Gazette 2 (one 2nd)

Monroe News-Star 2 (one 2nd)

 

THE COURIER / DAILY COMET

The Courier/Daily Comet 22 (four 1st, three 2nd, four 3rd)

The Daily Iberian 10 (one 1st, two 2nd, three 3rd)

Minden Press-Herald 5 (one 1st, one 2nd)

Ouachita Citizen 4 (one 1st, one 3rd)

The Daily World 4 (two 2nd)

318 Forum Magazine 3 (one 1st)

 

BEST SPORTS TALK SHOW (SOLO)

1. MATT MOSCONA (host), After Further Review, 104.5 ESPN, Baton Rouge

Judge’s comments: This entry had great energy, great cadence, and I love the random rant basically ripping Ohio State. This host showed passion, stated facts, and really captured me with his confidence on the microphone. Very, very entertaining.

2. Raymond Partsch III (host), Louis Prejean (producer), RP3 & Company, 103.7 The Game, Lafayette

3. Ben Love (host), Clint Domingue (producer), Bumper to Bumper Sports, 103.7 The Game, Lafayette

HM. Patrick Netherton (host), Rogers Hampton (producer), Patrick Netherton Show, 1130 The Tiger, Shreveport

 

BEST SPORTS TALK SHOW (DUO-GROUP)

1. AARON DIETRICH and JAKE MARTIN (hosts), John Tabor (producer), Morning Drive, Sports Talk 97.7 FM, Monroe.

2. J.J. Marshall and Ben Marshall (hosts), Travis Stewart, producer, Sports Talk with JJ & Benzai, 1130 The Tiger, Shreveport.

3. Jordy Culotta and T-Bob Hebert (hosts), Off the Bench, 104.5 ESPN, Baton Rouge.

HM. Don Allen, Glenn Quebedeaux, Bruce Brown, Tom Brown and Bobby Ardoin (hosts), Clint Domingue (producer), Five Guys, Stories & Lies, 103.7 The Game, Lafayette.

 

1. Carencro High School Football, Ben Love and Blaine Viator, Z105.9 FM.

Judge’s comments: “I liked the chemistry between the play-by-play announcer and color analyst. Nice inflection on the big plays, good facts, and I felt like I was updated with stats and game log. Loved the pacing and excitement of the play-by-play announcer in this entry.”

2. Captain Shreve High School Football, Tony Taglavote and Jimmy Martin, The River 95.7 FM.

3. Lafayette High School Football, Raymond Partsch III and Chad Jones, The Rewind 97.7 FM, Lafayette.

HM. St. Thomas More Football, Danny Jones and Sam Heinen, 103.7 The Game, Lafayette.

 

1. MATT MOSCONA and RYAN THERIOT, The Riot Podcast, 104.5 ESPN, Baton Rouge.

Judge’s comments: “High Energy, attention driven content, kept my attention through all 5 minutes. Audio quality was perfect. Great chemistry. I learned several things during the podcast, mixed player perspective without sounding smarter than the average fan. Brought the content to my level.”

2. Raymond Partsch III, The RAP Game Podcast, 103.7 The Game, Lafayette.

3. J.J. Marshall and Teddy Allen, Designated Writers, Designated Writers.com.

HM. Ralph Malbrough, Saints Happy Hour Podcast.

 

1. AARON DIETRICH, KNOE, Monroe

Judge’s comments: The stories were heartwarming and very well done. The questions, editing and shooting were excellent.

2. Andrew Doak, WWL, New Orleans

3. Fletcher Mackel, WDSU, New Orleans

 

1. LYN ROLLINS and CHRIS MYCOSKIE (announcers), LA Tech and ULM Football, ESPN+.

Judge’s comments: The intro to the Louisiana Tech game was very well-researched and well-presented. The play-by-play was extremely smooth ad

2. Ken Berthelot and Wayde Keiser (announcers), Lenny Vangilder (producer), High School Football, Crescent City Sports.

3. Dan McDonald and Eric Mouton (announcers), Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics, ESPN+.

SPORTS INFORMATION/COMMUNICATIONS

 

FEATURE/RELEASE (FOOTBALL)

1. CODY WORSHAM LSU. “That’s Joe” (Prelude).

Judge’s comments: Writer took advantage of LSU’s massive budget to travel with a video crew to Burrow’s Ohio hometown and write a thorough 10-part series which told you everything about the Tigers’ Heisman Trophy winner in the making. Even the synopsis story he entered for this contest was more than 6,200 words. But it was well-written and had a great flow.

2. Jason Pugh, Northwestern State. Williams’ death latest test of Demons’ tightly knit family.

3. Malcolm Butler, Louisiana Tech. Lewis Shows Leadership Through Adversity.

 

FEATURE/RELEASE (BASKETBALL/BASEBALL)

1. KANE McGUIRE, Louisiana Tech. Hall of Fame: Randy White.

Judge’s comments: Great insight mixed with needed perspective on this former LA Tech basketball star being inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame. Writer did excellent research and it showed.

2. Jason Pugh, Northwestern State. Demon baseball alumni deal with alternate spring reality.

3. Kent Lowe, LSU, Memories Plentiful of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.

 

FEATURE/RELEASE (WOMEN’S BASKETBALL, SOFTBALL)

1. ED CASSIERE, Xavier, Moore takes her talents to 1 Drexel Drive.

Judge’s comments: Great lede – “There are no winged horses flying above Xavier University of Louisiana’s Convocation Center . . . and no leprechauns lurking in the Washington Avenue Canal that divides the campus. But check out this rarity. . . ”drew readers into the uniqueness of Xavier women’s basketball signing Shaelynn Moore, a graduate transfer from rival Dillard.

2. Malcolm Butler, Louisiana Tech – Louisiana Tech pulls upset over Blazers.

ALL OTHER SPORTS/STORIES

1. MALCOLM BUTLER, Louisiana Tech. Lincoln Parish Buddy Davis passes.

Judge’s comments: It was an obituary that read like a Who’s Who tribute to one of the best and most beloved sportswriters ever in Louisiana. When you have coaches and athletes praising you as did Davis, you know you’ve done something right in your career.

2. Harrison Valentine, LSU. Consistency, Maturity Key in Kiya Johnson’s Fast Start at LSU.

3. Matthew Bonnette, McNeese. Macintyre Ties for 6th at The Open Championship.

 

GRAPHICS (award given to school department)

1. LSU.

Judge’s comments: Both of LSU’s entries jumped out at you. There was the simplicity of a poster of Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow in his white LSU jersey and his Heisman Trophy at his feet contrasted against a purple background ghosted with a few pictures of him and several relevant phrases. Then, there was the national championship game poster celebrating the win over Clemson featuring 19 pictures from game night and a montage of 20 players as well as Ed Orgeron’s One Team One Heartbeat in a signature that may or not be his. The national title poster is over-the-top too busy, but considering the magnitude of the victory and the fact so many players contributed, it works.

2. Louisiana Tech

3. McNeese

 

COLLEGE STAFF PHOTOS

1. DARRELL JAMES, Louisiana Tech. Softball player makes diving outfield grab.

Judge’s Comments: Is it luck? Is it great timing? Is it camera operator precision? Probably all of the above when the spectacular play is made and someone is there to get it at its right moment. That’s what happened here. Of course the player has to contribute here as well to allow this perfectly framed and focused shot.

2. Gus Stark, LSU. Emotions of Javonte Smart and Arkansas bench contrasting as horn sounds.

3. Raymond Stuart, McNeese. Flying dunk by McNeese player over opponent.

 

COLLEGE RADIO PLAY-BY-PLAY

1. CHRIS BLAIR, LSU. Football game vs. Florida.

Judge’s Comments: I admit I wasn’t going to listen to part of the national championship playoffs, but this game with Florida may have been one of the more important. Florida about to score to tie, interception, quick LSU drive. Great emotion and crowd noise mixed well. Good cut-ins when allowed by analyst. More importantly, time and score are mentioned enough.

2 Dave Nitz, Louisiana Tech. Independence Bowl.

3. (tie) Tony Taglavore, Northwestern State. Women’s Basketball game vs. Grambling.

3. (tie) Malcolm Butler, Louisiana Tech. Women’s Basketball game vs. Western Kentucky.

Entertainment

Dune Shows WB Learned Nothing From Zack Snyder’s DCEU

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Dune Shows WB Learned Nothing From Zack Snyder's DCEU

The handling of Dune and its necessary sequel shows Warner Bros. failed to learn its lesson from Justice League and their original DCEU plans with Zack Snyder. Despite the fallout of Snyder’s departure from the DC franchise, the studio handed another epic, bug budget sci-fi project to an auteur director without fully committing to the creative vision.

After Man of Steel, Warner Bros. announced a slate of director-driven DCEU projects surrounding Zack Snyder’s planned Justice League arc, seemingly committing to Snyder’s vision for the DC universe, but after a rocky start, the Snyderverse was abandoned, leaving the future of the DCEU in the lurch. While there was a specific plan in place for a grand culmination of Snyder’s 5-part Justice League story, including a number of spin-offs from other directors, Warner Bros. says there’s no plans to see this original plan to completion, meaning the story set up by the original slate of DCEU films will never be fully realized.


Related: The Snyder Cut Proves WB Killed Their Best Chance to Compete With Marvel

While WB gave auteur director Denis Villeneuve $165 million to adapt the first half of the epic sci-fi novel Dune, the studio decided not to approve the sequel until after they could see how the initial installment, only half the story, performed at the box office. This continues WB’s history of embarking on big director-driven projects without fully committing to the vision, an approach that is virtually guaranteed to ensure the resulting product will be less than its original conception, even if a Dune sequel still happens.

WB’s Failed Director-Driven DCEU Plan

Justice League Snyder cut snyderverse

After the success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, Warner Bros. had Nolan develop a modern adaptation for Superman, and Nolan selected Zack Snyder as the director due to his approach with his adaptation of Watchmen. Man of Steel became the highest-grossing Superman movie, so Warner Bros. had Snyder develop a larger DCEU plan, which became Snyder’s 5-part Justice League saga. The story would center on Superman but would bring in the rest of the Justice League members, and a full slate of movies was planned, including Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern Corps., and a solo Batman movie. Warner Bros.’original DCEU plan was to follow the model established by Nolan with The Dark Knight trilogy and Man of Steel by bringing in directors with distinct styles to head each project, including David Ayer, Patty Jenkins, Rick Famuyiwa, James Wan, and Ben Affleck.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were among 2016’s top-grossing movies, but their polarizing reviews resulted in notoriously low Rotten Tomatoes scores, resulting in Warners taking drastic action to change plans for the rest of the franchise. The changes immediately impacted Justice League the most even though it was already in production, resulting in conflict with Snyder that eventually resulted in him exiting the project following a family tragedy, allowing WB to bring in Joss Whedon to drastically reshape the project in reshoots, abandoning most of the sequel set-up and erasing as much of Snyder’s distinctive style as possible. The fallout impacted almost all the remaining movies in the slate. Aquaman was already in production, but both Famuyiwa and Affleck left their respective movies. Versions of The Flash and The Batman are coming out next year, but both are drastically different versions than originally planned (and The Batman isn’t even part of DCEU canon)

Snyder’s plan was very clearly leading to a big culmination, with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice teasing a post-apocalyptic “Knightmare” future that had been conquered by Superman who was under the control of DC ultra-baddie, Darkseid. Snyder would eventually get the chance to release his intended version of the movie, the 4-hour long Zack Snyder’s Justice League, spurring excitement for what would have been, but with no plans for Snyder to return and the current slate servicing a different plan, Warner Bros. seems content to leave this epic set-up forever unresolved.

Related: The Latest Restore The SnyderVerse Trend Proves It’s Not Going Away

The odd part is Warner Bros.’ biggest successes with DC movies have always come from the bold visions of distinct directors like Richard Donner, Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan, and even Zack Snyder, while attempts to make more broadly appealing crowd-pleasers didn’t work, like Batman & Robin, Superman Returns, and Green Lantern. As if to double down on the point, Snyder’s Watchmen, Batman v Superman, and Justice League saw significant changes for their theatrical releases, only for Snyder’s director’s cuts to be nearly universally regarded as the superior product. Despite the problems caused by their decision to abandon the original DCEU plans, Warner Bros. didn’t learn their lesson and made similar decisions with Villeneuve’s Dune.

Warner Bros. Repeated Their DCEU Mistakes With Dune

Why WB betting big on Dune Villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 was lauded by critics, but bombed at the box office, bringing in less than $260 million from a $150 million budget, failing to hit the typical twice-budget break-even point. Blade Runner 2049 was Villeneuve’s highest-grossing movie, despite its box office failure, but his ability to adapt stunning high-concept sci-fi convinced Warner Bros. to hand him the reins to Dune, although they didn’t opt to film it back-to-back with a sequel, or even greenlight a sequel at all, despite knowing Villeneuve was only adapting half the book in the first movie.

While WB’s caution is understandable due to Villeneuve’s box office history, the willingness to begin work on the $165 Dune part 1 without committing to part 2 upfront immediately shortchanges the franchise’s potential. Under this strategy, the absolute best-case scenario was Villeneuve produces a monster hit with an incomplete story and WB has to start the sequel from scratch and can’t capitalize on Dune‘s performance for three years. In addition to the time delay, they also miss out on the massive cost savings of shooting back-to-back, reducing the overall profitability of both movies. The worst-case scenario would be the movie flops and the whole thing looks like a massive, ill-conceived blunder on the part of WB, who would have a massive bomb on their hands after entrusting a big-budget sci-fi epic to an auteur director whose last big-budget sci-fi epic also flopped. While Villeneuve and WB escaped harsh criticism for Blade Runner 2049 due to the movie’s quality, that likely wouldn’t be the case if Dune flopped, since the movie is only half the story of the Dune book, and adapting it would likely burn a chance for another director to take a swing at the property in the near future.

Meanwhile, committing to the whole vision up-front would have been better all-around, even if WB’s concerns came true and Dune flopped.  The cost-savings of back-to-back production would at least partially offset box office losses, audiences wouldn’t be deprived of the second half of the story, and there’s always the chance the sequel could be a bigger hit, salvaging the hypothetical losses from part 1. Like with Blade Runner 2049, the quality of the film would offset a lot of the criticism over the box office losses.

Dune had a solid box office opening and seems to have fair chances of getting a sequel, but it won’t be soon enough for audiences hungry for a sequel and may see a reduced budget, ironically missing out on the cost savings that could have accompanied a back-to-back sequel production. If Warner Bros. was willing to take the risk of the first installment, why not commit to the whole vision?

Warner Bros. Needs To Follow Through On Director Driven Visions

New Warner Bros. Logo

Warner Bros. has a history of being a studio that takes big swings on grand director visions, but changes in leadership in recent years, such as the departure of former Warner Bros. Pictures Group president Jeff Robinov (who brought iconic directors like Nolan, Affleck, Snyder, the Wachowskis, and others to the studio) has seen a rise in situations like Justice League and Dune. As if to punctuate the severity of the decline, Nolan decided to make his next movie at Universal after working with Warner Bros. exclusively for nearly 20 years.

Related: Nolan’s Massive Universal Deal Could Reinvent Blockbusters Post-Pandemic

The problem isn’t that the days of bold director-driven projects are in the rearview mirror at Warner Bros., those still exist, there’s even a new Matrix movie coming out December, but there is a concerning pattern of self-sabotage of big projects brought on by a lack of trust in their directors. Situations like Justice League and Dune make the studio’s decision-making suspect and erode consumer confidence in their projects, particularly for big IP adaptations.

The whole thing is also incredibly short-sighted. It’s common for a franchise to overcome early stumbles only for those movies to be well regarded after the franchise finds its footing. The Marvel Cinematic Universe had several films in Phase 1 that were considered underwhelming at the time and Fast and Furious powered through several films with a mediocre reception to become one of the biggest franchises in film. Even films like the original Blade Runner got poor reviews and underperformed at the box office and are now considered required viewing. In the case of the DCEU, Warner Bros. was scared away from Zack Snyder’s plan because of reviews for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but that movie was so impactful in the zeitgeist that WB’s attempts to pivot away from Snyder couldn’t outpace their momentum, and they eventually had to cave to demands for the Snyder Cut when simply committing to the plan and finishing the plan they started would have seen Zack Snyder’s arc completed by now, allowing them to start fresh without having to deal with the unending reminders of the incomplete Snyderverse.

Fortunately, Dune is well received and performing well at the box office, which bodes well for sequel potential, but the lost time, momentum, and wasted money will ultimately hold back the complete vision from what it could have been if they’d produced the movies back-to-back. If WB wants to retain (or regain) its reputation for being the studio that produces this kind of movie, they need to gain some confidence and stop with the half measures and deliver on the director visions they sell to audiences.

Next: Why Warner Bros Losing Christopher Nolan Is Such A Big Deal

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

Fashion’s OG Instagrammers are building empires and, at the same time, growing their influence beyond the industry.

After being schooled for years on the workings of the fashion industry, mega-influencers including Danielle Bernstein (2.7 million Instagram followers) and Rocky Barnes (2.5 million Instagram followers) are graduating to careers less reliant on brands. To take it to the next level, they’re leveraging their prowess and communities, driving deals with effective business partners, and evolving their focus, based on the industry’s direction and their own passions. The emerging results, for both Bernstein and Barnes, are personally-backed brands and investment portfolios set to expand based on early successes.

“The plan is to grow, in a big way,” said Bernstein. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll always want to introduce new businesses and categories to my brand. And I’m angel investing and joining the board of advisors for so many companies. That’s the future of the creator economy: harnessing and creating community around your existing followers and then figuring out how to monetize that.”

In 2019, upon inking a licensing deal with New York-based clothing company Onia, Bernstein launched the Shop We Wore What e-commerce site, populated with her expanding We Wore What fashion collection. The collection has been at the center of much recent controversy, due to allegedly including copycat designs. According to Bernstein, she turns to vintage pieces, editorials and travel for inspiration. Bernstein’s also become an investor and advisor for hair supplement company Wellbel and CBD brand Highline Wellness. In May, she became active on Patreon, offering exclusive video content to paying members of her community.

In addition, Bernstein heads up We Gave What, a charitable arm of her company. In 2019, she launched tech company Moe Assist with a project management tool for influencers, though its social accounts have been inactive for two-plus months. When asked for comment, a spokesperson said Moe Assist is in a new fundraising stage and “should have news to share shortly.”

Barnes, meanwhile, partnered with Reunited Clothing to come out with her apparel company, The Bright Side, in December. And she recently became a first-time investor-advisor, for 6-month-old SMS shopping platform Qatch. She announced the partnership in an Instagram post on Monday.

“I feel like a grown-up,” she told me, before confirming that she’s interested in investing in more companies. “Diversifying my business has been a really big [focus] for me. I interact with so many different brands and companies on a daily basis. Using my market knowledge in ways that can help other people is fulfilling and exciting for me. And I especially love when I can be involved with a company from the beginning.”

Building on their content creator role in fashion is a natural progression, both said. And it plays into many industry shifts: On its way out is fashion’s DTC era, largely fueled by Harvard Business School and Wharton graduates using a plug-and-play, marketing-heavy business model to launch brands. More consumers are prioritizing quality, differentiated products, making industry experience and style expertise greater virtues among insiders. At the same time, consumers are increasingly taking shopping cues from relatable, platform-native celebrities, moving on from authoritative editors and more closed-off celebrities.

The school of collaborations
The collaborator-to-founder shift isn’t the newest thing. Other longtime influencers that have made the pivot include Arielle Charnas, with Something Navy; Aimee Song, with Song of Style; Rumi Neely, with Are You Am I; the list goes on. Most often, the names behind these brands don’t have formal design and business training — for her part, Bernstein said she “went to FIT for two years, but didn’t study design and production.” But, for years, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with companies to bring their visions to life. And along the way, they’ve come to know what resonates best with their vast communities, from marketing to merchandising to product.

“My most successful collaborations have led to the largest share of my business,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein’s partnership with Onia came out of her swimwear collaboration with its Onia brand, in May 2019. On the collab’s launch day, it drove $2 million in sales, and an included style was the brand’s best-selling swimsuit of the summer. Also in 2019, Bernstein collaborated with Joe’s Jeans on multiple denim collections. The launch day of the first, in March 2019, marked Joe Jeans’ best sales day to date, said Jennifer Hawkins, the brand’s svp of marketing and innovation on a Glossy Podcast in October.

Both served as learning opportunities for Bernstein, who said — as with all of her collaborations — she took full advantage: “It was never just [uploading] a post, and then I went away,” she said. “I always wanted to know how the performance was, in terms of sales, and asked questions: ‘Can you share the analytics?’ ‘What did you see on your end?’ ‘What worked and what didn’t work?’”

She added, “They provided a ton of data, in terms of what I could sell and what the market was missing.”

Likewise, she said, she always followed and shared with partner brands the Instagram Insights and Google Analytics numbers around her corresponding posts. Doing so gave all parties a 360-degree view of a collaboration’s success.

“I’ve learned what works for brands so they get the largest return on their investment,” she said.

For example, she’s learned to lean on her audience’s tastes, versus rely on her own, by allowing them to offer feedback throughout the design process through Instagram. That’s included the selection of fabrics and colors and the fit sessions with models. She only spotlights her favorite styles and what she wears in her own social posts, as a play for authenticity.

According to Bernstein, the collaborations with brands allowing her to play an advisor role — by guiding them on influencer partnerships, marketing and messaging — are always more successful. And they often turn into longer-term investment or advising partnerships.

Bernstein chose to work with Onia on the We Wore What collection based on its prioritization of quality and fit, and ability to keep to affordable retail prices. Currently, prices on the We Wore What site range from $20, for a scrunchie, to $228, for a vegan leather jumpsuit.

Barnes was also ready to go out on her own after finding the right partners. Her Reunited Clothing partnership came after working with the company to create her Express product collaboration, in early 2019. On its first-quarter 2019 earnings call, interim CEO Matthew C. Moullering said the company had seen “a strong start to [the] collection both in-stores and online and [believed] it [was] helping to introduce the brand to a new audience.”

“Having your own brand is terrifying,” Barnes said. “But I like that I’m in control and not so dependent on doing the day-to-day posts promoting other companies.”

But, she added, “One of the huge benefits of working with all these different brands on all these different projects is that we’re constantly getting introduced to new people and seeing who we like working with.”

Barnes’ internal team consists of her husband, who’s the “business brains” of the company, she said, and an assistant.

Like Bernstein, Barnes stressed the need for outside support in the production process: “I love such quirky, crazy things, but I also understand what is realistic for a buyer and a normal girl buying clothes,” she said. “The experience of taking ideas and making them work for a bigger group of people was my learning curve going into a business. It’s important to have a good, diverse team around you who can make your idea something that’s marketable.”

For its part, We Wore What has seen “200x growth in the last year,” as it’s expanded to new categories, Bernstein said. Its ready-to-wear, swimwear, resort wear, and activewear are now sold in “dozens and dozens of retailers around the world,” many of which offer style exclusives; they include Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix.

“Launching my own brand was putting the proof in the pudding for the power of influencers, when it comes to selling product,” she said.

As with her Joe’s and Onia collaborations, Bernstein sees a rush-to-buy with We Wore What product drops. “The first 10 minutes is when we see the biggest portion of our sales for the entire collection,” she said.

To build buzz, Shop We Wore What’s Instagram account (213,000 followers) features in its Stories the line sheets of the soon-to-launch styles, allowing customers to thoughtfully plan their buy. Doing so has led to lower return rates, Bernstein said. The company’s marketing mix also includes text messages and emails, VIP discounts and user-generated content.

Bernstein has a staff of four people, which include a chief operating officer and a brand coordinator. She said she prioritizes establishing partners with skills and expertise she doesn’t have, so she can learn from them along the way. Ideally, she’d have learned about tech packs, fittings and production logistics in school, but she’s training as she goes.

Moving forward, Bernstein said she plans to extend the size range of We What What styles, which are currently available in sizes XS-XXL, and launch collections with collaborators to sell exclusively on her brand’s DTC site. In addition, she aims to eventually open “experimental” physical retail, starting with pop-ups.

As for her investment-advisor portfolio, she’s currently in talks with companies centered on the concepts of “being able to sell your closet and even rent your closet.”

As for Barnes’ Bright Side, she said it will hit “a bunch of new retailers this year.”

Moving beyond fashion
Up next for Shop We Wore What is a new product category that will hit before the holiday season. Considering her passion for home furnishings and decor — based on her @homeworewhat Instagram account (7,500 followers) and recent press coverage of her new SoHo loft — it’s a safe bet that a home-related category is in the cards.

Likewise, Barnes hinted at a future Bright Side home collection, following her recent, two-year home remodel, which she’s getting set to debut on social media.

Lifestyle brands are the clear goal.

“I would love to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart, just having my hands in everything and creating this really beautiful lifestyle where you can entertain and be fashionable,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

She added, “Fashion is where my heart has always been, but I’m growing as a person and there’s so much more in my life right now: my family, my home — and I’m getting older, so beauty [and skin care] makes sense now. Sharing all of that with everyone seems so natural; it would be weird if I only did fashion.”

As for future investments, though Quatch fits perfectly into Barnes’ world, with its fashion-tech focus, she said she’s open to investing in any company where she sees opportunity.

What’s more, she has no plans to retire from social media, though she has yet to tackle TikTok.

“People’s need for content has only increased, so I’m posting and creating content more than ever,” Barnes said. “But I’ve learned to become more of a hard-ass with brands. The companies that are willing to work with me and [facilitate] the most like authentic relationship possible are the ones I move forward with.” Reunited can attest.

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South African bowler Tabraiz Shamsi: Amateur magician; professional tweaker-trickster

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Harry Potter fans would know this as the Room of Requirement; muggle cricketers dub it backend operations. Tabraiz Shamsi is an amateur magician. He is also a professional worrier of why some googlies don’t turn as much as he’d want, in cricket.

For the Proteas chinaman bowler, the room of requirement from where he could pull out any game data, used to be the dependable ‘P Dawgg’, former South Africa analyst Prasanna Agoram combining his ken and nous and fast processing laptop. Prasanna enviably would be privy to the trial (and error) runs of Magician Shamsi’s classical Tourniquet coin-drops with the cricket ball. Which was the unglamorous, quirk-in-progress of his left-arm leg spin.

At the stroke of 1 a.m, oftener than not, Shamsi would come looking for what he called ‘shit balls’, in what Prasanna reckoned were otherwise impressive, less-than-run-a-ball bowling spells. This was that one specific delivery that went for a six to sully Shamsi’s 4-0-22-3 T20 match figures. It was the bugs, not the features, that the 29-year-old would cussedly fixate on.

“I’d never point out that he’s missing his length or the back foot was collapsing, at 12.30 in the night. Because Shamo, you see, would then take me to the nets at 1 a.m! He’s capable of calling the manager and telling him at that hour that I have to practice NOW. You had to be careful about what you told him at 1 a.m,” Prasanna laughs, underlining ungrudging admiration for the Proteas spinner’s dedication.

A series of self-recriminations in staccato would follow the ‘Bhai, can you please put on the shit-ball that went for a six.’ “He’d curse himself watching replays: ‘no good, not international class, garbage ball.’ If you try telling him it is ‘well-played’ from Jos Butler and not exactly a poor ball, he’d be hard on himself and say, ‘This is nonsense from Shamo’,” Prasanna recalls of his exacting standards.

For, the South African World No 1 spinner – who lends mystery to the Saffer bowling attack if not entirely upstaging their thunderbolt battery of pacers – knows that all sleights of hand, can come with uncontrollable twists of fate. Both in magic, and cricket.

A young boy of 15 at Paarl who tried to bowl quick like Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas, had wound up as a left arm leg spin all-sorts, after years of compulsive fine-tuning. And taken failures and omissions into his run-up’s five-strides.

***
Born in Johannesburg, Shamsi wanted to be a super quick in the land of bolting pacers. His progress though didn’t follow the regular route of being identified early for First teams at schools and playing age-groups. Also, he was told he wasn’t quick enough.

Speaking to the podcast ‘Pavilion conversations with C.S’ recently, Shamsi recalls his earliest break at age 15, bowling alone in the school nets, with the cricket coach’s office nearby. The coach would stop by and ask him what he was upto. “I said, ‘Sir, the U15 trials are coming up. I want to make the Paarl team wanna progress’. He told me – you are not gonna make it. But even there I thought he realised the type of character I am. That was just his way to push me even harder. He said ‘Don’t waste your time practicing coz you won’t get selected. And i was even more driven,” he told the host Mr. Chiwanza.

Shamsi would end up with most wickets that tournament, make the B team (“Still not A”), followed by U17 and U19s for the local side. “I didn’t get selected for SA U19s or invited to camps. My past was little different. In fact I got my opportunity at semi-pro cricket because one player got selected for U19s and went to the World Cup. A spot opened up because of him. I just knew that was my chance I had to make it work. And fortunately I performed. When he came back from the World Cup, he couldn’t get into the team,” Shamsi recalled.

It was around 2015-6 after he had zeroed in on Chinaman as his chosen bag of assorted tricks in franchise, provincial cricket, that he first sought out Prasanna, while closely following senior leggie and his ‘bruv’ Imran Tahir. Prasanna promised to compile a list of outstanding T20 spinners of that year for comparison, when Shamsi asked him: ‘Why just T20? I want to play all formats.’

Prasanna promised to revert after two days on Friday, and on Monday, he had a message from the hotel lobby at 10.30 am that Shamsi was waiting. “Normally, cricketers will turn up at 11.30, if the analyst time is 10.30. This guy made me abandon my breakfast and was ready with a list of questions. I’d prepared a presentation earlier on bowlers like Warne, Ajmal and Herath and how they bowled on unhelpful tracks, what lengths to bowl at what stage, and offered to email it to him. He tells me: “No. I’ll write it down in my own words. I don’t want shortcuts.”

Shamsi would sit and plan for every batsman – his notes diary in tow, even on matchdays when he wasn’t in Playing XI. And once he would spill the beans on why brainwaves struck him at 1 a.m – his preferred time to brainstorm with the analyst. “He once told me he eats my brain at that hour, so that he gets dreams of how to get a Kohli or Sharma out, so he can wake up next day he can execute the training plans.”

Once he came angsty about his googlies not spinning as much as Kuldeep Yadav or Brad Hogg. “When he said it’s not spinning, I told him Shamo’ you didn’t bowl any googly. That’s it. He hit the nets and bowled 1000 googlies non-stop and then said, he’s now hitting the groove.”

But nothing had prepared Prasanna for Shamsi’s mic-drop in the pink ball Test against Australia where the Chinaman was fancied as it’s tougher to spot the wrist in the Adelaidian twilight. Shamsi was instructed to block for 20 balls and support Faf as Proteas were hanging on at 210-9. Shamsi would announce he would score a 50 – against Pat Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc. Finally he was unbeaten on 18. “He came back and blustered ‘If someone had suported me, I’d have hit that 50’.”

***

This constant state of ‘upbeat’ – talking up his own abilities to score a 50 coming at No 11 against Cummins & Starc – might well be the sort of swag and sizzle that the staid South African teams need at ICC tournaments. For a large part of the last 30 years, the Proteas have entered tournaments with burdensome tags of ‘talented’ and ‘favourites’ and come up short. The tasteless mocking glee of choke-jokes has run its course, and being light-weights might well prove liberating.

For all their botched run chases in 50 overs, South Africa can stake claim to the historic highest run-rally to 438. And the innings-interval remark of Jacques Kallis, the most expensive bowler in Australia’s 434, who had quipped “Guys, I think we’ve done a good job. They’re 15 runs short.”

Shamsi likes his boisterous one-liners too. And his showboating and noisy over-the-top pantomime aggression.

After starring in a T20 win against Ireland earlier, he would tell South African journalist Telford Vice, “In my young age, I started as a seamer but was told I’m not quick enough to be a fast bowler so became a spinner. Grew up watching Andre Nel, Dayle Steyn, Allan Donald, that’s where aggression comes from.”

He knows it’s a double-edged sword and a bowler can be packed off, but it can disrupt batters too. “Whatever it takes to win. I’m in charge of making our presence felt on the ground and ensure the team never backs down from opponents,” he added.

Shamsi recently responded to Darren Sammy’s tweet on who would win the T20 World: “Come on skipper, you know the answer to this already…. South Africa of course.” Scroll down the thread, and some mocker mangles his grammar: “are you comedy me”. A good laugh was had by all. Pressure punctured.

“He’ll say things like ‘I’ll single-handedly win this,” Prasanna says, “Whether it happens or not, it gives confidence to people close to you – your team.”

***

Shamsi’s made it to the top of rankings, taking 49 wickets from 42 T20Is, at a strike-rate of 14.8 and averaging 6.6. There’s been a bucketful of wickets in franchise cricket and The Hundred. He’s 31 and has bidden his time to make it to the national team, and another 4 years into the Playing XI. The Wicket then, is an ocassion to celebrate, he reckons.

“I’m a human being and not a robot and want to make long-lasting happy memories that will live with me forever long after my career is done and that is the reason behind my celebrations,” he wrote in a social media post once. “My celebrations mean no disrespect to the opponents. They help me enjoy myself, switch on and off during the game to release some pressure, and put some smiles on people’s faces too.”

There’s the “Shoe” that got going in the West Indies, where within seconds of a wicket, he’d shrug his ankle open from the left shoe and pretend to speak on a landline receiver. Then there’s the bus driver-celebration with Carlos Braithwaite and something about a birdie’s chirp. A flying kiss to the wife and a mock punch to a fielder like a streets hip hopper. Though the untold back-stories raise anticipation of what he’ll whip up next.

Prasanna says there can be new hairdos before every game, sometimes “thrice a week”, and that magic tricks and celebrations are practiced as diligently as the googlies and top-spinners. “Not only will he say, ‘Tomorrow I’ll get Ben Stokes out.’ He’ll also ask you to watch the celebration.”

Amongst his most famous on-field triumph-trumpetings after snaring a batter is pulling a wand out of a hankey – a magician’s staple. But never in cricket, where magic’s glossary is slathered on the slow bowlers and their guiles.

T20 commentators love his name, lending it a South American football match caller’s vroom: “Shaaa-mzzziii”. But it’s the celebrations that can befuddle the most trained of raconteurs. When Shamsi got Wihan Lubbe in the Mzansi Super League, the commentator would build up to the expected celebration. “Is the shoe coming off? No. Look at that…it’s magic,” he would chortle. Cricket was momentarily put to the side, before he resumed confused: “That was a legspinner…… Beg your pardon… Offspinner… That did the trick..” Shamsi’s delivery had jagged away from the leftie and the post-celebration left the commentator’s mind in knots.

Appearing on the Dan Nicholl Show in SA, Shamsi had pulled one of those ‘I can guess the card pulled out of the deck after being shuffled’ tricks. It was ace of spades.

Magic had been his fallback option till age 16, he’d say. “So if cricket doesn’t work out… I ll practice magic for 10 years… But naa… It’s gonna work out.. I’ll bamboozle you all,” he would say, charming the audience.

At the start of the magic gig, Shamsi had handed a sealed envelope to the host. “Sealed with Proteas saliva” Nicholl had joked with whispered reverence. The distracting envelope had briefly become the centrepiece, and Shamsi would explain later:
“You satisfied you made me stop shuffling when u wanted me to? Funny thing is…You thought you were in charge of the trick… Telling me when to stop. Even though it’s your show, I’m running this party… I was controlling you and I actually made you stop at a specific point. …And to prove that I had written down something in this envelope before starting the trick..” It read Ace of Spades.

Shamsi’s assortment of Chinaman, is a bit like that: planned spontaneity. Allan Donald in a video while introducing him to RCB few seasons ago, said: “Left arm, tweaks it this way, tweaks it that way, then tweaks it the other way.” Offering attacking options in the middle overs, with his ability to turn ball both ways, and variations of top spinner, the side spinner and googly, makes him effective against both lefties and righties. The constant explosion of activity – before, right after when appealing (he once did a spot of bhangra jumps, then sat down altogether while pleading a decision) and when celebrating, is in fact the sealed envelope distraction.

Yet, bad days are not unfamiliar to Shamsi, and his role can be flexible like the magician’s wand, like in the West Indies, to keep things quiet, contain against the big power hitters. “There’s two ways to skin a cat… Not really fussed about not getting wickets in WI. That was a different role,” he told the media later.

Sometimes the magic is in not believing the flimflam and sleight. Like rankings. “I don’t lose sleep over being No 1. Obviously it’s a nice feeling to be on top. But I’ve said it before and I truly mean it. I don’t even think I’m the best bowler in our team. We have some great bowlers in the unit. Rankings don’t mean anything if a batsman gets hold of you. I don’t even know how those rankings work honestly.”

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