24 Hours to Game

A piece that began as a simple assignment in my feature writing class turned into one of the most draining stories I’ve ever worked on. The labor bore fruit though as this piece was featured in The Minaret‘s tech magazine and was also featured on USA Today | College.  (See January 10.)

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24 Hours to Game

I sat, on my couch, feeling disappointed. I passed into coverage and ran into blitzes, I couldn’t convert on 3rd down and my defense had more holes than the oldest pair of socks in my drawer. I was 15 minutes in and down 24 points.

I sat, less than halfway through my first game of Madden, losing by four scores, and I pondered what I had gotten myself into. I sat, a disheveled mess in a baggy t-shirt and baggy white basketball shorts on my school-provided couch. All I could ask myself was “how can you do this?” “Twenty-three and a half more hours?”

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I wouldn’t call myself athletic, but I’m closer to that than a couch potato. I’m active. I’m involved in the theatre and I’m a sports writer. I’ll walk before I drive if I can. I grew up playing baseball and football and moving around on a stage. I’ve never been stagnant and I’ve never stared at a television for 24 straight hours.

When I was 8, my mom bought me and my two brothers a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. Naturally, we were excited. My older brother gravitated towards action games, shooting games and the like. I played Madden 2001, Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest and Mario Tennis. My little brother played whatever we told him he was going to play.

My mom didn’t like what video games did to us. She read articles aloud at dinner about the effects electronics could have on an adolescent’s brain. She brought the evil into our house and she began to show that she could take it away. She hid the systems unless we’d done our homework, she’d allot minutes of video game time based on how much yard work we’d done. She began to use our interest to her advantage.

The longest I ever played video games before was maybe four hours. I enjoyed them but I wasn’t someone who could just sit down and game. I have friends, many friends, who can do this. They can sit down at one end of an evening and beat up bad guys until the sun rises. Frankly, I’ve never admired this about anyone. “How can you be so close-minded to the world around you?” I thought.

I think it was a mixture of things that pushed me to this experiment. I wanted to see how my brain and body would react. Would my mom’s crazy rants be correct? Would my mind really turn to mush? And I wanted to try out a different lifestyle. Would I regret the time I wasted? Would I simply shut off and finally relax? (Something I haven’t really done in months.)

I was going to play video games for 24 straight hours. I was going to sit and game and turn my cerebral cortex into applesauce.

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Hour 1

I laid down the ground rules for myself earlier in the day. I get as many bathroom breaks as I want. I eat while I play. I talk while I play. I use the computer while I play. I get two 15 minute breaks. That’s it. I text my friends to come over whenever and I begin with a simple game of Madden ’11 on my friend Daniel’s Playstation 3, (He’s lent it to me so I don’t have to bear 24 hours on my original Xbox, which happens to be the most modern video game console I own.)

I begin my expedition at 11:57 p.m. on a Friday night. My friends think I’m an idiot for trying to stay awake for 36ish hours, but I decide to do it this way, so when I finish it’ll be midnight on Saturday night. I can then go straight to bed and sleep until next year.

As mentioned earlier, I’m dominated by the computer for the first half of my first game and I head into halftime down 24-7. Daniel comes over as my first guest as I begin the second half, and he suggests that I check the difficulty. I do, and it’s set to the hardest possible setting. I bring it down a few notches to give myself a fighting chance but still lose by 10. Daniel puts in a frozen pizza. I sit. I set up my first multiplayer game of the evening. I lose.

The rest of this article can be read here at theminaretonline.com.

How To Talk Like You’re the Best; Even if You’re Not

Deangelo Hall (left) returns an interception during the 2011 Pro Bowl. Since entering the NFL in 2004 with the Atlanta Falcons, Hall has been widely regarded as one of the premier trash talkers in the league. Before a Monday Night Football game earlier this season, Hall mentioned that he would be targeting Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo’s fractured ribs. Although the Cowboys won the game, Hall had six tackles while Romo fumbled once, threw an interception and had no touchdown passes. | Defense Media Activity Hawaii/flickr.com

“Don’t miss! Don’t miss! Briiiiick,” screams a defender.

As the superstar receives the ball, the clock continues to tick. Five, four, three… He steps up. His entire career comes down to this. He’s played basketball for 10 years to take this shot. The sweat rolls down his cheek as he pulls the ball up.

Two, one…

“Seriously bro! Don’t miss!”

He pulls up, fires his shot. The same three-pointer he’s taken in his backyard for 10 years. The ball falls into the rim then bounces out. Game over.

That defender smiles; he’s going home victorious.

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It goes by many names. Trash talk. Smack talk. S*** talk.

Some might call it verbal abuse or bullying. Others might describe the same language as light-hearted jest.

For a select few, it’s called art.

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Before you can understand how to effectively belittle an opponent, you must first understand why this form of communication works so well.

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Joseph Amos Booker goes simply by J. He’s a licensed social worker with a practice in downtown Saint Petersburg where he’s been helping counsel and work with young people in one capacity or another for 28 years. In other words, he’s experienced in trash talk.

“I think we’ve all seen instances of someone running their mouths and it affects the performance of another player,” said Booker. “When you’re exposed to something like that, it’s important to get out of your own head and figure out where that person is coming from.”

Around the age of 11, kids’ brains start to change in ways that researchers are still working to understand. From 11 until about 19 is prime time for a lack of focus, concentration, and emotional sensitivity. “It’s a transitional age in terms of brain development,” Booker said.

From 19 until about 25, the young person’s brain might be structurally finished developing, but that doesn’t mean everything up there is peachy. Adolescent behaviors can still be found quite often in these people due to a lack of adequate knowledge and practice in problem solving techniques.

“By the time someone’s 20, they basically have, structurally, the brain they’re going to have for the rest of their lives,” Booker added. “But it’s not necessarily experienced. So that 19 to 25-year-old group basically has a much more powerful, more sophisticated car than they’ve ever had before and they’re trying to learn how to use it.”

Trash talk and negative verbal communication ties directly into this. Not only is the 11-year-old to 25-year-old time-frame the time when you’re the most often engaged in games (sports, video games, etc.), it’s also the time when your brain is least prepared to deal with the stress of someone telling you that you suck.

“Isolated instances of that don’t significantly impact an adolescent’s self image at all, other than to maybe impact their performance in the moment,” Booker said. “But constant exposure to that in an abusive way might impact someone’s self image and confidence.”

People trash talk for two different reasons. The first is that they’re competent at whatever they’re doing and they feel like they can gain an advantage by putting down they’re opponent. This is a sort of manipulation.
The second is the more easily deflected of the two.

“The other reason that people talk trash sometimes is because they’re feeling profoundly unconfident themselves and the trash talk is a way of bolstering their own confidence,” Booker said. “So depending on which of those two things you’re talking about, the impact on another person can vary significantly.”

“The truth of the matter is I can say anything I want to you,” he concludes. “Whether it affects you or not is your choice.”

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Basketball is synonymous with trash talk. The University of Tampa’s squad is no different.

“It’s part of the game,” said senior guard Osby Kelly. “Our coaches don’t really like it but I feel like it just happens. When things get heated, you talk trash.”

Now onto the how-to. Strategies differ but it comes down to boasting a level of confidence. If you let the other team know you’re better, they’ll begin to believe it too.

“If I hit a shot on somebody, I’m gonna tell them about it,” Kelly added with a laugh. “I’m gonna be like ‘yo, I just hit a shot on you.’”

While a constant barrage can be occasionally distracting, it’s more effective to use the talk in small doses, in high leverage situations. That’s the time when opposing players are the most vulnerable because it’s the time when they’re the least secure and sure of themselves.

This doesn’t mean the only time you should talk should be at the end of the match. You should be getting a feel for the mood and flow of your opposition from the very get-go. The “crucial” moments are often the less obvious ones.

In terms of Monopoly, if someone has just lost $600 from landing on a property but they still have another $1200 hanging around, talk some smack.

Tell them they suck and they’re going to lose – this can affect their pride and make them feel it necessary to buy ill-advised expensive “show” properties to prove you wrong.

Read the rest of this article, along with many tips about how to talk trash, where it was originally published in The Minaret.

Key Basketball Player Dismissed Due to Grades

Anthony Griffis appeared and started in all 29 of UT’s men’s basketball games last season. He averaged 15.8 points a game, along with five rebounds per game and totaled 27 assists on the year. | Samantha Battersby/ The Minaret

Written by: Daniel Feingold and Miles Parks

The University of Tampa men’s basketball team enters the 2011-2012 season without guard Anthony Griffis, a second-team All-SSC player who finished last season second on the team in scoring.

Following the spring semester, Griffis was academically dismissed from the university after finishing the school year with a GPA below 2.0. Per the university’s 2010-2011 catalog, “Failure to maintain satisfactory academic standing may result in a student’s dismissal from the university.”

His petition to continue his enrollment at UT was denied.

“When I wasn’t accepted, it was a little disappointing for me,” Griffis said. “It was a lesson learned. It wasn’t [anyone else’s] but my fault, so I really can’t be mad at the university.”

According to men’s head basketball coach Richard Schmidt, Griffis transferred to UT last fall with a 2.7 GPA from Lincoln Trail College, a community college in Robinson, Ill. While his credits from Lincoln Trail transferred, his GPA did not; therefore, the grades he earned in his junior year at UT stood as the GPA he was evaluated by.

Following what Coach Schmidt described as a terrible first semester, Griffis was granted until the end of the year by the university to get his GPA above a 2.0. Schmidt said that Griffis’ first semester ended much poorer than his second, but referenced a failed economics course that was the difference between a passing and not-passing grade point average.

Anthony Griffis appeared and started in all 29 of UT’s men’s basketball games last season. He averaged 15.8 points a game, along with five rebounds per game and totaled 27 assists on the year. | Samantha Battersby/ The Minaret

“The first semester was just terrible,” Schmidt said. “And then we got him organized and he did much better the second semester. . . . I was hoping they would give him another semester. I think he realized that he was in trouble and he could do better.”

Coach Schmidt and assistant coach Justin Pecka hoped Griffis’ dismissal case would be reviewed after the summer sessions, enabling him to take two classes during that time to raise his GPA. But according to the catalog, “A student whose cumulative grade point average falls within the academic dismissal range will have his or her record reviewed, and will be subject to dismissal following each regular (fall or spring) semester.”

Griffis petitioned to extend his enrollment another semester, but the Faculty Appeals Committee denied his request.

“I was disappointed with [the decision],” Schmidt said. “I felt like he should be given at least another semester of summer to see whether he could pull his grades up. He had never been in a school as tough as this and some junior colleges are just not very tough.”

The committee wasn’t informed that Griffis was an athlete, so his academic performance was evaluated the same as any other UT student, according to Yovan Reyes, the associate director of the academic advising office.

“We don’t even tell [the committee] if they’re athletes or not,” Reyes said. “Which is good. It’s unbiased.”

The only way the committee would have an idea is indirectly through the petition, which included contributions from his coaches. According to Reyes, these contributions are part of the petition in favor of the student’s case.

“We’re not cold-hearted,” Reyes said of the appeals committee members. “There are parameters in there to assist students.”

Both Griffis and Pecka alluded to the challenges that came with Griffis being unprepared as he transitioned from a community college to a university.

“It was just a major jump for me,” Griffis said. “I definitely should’ve put more time into the books. Definitely more studying and less partying, I would say.”

Rudy Jean, a former UT basketball player who played alongside Griffis during the ‘10-’11 season, said his teammates and coaches were aware of Griffis’ troubles and tried helping him with his schoolwork.

“We all knew that he was struggling,” Jean said. “He was getting a lot of help. Just, at times, he just didn’t take it that seriously. That was the problem.”

Jean clarified that Griffis’ problem with his schoolwork was about not understanding its importance.

“He just didn’t think it was as serious as it is, so it messed him up,” Jean said. “But it wasn’t like he was stupid or anything, he just didn’t think it was all that work.”

Coach Pecka said he would help Griffis with his schoolwork on nights while Griffis also participated in study sessions with teammates. But after being dismissed from the university, Griffis visited a psychologist and was diagnosed with a learning disability, which Schmidt clarified as ADD. Griffis believes that had he sooner known about his problems with concentration, his academic problems could have been avoided altogether.

The dismissal comes on the heels of a ‘10-’11 season when the Spartans went 22-7 and were already losing three-time All-SSC guard Rashad Callaway to graduation.

Although the Spartans will miss their top two scorers, Coach Schmidt said it is more than just offense the team will miss from Griffis.

“You hate losing possibly your best player, but it wasn’t that as much as we hate not seeing Anthony around,” Schmidt said.

He was appreciated by his teammates as well.

“He’s a fun kid, he’s a good person, and everything,” Jean said. “He’s a friendly person, he knew everyone on campus, [and] everyone knew ‘Ant.’”

Attending a university was a major accomplishment for Griffis and his family.

“This was the greatest thing that’s ever happened to Anthony,” Schmidt added. “To get into a really good school, get settled in and it was a big thing for him. His family was real proud of him, that he could maybe get a college degree. This was a real blow to them.”

Griffis and his family are not giving up on his chance to graduate from UT. He is currently enrolled in online courses as a part-time student at Louisiana State University while living at home.

Griffis, along with his coaches, hopes he can return to the university next fall. The UT catalog states, “Students dismissed . . . for academic reasons may apply for readmission after one academic year (two regular semesters) has elapsed.”

His application will first go through the Office of Admissions, and then be referred to the Academic Appeals Committee. Associate director Reyes estimated that out of 100 students who are academically dismissed, 20 apply for readmission, and approximately 10 to 15 are accepted.

Meanwhile, Griffis continues to work on his academics with tutors as the UT men’s basketball team prepares to open its season. He said he plans on visiting Tampa in January to support the team during its conference play. Five months removed from his dismissal, Griffis acknowledges and is working to overcome last year’s mistakes.

“It’s a lesson learned,” he said. “I think it’s just a lesson learned for me and my family. I think my eyes are open now and I think I’m well prepared.”

This article was originally published in The Minaret.

Football: Pinellas Park 40, Seminole 33

SEMINOLE — As Pinellas Park prepared to punt with 30 seconds left, Seminole’s players had something they haven’t had much of this season. Hope.

But the winless Warhawks, down 40-33 with less than a minute remaining, couldn’t push the ball past midfield for a chance to tie and the Patriots (7-2) clinched their first playoff berth since 2001.

Up 40-19 halfway through the fourth quarter, Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford started to sub in some younger players. The Warhawks (0-9) took advantage, putting together a quick touchdown drive then a 40-yard fumble return for a score on defense.

“I did some stupid things as a coach in the fourth quarter,” Crawford said. “We let it slip away there at the end and almost gave it away.”

Senior running back Marquis Samuel had 177 rushing yards and two touchdowns for Pinellas Park, which clinched the runnerup spot in Class 7A, District 9 with Countryside’s win over St. Petersburg.

Originally published in The Tampa Bay Times.