Tag Archives: Benjamin Wolk

Vicki Michaelis’ sports journalism path an unexpected one

As a features copy editor for The Palm Beach Post in 1991, Vicki Michaelis wanted more.

She desperately wanted to write. She’d graduated Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, after all. She’d even endured business class upon business class to help prepare her for a major news or business beat on the staff.

But news and business beats didn’t open up, so Michaelis chose the route that allowed her to begin her writing career quickest — high school football.

“It was completely foreign to me,” Michaelis said.

With an undergraduate degree in journalism (minor in Economics), Michaelis never imagined that sports would be her entrance into the industry. She’d never covered sports before, but her constant desire to take on new challenges comforted her as she eased into the industry covering high school sports. This was going to be Michaelis’ way of paying dues before she found herself on a desk that she really wanted.

Then came August 1992 and the wrath of Hurricane Andrew.

Everyone on The Palm Beach Post staff was thrown into a whirlwind, covering different aspects of the hurricane’s effect on the region. Michaelis, assigned to write about the storm’s influence on high school sports, wrote one of the more widely read articles during the episode, a story about high school football teams that were still coming together to practice despite the hurricane’s destruction.

It finally clicked. Michaelis finally realized the deep influence sports hold within the community.

“I knew then that I could take this sports writing thing to places that I probably couldn’t take a news beat,” Michaelis said.

From there, her ascension to the peak of the journalism industry accelerated. Michaelis soon earned responsibilities covering the University of Miami, professional tennis and the Miami Heat. And by 1995, she received a job offer from the newspaper she ran a paper route for as a kid, The Denver Post.

In Denver, Michaelis covered the University of Colorado then the Denver Nuggets, but it was for The Denver Post that she first covered the Olympics.

In Atlanta in 1996, just a year into her tenure with the newspaper, Michaelis earned the chance to write for the Olympic Games, much to the chagrin of many of her Post counterparts.

“I was going before a lot of long-time writers at the paper who weren’t happy about it. Even the people who went, Woody Paige, Mark Kiszla, were not happy about me being there,” Michaelis said. “So I was assigned all the things that they thought were the worst assignments.”

That didn’t deter Michaelis, though. If anything, it inspired her to learn more about some of the world’s most peculiar sports. Her curiosity about the Olympic spectacle as a whole attracted the USA Today, which hired her as lead Olympics beat writer (and Denver Bureau professional sports writer) in 2000.

Though a challenging task, Michaelis adapted well to the different type of coverage due to her peculiar entrance into the sports journalism industry.

“Strangely enough, I think it’s a huge advantage I had not having been a big sports fan going into it. I didn’t have an assumption of knowledge about anything,” Michaelis said. “The fact that I’d learned enough about all those other sports to cover them competently; I figured I could learn enough about speed skating to make that happen.”


Wolk’s travels take him out to the ballgames

By Prof. Michaelis

For the Wolk family, vacation plans don’t spin around beach access, scenic trails or the number of national monuments within a 50-mile radius.

Ben Wolk and his parents, Jim Wolk and Jackie Pray, spend their leisure time visiting monuments of sport — specifically, baseball stadiums.

“We get so many different perspectives, it just really makes me think about the sport outside of just baseball and sort of the entire spectacle of it,” said Ben Wolk, a University of Georgia student.

He has seen Jose Reyes hit for the cycle at Shea Stadium. He speaks of “the beautiful scene” at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. He’s watched games at the original Tiger Stadium and the ballparks in Montreal and Toronto.

He remembers specific details of a midsummer game at Fenway Park: David Ortiz hit a home run into the right-field bleachers, where Wolk was sitting, and Jon Lester pitched 7 2/3 perfect innings before surrendering a two-out double to the Texas Rangers’ Michael Young.

“It was just an average game in the middle of July,” Wolk said. “They (the Red Sox) weren’t having that great of a season. Big Papi (Ortiz) wasn’t playing well. …But you really got to feel Fenway. And it was a great moment.”

Jim Wolk grew up in Southern California as a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. He was a starting pitcher at Long Beach State.

His son prefers to play basketball.

“If I’m stressed out, I can go play basketball and it just helps me get at ease,” said Wolk, who played on his Peachtree Ridge High School basketball team. “Playing-wise, that was much more me. But I would not trade going to a baseball game for anything.”

Baseball isn’t just an away game for Wolk. Born in Springfield, Mo., to parents who were professors at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State University), he attended Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals games as a young child.

An Atlanta resident since 1996, he has watched the Braves from nearly every viewpoint Turner Field offers.

“When you’re sitting behind home plate, you’re getting to see everything from one angle — you’re getting to see the Budweiser lounge in right field and the Coke lounge,” Wolk said. “When you’re sitting in center field, you can’t see any of those things, because your back’s to it. But you’re getting to see all the fans behind home plate and the press box area.”

When the Braves leave Turner for Cobb County in 2017, the Wolks will have a new stadium to explore.

For them, it will be the ideal “staycation.”

David Cutcliffe creating winning culture at Duke

While Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Virginia Tech have dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference’s headlines this season, there’s another team playing well in the ACC that hasn’t garnered as much attention — the Duke Blue Devils.

Duke is 5-2, and while only 1-2 in conference play, the Blue Devils are showing signs of success for a team that was laughable in the 2000s, going winless three times with only 10 total wins between 2000 and 2007 (six double-digit loss seasons in that span). But in 2008, the Blue Devils made a move that has made a clear positive influence in the program — David Cutcliffe was hired as head coach. Since his arrival, Duke has shown steady signs of improvement, earning its first bowl-eligible season since Steve Spurrier was head coach in 1989.

Perhaps the biggest sign of improvement is Duke’s ability to play from behind. In years past, when the Blue Devils would go down on the scoreboard, they were one of those teams that spectators just assumed would just coast to another loss. But on Saturday against Virginia, Duke was down 22-0 in the middle of the second quarter. Duke’s past would have suggested that the Blue Devils were well on their way to a big, conference defeat, but this team is different. Not only did Duke refuse to roll over, the Blue Devils marched to the tune of 35 unanswered points to earn the team’s first conference win of the year.

Now, the team’s focus turns to the last five games of the conference slate — at Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Miami, at Wake Forest and at North Carolina. With two wins, Duke will be bowl eligible for the first time since the Spurrier days, which would begin to put Cutcliffe in a similar light as “The Old Ball Coach,” who is widely considered as the most effective coach in Duke football history.

Duke’s defense steps up after allowing 22 first-half points

I like this game story because it gives perspective into a situation you wouldn’t know about without a beat writer. Everyone was able to see that Duke managed to overcome a halftime deficit and didn’t allow Virginia to score in the second half, but it took someone with behind-the-scenes access to get the Cutcliffe story about talking to his seniors.

Jameis Winston, Florida State both worthy of national hype

In Florida State’s dominant 63-0 win over Maryland this past Saturday, two things were confirmed — Jameis Winston is a legitimate Heisman candidate and the Seminoles are a legitimate national championship contender.

Winston fits the modern-day Heisman prototype pretty well. An award that used to be handed out to the clear-cut leader of the widely-accepted best team in college football has now become an award for the flashiest player with the flashiest highlight film and stat line who creates that “Heisman moment.” Florida State’s redshirt freshman quarterback couldn’t be closer to that description. Every time he drops back in the pocket, spectators feel the “what will he do next” effect that we have seen in so many recent Heisman winners — Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow to name a few. He’s a baseball pitcher/outfielder with a rocket arm who keeps his eyes downfield on every play. Pundits may still be hesitant to buy into the hype of the young quarterback just yet, saying that it was against a Maryland team that had too much hype of their own. That may be true. Maryland, though undefeated, was probably too unproven to earn the No. 25 ranking it had when the Terrapins played the Seminoles. Nonetheless, 23-of-32 passing for 393 yards and five touchdowns against a conference opponent is impressive even against bottom-tier ACC teams (Side stat: 7 carries for 24 yards). He’s already starting to get the national recognition with weekly honors.

Winston wasn’t the only Seminole entity that made a statement against the Terrapins. Defensive coordinator Jermey Pruitt’s unit stop a Maryland offense that was touted as one of the most explosive in the conference coming into the game. The Terrapins’ season-low in points going in was 32, the offense was blanked by the Seminole defense. Maryland had clearly bullied some inferior opponents and were unable to adjust to the competition and atmosphere against Florida State. The shutout performance was a reassuring sign after a slightly disconcerting week against Boston college, allowing 34 points. The Seminoles’ hot start has caught the attention poll voters. Much to the chagrin of Georgia fans, Florida State managed to leap the Bulldogs in the latest polls after the Seminoles’ blowout win and Georgia’s narrow overtime victory against Tennessee. Either way, Florida State would’ve earned the jump eventually by remaining undefeated (have to win at Clemson, vs. Miami).

Regardless, a team that ranks third in the nation in both points for and points against is thriving off early-season success on the shoulders of Winston. Now the sights are set on a road trip to Clemson on Saturday, Oct. 19. Florida State has already faced two early road tests, at Pittsburgh week one and at Boston College on week four, though neither environment compares to Death Valley at night on national television. Winston has performed spectacularly in both of those outings, while the defense did struggle against Boston College.

The showdown against Clemson — after a Florida State bye and Clemson home game against BC — should turn out to be a competition for leverage in the ACC, national title implications and a likely Heisman battle between Tajh Boyd and Winston.

ACC-CUSA advances

The Greensboro News & Record’s advance of the Wake Forest-Louisiana-Monroe matchup did an excellent job of bringing in context when readers needed it most. While readers may know a lot about Wake Forest, the ACC team, they are most likely less informed about the Sun Belt conference’s Louisiana-Monroe. The reporter lets the reader know that the Warhawks’ quarterback was the best player in the conference the previous season, so Louisiana-Monroe is likely not the pushover that they might look like. That proved to be the case.

The Times-Picayune’s advance of the Tulane-Louisiana Tech game did a great job of contributing context and implications. The reader was notified of Tulane’s struggles against the inferior South Alabama the week prior, but also mentions the fact that this was the first conference matchup and begins detailing conference title implications.