Monday, April 27, 2015

Archive of Recent Writing

(Note: Are you seeing weird, translucent pictures in this layout that don't connect to the post?  Me too.  I can't figure them out.  Please advise if you know much about Blogger formatting)



I had three things in common with Claudene Christian.  We were at USC at the same time, when she was a campus-famous Song Girl.  She was raised in Anchorage, Alaska and, when I was eventually stationed there, many of the friends I made had been her friends in high school.  And, knowing something about ocean rescues from helicopters, I felt connected to the Coast Guard crews who went to save her crew from the sinking Bounty during Hurricane Sandy, bringing home 14 but only recovering Christian's body. In the months after Bounty, I could not stop wondering how a woman with such a background could possibly have ended up on a leaky wooden boat in a hurricane 100 miles off the coast of North Carolina.
   My first major magazine feature and return to writing after Pararescue.

Four small stories for Esquire's Year End
"Toughest of 2015"

Proud of this one. As a Delta Force soldier, MSGT Josh Wheeler lived in secret, but his final pictures in his uniform tell his story if you know how to listen.

The Hero: Florent Groberg, Medal of Honor

Naturalized American citizen in 12th grade, Medal of Honor recipient. Interview transcript with insanely down to earth and cool dude.

The Groundbreakers: Shaye Haver and Kristen Greist

Sometimes, you get the assignment and you are so psyched because the subject is great. And then sometimes nobody calls you back. Not bad for a write-around.

Very happy to be writing and developing stories for the WaPo's Checkpoint Blog.  My first:

How the First Women Ranger Grads Are Inspiring Women At West Point 

The genesis of the story above was a feature I wrote on the Army Lacrosse team for Lacrosse Magazine.  Covers some of the same territory, more specific to the sport:
The Warrior Ethos 

(more after jump)

The Cast of Blackhawk Down Has Made $13 Billion Dollars

Fun listicle for a cool site trying to bridge the BuzzFeeds with a military audience.
Everybody in this movie made it huge - except for this guy, who clearly peaked early:


I once nearly fell out of flying plane (well, a helicopter, and it was crashing, but it hadn't crashed yet and if a door that was open a second before hadn't magicly closed, I'd have been tossed out).  When three flight attendants and some passengers were ejected from the Asiana crash in San Francisco in 2013 and lived to tell about it, I wondered if it was as unprecedented as it seemed.  It was.

Roman Dial might be Alaska's most accomplished adventurer.  In the summer of 2014, his son Cody went missing during a trek across Costa Rica's most famous jungle.  As Dial searched, I talked to Cody's mom, recounted Roman's career, and laid out how a world class adventurer might search for a missing son in a remote jungle.

Lots of fun. Lacrosse Magazine wanted to do a military-themed issue, so I pitched them the notion I'd noticed in my Pararescue years of meeting a lot of lacrosse guys in the special ops world.  I chased down several former players and got lucky with the picture of the jumpers having 2 players in it.  Possibly the most popular article in history for the Lacrosse Magazine website.

During the 2014 World Cup, America's team adopted the infectious cheer widely called "I Believe." With some original reporting, I traced the cheer's history to the Naval Academy's most famous Lacrosse team.  Turned this story for the website in 48 hours.


This story for Lacrosse Magazine presents the murder victim from Serial, Hae Min Lee, as the vibrant teenager and aggressive, talented lacrosse player she was. I tracked down eight of her teammates, friends and coaches (only one of whom had talked to Serial's staff) and nearly all had very emotional memories of Hae. Serial, for all its greatness, did not take a lot of time to examine Lee, so I was happy to add this small piece to that puzzle.

UPDATE 2: Picked up by Deadspin(!). They reprinted the whole thing.
   Most of the comments are a predicable nightmare of speculation and thoughtless jokes, which, being Deadspin, I'd have been disappointed not to see.  But several nice comments from people who got the same - a picture of Hae that Serial omitted - that I set out to capture.

UPDATE: I heard from a producer at Serial, asking me to remove Jay's last name from this story, which I have done. She may have been trying to get on my good side since she wanted me to edit the story, but she was kind enough to say that this story had more original reporting than anything else she'd seen around Serial. That was exactly my goal and it was very flattering to hear that.

How Did USC Get In? 

 As the 2015 NCAA tournament began, the last team in was USC. As they prepared to fly to North Carolina for their first-ever NCAA tournament game, I took at look at the nervous hours around their pick before they faced off with James Madison.
 Or as I phrased it....
  • "As the Trojans lifted off from Denver, eyebrows around the lacrosse world were going up with them."

The funny part on this one is that I layed out some stats on him hitting late, 'clutch' goals and the cover headline was "King of Clutch" then he didn't score a single 'clutch' goal for over a month - until he hit 2 in the closing seconds of the wild UNC game.

The perils of print. When assigned, it seemed like she had a chance to be All American-level star in 2015. By the time I filed it, she clearly was not having the season she or the team wanted. Found a nice angle with her dad, added some updated stats online, and it came out pretty good.

2015 game coverage






In the remotest spot in Alaska that you can reach with a car, a weeklong, booze and fossil-fueled Sledneck Revival bookended around the wildest ski race on Earth.

While I was at Arctic Man, an editor at the Washingtonian asked me to take a look at the dynamics of the Senate race there, a race that could swing the Senate.  For internal reasons, this story missed its real window by a couple months, but a fun companion piece to Arctic Man on the mindset of Being Alaskan.



As the Panthers headed into a playoff showdown in early 2014, I wrote about their unsung defensive co-ordinator, a coffin-nail hard redhead from Philly named Sean McDermott whom I'd known 20 years earlier as an undersized college kid who might have been the hardest hitting safety alive.

Lacrosse, despite its well-earned reputation as the sport of choice for spoiled rich boys, has become the pet sport of Title IX-era in college sports. I have a pet theory that one day people will hear "lacrosse" the way we now hear "volleyball" - a girls game that guys can play, too.  The beginnings of that surge may already be underway in North Carolina, one of the game's newest hotbeds.

- Online, April 13, 2015

(above link is to Esquire feature, which is a condensed version of this original post from this blog. Several hints and points of information were cut for the Esquire piece for length).

UPDATE: Just below on this blog, a second inside joke/Easter Egg from the same episode.  Not MASH related and much simpler than the post above, but perhaps even more visually jarring.  A fun one.

In Defense of Randy Travis

It's country music, y'all, and Travis is about as big as stars get.  A certain level of hell-raising is just part of the deal (also: Three Wooden Crosses, the saddest damn song you've never heard).

E! NFL Recaps

E! runs 'recaps' of nearly every TV series on the air. Why not the most popular TV franchise in America, the NFL?  Every week, I found nuggets for E!'s decidenly non-sports demographic that resonated.


Remainder of E! recaps

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