Sunday, June 28, 2009

Working the rim

For five and a half years, I worked for a North Carolina newspaper as a rim editor in sports. I always call what I did a desk shift, and people want to know what that involves.

Usually, the sports desk has a slot guy who parcels out local and wire stories to various pages. A page designer (called a paginator in newspaper parlance) lays out the paper, and rim guys call up stories, edit and cut them, and write headlines and cutlines (called captions in the real world).

In 2009 and '10, I worked the desk on a freelance basis lately. The first night, they had to show me how to do a lot of things; I hadn't logged into the computer in about three years, and I didn't remember a lot of stuff.

The first night back, I think it was June 8, we had a paginator, a night editor and two rim editors, including me. I was busy most of the night, but it wasn't hard.

On Thursday, we had a paginator, a slot guy (called the night editor at this newspaper) and a rim guy (me). The night editor was handling baseball and agate, and, fortunately, about five major-league games were played early. I handled most of the files that night, since the night editor was doing so much other stuff.

The NBA draft was being held on Thursday, which means we did a lot of other stuff earlier, and we couldn't get the draft in the paper until late. We're in the middle of North Carolina, so the Atlantic Coast Conference teams, especially Wake Forest University, are big here. We had to do something special on the Duke University player drafted by the "hometown" Charlotte Hornets.

We also had a story on all of the North Carolina Tar Heels being drafted, so Thursday night was a big night for us.

I was able to take my time and give each story special attention early in the night, but that changed. We were in a lull as we watched the first round of the NBA draft on ESPN. Something hit the fan between 10:30 and 11. Our deadline to be off the floor was 12:30 a.m., and we were a little late.

I worked again on Saturday, and we had a paginator, night editor, two rim editors (again, including me) and a person handling calls and agate. I took my time and worked my way through local and national auto-racing stories, a soccer advance, two major-league baseball stories, and much more. I was reading, editing and cutting stories; writing headlines and cutlines (called captions in the real world), and cutting stories to fit.

Once, I had a good headline, but it didn't fit. So I went to the paginator, and she fiddled with it a bit to make it work. No big deal.

I was busy most of the night, but we never went crazy. We finished about 10 minutes before deadline, and everyone but me went home early. My wife was laying out the A and B sections, and news was later than us. I didn't mind; I relaxed, read the Internet and waited to go home.

Easy night.

(NOTE: All of the copy editors were laid off in December of 2010. I haven't worked copy desk since.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

High-flying basketball

I've seen some rough fouls on a basketball court, but the worst may have been in 1986 or '87 in Wilmington, N.C. And it included the greatest toughness I've seen on a court.

A guy sailed to the basket for a layup when, suddenly, an opponent grabbed him around the waist and body-slammed him. But as the guy was rotating, he managed to get the ball up toward the basket. It trickled over the rim, hit the backboard and went in.

The fouler was ejected; the foulee got two shots for a flagrant foul (he hit both), and his team got the ball back. They made a jump shot on the ensuing possession to conclude a six-point trip down the court. That pretty much decided the game there.

The same year, I was watching a game between Whiteville and South Brunswick. A little guard named Quentin McCrackin went inside and left his feet as the taller Whiteville players swarmed around. McCrackin had the ball low around his hip. He swung it from behind and over his shoulder; it rainbowed over the defense, hit the rim and kissed into the basket.

McCrackin later became a starting defensive back for Duke University and a major-league baseball player for the Seattle Mariners. Obviously he was a multi-talented, if not tall, athlete.

Speaking of rough fouls, Seneca (S.C.) High School was playing someone, and Clarence Kay was just returning from a football all-star game. He was dribbling downcourt and went in for a layup. A defender grabbed both of Kay's arms and tried to keep him from shooting. It'd just be a hard foul. Kay didn't score, but he lifted his arms enough to hit the rim with the ball. The other team seemed stunned at his strength. He hit two foul shots, and the Bobcats went on to win.

Kay, too, was a good athlete. He played the next year on Georgia's 1980 NCAA championship football team, then later played a dozen years at tight end for the Denver Broncos.

The most spectacular play I've seen? One of two. Keith Pryor was the best Class 1-A player in North Carolina for Edneyville High School. Someone told me to watch out for him, and I thought, yeah, sure, big deal. I've seen great athletes.

In the first quarter of my first Edneyville game, Pryor stole the ball and headed downcourt. I was ready. He took off just inside the foul line and offered the ball to the basket for an underhanded layup. Again, I was ready. He windmilled the ball and smashed it through the basket as I stood flatfooted and missed the shot.

And that wasn't even the most impressive shot I ever saw him make.

They were playing Tryon. Pryor skirted the baseline, and a Tryon player stuck out his hip to force Pryor out of bounds. I was sitting on the floor, with the camera in one hand and writing on my notepad with the other. I didn't have time to look, so I shot the picture from the hip.

The foul was called as Pryor sailed upwards and just off the court. Here's what I got in the photo: There was the Tryon player with his hip out, the referee calling the foul and Pryor reaching back and floating the ball toward the basket. It wasn't in the photo, but Pryor hit the shot and got the foul shot.

Spectacular. And probably the best photo I ever got.

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

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