Friday, August 31, 2007

New athletic website

The Davidson athletic department debuted the new Davidson athletic site today. Following the example of so many of their peers in college athletics around the country, Davidson moved the athletics web page to a separate domain outside of the college website.

With a flashy new banner featuring images of Stephen Curry, Michelle Fanney and Beaux Jones, the site is certainly a visual upgrade from our sports sites of the past. The left side of the page features an easily navigable tool bar with links to all of Davidson's 19 varsity teams.

Each individual team page has a rolling grouping of three stories that flash on the screen in the style of ESPN's leading sports webpage:

The new calendar feature on the right also makes keeping track of each team's schedule much easier than in the past.

In addition to the obvious new look of the site, it will serve as host to many of Davidson's new technological advances including live streaming video of many of the Wildcats' home games and video of coach and player interviews.

In addition to greater usability for fans and students, the site will be more streamlined on the administrative end, allowing members of the athletic department to upload and modify information more quickly than in the past.

You can find a press release written by Davidson's new Sports Information Director, Marc Gignac, here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gotta have that fix

Welcome to Davidson College. To your left we have tables where you can sign up for meal plans, pick up your cat card and mailbox key, and buy some posters for your room. Over here we have tables where you can sign up for all of the different organizations that the campus has to offer from singing to religion to sports and politics. Finally, if you follow me into the bookstore you will find an assortment of new Davidson gear and school supplies. We will be getting in our new shipment of Stephen Curry jerseys next week.

Hold on, what?

Although the last week of orientation and the beginning of classes might look relatively ordinary to the standard observer of life at Davidson, right beneath the surface of all of the hubbub and nervousness and social connecting is a very new phenomenon: universal obsession with the Davidson's men's basketball team.

News of Davidson's Top 25 ranking and incredible schedule has spread through the student and faculty ranks, and all of a sudden being a basketball fanatic doesn't seem as nerdy as it did just a measly three years ago. You wouldn't believe how many obsessive upperclassmen have asked me about the unreleased schedule so they can make their Thanksgiving and Spring Break plans around the basketball team. Basketball really is the cool new thing to do now.

As a history major, I really enjoy looking at the progression of attitudes and social movements and I must say that the steady increase in interest in men's basketball in the last few years has been truly remarkable. For example, one incoming freshman contacted the men's basketball office over the summer to inquire about being a manager for the men's team. Every day more and more people contact the school asking about how they can get signed Davidson memorabilia ("how much does a signed Stephen Curry poster cost?"). We have Stephen Curry posters now? I'm sorry but I missed that memo.

I say all of this in recognition of the readership of this blog and their primary interests. I know how much all of you love to hear about the men's basketball team. None of you are alone in your obsessions right now.

But at the same time, I've got a ton of sports to cover this fall in my last semester as sports editor of the Davidsonian. From the promised rebuilding year of a men's soccer team that went through social peril last season to a football team with a gigantic chip on their shoulder to prove that they aren't the stereotypical doormat of Davidson's sports, this fall will provide many great sports stories. Did I mention that somewhere and at some point I should probably find time to write my thesis paper?

So hold off on your men's basketball needs for just a little bit. The blog might seem a little slower than most you Kool-Aid drinkers would like, but just sit back and enjoy the autumn cool and I promise that November 14th will be here before you know it.

Welcome back.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Whelliston helps us think big

It is no secret around Davidson men's basketball circles that next year could be a season for the ages. Not only will the Wildcats feature an exciting lineup that returns every scholarship player from a team last year that ranked nationally in scoring, they will get the chance to play against the nation's most storied basketball programs: UCLA, UNC, Duke and NC State.

For Davidson, though, this tough schedule does not appear out of the blue as a result of last year's "miraculous season." In fact, the Wildcats have been leading the rest of the Southern Conference in the last decade in terms of OOC strength of schedule.

As Kyle Whelliston points out in his most recent feature on, Davidson has a real opportunity this year to not only challenge teams from the ACC, they have the opportunity to beat them and prove that last season was no fluke.

"Our players realize that what was accomplished last year is in the past," said Coach McKillop in the article. "They have responded to that by showing me a work ethic that has been extraordinary."

Throughout the article's entirety, Whelliston seems to make it very clear that he believes that Davidson's talent, schedule and pre-season buzz could have them heading for realities beyond the imagination of the "leafy" little NC town. The writer goes so far as to invoke the L-word, something that Bob McKillop has earnestly avoided in his tenure at Davidson.

"What Lefty and his players accomplished was one of the truly great stories in college basketball history," McKillop says. "There were 11,600 people every home game at the Charlotte Arena, there were NBA draft picks with Dick Snyder and Fred Hetzel. There are a significant, very significant number of steps to take before we can even be mentioned in the same breath as the glory days."

But at the risk of calling out Coach McKillop and taking Lefty off of a pedestal, the last half-decade of Davidson basketball has begun to recreate the glory years in some ways, and even surpass it in others.

With last year's NCAA tournament appearance, the Wildcats made it to the postseason for the third time in as many years. That had not happened since 1970 in Davidson history and has always been a rarity for the Southern Conference. Bob McKillop has graduated all of his players and most of the recent classes, including last year's walk-on Lamar Hull, have played professional basketball post-Davidson. It is certainly too early to start counting our eggs with Stephen Curry, but he did help Davidson set two new attendance records last season and propelled the U.S. U-19 team to the World Championship finals. And did I mention that Bob McKillop is the winningest coach in Davidson and Southern Conference history?

It is true that Driesell accomplished something very special in his day. But McKillop is accomplishing something almost equally special in this current state of college basketball where many coaches argue that the NCAA Tournament should include up to 128 teams. Driesell made Davidson into a brand back when that word had more to do with livestock and hot metal objects.

McKillop has never publicly sought out such things for Davidson as Driesell once did, but he definitely knows the type of image he is creating with the 2007-2008 schedule. If he isn't careful, he will have to deal with many more Driesell comparisons in the near future. But maybe that isn't such a bad thing after all.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Launching non-sports 2.0

Some of you will remember that back in 2006, I tried to start up a non-sports blog on Blogspot that dealt with a wide range of topics from academic study to political editorial. Unfortunately, I let that blog go after I lost interest in maintaining it. Since that time, I have felt an increasing pressure to once again have a personal space that I felt would reflect a more complete vision of my interests, opinions and voice.

I invite you to head over to Somewhere in the Middle if you get a chance. I have put a link on the right side of this page. Feel free to comment and critique, but also realize that the blog will have a different goal than this one and will consist of very unorthodox and even somewhat boring content.

Thank you again for all of your support for Will's World in the past two years. I hope that you will continue to read and comment

Take your pick

Thanks to the 24-hour sports media with writers, former players and fans getting their views propagated through newspapers, satellite and cable uplinks, we have been given a multitude of opinions that we are supposed to choose from this morning. Pick which one bests suits you:

-August 7, 2007 marks the culmination of the six greatest years of Major League Baseball. With nearly all of the important hitting records being broken, we can safely say that we have witnessed extraordinary history.

-August 7, 2007 markes the culmination of the steroids era of Major League Baseball. While numbers might be written down, we all know that they don't mean anything. We should train our hearts and minds to the pre-steroids era and continue to admire those players as the heroes of our national past-time.

-Barry Bonds should not be made a villain while all of the other cheaters get off scotch-free. He just happened to be the most talented of the cheaters and thus got the most scrutiny.

-Barry Bonds is innocent of steroid use because he has not been convicted in a court of law.

-In this day and age, there have been allegations about steroids attached to both Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong. If only Bonds would have used his successes to benefit the wider community like Lance did, people would have been much quicker to show him forgiveness or less scrutiny as it were.

-Barry Bonds, like all of us, is complex. He probably took steroids. But he has always been an incredible baseball player and no other player on steroids has accomplished what he did. Bonds seems to be really selfish and prideful. But his outpouring of respect for Hank Aaron and godfather Mays and his family and fans of SF on the night of 756 surprised most observers.

-There is nothing complex or ambiguous about any of this. Barry Bonds cheated and stole from all of us. The people of San Francisco should be ashamed of cheering for him. Within five years, the legal process will show Bonds for what he is and his records should be removed.

-In the same way that Michael Vick has been convicted in the court of public opinion, this one is all about race.

-I don't care anymore. Somehow this doesn't seem the same as it did back in 1974. But I can live with that. If someone asks, I don't have an opinion about what happened...but I will keep watching baseball and watching sports, and we will see what happens next.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Game Goes On

On the surface, yesterday seemed to be just another hot summer day in Atlanta. The Braves played to a half-empty Turner Field and nearly let the Rockies take the series from them before pulling the game out in extra innings. The smog kept most of the downtown area in a perpetual haze and an afternoon shower provided a brief respite from the drowning humidity.

I have been to Turner Field numerous times since it opened in 1997. I have seen the Braves lose some games and win some games. I have caught a ball at batting practice, gone through the museum and done the Tomahawk Chop ad nauseum.

But something was different about yesterday. Maybe it was the fact that I was at a ballgame with my friends and enjoying the ability to drink beer. Maybe it was the exciting Braves lineup that put up double digits in hits for the sixth time this week. Maybe it was the Sunday red uniforms.

While all of those things certainly factored in, the main difference was what had happened on the other side of the country the night before. Barry Bonds had hit his 755th career home run.

Walking into the stadium, I noticed more people than normal gathered around the statue of Hammerin' Hank out in Monument Grove. Numerous fans were wearing the throwback Hank Aaron jerseys, and I even saw a sign bemoaning the breaking of the record by a "cheat."

Walking through the stadium and seeing signs for the 755 Club really made me think about this moment in baseball history, and reflect on all of the torment that this league gone through. Whether it's racial issues, betting, money grappling or performance-enhancing drugs, this league has faced issues that go to the core of every person and it has endured.

On Saturday night, the fans of Atlanta, like so many fans of baseball around the country, didn't quite know what to do. Some might have booed Barry as he rounded the basepaths in San Diego. Others might have cheered the Giant slugger. I'm betting that most just made like Bud Selig - stood up, hands in pockets and watched silently.

But on Sunday morning, the sun came back out and the game went on. Atlanta fans had plenty to distract them from Bonds' chase: a division race, a revamped bullpen, a new All-Star first baseman, a series with the Mets coming up. But even with all of that, most of us took the opportunity to appreciate what was still ours, what we could still cherish. It would be the last time that I visited his statue and the place of his monumental blast while he still owned part of the greatest sports record of all time.

Hank Aaron. 755.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Women's Basketball schedule released

The 2007-2008 Davidson women's basketball schedule has been released on the team website. With non-conference games against the likes of Georgia, Virginia and Georgia Tech, Annette Watts' squad will hope to relive last year's success when the Wildcats made their first postseason appearance in school history.

Davidson will also participate in the Carolina First Classic in Asheville, NC in November and the St. Joe's Classic in December. In addition to a competitive non-conference schedule the Wildcats will have a full conference slate including games against perennial powers Western Carolina and Chattanooga. The conference scheduling committee didn't do the Wildcats any favors by scheduling both sets of games against the Mocs and Catamounts back-to-back.

Although the Wildcats will miss the contributions of graduated seniors Tia Washington, Jessica Mitchell and Brynn Kelly, they are very excited about a good freshman class that is coming in to add to an already talented young core of players. Katie Hamilton will be returning for her redshirt senior year after missing her junior season with an ACL tear. The Wildcats will be looking for Danielle Hemerka and Julia Paquette to control the interior while Kelly Gassie and Alex Thompson will take turns bringing the ball up the court.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


As a history major who writes a lot of papers about similar subjects, I often find myself using a favorite word over and over again in a paper. For the last year or so, that favorite word has been agency.

When you hear that word, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? CIA...correct. Except if you look down the dictionary a little bit, you will find an alternative definition of agency: the means or mode of acting; instrumentality.

Now why on earth would I be writing a blog entry about a word with such a sexy definition? Well outside of my obsession of describing the struggle for and implementation of agency in my various historical subjects, I have found myself looking at our society and realizing that this word lies at the heart of so many things. Especially in sports.

Growing up in that long-ago time known as the early 1990's, professional sports, on the whole, were very important to fans and cities, but only in a particular context. The sports fan certainly patronized the club, cheered for his team and followed them in the newspapers. But ultimately, that fan did not have a particularly well-articulated explanation for his involvement in sports. When that persons' spouse reminded them that their watching the game would not affect the outcome, that spouse ended most of the discussion right there.

The sports industry was made up of players and fans. The players played games and the fans watched. The roles were very clearly defined.

Somewhere along the line, a bunch of students in Durham, NC realized that their collective activity as a fanbase could actually significantly improve their home team's chances of winning. The Duke Blue Devils burst onto the college basketball scene in the early 90's with two national titles and the crazy antics of students filling the 9,000-seat Cameron Indoor Stadium became the benchmark for fan activity.

These days fans yell and cheer with the express purpose of "getting into the opponents heads." It's no longer about a distant relationship between entertainers and their thankful patrons, it is about the 6th man, the 12th is about agency.

While sports have always constituted an important lifestyle element to the American leisure culture, they are now the vehicles through which so many lives are directly led. In the past year alone, an estimated 20 million Americans acted as professional sports general managers as they played fantasy sports and competed for championships.

In 2005, EA Sports sold a record 1.7 million copies of its popular Madden football game in the first week of release. The 2008 edition of the game is scheduled to hit shelves this month and EA Sports plans to spend nearly $10 million promoting the title. While it is not earth-shattering that sports video games are putting up such impressive numbers, it is interesting to note how these latest video games have revolutionized the experience of the player.

With online capability, national tournaments and expanding new media integration, the new Madden titles have created agency. Players can now participate in a Hall of Fame mode wherein they can only control the game actions of one player on a team in the NFL. Players are immersed in an environment that tries to closely resemble the career of a real pro football player and from that immersion comes an illusion of agency, acting with significance: I am significately impacting a digital world that has become increasingly less virtual as ESPN analysts, national tournaments and even the players themselves engage with the video game as if it were real. "If it's in the game, it's in the game."

As sports fans, we are no longer content to pull for a team. We feel as if our involvement should always present us with evidence of our agency and ability to affect change on the games we love, even if that impact is only an illusion.