Thursday, September 22, 2016

A DECADE STRONG....

So ummm...I'm back?

I started off as a journalist for
the ULM Hawkeye in 2006.
Currently, I'm the sports reporter for
the Town Talk in Alexandria, LA

Haha, for real though. I guess I am. Every time, I say I am, though, the real world hits and well, yeah...I'm basically writing for my job, podcasting and neglecting my blog.

Enough rambling though, this month is a special month in my career as this is my 10th year as a newspaper writer -- something I've never seen myself being prior to my college days.

Now, most of you might know the story. If not, it's an interesting one of me answering an ad for my school's paper, covering the soccer beat and the rest is history.

What really turned out as me basically wanting a job (or well, a hobby) turned into a sports editor position, to unemployed freelancer still gaining experience, to sports writer for a semi-weekly in a city of 18,000 and finally (for now, at least) a sports writer for a daily in a city of 50,000.

Of course, it was never easy. There were times where I wanted to quit, felt frustrated and even wondered if I made the right choice in stepping in the middle of a "dying" industry according to some people.

However, my family, friends, mentors, mentees and most importantly, God, would not allow that to happen.

They kept me grounded and motivated and eventually, I became an award-winning journalist for my work on a coach's firing here in Alexandria.
I won second place in the LSWA's contest for spot news after
former Peabody football coach Toriano Williams was fired for
allegedly choking a student-athlete. He was cleared of any
wrongdoing and was one of the first people to congratulate me
for this award.

My time at The Town Talk and the past two NABJ conventions I've went to (the first two I've ever been to) have given me wisdom, growth and contacts in order to become a better writer. (I plan to go into more detail on why should inspiring or current journalists should go to them at a later time.)

TNT's David Aldridge has been a big
help to me and other aspiring journalists.
As I continue to try to adapt to the current style of journalism methods and not forgetting the more traditional ones, I hope the next 10 years and beyond will continue to suit me well.

Here's to a great first 10 years for setting the foundation and the tone.

Monday, January 27, 2014

WALKING THE WALK AND TALKING THE TALK

Super Bowl XLVIII is now set as the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will now play for the NFL’s richest prize come Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J.

However, I’m not here to talk about the game yet. Nor am I going to talk about what another ring can do and pulling even with Tom Brady in the playoffs can do for Peyton Manning’s legacy (maybe at a later time).

My post is about Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman and his ability to talk the talk and walk the walk.

Sherman helped make the game-clinching play against the San Francisco 49ers by batting an interception and to punch the franchise’s second trip to the Super Bowl.

Yet, it was Sherman’s postgame comments that draw the ire of many (play below).



This is hardly the first time Sherman has been known for being outspoken.

Honestly, I did not know who he was until he talked smack to Tom Brady last season.

Then he was mic’d up during the Seahawks’ wild card game against the Washington Redskins--leading to a punch by Trent Williams after the game.

And one cannot forget his exchange with Skip Bayless on First Take (which, you may or may not say was warranted.)



But his comments at his biggest moment in his career thus far drew responses of him being a “thug” to some and various other names to others (you can see Shermans’s mentions here or just look at the Deadspin article).

In this day where we are criticizing a player’s postgame attire (see: Colin Kaepernick) or the speech of postgame comments (see Jameis Winston), most of it comes off as negative criticizing over trivial things.

While I do not think what Dee Dee McCarron---mother of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron---said of Winston was racist (mainly because many Twitter users---of all colors---possibly said the same thing), I do believe she could have used a different tone.

Last week, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle sports reporter Sal Maiorana tweeted (and then deleted), “Kaepernick. Always so media friendly. Turn your cap around and act like a professional quarterback.”

So much is being made of what these players do and what most critics do not realize is that they are not monotonic robots with no sense of emotion.

How Peyton Manning dresses might not work for Kaepernick at this point of his career, and as long as Kaepernick is dressed casually, should it matter?

Will Richard Sherman talk trash to Peyton Manning after winning
Super Bowl XLVIII? (Photo by John Lebya/Getty Images).
Ditto for Sherman and his outburst.

A Barry Sanders, he is not, but that is what makes each individual different and likeable.

NFL fans---at least myself---loved Barry for being the class act he was, just as much as we might like Sherman for being the next coming of another Sanders---Deion.



Sherman is from Compton, but he is not a product of the environment, having went AND graduated from Stanford---while working on his masters’---along with becoming a top cornerback in the game.

If I had a child, I would not want him or her to do what Sherman did, but we are talking about a grown man here.


Here’s hoping that Sherman gives us an epic showing in the Super Bowl and on Media Day.

Monday, September 23, 2013

20 WEEKS OF GROWTH AND ADVERSITY

Sometimes, you do not know who you truly are until you face adversity and stand on your own two feet.

This week marks my 20th week in the city of Natchitoches (and being on my own) and I have learned a lot during my stay here.

Let’s start with the good…

The good is that I can sense growth in myself—professionally and personally.

Professionally, I love my job at The Natchitoches Times as their sports editor. It has allowed me to meet different people along the way—coaches, players, youth, coworkers, etc… I know that the best is yet to come as I am learning how to write, edit and even interview and tell stories.

Personally, I see growth too, because it feels like the 26-year old me not just acts, but thinks a lot differently than myself from the ages of 13, 16, 18, 21, 23, or even 25. Certain things do not irritate me like they used to and I feel like I have matured along the way.

However, there’s the bad…

I feel unappreciated and alone at times.

Unappreciated, because I do not think that people will ever understand the person that I am.

Alone, because I have been transplanted out in to the real world.

As crazy as it may seem, while I have the job I wanted, a car to get me to and from, and a place to stay, I still feel empty.

I always wished that I had someone that was by my side while I go through life’s struggles.

For whatever reason, I have not in a relationship since the ninth grade—12 years ago. A part of me always wants to know how that feels, because honestly I would feel like I am good person for someone.

However, I always hear the same shit. “You’re too good for me,” “You’re too good to be true”, or even “I only see you as a friend.”

I have heard (and well seen) it all in my life with this and honestly it has gotten to the point where it diminishes my confidence, because the same thing could happen—leaving me back at square one.

Also, I wonder with a lot of cases of guys and girls being friend zoned, that is it even worth it for me to even have friends of the opposite sex and gender?

Just for once, I would love to witness being in a relationship with a woman whether it goes belly up after Day 1 or it leads to a marriage (and beyond).

I am sure that day is coming but I always wonder when?

I love God, my family, friends, and myself (and I’m sure you guys love me right back and I am not trying to Bible-thump to those who do not. I love everyone no matter what religion, race, or creed you are), but seeing the ones you really care about struggling, well it hurts.

My mom recently lost her job due to the job being relocated and to see her look for a job and strike out every time hurts me too. And although my relationship with my dad is not the greatest in the world, seeing him in a nursing home hurts me as well.

You may not care what I am writing about…I totally understand that, but damn it, I have feelings.

I smile when things are not going well, because I do not want you to know what is going wrong. I sometimes like to be alone because I have been burnt by people before and it is hard for me to trust some people.

And I still wish a friend of mine would find it in her heart to forgive me and be my friend again. I am really hoping she reads this even though I think it is a lost cause.

But, to some, I am a good person (I had to do it P.G., lol)—and it shows a lot in how much you care.

But, anyway, I might have rambled on with no real end, but yeah. I just hope that if someone that is reading this is being touched, then I done my job.


Until next time….

Monday, April 15, 2013

A DREAM FULFILLED: FINALLY A PROFESSIONAL SPORTS REPORTER


PREFACE: R.I.P. to my grandmother Annie B. Gafford (1931-2010) and my uncle Garry Bruce Gafford (1959-2012). It was through you two that I learned a lot about sports and I wish you two were alive for the ride. However, I know that both of you are looking down on me and proud of me.

Nearly 27 months after graduating from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, I can finally say these following words…

I am a professional sports reporter.

Starting in a few weeks, I will be the new sports editor for The Natchitoches Times in Natchitoches, La., and words cannot explain how happy I am and how happy my family and friends are as well about this opportunity.

What makes this even more satisfying is the road taken to get to this point.

After my time at ULM, I was a freelancer with The Shreveport Times for two years writing about high school sports and shared the newspaper’s prep sports journalist of the year honor in 2011 (with Adam Hester, brother of NFL player, Jacob) and 2012 (with former NCAA all-time points leader Art Carmody) thanks to the great colleagues of the paper.

It was also then where I started to blog a lot more on this site, while also posting my writings on Bleacher Report and Sports Rantz for even more exposure. This was followed up by making internet radio appearances with the Clayton State Radio Sports Zone and the Cameron Sadeghi Show, when Cameron pitched the idea of starting a new show—ultimately becoming The Gafford and Brown Show with my friend Robert Brown.

While all of those gigs are fine and helped me learn valuable experience, there was one tiny problem.

Neither were full-time.

Eventually, seeing that I needed some source of income, I settled for JCPenney in August 2012. It was there where I got back into the learning of working every day and meeting great co-workers along the way.

All of this brings us back to now.

While I am nervous about this new journey, I am very excited for it and cannot wait to get the many firsts of my career out of the way.

I am proud to say that I can be one of the countless graduates from ULM’s mass communications department (DeRon, Ben, Jessica, and Cody…to name a few) to make this dream a reality, while making our professors proud. 

I am also glad to have met other great aspiring journalists of the same ilk (Evan, Robert, James, David, Hiren, Larry, JT, Clarence, Nick, and many others) via social media—if done right, it is a GREAT source of networking—to fraternize with.

And last but not least, my friends that have stuck by me since day one though the ups and downs by always reminding me to “take the good with the bad, be happy when you’re said…but always remember, life goes on.”

Even though I am nervous about this next chapter in my life, I also am confident that it is a great step in the right direction to dream bigger, and hopefully make those a reality as well.

And do not worry; I plan to carry this blog and our podcasts with me for the ride.

P.S.: To anyone reading this in the same situation, no matter if an aspiring journalist, doctor, lawyer, etc…NEVER, EVER give up on your dream. It may not come when you expect it, but with hard work and perseverance, it will come eventually.

Monday, February 11, 2013

NFL WRAP UP AND A MESSAGE FROM A SPECIAL GUEST!

Hello ladies and gentlemen! Once again, sorry for the lack of updates, but we are still here!

Normally, I would have posted my NFL playoff and Super Bowl predictions on here, but I did do this on Twitter.

The Baltimore Ravens won a thrilling Super Bowl XLVII 34-31 that saw a near comeback, lighting failures, BeyoncĂ© shutting things down, and the last hurrah of Ray Lewis.

Before the game, however, adult model and my fellow blogging friend, Sandra London, had a bet to determine who would make the winner a video. If the 49ers won, I had to make a vid proclaiming she was the queen. If the Ravens won, she had to make a video for my site.

Well, since we now know the outcome, enjoy Sandra's poem and message to you -- the faithful viewers of this site.

video

Once again, thank you Sandra for your brilliant words.

Please check out her blog: To Live and Grind in L.A. AND while you are at it, subscribe and listen to her radio show: Playtime With Sandra London.

Hope we can do this again (and hope I can continue to win! ;-)).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012-13 BOWL PREDICTIONS: WEEK 1

Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey (25) rushed for an amazing 366 yards and five
touchdowns against Colorado on Nov. 10. (Photo by Rick Scuteri/US Presswire) 

NEW MEXICO BOWL
MATCHUP:
Nevada vs. Arizona
NEVADA PLAYER TO WATCH:
RB Stefphon Jefferson (Jr.) – 341 rush, 1703 yards, 22 TDs
ARIZONA PLAYER TO WATCH:
RB Ka’Deem Carey (So.) – 275 rush, 1757 yards, 20 TDs
PREDICTION:
Arizona 40, Nevada 34.
-What a treat to kick off the bowl season! This year’s New Mexico Bowl pits two offenses that are in the top 15 in yardage and the top 20 in scoring. The running back battle will definitely be one to keep an eye on as Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey are two of only five players to run for 1700 yards this season. With both teams coming off of losses in to end the regular season, the opportunity to finish the year on a winning note will be great motivation.



Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton (16) and the Aggies hope to erase last year's
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl defeat. (Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News) 
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL
MATCHUP:
Toledo vs. (22) Utah State
TOLEDO PLAYER TO WATCH:
WR Bernard Reedy (Jr.) – 82 rec, 1051 yards, 6 TDs
UTAH STATE PLAYER TO WATCH:
QB Chuckie Keeton (So.) – 254/376, 3144 yards, 27 TDs
PREDICTION:
Utah State 35, Toledo 17.
-At 10-2, Utah State is trying to get a win in this year’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, but they may have a good opponent in the Rockets from Toledo. Toledo finished 9-3 and took down Cincinnati for its biggest win of the season, while junior receiver Bernard Reedy put up some solid stats on the offensive end. The Rockets’ defense did wonders this year, but Utah State’s was even better, only allowing 15.4 points per game. Sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton followed up on a decent freshman campaign (that was cut short due to injury), by finishing strong with 16 touchdowns to five interceptions down the stretch in the Aggies’ current six-game winning streak.

Stay tuned for capsules and predictions each week as the bowl season progresses!

Monday, December 3, 2012

SORRY FOR THE DELAY, BUT I'M BACK!

Hello ladies and gentlemen,

As you might have known, it has been a good while since I have written on here last. And I like to say that I am sorry for the lengthy delay whether you are a causal reader of this blog or an avid one.

Since I have been gone away, I have a new job that sometimes takes away from whatever brainstorming I may have. At the same time, I am still holding on to hope of becoming a professional journalist of some sort or at least a teacher imparting those skills to another person. While we at it, I am still a freelancer with the Shreveport Times and I was named as a co-prep journalist of the year for the second consecutive year for my work during the high school football season.

But let's talk about what's coming on the way.

I have a few new ideas that I hope to roll out in a timely matter such as bowl picks, conference realignment, and anything else (even other topics outside of sports).

Also, I would like to showcase a new project that I am working on with my close friend, should-be brother, and fellow journalist Robert Brown (@UptownBobby on Twitter) in the form of a radio show that is just six episodes in, but is gaining some great steam (you can catch archives of "Gafford and Brown" HERE). I hope that I can use the blog and the show as compliments of each other and I feel like that will happen.

Once again, sorry that I was away, but hopefully we can get the ball back rolling again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NOT THE SAME OLD ULM WARHAWKS


The ULM Warhawks celebrate their biggest win in school history on Sept. 8 after a 34-31
overtime win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. (Photo by Nelson Chenault /US Presswire)


Down 28-7 midway through the third quarter to the No. 8-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks, many of the Warhawk faithful from the University of Louisiana Monroe thought had seen this story before.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are not your “same ol’ Warhawks.”

After stalling deep into the Razorbacks’ red zone twice before Arkansas made it a three-touchdown deficit, ULM could folded up the tent and prepared for their next opponent, Auburn.

Once again, these are not your “same ol’ Warhawks.”

Even when a penalty at the end of regulation forced ULM to go to overtime, the Warhawks could have succumbed under the pressure and Arkansas could have barely eked out a victory.

For the last time, these are not your “same ol’, sorry ass Warhawks!” (Thanks to my friend for coining the SOSAW term from our time at school together).
Kolton Browning (15) had the game of his life against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sept. 8
by accounting for four touchdowns and nearly 500 yards. (Photo by Mark Wagner) 

Things all changed when junior quarterback Kolton Browning took it upon himself on fourth-and-one to score on a 16-yard touchdown run.

When the scoreboard at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark. read “ULM 34, Arkansas 31”, the realization sunk in that the program witnessed its biggest win since jumping to the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) in 1994.

“It’s a great feeling; we feel like we deserve it,” Browning said. “We believed the whole time, and we’ve believed for two years that we could put something like this together. We knew this moment was coming.”

Now setting itself up with no worse than a 1-2 with a tough early season schedule that had Arkansas, Auburn and an ESPN Friday Night showdown with Baylor in Malone Stadium, one goal remains…

The school’s first-ever bowl appearance.

In four of the last seven years, the program had been agonizingly close to a bowl. In 2005, 2009 and 2010, ULM failed to win the season finale each year to reach that goal.

However, this will not faze Warhawk head coach Todd Berry and his current team from this achievement.

ULM (then Northeast Louisiana University) won the Division I-AA (now FCS)
title in 1987 after defeating Marshall 43-42. (Image from ULM Archives).
“How they get where they are is not because they’re great players,” Berry said. “They get where they are because they work hard. They’re willing to give it up for each other.”

Although ULM has never played in the postseason in college football’s top subdivision, the school has two national championships in the sport—1935 and 1987.

ULM might never make it to that plateau in the FBS, but with some of the team proclaiming after the game, “This is for you. We’re building this for you,” this win could be the start of something special.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

GOLDEN GABBY AND DAZZLING DOMINIQUE

United States gymnast Gabby Douglas showcases her gold medal from the
individual all-around event. (Photo by Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

At the age of 16, Gabby Douglas realized her dream as an Olympic gold medalist by becoming the first black woman ever to win gold in the individual all-round event in women’s gymnastics.


At a time where many teenage girls are thinking about surviving high school, getting into a good college and hoping to avoid being on MTV’s “16 and Pregnant”, Douglas is busy making history and being a role model.


“It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling,” Douglas said after her win in the all-arounds. “And I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me.”


Just 16 years ago, when Douglas was just a few months old, another young black gymnast was part of a squad that also warmed the hearts of Americans.


Dominique Dawes was the first black gymnast to receive a medal
from an individual event in the Olympics. (Photo from Corbis)
Dominique Dawes played a huge role on the “Magnificent Seven”—the name given to the U.S. gymnastics team from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta that won a gold medal as a team. Dawes would also win an individual bronze on the floor routine.


It was with that accomplishment that Dawes became the first black gymnast—male or female—to win an individual medal of any kind.


“There are girls who come up to me and say that it is because of me that they are involved in gymnastics,” Dawes said in an article on ESPN.com in 2008. “I hear that a lot and each time, I am flattered.”


Now, Dawes is a co-chairman (along with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees) for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition along with working as a co-host for Yahoo! Weekend News and an writer for FOXSports.com.


Past meets present. The question is...who's next for the future?
But she also felt the emotions of Douglas’ groundbreaking win.


“I am so thrilled for Gabby,” Dawes said in an interview with FOX Sports. “…I’m so thrilled to change my website and take down the fact that I was the only African American with a gold medal.”


With her accomplishments, Douglas joins Dawes and other gymnasts such as Mary Lou Retton and Nadia Comaneci in possibly inspiring a young girl to be the next great gymnast in the future.


“That’s so touching,” Dawes said. “As I was able to help Gabby, now she’s going to help a whole other generation of young girls and boys, African Americans, Hispanics, [and] other minorities to see the sport of gymnastics as an opportunity for them to excel.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

DALLAS MAVERICKS BOUNCE BACK AFTER TOUGH START TO OFFSEASON


After Deron Williams (second left) decided to stay with the Brooklyn
Nets, the Mavs had to go to Plan B. (Photo by Mary Altaffer/AP)

All hope seemed lost for the Dallas Mavericks two weeks ago after losing out on Deron Williams and two key members of the 2011 squad that beat the Miami Heat for the NBA Championship.

However by adding OJ Mayo Monday to a solid gathering of acquisitions, the Mavs have turned a possible disaster to a good offseason in that short span.

The 2011-12 NBA season was a tough one for the Mavericks. They went 36-30, endured drama from Lamar Odom not wanting to be there and got swept in the first round by the eventual Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder.

They let five good players from the 2011 team walk and join other teams, including Tyson Chandler—possibly the best center Dallas has had in the Dirk Nowitzki era.

The goal for the Mavericks was simple: be players in the 2012 free agency period and get Dwight Howard and either Deron Williams or Chris Paul.

The Paul hopes ended with his trade to the Los Angeles Clippers before the season and Howard decided to opt-in with the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline, but Williams remained.

After help delivering the franchise's first title, Jason Kidd (right) and
Jason Terry left Dallas this offseason. Kidd went to the Knicks, Terry
went to the Celtics. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Well, until this tweet.

That, losing out on Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers and letting their two veteran guards—Jason Terry and Jason Kidd—sign elsewhere, things looked like it would be similar to the previous season, if not worse.

In May, Nowitzki shared his thoughts about a possible rebuild on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “Galloway & Co.”

“If we really come out with nobody this summer then maybe they want to rebuild and, obviously, I’m too old for that,” Nowitzki said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens on that front. But I still think I got two, three good years left in me and if we get some players in here we can be right back up there and compete.”

Help came on July 11, when Dallas signed former NBA All-Star Chris Kaman—Nowitzki’s frontcourt mate on the German national basketball team. Later that day, the Mavs received Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones from the Indiana Pacers as a part of a sign-and-trade for Ian Mahinmi.

Former No. 3 pick O.J. Mayo averaged 12.6 points per game last year with the Memphis
Grizzlies coming off of the bench. (Photo by Brad Towsend/Dallas Morning News)
Dallas continued to make moves by amnestying Brendan Haywood, claiming Elton Brand off waivers from the Philadelphia 76ers and signing O.J. Mayo to add a scorer to take some pressure off of Nowitzki.

Mayo’s tweet certainly made Dallas fans enjoyed, as his signing completed the turnaround from disaster by not making the big move to satisfaction by improving the team with solid pieces to add youth and depth.

“We think we’ve positioned ourselves so that we have a young nucleus,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. We can keep these guys, let them jell and play together, build around Dirk and have room for hopefully someone to come or to trade or whatever happens.”

With Dallas signing all three of their rookies—Jared Cunningham, Bernard James and Jae Crowder—and bringing back Delonte West, who became a fan favorite in Dallas with his gritty play, the team certainly has repositioned itself to be a tough out in the Western Conference.
While Jared Cunningham (second right) was held out of Summer
League play due to injury, Jae Crowder and Bernard James showed a glimpse
of the future with good play. (Photo by Stephen Chavera/Dallas Mavericks)

While the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers appear to be favorites in the conference, expect the Mavs to compete division crown with the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies being the main competition, with the rising New Orleans Hornets and retooled Houston Rockets expecting to also make it tough in the always challenging Southwest.

As for the rest, it all depends on how well this team jells.