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Entries in Mike Mudd (7)


Five Reasons Why USA Will Beat Ghana

Landon Donovan

Will Confidence From
Group Win Carry Over
To Knockout Round?

One Great Season

Before the USA-Algeria game Wednesday, I had spent the last few days of my California vacation crowing to people I thought the United States was done. I had turned into a hater of my own frickin' team.

As new soccer fans came out of the woodwork in support of our squad, I might as well have stomped on the eagle, tossed my giant Uncle Sam hat and snubbed my nose at portraits of those guys marching by with the "Don't Tread on Me" flag.

If Apollo Creed had offered me those spiffy American flag trunks, I would have said no way.

The Americans' inconsistent performances and general lack of sizzle against Slovenia and England left me uninspired and disappointed. Despite the furious comeback against Slovenia, I still didn't think this was a second-round World Cup team. And it should have been. I was predicting a tie against Algeria and, alas, a quick trip home.

But then came the sparkling play vs. Algeria, capped by a much-deserved late goal by USA's best player that helped send this country's spirits soaring with pride and the alcohol flowing all night. So now that this team has proven me wrong (gulp, I hope!), I'm more than happy to jump back on the bandwagon and believe the Americans will advance into their second-ever World Cup quarterfinal.

Here are five reasons why the U.S. should beat Ghana Saturday:

1. Renewed confidence at the right time. Maybe, after all, it was better for this team to give us so much disappointment in the first two games. It forced them to stand up to the pressure and prove they could deliver a great performance in a do-or-die situation. Getting through that successfully will help them in the knockout round here. Because, well, they've already technically won one knockout game. The dramatic win also turned out to clinch the group for the U.S., the first time it has won a World Cup group in 80 years. All this will have the side beaming with confidence that they can beat anyone.

2. Ghana's lack of goals. Ghana looks flashy on paper, led by striker Asamoah Gyan. And the Black Stars play a tough and physical defense. But look closer and you see they only scored two goals in group play and both of those were on penalty kicks. Ghana's win came over Serbia, but their loss to Germany. A win over the Serbs will not impress or intidimidate the U.S., as possibly a win over Germany would have. With the Americans' defense showing signs of collapse at times during this Cup, knowing they are not facing an offensive powerhouse could help.

3. Revenge for 2006: Ghana beat the United States 2-1 in the final group-stage game of the 2006 World Cup, propelling the Black Stars into the Round of 16 and sending the U.S. home with a last-place finish. Granted, four years is a long time to remember one loss, but this is yet another bonus nugget for the U.S. to use as motivation. And a lot of the current American players were around for that loss.

4. Steve Cherundolo's aggressive attack. One factor that helped the U.S. so much against Algeria was a more assertive presence in the midfield and attacking end. They did not let Algeria continually  shove the ball down their throats, like they allowed against England and much of the game vs. Slovenia. One way this was accomplished was Cherundolo pushing up more on runs and getting an extra player into the flow of the offense. Look for this trend to continue and for there to be more chances opened up for USA's talented forwards.

5. Landon Donovan. The country's all-time best player (man, I just keep saying that, but it's true!) finally believes this is his team, his time and his chance to lead the Americans to new heights. Donovan has scored many spectacular goals in his career, but none have shaken the earth like his winning goal Wednesday and he'll feed on that. He's a mature and experienced player and will use that momentum to motivate himself and the team to the quarterfinals. I look for Donovan and his fellow attackers to be strong early, and I wouldn't be surprised if this time the U.S. scores early and can play with the lead.

Prediction: 2-1 U.S.

Click here for Mike's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


Five World Cup Matches You Can't Miss This Week

World Cup 2010 Logo

Desperate Football On Tap
In Final Games Of Group Play

One Great Season

Tuesday brings the first day of the final round of matches in World Cup pool play in South Africa.

The first round saw some teams, even traditional powers, sitting back and playing conservatively.

The second round required some of those teams to step things up after less-than-positive results in those opening-round matches.

And now that we're on to the desperation round, it's OK to expect more excitement from many of the games over the next few days. A few of the One Great Season World Cup writers reveal below which must-see matches you won't want to miss:

+ Mike Mudd
USA v. Algeria, Wednesday (10 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Group C has been sort of a mess. The U.S. has played great in stretches, and, frankly, like crap in others. This is a must-win game for the Americans and it's going to be interesting to see if they can buckle down and play their best when a spot in the knockout round is on the line in a do-or-die game.

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+ Steve Susi
England v. Slovenia, Wednesday (10 a.m. ET, ESPN2)
How will the Three Lions respond to this must-win situation (or at least must-draw and pray for help) after a week of discord, calls for Fabio Capello's head, Capello's calling out of John Terry for press-conference comments, Jamie Gallagher's absence due to two yellows and the tabloid mania that's drowned us all these past few days?

+ Jake Yadrich
Germany v. Ghana, Wednesday (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
After Germany blasted Australia 4-0 in their opening match, people were talking Cup favorite. But then a 1-0 loss to Serbia left the Germans likely needing a victory over group leader Ghana to advance to the knockout stage. The German attack will be without prolific goal scorer Miroslav Klose, and Ghana captain John Mensah and fellow central defender Issac Vorsah may both be available for the match (neither played the last game due to injuries). I imagine Serbia will take out Australia, leaving the Germans with no option but to win this game. It has added importance, not only because a world soccer power may be booted, but it could also determine who the Americans would play in the knockout round should they advance.

+ Mike Dick
Italy v. Slovakia, Thursday (10 a.m. ET, ESPN)
The Italians have looked completely devoid of creativity, lack a consistent goal scorer and have been shaky at the back at times. Can Lippi make enough tweaks to get the three points they so desperately need? Or are the defending champs catching an early flight home?

+ Mike Marshall
Chile v. Spain, Friday (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spain will be looking to top the group, not only for obvious reasons like national pride, but avoiding a knockout-round game against likely Group G winner Brazil. Following a much-improved second match against Honduras on Monday, Spain will move forward often, and shoot the nets off of the Chilean goal.


World Cup 2010: Group C Notes

World Cup 2010 Logo

One Great Season

Some nuggets to chew on from the opening games in Group C, and looking ahead to the second round:

+ I gotta be honest, the last time I saw a goalkeeper botch a save like the one England's Robert Green did against the United States was probably when I was playing under-12 ball. I was racking my brain all weekend trying to remember when I saw that kind of slip-by from a top-level goalkeeper. And I just couldn't think of one, personally. It was an unbelievable error on the world stage. In the World Cup, that could be a once-in-a-lifetime blunder.

+ That said, props to England defender Jamie Carragher, who said Monday he thinks Green should remain in goal for Friday's match against Algeria. "Every player in the squad has been there where we've made a big mistake in a big game. But the reason that you are playing for England and you get to this level is that you have a certain amount of mental strength," Carragher said. This type of public talk from his teammates could be just the tonic Green needs to go on and have a great rest of the tournament.

+ The Americans' goal to earn a tie overshadowed the real storyline: The U.S. showed many weaknesses: They were mostly disorganized in midfield; sat way too far back in defense, allowing England to jam the ball down their throats, and were completely gased by the end of the game, hardly able to put any kind of passes or offense together in the final minutes. Bottom line: The U.S. did not look like a second-round team. I know the general feeling in the media and with the team was that they deserved the tie, but I just didn't see it.

+ Slovenia's win over Algeria now puts extra pressure on the U.S. The Slovenians not only have those cool Charlie Brown-zigzag striped looking jerseys, but also are a more confident and potent team than people gave them credit for. They like to counter-attack and have a great goalkeeper in Samir Handanovic. The U.S. will need to play better than it did Saturday to win. A loss would pretty much end hopes of advancement.

+ Tim Howard's sparkling performance in goal against England was the finest I had seen from a U.S. goalie since Sylvester Stallone's "Hutch" character saved about 200 shots against the Nazi guard team in the 1983 movie "Victory." And who has ever seen a finer save on a penalty kick than the one Hutch made at the end of the game? Yo Adrian, I did it!

+ Speaking of Howard, don't let any of this talk about bruised ribs fool you into thinking he won't play against Slovenia this week. The guy is a beast and by far the most talented and internationally-respected player on the U.S. squad. He's playing, and this game is too big for him to consider otherwise.

+ Quiz time: Raise your drink if you can name the U.S.'s backup goalies. Can't do it? That's OK, take a drink anyway. Howard's backups are Wolverhampton's Marcus Hahnemann and Aston Villa's No. 2 keeper Brad Guzan.

+ England will get a boost against Algeria. Midfielder Gareth Barry (Manchester City) has declared himself ready to play after recovering from an ankle injury. The English could use some better playmaking in the midfield to help start Wayne Rooney. I thought England looked strong in the opener, especially considering the lads traditionally have slow starts. Take away the mammoth goalkeeping error, and they look like a team which should go on to beat Algeria and move on.

+ The Slovenia-U.S. game will pit the largest country in the Cup against the smallest. Slovenia has about 2 million people, while the mighty U.S. boasts 300 million. This is the first meeting between the two countries in soccer.

+ Algeria captain Anther Yahia said Monday his squad will be more aggressive in its next game against England. I think the English defense will be more than up to the task, and I look for any bold play from the Algerians to lead to many English counter-attacks and goals. I look for a 3-0, 4-0 type of England victory.

+ Finally, check out this creative piece of multimedia from the Guardian newspaper in England. It's an animated, fussball recreation of the USA-England match. Enjoy!

Click here for Mike's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


World Cup Preview: Group C

World Cup 2010 Logo

It's A No-Brainer:
England, U.S. Advance

One Great Season

When I saw the World Cup draw come out, the first thing I thought was if the United States can't advance out of the first round this year, then U.S. Soccer will be set back for years to come. This U.S. team is arguably the deepest and most talented our country has ever fieleded in a World Cup. A group that includes England, Algeria and Slovenia should be ripe for the Americans to at least get three or four points and move on. Sam's Army should demand high expectations.

BIO: About Mike Mudd

Obviously the strongest team in this group is England, which is fittingly the Americans' opening opponent. This also works in the U.S.'s favor to play the English first. Even a draw or a loss would not be devastating, and take the pressure off the Americans in the following easier games with Slovenia and Algeria. I look for that U.S.-England game on Saturday to be tight. England has a long history of slow starts in the Cup and will be feeling a huge amount of pressure to open with a win. The demons of the past could work against the Brits here. And having followed a defeat of Spain with a near upset of Brazil in last summer's Confederations Cup, the U.S. fears no one.

MORE: Meet The 2010 OGS World Cup Writers

Here's the schedule of the Group C games, and a brief analysis of each team:

+ June 12: England vs. USA
+ June 13: Algeria vs. Slovenia
+ June 13: Slovenia vs. USA
+ June 18: Algeria vs. England
+ June 23 : England vs. Slovenia
+ June 23 : Algeria vs. USA


England looks born again since Fabio Capello took over as coach. The Brits rolled through their group games with a 9-1 record. They have world class players in Wayne Rooney up front and John Terry at the back. On the down side, losing captain Rio Ferdinand to injury is a massive blow, and another factor that could come back to haunt England is the absence of a true No. 1 goalkeeper. Joe Hart, David James and Robert Green could all start in the opening match. But by far England's biggest concern is the weight of expectations, and it all starts with the opening match. I think a solid win over the U.S. in the opener will give the English the confidence to perhaps roll all the way to the semifinals. A loss or tie, however, could send England into a tailspin.
(Essential stats: England is eighth in the FIFA rankings and has appeared in 12 World Cups, boasting an all-time record of 25 wins, 13 losses and 17 draws.)

United States

Manager Bob Bradley has produced a well-organized team that has hit its stride in the year leading up to the tournament. Add to that the world-class talent and goal scoring ability of Landon Donovan, who gives the U.S. a bona-fide star attacker other teams have to focus on. The Stars and Stripes also will be on familiar and successful turf: South Africa was the scene last year of one of the country's most famous triumphs, the victory over Spain to set up a Confederations Cup final with Brazil. But here's the biggest key to success for the Americans: Goalkeeper Tim Howard. Howard is by far the team's best player, and the most respected internationally as he plays for Everton in the English Premier League. Howard knows England's players well and he will serve as a calming and mature voice for the U.S. team in what will be a nerve-wracking opener. The Americans' defense is usually good for a couple of major breakdowns in every game, and it will be Howard who will be counted on to come up with some big saves to ensure advancement.

COMING SUNDAY: Steve Susi Breaks Down Group D

The final question is whether this will be the team that showed great form in the Confederations Cup and qualifying rounds, or the team that laid an egg in the 2006 World Cup and was embarrassed from the opening whistle. I think this team will respond and is a virtual lock to move on to the next round. (And yes, feel free to ridicule me until 2014 when the Americans don't make it; I've officially put my head on a stake.)
(Essential stats: The U.S. is ranked 14th by FIFA, having appeared in eight World Cups for a total of 25 matches, with only six wins and 16 draws.)


Algeria skated through to the Cup finals thanks to a playoff win over Egypt and is making just its third Cup appearance and first since 1986. It is hard to find any star players for a team that is a virtual unknown after being overshadowed by Africa's more notable sides. Karim Ziani will have the job of keeping the midfield together and that will be key if the Algerians are to have any success against the attacking styles of England and the U.S. The team's best player is probably defender Madjid Bougherra, who missed most of the season with Scottish champions Rangers with an injury. But he has said in recent weeks he will be 100 percent when the squad kicks off against Slovenia. Algeria's best hope is to make sure it gets an opening two points and then hope to pull an upset tie or win over the U.S. to sneak through.
(Essential stats: Algeria is ranked 30th by FIFA and has played in six Wold Cup matches, with two wins and three draws.)


Slovenia is no doubt the biggest darkhorse in the entire tournament. Remember the tiny Gene Hackman-led Hickory High team from the movie Hoosiers? Slovenia is the World Cup's version of those guys. The country of just 2 million people posted one of the biggest qualifying upsets by knocking out mighty Russia in a play-in game, and then advancing thanks to a greater number of away goals. Along the way, the Slovenians also beat traditional powers Poland and the Czech Republic.

The goal-scoring ability of Cologne club star Milivoje Novakovic will lead the attack and goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who plays in the top Italian league, is the glue that holds the defense together. Captain Robert Koren is Slovenia's most creative player. He's a midfielder for newly promoted West Brom in the Premier League.
(Essential stats: Slovenia, ranked 25th by FIFA, is making its second World Cup appearance. It lost all three group matches in South Korea in 2002.)


Luckily I don't need to hold a doctorate in international soccer to figure this one out. I'll go with England and the USA to advance. And for shits and giggles predictions, I'll take Slovenia to beat Algeria and claim third place in the group.


Meet The 2010 OGS World Cup Writers

One Great Season is proud to announce it will be covering World Cup 2010 from start to finish. Group previews begin Thursday and once the games begin, we plan to update at least twice daily with match coverage, analysis and other news and notes. Please take a moment to get to know the nine contributors who will make One Great Season the only online destination you'll need for outstanding World Cup coverage.

Jeremy Brown

Jeremy Brown is a New York-based freelance writer. He's worked as a staff writer covering English and international football at UK and has contributed to several publications over the years, including the New York Post, Scientific American, Seed, Entertainment Weekly, Draft and Star. On Sundays he can be found groggily galumphing around not-always-trash-strewn pitches in the city's Cosmopolitan league, thankful that he never tried to go pro because man that looks like a lot of running. Jeremy will be covering Group B.

Mike Dick

Mike Dick got turned on to soccer by Pele's arrival in the NASL. Living in a virtual soccer vaccuum in Terre Haute, Ind., Mike's love of the game grew via broadcasts of Soccer Made in Germany and the odd NASL match, BBC World Service football coverage on shortwave radio and traveling to see live matches on occasion. He got to see Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Best and others in person in the NASL days, and as a semi-regular at matches of the Indianapolis Daredevils of the Amercan Soccer League, had the privilege to see an aged Eusebio as he pulled a Willie Mays at the end of his career. A former college goalkeeper, Mike enjoyed the 2006 World Cup in Munich, Berlin and Frankfurt. He supports Nottingham Forest and considers himself to be "the special one" when it comes to prowess on the barstool. Mike, a television producer in Louisville, Ky., will cover Group E.

Ben Jackey

Ben Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television news journalist from Louisville, Ky. He is a soccer addict who didn't pick up the game until World Cup 2002. Since then, he has travelled to watch and cover the USMNT and was producing a soccer documentary before he left the TV business this year. He is an avid supporter of Aston Villa FC of the English Premiership and may be the only person on the planet with cornhole boards adorned with the Villa crest. Up the Villa! It's important to note that Ben is a Leo, is fun at parties and is a great dancer. Ben, now a communications specialist in Louisville, will cover Group G.

Mike Marshall

Having played football continually for 28 years in some form, fashion or level in six countries — with teammates and competitors hailing from more than 50 nations — no other game could have given Mike Marshall a better perspective both on the human condition and how it might be changed for the better. With interests in history, international relations, anthropology, and design, Mike finds time for kick-ups whenever possible. Professionally he is the principal behind Marshall Arts, a graphic design and other creative works company. Mike will be covering Group F.

Mike Mudd, an assistant sports editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal, is a lifelong competitive soccer player, coach and fan whose claim to fame was making the second team Indiana all-state team in high school in Jeffersonville, Ind. Mudd covered college soccer while a student at Ball State University in the early 1990s. He also gets asked a lot about the time he scored four goals in a varsity match back in 1990. Mudd has watched every World Cup since 1986 and is more of a fan of South American soccer than European, though he has a soft spot in his heart for England. Mike will cover Group C, and can be followed on Twitter @mudd4goals.

Wade Murray

Wade Murray learned to play soccer at an early age while growing up in Iowa. He was a Division III All-American player at Luther College, then played semi-professionally in Minnesota and New York. His favorite national team is the US side, of course, but on the club level he roots for Everton. Wade is currently a digital marketing professional in New York City, and his favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo. Wade thinks Ronaldo is simply the smoothest son of a #$%^ he's ever seen, although he dives waaaay too much. Wade will be all over Group A.

Bruce Sholl

Bruce Sholl started playing pickup soccer as a kid on the dirty streets of Toledo, Ohio. He then went on to captain the Upper Arlington Golden Bears in Columbus, Ohio, and started for the men's club team of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He currently plays for The Barnstonworth Rovers third team, a New York City club group. Along with being a fan of his hometown Columbus Crew, he has traveled abroad to play and watch, most notably the Man U-Man City Derby in 2008 and Espanyol vs. Villarreal this year. His aggressive style of play has translated well to the pub when watching matches and head-butting. Bruce, a retail marketing specialist, is on the general assignment beat.

Steve Susi

Steve Susi is founder and chief creative officer of Brand Spanking New York, a NYC branding and creative consultancy. Steve has attended numerous Premiership matches over the past two decades — most of which involving his beloved yet hapless West Ham Hammers — attended the 2006 World Cup in Germany (watch the video) and is a devout Ohio State and all-teams-Cleveland fanatic. Mr. Susi will spend the second week of World Cup 2010 watching the national teams of Germany, Holland, Denmark and England at pubs located in those countries' respective capital cities, and reporting/photographing the proceedings for One Great Season. Check out for more about Steve and follow him on Twitter at @brandspankingny. He'll be covering Group D.

Jake Yadrich

Jake Yadrich has worked in the video production industry since 2004, spending mroe than five years as a videotape editor for FOX 4 News in Kansas City. While at FOX 4, he and the station's film critic earned acclaim at the 2009 and 2010 LA Press Club National Entertainment Journalism Awards for their weekly interview segments with Hollywood's biggest stars. In January 2010, Jake obtained what he considers a dream job in becoming the head of video operations for the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer. Jake is an avid soccer fan, his favorite team being Barcelona, and brings an industry insider perspective to One Great Season's coverage of the 2010 World Cup. Jake will be covering Group H.


Derby Insider: What's Deadline Like For A Louisville Sports Editor?

Kentucky Derby

Writers Get The Glory; Layout Crew Gets The Cookies

One Great Season

The Kentucky Derby has always defined the city of Louisville. It's known as the fastest 2 minutes in sports. It's also an event where the rich and famous come to be seen in their dapper best, and the city's natives enjoy a local holiday of sorts, taking time off from work to soak in the pomp and circumstance known as the Derby Festival and enjoying seeing the city at its brightest and boldest.

Click Here For Complete Derby Coverage

As a Louisville native, I buy into the Derby. I love the whole thing -- the parades, the air show and fireworks, the fixed steamboat race, the parties, the hats. Bring it on. Heck, I knew how to bet a horse before I knew how to shave.

But there's another side to Derby. Six years ago when I decided  to take a job as a layout editor on the sports desk of the Courier-Journal, Louisville's daily newspaper, I put aside the joy and fun of Derby and subbed in a heaping helping of chaos, agony, exhaustion and often times simply sick hilarity of covering and producing the newspaper through its premiere event.


Backside At The Derby 2010 | Images From Derbys Past

Sure, I could easily tell you how the C-J reporters and columnists spend long hours at the track watching horses prep, talking to the horsemen, jockeys, owners and handicappers. That group enjoys the glory part of the event. They get to wax about the traditions, the legacies and the history. Every horse seems to have some kind of entertaining background or interesting path to the Derby. And the writers get to execute their craft at Churchill Downs, among the greatest sports venues in the world. Good for them.  

But today, I'm going to tell you another Derby story. It's what happens back at what we simply call "the office." It's the newsroom at 525 West Broadway, and it's specifically the sports copy and layout desk within the newsroom. We work in a space about as big as a McDonald's dining area. It's cluttered with piles of newspapers, old printouts, memos, photo proofs, reference guides, dictionaries (I think we still have those) and a whole lot of general crap, to be honest. This is where the sports section goes from blank slates in the computer system to the stories, headlines, photos and packages of information you see the next day.

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Oh, and we have the best schedules and hours of anyone on the planet ‑‑ nights and weekends. And that's not just on rotation. It's all the time. We essentially live life on the fringes of society.

Derby planning starts months in advance at the Courier-Journal. And most of it is simply shoring up solid and successful ideas, long ago created, which are implemented each year. But I'm here today to share with you the behind-the-scenes view of the sports department as it produces Derby coverage from the Thursday before into about midnight Saturday night, when the wrap-up Derby section is finally put to bed and another miracle is achieved for another year.


Since today is Thursday, I’ll start with what is happening or what will happen to us in here today:

+ 3 p.m. -- Today is the annual Derby Festival Parade. Thousands of people flock into downtown to watch the parade and amp up the Derby fever. For the C-J sports desk member, this is about the single worst day to drive into work. The parade runs right past our building, and starts at 5 p.m., which is conveniently about the time we are arriving at work. Our parking lots are jammed with parade patrons' cars. It's suddenly $10-$15 to park. Streets around our building are closed. We'll start getting ready for the work shift about this time, looking forward to all this chaos.

+ 4:30 p.m. -- We're racing down Broadway or the side streets trying to beat the deadline of when the streets are closed and everything goes into lockdown. We're cussing all the nuclear families, gaggles of kids and clowns, police and anyone else slowing our arrival or in the way. Their only purpose downtown is this parade. Geez. Well, people, I need to get to work, did you ever think of that?

+ 5 p.m. -- We're hopefully parked, seemingly into the next county, and now carrying our lunch, work bag, provisions and whatever else while weaving through a maze of people whose lives are better than ours. Two years ago, as I was trying to cross Broadway, I got delayed walking behind a guy pushing a gigantic cart of balloon novelties, stuffed animals and those glow-bright necklaces. Meanwhile, I was carrying highly important rough proofs of our Derby preview section center spread and the ad layout structure of the 24-page section. It's really a moment when things get put into perspective.

+ 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. -- During this time, we’re working with our sports editor and deputy sports editor to go over that day's stories and photos. By this time in the week, our sports section has almost doubled in size since the beginning of the week. This means we usually have two and half pages dedicated to Derby and Oaks coverage. Each day of Derby week, our photographers are snapping hundreds of photos and sending them into us for review and current and future use. Managing photography is a big-time commitment of our week. We're also still covering high school sports, college basketball and football news and using and editing wire services for all other sports. All this is figured in and a section plan is devised during the "budget" meeting, which usually wraps up between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

+ 6:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. -- During these six hours, a group of about seven editors and layout people will produce the section, writing headlines on stories, captions for photos, organizing stories on pages, formatting and editing charts and entries from Churchill Downs and all this trying to meet three staggered deadlines, the first at 9:45 p.m., the second at 11 p.m. and the third at midnight. It's a furious pace. With the thrust of Derby coverage most copy editors are editing and processing 7-8 stories in three hours. Two layout people are dividing 5-6 pages up between them, while also editing photos and trying to figure out what fits where. I like to call this process usually the fastest three hours in sports, because it's usually three hours from the end of the budget meeting to the end of the first deadline.

But tonight, the fun won't end at 12:30ish, when proofing and tweaking generally end on the daily section. Tonight, myself and a couple of other editors will start producing and putting the opening touches on our 24-page Derby preview section which will be published Saturday morning. This will keep us here until the wee hours, getting set up and trying to get as much of a running start as we can. Friday is Oaks Day, and Derby Eve, and it's a long and stressful day in here.



+ 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. -- While most of the city is out partying and having a grand time at Churchill for Oaks Day, we're rolling into the office and getting started on our biggest sports section of the year. This is a piece of trivia you may not realize: Oaks Day for the sports department is actually the busiest and most intimidating because between our Derby preview section and regular sports section, we're producing about 30 pages. That's about 40 percent larger than any other single day of work we have throughout the year.

(Trivia: Derby Day itself is not the single busiest day for the sports department because the Derby wrap-up coverage is produced by a combined sports, news and art department team. So for the sports staff, it's not nearly the titanic task that Friday is because everything is shared more. So while most people are working on their third and fourth Bourbon or 10th beer, we're trying to figure out when and how the hell we're going to find time to eat this frozen meal we packed.)

+ 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. -- By this point, we’re a couple of hours into working through the 30 or so sports pages.

The Derby preview in general  is especially in a critical time. This is when most of the stories and charts are coming in and we're doing the heaviest load of editing and design in this section. We're scrambling for photos, scrambling to gather up media predictions, double-checking facts and figures, making sure we're not missing news on the track and generally scrambling for our lives. At some point, we look up and realize the Oaks is about to run, so we take a five-minute break and watch the race. We watch it, mind you, on one of our 20-inch TVs. This is the no frills league, folks.

The language on this day rivals that from the set of Scarface. Tempers are the shortest and stress is the highest during this time. You can always count on a few reporters to hit snags or delays and their stories are either in total peril or simply running late. Each year, it never fails; I always feel like for a couple of hours that this simply isn't going to get done. At certain points, I'm juggling 12 or 13 pages and most of them are only half-done. I've got multiple people hovering over me, monitoring my progress and asking how everything stands. I smile and say "just fine." In my mind, I'm saying this is a cluster@$#@!%. Remember the classic scene in "Airplane" when Ted Striker is trying to land the plane and the buckets of sweat are pouring off of him? That's us for about four hours Friday night.

+ 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. -- Usually, like clockwork, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel by about 8:30 p.m. Somehow, in the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. range, the remaining crises seem to get resolved and things fall into place, and I usually turn my last page and stories over to the copy editors at about 9 p.m. This is a time to take a little bit of a breather and know you're going to make it for another year and not get fired. The rest of the hour between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. I spend tweaking my layouts and tying up loose ends before typsetting the pages to the pressroom. At some point, I have to remember to eat!

+ 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. -- It's a big relief to have the Derby section complete, but the night is not over. Next up is working ahead to Sunday's sports section. Each year, we produce a special Derby wrap-up section, which includes wall-to-wall coverage of the race and the spectacle of the day. It's usually 14 to 16 pages.

Then there's a regular sports section, which is usually 8 pages. In the regular sports section, our recruiting writer Jody Demling produces a "Super 5" package where the C-J picks the top five high school basketball players in the nation and we do a full page package with player bios, photos and stats. We also choose an honorable mention team. Since basketball is a year-round sport here in Louisville, much like horse racing, we still make sure we give our readers another reason to pick up the Sunday Derby paper. So late Friday night is spent putting this package together, in addition to our outdoors page, college basketball notebook and setting up the organization of the regular section. Derby Eve is usually a 12-hour day. It's exhausting, but you're happy and full of pride when it's over.



In all honesty, this has the potential to be the easiest day of the week for the sports department editors and layout folks. The C-J puts together a mammoth team of reporters, editors and photographers to get this blanketed from every angle. It truly is impressive. The workload is departmentalized to such a degree that the sports department itself is not nearly as taxed as Friday.

+ 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. -- After a day of watching the festivities at the track on TV or popping in to an early party where you're drinking soft drinks or bottled water and having people look bug-eyed at you when you tell them you have to work that night, you arrive to join the massive staff that starts arriving. The Derby wrap-up is organized and set up in advance and everyone is given a big instruction manual to the secton. The manual includes a guide to which stories are on which page, whom is designing the page, phone numbers for key people on the Derby desk, page deadlines, the reporter assigned to each story, the photo editors and photographers, a description of any charts that go with the stories and tons of other useful info.

+ 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. -- During this time, a few layout and copy editors are working on the early pages of the section. These are mostly the celebrity stories and photos and coverage of the infield and millionaire's row. These are the most  photo-driven pages, and as a result are among the most popular pages. You know how people love magazines like People and US Weekly for all the candid and natural shots of celebrities in society? Well, this is the same concept. The C-J is given access to all parts of the track to record through photos the famous and not-so-famous people enjoying the Derby.

+ 5 to 6 p.m. -- This is perhaps the most important part of the day. It's when the catered food is delivered and set out. This is huge. I don't even know where it comes from, but it's delicious and impressive. Forget what the lead headline is going to say, the food selections and timing can make or break people on this type of day. Let's put it this way: sometimes food spreads at this place conjure up more legends and memories than the Derby winners themselves.

It starts with the deli sandwiches -- turkey, ham and all the fixins; there's usually huge amounts of veggie and fruit trays; dips and chips; cheese, crackers and breads. Then there are the desserts. I love cookies. But I may never love cookies more than when they're big and soft and chocolately and sitting on the counter on Derby Day. There are also brownies and nut things and an endless supply of everything it seems. Despite all the cutbacks, reduction in resources and general demise of many of the newspaper's abilities, the Derby food spread is truly a tradition that must stay intact!

+ 6:20 p.m. -- The whole operation comes to a halt while everyone stops and finds a TV to watch the Derby. I must admit, even after now seeing about 30 Derbies either in person or on TV, I still get goose bumps at the start and then when the horses are coming around the turn to head for home. But after those two minutes are over, it's back to reality, and time to start putting together the pieces of another Derby section.

+ 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. -- Another furious four hours or so of work, only this time you have a fleet of people forming an assembly line to process stories and photos. There's a group just writing captions for the photos, another group just writing stories, still another simply collecting and editing photos, and of course another group desinging and layout out the pages. I've never counted, but there easily could be in the newsroom 25-30 people involved in putting out just the Derby section, with another 10 or so people are putting out the regular news sections, and about a half dozen are putting out the regular sports section.

+ 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. -- This is mostly the mop-up faze of the operation. Some Derby pages are brought back to be tweaked and upgraded for our Indiana and metro editions. If there are any typos, they are caught and fixed during this time and new pages sent to the pressroom. Every detail and decision is given thought and careful scrutiny.

And that doesn't count all the high-level managers hovering over shoulders and contributing their views and opinions on what the main headline should say and what the front should look like and in general leading from the front. Eventually, everyone is satisfied and you head home or out to decompress.

While most of the city is by now feeling the effects of all the alcohol, sun and partying, and feeling like they were run over by a truck, editors are feeling like we were run over by journalism. Maybe that isn't such a bad thing, for once these days.

People are really on their best this day. It's really true. You hear the analogy about athletes who play their best during pressure time and big games, and it's the same concept here. We don't always look our best day to day, but on Derby, we produce an impressive and beautiful piece of work. Hell, we've had 136 years of practice.

Mike Mudd is an assistant editor in the sports department at the Louisville Courier-Journal. One of the biggest thrills in his life was in 2004 when for the first and only time in his life he got to experience a Kentucky Derby with a press pass. Nowadays, he gets his Derby thrills in different ways, like succeeding in finding a mugshot of every Derby starter each year to run on the preview section’s center spread. Follow him on Twitter @mudd4goals.


Hopkins The Easy Pick, But Is Fight Worth Watching?

Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.

Special To One Great Season

Let's see, what year is it again?

Saturday night in Las Vegas, a boxing rematch 16 years in the making and about 10 years overdue will take place between Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins. During their primes in the 1990s and early 2000s, Hopkins and Jones were at the top of the sport, worthy of any discussion about the greatest non-heavyweight boxers of all time. Charismatic, controversial and entertaining outside the ring. Quick, powerful, athletic specimens in it. They have combined to win more than 10 world titles from 160-pound weight divisions all the way to the heavyweight title Jones captured in 2003. All along, I cheered them both.


Their first fight was as middleweights in 1993, back when the Beverly Hills 90210 crew were still in high school and smart cars were considered anything that had power windows. Jones won a unanimous decision, outboxing and beating the slower Hopkins to the punch despite an injured right hand much of the fight. But it was a good fight and seemed destined for a rematch six months or a year down the road. Then ...

Jones decided he wanted to go up in weight, and Hopkins remained at middleweight and got better, dominating lesser competition and reclaiming the title, and then making a goal of setting out to break Joe Louis' record for the most consecutive successful title defenses in one weight class. As each year passed, the two moved further apart. There was the occasional attempt at a rematch, but money, weight and ego always won out and scuttled any such possibility. Boxing fans last craved a Jones-Hopkins rematch about the time we all thought Y2K was going to end the world. Eventually we got used to the idea there wouldn't be one, and we learned to accept it.

So that leads us to Saturday. Jones is 41, Hopkins 45. What do they have left? If you watch the fight, you'll see both are still in great shape. They'll be ripped and still can move well around the ring. Jones' big downfall in recent years is that most of his quickness has abandoned him. His ability to stay out of the way of punches has greatly diminished, and his chin has proven glassy in losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnston, as well as a mauling by Joe Calzaghe. 

Jones was knocked out seemingly by a feather of a punch from little-known Danny Green of Australia late last year, a first-round debacle that seemed to all but end his career -- finally -- after a couple of weak comeback attempts. Hopkins has been plugging along with more success, still winning titles and beating guys much younger from time to time after two losses to the former Oympian Jermaine Taylor. Hopkins' old-school, defensive, counter-punching style has proven to give him more flexibility to fight into his 40s than Jones' reliance on uber-speed and slickness. Roy's problem was that for so many years, he did a lot of unbelievable things in the ring, the Michael Jordan of boxing he was called. But even Jordan got old, and so did Roy.

So I'll take the easy pick and go with Hopkins to win. I think it will go the distance, or end on a late stoppage, as neither fighter has a lot of punching power left. I would love for these guys to stage a grand fight worthy of talk years from now. But I think that fight was left back in 2001. I think Hopkins will grind away at Jones with body shots and a good jab. Roy will try to counter but Hopkins still has a good enough defense to stay out of the way.

It's $49.95 to see the fight on pay per view. If you just cashed in a nice lottery ticket, maybe it's worth buying and checking out these great champions one last time. But I'm going to save my money and hold on to the memories of the glory years. Besides, I have plenty of VCR tapes of these guys' greatest performances. I'll get those out instead. And name-dropping a VCR in 2010 pretty much sums up the credibility of this rematch.

Mike Mudd is an editor on the sports desk at the Louisville Courier-Journal who follows and researches boxing in his spare time. He has covered several title fights and enjoys collecting cool boxing memorabalia. His favorite all-time fighter is Marvelous Marvin Hagler. You can follow him on Twitter @mudd4goals