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Ellwood City, Pennsylvania
Eric Poole is a reporter and columnist for the Ellwood City (Pa.) Ledger, a small newspaper nestled near the Ohio state line in the heart of Steelers Country. He has a wife, a son and a daughter (so there will be some daddy stuff on this blog). A former steelworker and retired rugby player, Poole has a wide range of interests, which was reflected in the 2008 Pennsylvania Newspaper Association awards, when Poole won first-prize honors for best columns and best special project. His upcoming book, "Company of Heroes," due out March 17, 2015, from Osprey Publishing, tells the story of Vietnam War hero Leslie Sabo and his comrades. Sabo was awarded the Medal of Honor May 16, 2012, in a White House ceremony.

Friday, July 31, 2009

One man's idea to save newspapers

Apparently, a sportswriter for New Hampshire's largest newspaper, the Union-Leader, has found a unique way of supplementing his income in these hard times for the print media.

Prosecutors said Kevin Provencher, a former New Hampshire sportswriter of the year, ran a prostitution ring, advertised on Craigslist, and screened potential clients in the United States and Canada to keep the police out of his operation.

I think this is what you call social climbing.

This is funny, and by that I mean odd, because I always thought sportswriters never got any action, much less hooked up other people.

I'm no stranger to sex scandals at the Union-Leader. One of my former co-workers wound up at that politically conservative publication as the front page editor of the Sunday issue.

On the day after a biker gathering in Manchester -- remember, this is the Sunday issue, the one that New Hampshirites read before heading off to church -- this guy put a picture of an obviously surgically-enhanced porn star, who attended the biker rally, on the front page.

But at least, in keeping with the demand of USA Today founder Al Neuharth, he got her "(breasts) above the fold."

Anyway, back to Kevin Provencher. With the state of the newspaper business, he was probably just setting up his next career.

And prosecuting him is the last thing they ought to be doing because Provencher might be on to something here that could save newspapers -- he might be the first print reporter to successfully monetize the Internet.

This could be a doable business model if every newspapers branch out into the full-service escort business.

Just think, men across the country can get both their news and next Saturday night's date at the same Web site.

"Pimp" is such an ugly word. We prefer "circulation manager."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Athletes turned politicians: the Top 10

I first came up with this idea a couple of months back after former Congressman and vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp died.

The whole thing crystallized a few weeks later, when I was re-reading the book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot” by Minnesota’s junior U.S. Sen. Al Franken, which includes a list of politicians who have showered with black people.

My list – of the most 20 illustrious politicians-turned athletes – is a little more tame.

I started with a list of 20 and ranked them all from 1 to 20 in both politics and sports, then added together each athlete-politician's ranking. Lowest number was first, and so on through 20 (Julius Caesar Watts).

The Second 10:

Julius Caesar Watts (college football, Congress), Heath Shuler (pro football, Congress), Charles McMillan (pro basketball, Congress), Jim Ryun (Olympics, Congress), Judy Martz (Olympics, governor of Montana), Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell (Major League Baseball, Congress), Lynn Swann (Pro Football Hall of Fame, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor), Morris Udall (Pro basketball, Congress), Alan Page (Pro Football Hall of Fame, Minnesota Supreme Court Judge) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Olympics, U.S. Senate).

The top 10:

10. Ralph Metcalfe

Sports (eighth): Won a 4 x 100-meter relay gold medal in 1936, won two silver medals and a bronze medal in 1932 and 1936.

Politics (14th): Long-time Chicago Alderman and served in Congress from 1971 until his death in 1978. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

That’s odd: Ran second to Eddie Tolan in a photo finish of the 100 meters at the 1932 Olympics

9. Richard Petty:

Sports (first): The greatest stock-car racer of all time (although the people with all those angel-wings-and-halo No. 3 window stickers might beg to differ). While there are some great athletes on this list, no one else here is on the short list of “greatest in his sport.” Petty might have topped this list if his political resume weren’t so slim.

Politics (20th): Won Republican nomination for North Carolina Secretary of State, but lost the general election.

That’s odd: Petty, whose nickname is “The King,” voiced the character of “The King” in the Pixar film Cars.

8. John K. Tener

Sports (14th place): Pitched for three Major League teams from 1885-90; lifetime record 25-31.

Politics (seventh place): Governor of Pennsylvania from 1911 to 1915, Congressman from 1909-11. Credited in starting the annual Congressional baseball game

That’s odd: Kener, who was born in Ireland, accepted the job of National League president in 1913, when he was still governor, and performed double duty for the next two years, although he didn’t take any pay from the National League until he left the governor’s office.

7. Gerald Ford

Sports (16th): All-American lineman at the University of Michigan. Ford might have bagged top overall spot, had he played a few years in the NFL, which had been an option. Ford rejected offers from at least two teams in 1935 to attend law school.

Politics (first): The only President on this list, and longtime member of Congress.

That’s odd: Ford was a member of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

6. Steve Largent

Sports (third): Hall of Fame wide receiver. At the time of his retirement, he held records for most receptions and most receiving yards (those marks have since been broken).

Politics (11th): Congressman from Oklahoma from 1994 to 2002, ran unsuccessfully for Oklahoma governor in 1992.

That’s odd: Largent was appointed to replace James Inhofe, who had won a special election to the U.S. Senate, where Inhofe still serves.

5. Byron “Whizzer” White

Sports (ninth): Played three years in NFL, was an all-pro back each one.

Politics (sixth): Served on Supreme Court from 1962 to 1993, the 12th longest high court tenure.

That’s odd: During World War II, White was the naval intelligence officer who debriefed John F. Kennedy after the PT-109 incident, in which a ship commanded by the future president was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Almost 20 years later, Kennedy appointed White to the Supreme Court.

4. Bob Mathias

Sports (second): Just as the Olympics’ 100-meter champion is acclaimed as the World’s Fastest Man, the decathlon winner earns the honor of World’s Greatest Athlete. And Mathias is the only person to have done it twice in non-boycotted Olympics, in 1948 and 1952.

Politics (11th): Served in Congress from 1967-75.

That’s odd: When he won his first gold medal, Mathias was 18 years old. He also played on Stanford’s 1951 Rose Bowl champion football team

3. Jack Kemp

Sports (10th): Seven-time AFL All-Star, 1965 league MVP.

Politics (third): Congress from 1971 – one year after retiring from pro football – to 1989, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George H.W. Bush, Republican vice-presidential nominee in 1996.

That’s odd: Kemp did one thing Hall of Famer Jim Kelly couldn’t. Kemp quarterbacked the Buffalo Bills to their only two league championships, in 1964 and 65.

2. Jim Bunning

Sports (seventh): Hall of Fame pitcher from 1955 to 1971 with 224-184 won-lost record. Pitched a perfect game in 1964.

Politics: In U.S. Senate from 1999 to present, and in Congress from 1987-1999.

That’s odd: Bunning is one of three ex-Pittsburgh major league pitchers on the list, joining John K. Tener in the Top 10, and another former Pirate, Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, in the second 10.

1. Bill Bradley

Sports (fourth): Hall of Fame basketball player at Princeton and the New York Knicks, won Olympic gold medal in 1964.

Politics (third): In U.S. Senate from 1978 to 1996, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000.

That’s odd: Bradley and Manu Ginobili are the only players to win Olympic basketball gold medals, European league titles and NBA titles.