Friday, March 30, 2012

When the curtain lifts tonight on Boston University On Broadway’s performance of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” audience members will see a musical full of singing, dancing, and comedy.

What they won’t see is all the time that it seems went in to the shows production.

When quantifying how much time might be put into “Spelling Bee” at the beginning of the rehearsal process as compared to the end, Michael Butvinich estimated that the last three weeks leading up to the show would have 25 to 30 hours of rehearsal time per week.

Though he said he was speaking for himself at the beginning of his answer, it appears the end-of-production process blitz applies to many of the people involved in the show, not just Butvinich.

The time commitment required of individual “Spelling Bee” members seems to depend on their roles in the show, though.  It seems the more mainstream one’s role is, the more rehearsal time is required, particularly towards the beginning of the practices.

For instance, since he didn’t have too many lines he had to memorize, and doesn’t have a great number of what he called “physical actions” to complete during the show, Butvinich said he didn’t have to rehearse too much when the play production began.  He estimated his weekly rehearsal time went from five hours per week at the start of play practices, to ten to fifteen hours per week in the middle of the production process.

By contrast, Stacey Yesenosky said that as director, she’s required to attend every single rehearsal, regardless of which actors are supposed to show up. 

“I would say that for every hour spent here at rehearsal I’m probably spending an hour at home doing simultaneous things,” she said when asked about the time and energy her role as a director eats up.  She also mentioned that the night before the interview she’d been “up until three in themorning making a sock puppet,” that Leaf Coneybear, one of the characters in the musical, wears during parts of the play. 

Asked if it was accurate to describe the experience of play production as grueling, Butvinich said, “Sometimes, and sometimes it’s not all fun.  But when you’re really doing something that you love, when you’re putting on these great shows, when you’re playing these funny, interesting, kind of even almost deep characters, it’s not as much work as it is an extracurricular…something that you want to do for furn, something that you really enjoy.  So while it is at times grueling, it’s also really entertaining and enjoyable.

Georgia Ladd, who plays the role of Rona Lisa Peretti in “Spelling Bee,” seemed to echo the sentiment that the play is a large commitment in terms of time, but worth the effort.  “So for me personally it’s been a significant time commitment, but as I said earlier, I love doing it, it’s one of my favorite things to do, so I don’t mind.”

Another challenge of those involved with the play seems to be the balance of participating in the musical weighed against other life activities. 

Fernando Limbo, who plays William Barfee in “Spelling Bee,” says that he’s got lots of other things onhis plate in addition to the musical.  He said he’s “leading two different organizations as well, on top of this…,” and works as a resident assistant.

Limbo also said he’s “a second semester senior trying to still figure out a job.  And then trying to juggle…a graduate course on top of my schoolwork.  And papers.”

Ladd says she’s on the executive board of the Shaw Student Government.  Butvinich is a member of that board as well, according to Ladd, and says he’s also taking 20 class credits along with serving as brotherhood chairman for his fraternity.

“He also writes articles for the Daily Free Press, I believe, and is involved in a whole variety of other sorts of activities that seem to pop up,” Ladd says of Butvinich’s extracurriculars.

“I’m incredibly busy,” Butvinich said.  “Obviously school comes first, so you make sure you get your homework done, and like we discussed a little bit already, time management is key.  I have my calendar, and it if that calendar was lost, I think I would just go cry in the corner, because it’s crucially important that I know where I need to be, when I need to be there, and what needs to be done, so that I’m prepared to um…kind of fulfill the obligations for each organization, each commitment.”

And Yesenosky, too, is involved in activities outside of “Spelling Bee,” according to Limbo.  He believes she’s enrolled in five classes and said she “works as a nanny,” though she didn’t discuss any of her other activities herself.

Yesenosky was never asked about her own activities outside “Spelling Bee,” which could be the explanation for why she didn’t bring it up.

Or maybe she’s just so busy she forgot to mention it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

ESPN vs. Sports Illustrated (Part 1)

Last night I had what I think is a good idea: compare to Sports Illustrated's website and do a series of posts on the subject.  Today, I'll be comparing the biggest sports news of the day as defined by the two organizations (on ESPN, this is labeled "Headlines," while on Sports Illustrated, it's called "Top Stories").

Today, ESPN's first "Headline" story is about some positives and negatives of the purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  By contrast, Sports Illustrated leads with a story about the Oakland Athletics' victory over the Seattle Mariners that has the angle of, "It was the first major league home run of Yoenis Cespedes that led the A's to a win over Seattle" (this is not a direct quote, but if I were to paraphrase, that's what the story tells me). 

However, ESPN does have the same story about the A's that Sports Illustrated leads off with, and Sports Illustrated does have a story about the Dodgers further down in its list (though Sports Illustrated's story about the Dodgers is a straight news story with the header "Magic Johnson group to buy Dodgers").

As for the rest of the "big" news stories on each site, most appear to be the same.  Both have stories about the University of Illinois hiring a new men's basketball coach, the McDonald's high school all-star basketball game, and the Montreal Canadiens firing their general manager, to name a few.

In today's post, ESPN's "Headlines" (shown here in a screen shot) section faces off against...
...the "Top Stories" of Sports Illustrated's webiste (shown here in a screen shot).  

Though I didn't read all the stories, it looks like sometimes they both report on the same story with a slightly different angle. For instance, the NFL implemented some rule changes yesterday, and the actual news line on ESPN's headlines reads, "All NFL turnovers to be reviewed."  SI, on the other hand, says "NFL adopting playoff OT rules for regular season," on its listing of what it calls "Top Stories."  Each of the two articles mentions both rule changes relatively quickly once you click on their respective links, but that doesn't change the fact that their headers for the stories are slightly different.

Another difference in coverage: on SI's site, a "Top Story" was "Shorthanded Knicks smoke Magic."  On ESPN, the Amare Stoudemire's injury seemed bigger news than the Knicks' victory, which was included as a story simply headlined "Knicks roll" (Sports Illustrated's site did not include a separate news article on Stoudemire's injury as of my writing this post).

Of course, there are a few slight differences in the pieces included as the main news on the two sites. included a story on Stan Van Gundy discussing why it's ridiculous to think the University of Kentucky men's b-ball team could defeat the 11-win, 38-loss Washington Wizards (I say we make them play each other once their respective seasons are over!).  And Sports Illustrated's site includes a story on Brandon Jacobs signing a deal with the San Francisco 49ers that isn't on's "Headlines" now (though I did see it there last night). 

So if this were a contest between ESPN and SI to see who has a better list of the big news stories of the day, I would call it a tie since the two sites are so similar in regard to this feature. 

That's all for now.  Hopefully I can continue this "contest" between and Sports Illustrated's site in subsequent blog posts. 

**Note: When I was almost finished with the post, some "Headlines" on changed.  If I had the time to re-write it, I would, but I do not, unfortunately.  I apologize that I will not have the opportunity to re-write this post.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ESPN’s RSS Page Isn’t As Thorough As They Say It Is

When I first started this blog I did a post on how awesome the choice of RSS feeds on is.  While I still think ESPN does have quite a collection of news feeds, there are some things about them that aren’t so awesome.
One of those things is the lack of comprehensiveness of the ESPN's catalog of RSS feeds, which is titled “RSS Index."

Go to this index and you’ll be met with a paragraph that begins, “Below is a list of most of the news (or “RSS”) feeds that offers.”  Also, the sentence with the link to this page calls the index “complete.”

Give me a break.

Lots of ESPN’s RSS feeds aren’t included in this “complete” appendix. 

There are feeds for the five ESPN Cities, none of which are listed on the allegedly complete RSS page. 

I found a feed for Peyton Manning recently, and discovered feeds for Tim Tebow and for the Baltimore Ravens in completing this blog post.  How many of those three RSS feeds are included on ESPN’s “complete” list?  Zero.

Here's a screen shot of ESPN New York, where Tim Tebow is everywhere.  But his RSS feed isn't listed on  ESPN's RSS page.

Now it’d probably be a little ridiculous to think ESPN could have a single page that listed every single news feed one might subscribe to via their website. 

I’m pretty sure there are tons of news feeds on  I typed “Brandon Bing” into the search bar on, and even he has his own RSS feed....  

You don’t know who Brandon Bing is, do you?  That’s exactly my point.

But still, how can you call a directory of RSS feeds “complete” if it’s missing feeds of guys like Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow?  They’re both major NFL stars who have been extra newsworthy lately (though they might not be quite as newsworthy by the time I finish writing this post…it’s taking me too long).

And though it would still be relatively easy to subscribe to Manning’s and Tebow’s feeds, or to find info on either of the athletes in some other way, it would certainly make life easier for sports fans if listed more of the newsworthy RSS feeds on its RSS feed page.

Am I alone in my thoughts here, or do I have a point?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NCAA Women's Division 1 Lax: BU vs. Yale Liveblog, March 21, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

ESPN's Use of Convergence (Part II)

Today I'd like to post about the technique of convergence on For those of you who might be new to this blog, convergence is when more than one form of online media is used in the same place at the same time "to tell a story" about a single subject*.

A good example of convergence, and the one I want to talk about today, is's summary of the men's NCAA basketball game between Iona and BYU that took place on Tuesday night.

To talk about the game, ESPN used a written article from the Associated Press which gives the most important information in the headline: BYU beat Iona after being down by as many as 25 points.

Then they add a ton of other media to the main page about the game, including photos, multiple box scores, and three other articles (all of which I believe are blog posts).

In what I think qualifies as an excellent example of convergence, three of the print articles (the main article and two of the articles the main page links to) and one of the box scores work together to describe how Iona wound up losing.  The three articles tell me that Iona's offense failed because of the defense of Brigham Young.  The box score, located near the bottom of the main page and labeled "Iona's Epic Collapse," simplifies the game down to a few bare numbers, including the following: the Gaels scored 55 points in the first 15 minutes and 26 seconds of the game, but then managed just 17 points in the 24 minutes and 34 seconds that followed.

It seems as if these four elements really do a good job of explaining to me what went wrong for Iona on Tuesday, so I think practiced convergence well in covering this game.

In addition to these elements, which seem most important in providing an overall depiction of the match-up, there are some other items which add a little bit more to the overall tale of this contest.  Most of them, if not all of them, are just fun, like a link to a SportsNation vote asking whether BYU's come-from-behind win was better than that of Western Kentucky's (I'd vote for BYU if I had the time).  These additional elements aren't absolutely essential to the story, but they still add to ESPN's use of convergence in this case because they add a little extra detail to the overall story of the BYU-Iona game.

So as a whole I'd probably give ESPN an "A" if I were to grade them for their convergence in this case (I was going to give them an "A+" since they did such a good job with a technique I believe to be difficult, but the videos that were originally included as part of the story on the main page about this game have disappeared).

That's all for today.  Look for one more post on ESPN's use of the convergence technique sometime before the semester ends.

*Note: I took the wording in quotations in the first sentence directly from my notes from my online journalism class.  I tried to re-word this phrase, but I don't think there's another way to say "to tell a story."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

ESPN, Please Give Me a Job Working on Your Website: An Open Cover Letter to the Worldwide Leader in Sports

From: Matthew J. DeFonzo

545 Middle Street
Bristol, CT, 06010

March 8, 2012

Dear ESPN,

Hi, my name is Matt DeFonzo.  I wanted to contact you today to ask if you might hire me to come up with creative content for  I've been checking the site out pretty regularly over the past seven weeks or so for my Newstrack blog project for my online journalism class.  I really enjoy looking at, and I've found some fantastic things on it that I never knew existed before I started this project.  For example, relatively recently I found a calendar on that lists sporting events for this year, and was pretty impressed by the fact that you already have some events filled in for the end of 2012.

But even though there is a great deal of stuff on (and I'm sure there are additional items I have yet to find), I think you can include still more awesome content on the site.  That's where I can come in.  I like to think of myself as a creative person, and I think I've come up with some things that can help make an even better website.

First, I note that you have five of what I like to call "ESPN Cities" on New York, LA, Dallas, Boston, and Chicago.  Well, how about a sixth ESPN City on your website?...ESPN Miami!  Two professional teams from Miami have acquired some of the best available talent in recent years, with the Heat gobbling up both LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and the Marlins adding Jose Reyes to their roster.  The Heat definitely look to be in the running for title contention this year with a record of 30-9 as of my writing of this letter, and I think Marlins might be more competitive this season too.  With Peyton Manning now a free agent, and the Dolphins one of the teams thought to be interested in the superstar QB, isn't there the off-chance that Miami just might become the new City of Champions?  I think it would be a great place for the next ESPN City.

Now I know the website ESPN Florida already exists and that there is some ESPN Miami content among ESPN media, but to the best of my knowledge you do not have an ESPN Miami sub-website similar to the ones you have for the likes of ESPN New York and ESPN Boston.  However, I sort of think Miami should have its own sub-website and be a full-blown ESPN City because I think its teams are rising in terms of competitiveness.  In my opinion, that makes it newsworthy from the standpoint of the sporting world.

Second, in honor of March Madness, I have some brand new bracket ideas (some sports-related, some not) for the website.  I noted that you already have a tournament of emcees and one for greatest baseball seasons by individual players, but I have more awesome ideas for brackets.  For instance, one idea that came into full fruition this morning: a bracket pitting fictitious movie characters against one another.  Wolverine has got to be a one-seed...he's practically immortal!  And where would Ash's Pikachu be seeded?  He's pretty powerful, but in a tournament including Gandalf the Grey, Lord Voldemort, and The Incredible Hulk, how could Ketchum's favorite Pokemon be seeded any higher than 14th?

My third idea was an RSS feed dedicated to Peyton Manning, but I noted that you do have one of those on your website already.  But maybe it's a good thing that I thought of an idea you already have on your site...I must be fit to work for if I'm smart enough to independently come up with an idea you already thought was good.

Seriously, how can you not hire me after all that?  I have a fan-tabulous creative mind and I'm intelligent!  Plus, I've been somewhat in need of money since I started grad school, so I would be willing to work for a relatively small amount of pay.  If you're interested in hiring me, please contact me and I'll send you a copy of my resume.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Thank you for your time.


Matthew J. DeFonzo
Aspiring Sports Reporter