Hey, Beantown

This past weekend, I finally made it up to Boston to visit one of my good friends from the UO, Kate, and her husband, TJ. Kate and TJ moved to Boston not long after they were married last March and I had yet to visit and see their place. Semi-spontaneously, I left after work on Friday, and we spent the weekend exploring New England, walking all over Boston, shopping at outlet malls, eating cupcakes and watching Arrested Development.

rockport massTheir apartment is in Everett, a northern suburb of Boston. They live five minutes from a station on the Orange line of the T, but also have their car, which we took advantage of on Saturday. We wound our way up the Massachusetts coast (stopping in Cape Ann, Rockport, Newburyport, and a couple other beaches whose names I don’t remember) to New Hampshire and Maine.

Setting foot in all 50 states has been a longtime goal of mine, so I loved getting to check two more off the list, especially two that seemed unattainable while living in Oregon.

New state, New Hampshire

New state, New Hampshire

We didn’t go too far into Maine, only stopping at an outlet mall in Kittery, but we made it! Driving back directly from Kittery to Everett only took about an hour.

On Sunday, after spending the morning in our pajamas and spending some quality time with the Bluth family, Kate and I went into downtown Boston and visited the Harvard campus (including the Harvard Coop bookstore, my new favorite place in the world), the Beacon Hill neighborhood, the Boston Public Garden and shops on Newbury Street.

It was a treat to have my friend as my tour guide, and her ability to show me around a city she’d known for less than a year was a testament to how much she’d embraced the change of pace from Eugene and Portland. In the past year, Kate and I have both moved our lives completely across the country, and I cannot describe how much I valued the chance to talk about that transition with someone who not only moved from the West Coast to the East Coast (I’ve met plenty of people who’ve done that), but who understood the nuances of that transition. We were roommates my freshman year of college and lived in the same co-op house for another two years after that. Kate knew exactly what I left to move to New York, exactly what people I missed and exactly how those people and places shaped my view of New York City, my career and my future. To hear her perspective on her move and process of establishing her life in Boston was encouraging.

I returned feeling grateful for the time spent with my friends. Just a couple days away from my normal pace of life gave a chance to look at that life with a fresh perspective.

Two more assorted items I wanted to write about:

1) I came to appreciate Roger Ebert’s gift for writing, analysis and criticism in the past year, so here’s my small tribute: He wrote one of the most beautiful, striking piece I’ve read in my life: A blog post reflecting on 20 years of marriage to his wife, Chaz. Other recommended reading: His review of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s NightDavid Carr of the New York Times on Ebert as a digital innovator and pioneer of personal branding; Ebert interviewing Paul McCartney in 1984 (they were both born on June 18, 1942); Chris Jones’ tremendous Esquire profile of Ebert from 2010. 

2) Speaking of Ebert, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to expand my cinematic horizons and make a dent in watching the films on his “Great Movies” list. With that goal in mind, and coming off an obsession with Netflix’s House of Cards series and its star, Kevin Spacey, I rented and watched L.A. Confidential on the bus ride back to NYC. Wow. I want to watch it again, because I feel there were bits and pieces of plot that I missed, but it was terrific. Part of it was the 1950s setting, drenched in jazz standards, showcasing the glitz and the gossip of a waning Golden Age. Part of it was the slick dialogue and delivery. A lot of it was the look on Kevin Spacey’s face when he tells Guy Pearce’s character, “That is Lana Turner.” A great movie indeed.

*Editor’s Note: Post title stolen from a made-up song featured in a 2009 episode of “30 Rock.”

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Familiar Faces

Over the past few months, I’ve perfected the Readers’ Digest version of my life story to share with the new people I’ve met in New York. You know: “I’m Paige, I’m from Oregon, I was a journalism major, I work in the PR department at Sports Illustrated and since you asked, yes, Portlandia provides an accurate description of my hometown and yes, my school’s football team has a lot of uniforms.” I can’t even count how many times I’ve shared this surface-level information about my life since I moved in June.

The conversation has gone deeper with several people, and I’m beyond grateful for the new friendships I’m forming. But I’ve gained a new appreciation for the people who’ve known my story for years, and a few of those people made their way to New York over the past couple weeks. I was so excited to see familiar faces.

First visitor: Sarah. Sarah was my roommate in our sophomore year, but we go back even further: Fall term of our freshman year, we were in the same J201 class (the most introductory of the introductory journalism classes). She went the broadcast journalism route while I did PR, but we had a few other classes together along the way (including a hip-hop class just for kicks…we have skills).

Nostalgia photo: Sarah and me at the Oregon-Arizona State game in 2009:

Anyway, her older brother is in a graduate film program in the city, so she took a few days off from her job as an assignment editor at KATU (she’s a boss) to visit him, and I was lucky enough to crash their party for awhile. We spent Sunday walking the High Line, exploring the West Village and eating pizza, and I met up with Sarah and her sister (who’s also a boss and was in the city rehearsing for a touring show she’s in) for dinner after work on Monday. ‘Twas a blast.

Grace, Sam, Sarah and I on the High Line:

The next weekend brought two more old roommates to town, and these two actually got the pleasure of sleeping on my couch.

Kate and I were roommates for most of my freshman year (my first roommate transferred at Christmas break) and when I think back to the awkward Facebook chats we had after finding out we’d be roommates, I can’t help but crack up…”I’m so excited to be your roommate! How is your break!” etc. We’re way past that now, and I’m proud to call her one of my best friends from college. She got married in March and moved with her husband, TJ, to Boston in May. While I still haven’t made it up there to visit, I often find comfort in knowing that one of my closest friends is just a few hours away (when pretty much everything and everyone else familiar is on another coast).

Nostalgia photo: Our house formal, June 2009, when we were roommates:

Shannon and I were never technically roommates, but we’ve been housemates since my sophomore year – both in the giant co-op I lived in through junior year and the smaller house with six others we lived in as seniors. We had quite a few classes together since she was also a PR major, though I probably spent as much time raiding her closet as I did sitting in class with her – she needs a fashion blog. Anyway, Shannon went to stay with Kate for a week, and they came to New York for a long weekend (arriving really late on Thursday night and staying through Monday morning).

Oh, and Shannon nostalgia photo: Modeling the last Autzen-Stadium-student-section arm stamps we’d ever wear at the Pac-12 Championship game last year.

Bonus nostalgia photo because I miss college: Shannon and me at graduation, in front of said senior-year house:

It was Shannon’s first time in New York, and Kate hadn’t been since high school, so I loved sharing my favorite parts of the city with them. On Friday, we walked through Central Park, explored various neighborhoods and enjoyed the rooftop beer garden at Eataly:

Kate, our photographer, not pictured here.

I work from home Saturday afternoons and evenings, managing Sports Illustrated‘s Twitter feed, so after a morning pilgrimage to Citi Field (Shannon is a huge baseball fan, and her brother played in the Mets’ farm system for awhile), Kate and Shannon set out for a day of exploring on their own. On Sunday, we bought rush tickets to Chicago on Broadway – while Broadway shows are always breathtaking experiences, I was underwhelmed, but that’s probably because I adore the movie version and judged the play too harshly against it – ate brunch on the Upper West Side and did more exploring. We ended their visit by watching Wonder Years re-runs and eating takeout in my apartment Sunday night.

Kate and me waiting in line for Broadway tickets.

The three of us walking beside the Hudson on a gorgeous, sunny Friday.

These visits were refreshing. Going from a world of familiarity to a world of unknowns is exhilarating but stressful, so after nearly four months, returning to a bit of that familiarity was just what I needed. Thanks to Sarah, Kate and Shannon for venturing to NYC…and if you’re reading this in Oregon and need some time away, my couch has your name on it.

The Sports Nerd’s Dream Weekend

This is my attempt at synthesizing all the stats and mind-blowing words of wisdom that came my way during the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. Word has gotten out among the sports nerd community that this is the place to be for conversation about analytics and how they affect the game, the fans, the media and the entire culture of sports. The conference began in 2006, when it was held on the MIT campus, with some sessions literally held in MIT classrooms. Now, it’s held in the Hynes Convention Center and boasts an attendance of 2,200 (up 700 from last year).

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about the conference, but I remember watching Michael Wilbon broadcast PTI from Boston about a year ago because of the conference. I remember thinking, “wow, that sounds awesome.” Anyway, it stuck in my mind and when I was blessed with some professional development funding from the UO journalism school, I knew how I would use it.

This year’s agenda was filled to the brim with terrific panel options and intriguing research paper presentations (not to mention, some of my favorite sportswriters and personalities like Michael Wilbon, Rob Neyer and Jackie MacMullan). Right away, I knew I wanted to be at the Baseball Analytics and Media Rights: Pricing, Power and Competition panels. As the conference wore on, I could sense a shift in my views and interests towards different areas of analytics; that shift guided my selection of other panels. Yes, some were better than others, but they all offered a fresh perspective on analytics and shifted my thinking in some small (or large) way.

I learned more than can fit here, but my big takeaways:

1) Only the paranoid survive.

From media execs to MLB general managers, this was an oft-echoed sentiment. Brian Rolapp, COO of NFL Media, said complacency was the only threat to the stable relationship between sports media entities (such as NFL Media and MLB Advanced Media) and broadcast networks (such as ESPN, Fox and NBC Sports). In order to stay on top of trends – in this case, understanding how sports fans consume media – you must actively seek new, innovative opportunities. The opportunities won’t come to you, and the media landscape – especially in sports, the only area of television that must still be watched in real-time – changes rapidly.

Mark Shapiro, president of the Cleveland Indians, discussed the paranoia that comes with using statistics to analyze baseball. Like with media deals, that paranoia is required if you’re going to stay on top of the latest and greatest advancements. You could be sleeping when the next analytics breakthrough is made, but you’d better know about it first thing in the morning. Shapiro said he wakes up every day, reads about a new trend and thinks, “are we on this, or are we behind?” – and that’s coming from someone who’s bought into analytics for a long time.

2) Analytics don’t tell you everything. You have to account for the psychological element of sports.

In every analytics-focused panel I attended, the discussion invariably turned from a breakdown of analytic advancements in the sport to a reminder of psychology’s place in the analysis. Numbers tell you a lot about a player on the field, but they tell you nothing about a player’s past, his family life or how he fits in a city or with his teammates.

I found it interesting that the person who seemed to champion this the most was Scott Boras – who I always pictured as the icy, conniving agent who sat behind a desk all day, working to secure gigantic deals for clients (okay, I didn’t see it quite that dramatically). However, he displayed empathy for the players’ plight, and seemed to be the biggest champion of sports psychology on the baseball analytics panel. He even said baseball should train and hire sports psychologists to help bridge the gap between statistics and humans.

Psychology factors not only into player evaluation, but scout evaluation. Eric Mangini talked about “evaluating the evaluator” on the football analytics panel. You have to adjust your perception of a scout’s advice when a guy who’s good with defensive backs tells you about a wide receiver.

To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about psychology’s place in sports. Before the conference, “psychology” to me was a major someone chose when they didn’t know exactly what they wanted to be; now, I have great respect for those professionals because without their input, all the numbers in the world (and not just those related to sports) are meaningless if the human element is not considered.

3) There’s so much happening out there that you don’t even know about. And stuff you think is cool now will be obsolete in a year (or less).

It probably sounds over-generalized, but my ultimate takeaway from the weekend is that you can never be satisfied with accepting things as they are. That’s the complacency Brian Rolapp and Mark Shapiro warned about: Be alright with the status quo, and the most striking innovation may pass, leaving your way of operating in its wake. Endless curiosity is essential if you want to do something great.

Think about it this way: Except for maybe baseball analytics, every panel I attended made some reference to Jeremy Lin; a guy who few had heard of at last year’s conference. Of course, Lin’s story was hard to miss, but he’s emblematic of the fast-paced world of media and sports. The hot topic a year from now is likely something we’re not considering, and our acknowledgement of the “next big thing” will hinge upon our understanding of current trends and industry changes.

A handful of other random observations for the poor souls still reading, 900 words in:

  • Being in New England, I was reminded that “Portland” isn’t always associated with Oregon.
  • I’m a Starbucks devotee, but it’s never bad to mix up the routine. Dunkin’ Donuts needs to come back to Oregon.
  • Every time I said “University of Oregon,” I was met with, “Oh, Nike U” or “Don’t you guys have a lot of football uniforms?” Thanks, Uncle Phil.
  • Having access to an historic baseball park, navigable public transportation and important national landmarks makes Boston one of my Top 5 cities (full list coming at an undetermined point in the future).

Since there was so much to process from the conference, there might be another post or two on Sloan-related topics; I’d like to flesh out my thoughts from a few sessions, especially the media rights panel and its intersection with Mark Cuban‘s discussion of the connection between social media and television.

If you’re interested in analytics, or attended the conference and had a favorite speaker/panel/moment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Goodbye, Best Summer Ever

Most college students have already purchased new books, started new classes and heck, maybe even taken a midterm. But because we’re on the quarter system (I’ll spare you the details), classes at the University of Oregon begin tomorrow. It didn’t even hit me until I was out for a run this afternoon that today is the last day of summer vacation.

I can say with certainty that this was the best summer of my life. Why? Because I…

  • Completed the most amazing internship in the most amazing city. I worked in New York City and interned at Rodale publishing, specifically with Bicycling magazine, one of Rodale’s titles. I had the chance to do so much fun work and apply my PR skills in a real work setting. (You can read more about my summer here and here.)
  • Met my baseball-announcing hero, Jon Miller, in a spontaneous encounter on the streets of Manhattan. Got his autograph.
  • Saw a game at Fenway Park with my family on a beautiful Boston evening.
  • Successfully learned how to navigate the New York City subway system.
  • Secured season tickets to Oregon Ducks football games.

Of course, a lot more happened than that, but those were the highlights.

It’s my goal to follow up the best summer ever with the best school year ever. Bright and early tomorrow, I’ll be settling into my new class schedule and starting a new routine. It’s going to busy, but I’m determined to not let anything slip through the cracks (including this blog).

ESPN’s College GameDay is actually helping me make this a great year, as they announced this morning that they’ll be broadcasting from Eugene on Saturday and featuring Oregon v. Stanford as their game of the week.

Duck fans try to get their signs shown TV during GameDay's trip to Eugene last year.

I’m already brainstorming poster ideas, and you can bet I’ll be there, decked out in my green and yellow. Can’t think of a better way to spend the first weekend of what I plan to make the best school year ever.

Life, Post-Whirlwind.

The last two weeks have been nothing short of crazy.

Since my last post, I have:

• Turned 20
• Seen my mom and sister in person after nearly a month
• Attended baseball games at Citi Field, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park
• Sat in on a satellite media tour (in which the editor-in-chief of Bicycling does several short interviews with morning news anchors in various cities)

Whew. It’s been a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Tour de France started Saturday, so Bicycling had a lot on its plate. If you’re like me, you associate “Tour de France” with “Lance Armstrong,” but there are a lot of other great riders out there who I am excited to follow this year, like Lance’s bitter rival and defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain.

We’ve been doing a lot of work to promote Bicycling’s coverage of the Tour de France: its website features tons ofslideshows, previews, rankings, analysis and videos. I created a list of notable and reputable cycling bloggers and am now reaching out to those bloggers – basically, showing them how Bicycling is covering the Tour and letting them know that we’d love for them to take advantage of those resources.

It’s awesome, because I get to practice pitching and communicating with media while learning how to pitch bloggers and traditional media differently.

On the morning of my birthday, July 1, we went to a studio in Manhattan where Loren, Bicycling‘s editor, basically sat on a set for three hours and did short interviews with morning news anchors in different cities (known as a satellite media tour, or SMT, in the PR world). She previewed the Tour de France,

Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel was doing an SMT in the same studio that morning - you can see his being announced on the left screen. Loren is on the right.

answering their questions about the race, Lance Armstrong’s chances, doping, etc. My main job was to record the questions she was asked and just soak up the experience while hanging out in a posh “green room” filled with muffin trays. I was able to see and hear all of the interviews through a screen hooked up in the green room. My view:

Despite not being the world’s greatest socializer, I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping busy and getting out into the city with friends. Lately, I’ve been a baseball fiend, seeing Mets, Yankees and Red Sox games (all in one week). I went to the Mets game with a couple of friends – the Mets lost, but it was fun to see their new stadium (it opened last season) and be part of an enthusiastic crowd. Sorry, Yanks fans – I’d take a game at Citi Field or (gasp!) Fenway over Yankee Stadium game any day.

Going to Fenway Park was ridiculously cool – it’s kind of like a baseball Mecca. (Yankee Stadium is, too, but I have

An outside shot of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

been to the new and old stadiums before this year so the excitement has worn off.) Fenway is old with narrow concourses, but Sox fans are great, the atmosphere around the park is fun, and singing “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the 8th inning – a Fenway tradition – embodied everything that is great about baseball.

Tuesday night, I saw the Broadway performance of Mary Poppins because the housing service I rent through was offering cheap tickets. Yes, it was a little cheesy and geared toward a younger audience, but it was fun, especially the part when Bert tap-danced on the ceiling.

Thursday was my 20th birthday. Birthdays are so much better because of Facebook. Of course, they wouldn’t be the same without the customary phone calls and birthday cards, but opening Facebook to find bunches of notifications from friends and extended family is a sweet reminder of how many fantastic people are in my life and how blessed I am to have such dear friends.

The day was made even sweeter because I got to see my mom and sister. I hopped on the Bolt Bus to Boston after work and met them there so we could spend the long weekend together in a city we’ve never explored. (Bolt Bus = free Wi-Fi and electrical outlets = glorious.)

We toured MIT, which my sister is considering for college, saw the Sox game and walked the Freedom Trail (which I highly recommend – educational and enjoyable, especially if you’re into American history). The Freedom Trail can be a bit of a trek and ye be warned: climbing to the top of the Bunker Hill Memorial will leave your legs in pain the next day.

My sister Hope (left) and I with the Paul Revere statue on the Freedom Trail.

Another cool Boston spot is the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. It’s situated on a beautiful spot overlooking the bay. You can’t go wrong in a museum where they feature a bunch of Jackie’s outfits, Frank Sinatra music and old Walter Cronkite live footage.

After getting in last night, I headed downtown to watch the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks display on the Hudson River. I didn’t get too close in an attempt to avoid a huge mass of people, but I watched from a sidewalk and had a pretty good view. Even more impressive than the fireworks, though, was this (pardon my crappy phone-quality picture):

The Empire State Building decked out in patriotic colors.

Speaks for itself. Hope you’ve had a relaxing 4th of July weekend, and thanks for reading!