Yo, Jemal!

Straight talk with Carolina Weekly’s Managing Editor for Sports

by C. Jemal Horton

Earlier this year, I, as South Charlotte Weekly’s managing editor for sports, introduced a forum – a column titled “Yo, Jemal” – to help readers understand how (and why) we do things in our Sports section. In this forum, readers can ask me any question they’d like. Ideally, the questions will be related to south Charlotte high school sports, although nearly any topic is up for discussion. Here are a few:

Changing ‘times’

About three months ago, I received an e-mail from one of our loyal readers, Mary Settlemyre. Mary was concerned about the way we selected our Swimming Super Team in our March 23 issue.

As is the case with the other sports in which winners are determined by times (track and cross country), we use the best times solely from the state championship meets to determine who makes our Swimming Super Team.

I explained to Mary that because swimming, track and cross country largely are individual sports, and the best individual competitors typically make it to the state-meet level, we used that as our barometer for determining our Super Teams. That approach is different from the one we use for, say, baseball and softball, as we take season-long averages and performances into account when we select those Super Teams.

“It is just a bit frustrating,” Mary wrote, “because all other untimed athletes are highlighted based on an entire season. As you know, high school kids get sick, at times are over-trained by club coaches, etc., and the one (state) meet in February is not always their best.”

I wrote back to Mary and told her that while I respected her opinion and appreciated her letter, I still felt that our method for choosing Super Teams for the timed sports was best.

My perspective has since changed, and so has the way we go about selecting our Super Teams for timed sports.

Well, at least it’s been tweaked.

Mary made an excellent point about reducing our selection process to a single meet. It’s extremely difficult to make it to the state finals. Plus, the reality is, not everyone has to go through the same struggles to make it to that point.

In North Carolina, public-school timed athletes have to perform well in regional competition before advancing to the state meets. That means the possibility exists for a private-school athlete to make the Super Team for an individual event – say, the 500-yard -freestyle in swimming – even though his or her public-school counterpart posted a faster time in a regional meet.

So from now on, our selection process will be based on conference, regional- and state-meet performances – all the postseason competitions.

We stick with the conference, regional and state meets for one reason: Many coaches I’ve spoken with throughout the years feel those indeed are the most accurate and reliable times. In track, for instance, some of the regular-season meets feature “hand times,” in which officials use a stopwatch to record a competitor’s time.

That’s not comparing apples to apples, which ultimately is our goal.

Big-league baseball in Charlotte? 

One reader, Sam Minor, posed a popular question throughout Mecklenburg County these days:

“Do you think that a (Major League Baseball) team would do well in Charlotte (generate fans and bring life back into Charlotte sports)?” Sam wrote.

In the short term, yes, it would. I could see fans flocking to a snazzy uptown baseball stadium to watch a brand-new team. The Charlotte area has enough transplants from cities with big-league baseball backgrounds that the interest would be immense at first.

I’m just doubtful that Charlotte could maintain that kind of enthusiasm if the team isn’t doing well after Year One.

Charlotte simply doesn’t support losing franchises – at least not at the ticket counter. Even with arguably the best rookie in NFL history, Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers (who finished 7-9) struggled to completely fill Bank of America Stadium last season. WBTV and Anheuser-Busch had to buy more than 1,000 tickets to avoid a television blackout against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Baseball’s a great game, and at about $27 per ticket, it’s the most affordable of the four major professional sports; according to the Team Marketing Report, the NFL is the most expensive ($77 per ticket), followed by the NHL ($57) and the NBA ($48).

But with 81 homes games, it better be one heckuva team for Charlotte to support it.

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