ERIC CRAWFORD | My ten favorite stories from 2012 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

ERIC CRAWFORD | My ten favorite stories from 2012

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- I like lists. In fact, I need to make more of them. The fact is, I guess I'm more into other people's lists than my own. I have in a shoebox around here -- probably the only collection I have kept up with for any length of time -- which contains a stack of shopping lists that other people have left in grocery carts. Don't ask why I've kept them. Maybe yours is among them.

It's rare that I make a list of my own, but it's almost always an enjoyable thing for me, and one ritual I've tried to keep for the past several years is to recount my own list of favorite stories from the past year.

As I explained in an earlier year-end piece, I don't necessarily rank the biggest stories of the year. I just rank the ones that meant the most to me. Most often, it's the subjects that made those stories meaningful to me. But occasionally other reasons will slip in. I guess the first time I did this seriously was for a blog item in 2008 (you can read that one here). Since then, I made it a tradition on my newspaper blog. When I quit the newspaper, that blog was soon wiped off the Internet, which made me wish I'd saved more of it. I'm missing six or seven months of archives, maybe more.

So when reviewing this year's work, there was a bit of a hole. No matter. There was no shortage of memorable moments in the past year. The bigger challenge was coming up with the Top Ten. Here they follow, in countdown order of my own preference.

10. U of L to the ACC

A fortuitous text message from Rick Pitino helped me play a small role in breaking the official news (though surely Brett McMurphy got the break on everyone). But the story I felt better about was one that we like to call a "tick-tock." It is, as best you can manage it, a step-by-step reconstruction into how some news event transpired. This particular story was a bit more difficult because the main action was limited largely to one man: U of L athletic director Tom Jurich. Tom isn't one to go into excruciating detail, but he went into enough, along with U of L president James Ramsey and some others at the school, to paint an interesting picture of an historic week for the university, and a remarkable week of work for Jurich. Read it here: How U of L changed its conference fate in 11 days, WDRB.com.


9. Anticipating the basketball season of a lifetime

This column (a blog-entry actually) was a bit of self-indulgence. I noticed a number of out-of-town folks were writing stories about what it meant to this region to see IU, U of L and UK ranked 1-2-3 in the preseason, and decided I would take a shot at it from the inside. During the course of it, I wound up wandering a bit off the beaten paths of my own memories, into growing up in Kentucky and covering sports in Indiana. I knew I was going to write the story for a while and had been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, but just as the story says, a big orange moon on the horizon sent me to the laptop that very night, and I banged it out in a few hours. It's not a model of composition or coherent structure, but it did come from the heart. Read it here: Anticipating the basketball season of a lifetime, WDRB.com.

8. Profiling Rick Pitino

Another case of a story that was being written by some very good writers nationally, but one I felt compelled to weigh in on. One of the tough things about working on a book project with someone is that you have tons of great material -- and it's all book material. Still, his resurgence at a time when many coaches are thinking about hanging it up makes for a strong story, and with a few words and images, I tried to capture some of those changes and to cast a person who has been a larger-than-life persona against a new perspective. Read it here: At 60, Pitino gearing up to write a big ending, WDRB.com.

7. Sports Page Live

Not exactly a story, but more a regular event, one that each week is, "To Be Continued . . . " Rick Bozich and I had done a weekly webcast for the newspaper for years. When we came to the television station, the experience kicked up a bit for both of us. Sitting in a studio with the lights, three HD cameras, and a half-dozen people working production from graphics to responding to our discussion with video was something new. We finished our first half-hour edition in August and thought two things, "Wow, that was fun." And, "Wow, that went by fast." When we made the move to television, I think both of us believed we'd have to view our own work in different ways, and the first one was that it would not always be with the printed word. The opportunity to do that show, with its interactive element and  more planning than we'd done in the past, and to try to build it into something worth watching, has been a big deal for both of us. Watch past episodes here: Sports Page Live, WDRB.com.

6. Civil War: UK-U of L in the Final Four

There was a ton of writing before perhaps the biggest basketball game in the state's history. If you asked me to vote for the top story, I'd vote for this one, if only because of the national attention it received. UK winning the national title is a de facto top story. But this story drew interest from everybody, from Huffington Post to NPR to CNN. In fact, John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader and I did an interview with NPR's "All Things Considered," and CNN asked me to write a piece about the game for its web site. I tried to explain what getting to cover the game meant to me in a blog post here. But the piece about the game that probably meant the most to me was an open letter I wrote to the nation, putting the game into perspective. Read it here: An open letter to the nation from March-mad Kentucky, The Courier-Journal.

5. Gorgui Dieng in the NCAA Tournament

Gorgui Dieng sat down in a poorly-lit room with reporters before the University of Louisville faced Florida in the NCAA Elite Eight and gave one of the more remarkable interviews I've heard a college player give. He talked about his upbringing in Senegal, the role his father has played in his life, how his values differ from most American players and a number of other topics. The story I wrote on Dieng for The Courier-Journal was picked up by USA Today, and that's the version I link to here, because it's free to read. Also later, for our WDRB College Basketball Notebook in the summer, I transcribed much of that interview, which you can read here. Dieng, no matter who you root for, is impossible to root against. Read it here: Louisville's Dieng a unique player, person, The Courier-Journal/USA Today.

4. 1972 Olympic Basketball Reunion

Through the work of Kenny Davis, the 1972 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team held its 40th reunion on the campus of Georgetown College. Every member of that team was present. Their story of losing the gold medal through officiating irregularities (to put it mildly) is part of U.S. Olympic lore, as is their refusal to this day to accept the silver medals for those Games in Munich. Being around the men, however, drove home just how keenly that experience still lives for them, and the pride with which they still hold their effort in those games. This was the first news event I ever toted an HD television camera along with my notebook. And it was no less memorable for a reaction by Tom Burleson, who happened to wander into the wrong place at the wrong time when terrorists were marching kidnapped Israeli athletes out of the Olympic compound to execute them. It was a haunting retelling, and you could see as Burleson talked that he was being transported back himself as he spoke. I shot this video, and wrote this short reflection on what his recounting meant to me. I felt fortunate to be around those men, and to listen to and learn from them for a while. Read it here: They don't want silver, but '72 hoops legacy is sterling, WDRB.com.

3. Eli Rogers, Teddy Bridgewater, and a bond of hardship

WDRB's Pat Doney and I drove through sections of Miami that we certainly wouldn't have ventured into otherwise, but the trip was well worth it. We were on our way, a day before U of L played Florida International in Miami, to visit the home of Tranae Jackson, the mother of Cardinals' wide receiver Eli Rogers. Just a couple of days earlier, someone had been killed on their block when a shooter fired multiple rounds into a vacant home with an AK-47. Jackson suffers from AIDS. It's something that wears on her son's mind, all these miles away in Louisville. It wore on him in high school, too, when things got a bit too intense and he had to get away for a time. He got away to the home of Teddy Bridgewater, who knew something about the emotions of watching a mother fight a life threatening disease. His mother, Rose Murphy, had battled breast cancer. This was the first in-depth collaborative story that Pat and I worked on together. The experience was a great one because, while Pat had gotten a bit of a head start on the story, we both went about reporting it in our own ways, with the finished product being a video report that reflected Pat's great skill in storytelling in pictures and pacing, and my own observations on the wider perspective of the relationship of these two pivotal players for U of L. Whenever you can show the players as people, not just as athletes, you've done something good. I came away with a great deal of respect for both of these players -- and their families. Looking at Rogers' high school diploma and U of L receivers gloves displayed prominently in Jackson's home, I got a feel for what exactly is on the line with Rogers' football and academic careers. That's always a good thing to remember. Read it here: Rogers, Bridgewater connection runs deep, WDRB.com.

2. UK wins title No. 8

There are stories that mean a lot to you because of how they were written, or because of the people you wrote about, and then there are stories that mean a lot because of what they represent. Somewhere in my office is an envelope with a glossy reprint of The Courier-Journal front page from April 3 of 2012 containing my column about the University of Kentucky winning its eighth national championship. Frankly, I wasn't thrilled with my writing in that particular story. No matter how much work I did on it ahead of time, I didn't feel good going in. UK was an arm's length team with just about everybody. Nobody much had good access to its players or coaches, the kind of access that allows you to write something special. But there it was, the cover, suitable for framing, and it represented for me a kind of culmination of a dream that I'd had since UK won a title in 1978 when I was 9 years old. I'd have felt the same way if I'd gotten to write the same story for U of L. But having that opportunity was special, and I wasn't the only one thinking it. A couple of days later, I wrote about UK radio voice Tom Leach's experience with the title game (read it here). Newspapers are struggling, but they still have a great archival quality. When history breaks out, people head for the newsstands. I appreciated having that opportunity. Read it here: Kentucky completes dominating season with national title, The Courier-Journal.

1. The irrepressible Wesley Korir

This isn't the first time Wesley Korir has wound up among my favorite stories. But you can't beat what he did in 2012. After winning the Boston Marathon, he was passed over by his native Kenya for the Olympics. Instead of being dejected, Korir wound up organizing a medical mission trip to his home country, where a hospital he helped to build was opening, right about the time the Olympics started. Instead of running in London, Korir was part of saving lives in Kenya. Wesley and I emailed back and forth for a few days talking about what was happening, and his excitement jumped off the page. I'll keep saying it, Korir will be among the most important Louisville athletes of his generation, if not the most important. Stories like this one are why. Read it here: Korir doesn't need Olympics to find gold, WDRB.com.

That wraps it up. Thanks to everyone for a wonderful year.

Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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