Inside Noontime: The Beginning

By Matt Noonan 

For the past few weeks, I have been wrestling with a slew of new ideas for Noontime Sports – I wanted to start a weekly series that you, my fans and friends, could read once a week. 

Yet, I did not know exactly what this series was going to be about until I recently finished a podcast this afternoon that inspired me to not just share stories of networking and career advice, but instead to tell my story – the Noontime Sportsstory, to be exact! – with hopes of inspiring others to pursue their passion while finding something they love to do on a daily basis. 

So, with not much going on locally with college or high school sports coverage, I have decided to hit the rewind button and tell you the story of Noontime Sports – well, more this 11-year journey that has allowed me to cover so many amazing events and contests to meeting some tremendous folks, both locally and outside the New England region, that work in sports. 

The story of Noontime Sports is interesting – in fact, I never thought nor imagined I would start up a small hyperlocal media site here in Massachusetts because my main focus growing up was to pursue a life-long dream of becoming a play-by-play announcer. Writing was not my strength, but talking – yes, talking – was something I knew I could do quite well. Or at least I thought, right? 

As an eight-year-old, I was always fascinated by the various broadcasters I watched and listened to, especially on FOX Sports where I was easily amused by the soothing tones of Pat Summerall. I thought his job as a play-by-play announcer was something I would like to do when I was older – hey, getting paid to announce the big game to millions of people, both locally and around the country (and yes, the globe, too) sounded like an ideal job to someone that absolutely loved sports

My love for broadcasting would grow even stronger seven years later when I became an intern with The Needham Channel in Needham, Massachusetts, especially when I met Mike Riley, who has and continues to be an amazing friend and colleague. 

Riley to me as a 15-year-old high school student was a rock star. Deep down, I knew he was destined to do some amazing things. And so far, he has, especially here in Massachusetts where sports fans can hear him share his thoughts on the local teams on 98.5 The Sports Hub, while PA announcing goals and touchdowns through various stadium speakers, including recently with the New England Revolution

Learning from Riley was an incredible opportunity. He taught me so much about how to not just host a sports talk show, which aired once a week on The Needham Channel, but how to convey a big-time play like a touchdown or three-point conversion as a play-by-play broadcaster for the network. I was convinced I would one day work with Riley at ESPN where we would announce baseball or football or even lacrosse, but eventually, I was bit by the writing bug, which is something I credit not just my various high school English teachers, but also my college’s student newspaper editors, including the sports editor Hayden Bird, who you can currently read on Boston.com

Bird, like Riley, was tremendous at his craft. He was a great writer, but also a very good editor, too. He challenged me to become a better storyteller, especially when tasked with writing about the numerous Wheaton College (Mass.) varsity or club programs for The Wheaton Wire

Being able to learn from Bird about what makes a good story was something that would eventually lead me to leave the newspaper and launch my own weekly sports magazine as a junior – truthfully, I wanted to challenge my school’s student newspaper by telling more in-depth stories like the ones I read in ESPN The Magazine or Sports Illustrated

I decided to name the sports magazine Get In The Game, which was the same name of my radio show, which no one on campus could listen to in their car or on the radio. If you wanted anyone to listen to the nonsense you were spewing about the Boston Red Sox or Tom Brady or hear the awful music you were spinning, you had to send out a link to your family and friends. 

Producing a weekly magazine was a lot of fun, but it did take me away from my studies, as well as group projects, too. I was less interested in my history assignments because my focus during these few weeks that the magazine was being published was on the various stories I hoped to tel so I could beat my former colleagues at the student newspaper.

Get In The Game – the magazine, to be exact – was a project that filled me with great joy along with some amazing – and yes, hysterical memories like getting yelled at by the school’s librarian for printing new issues – well, a lot of issues, to be exact! – to rehashing the entire 2008 Wheaton women’s basketball championship season. 

Weeks after I stopped producing the magazine, I returned to the student newspaper with hopes of coming up with another idea. But this time, I was not looking to rival the paper. Nope, I wanted to start something that would allow both friends and recent graduates a platform where they could write and talk about sports – anyone ever heard of a podcast?

I was days away from returning to WEEI, a sports radio station here in Boston, as a production intern, and noticed they had recently redone their website and launched various blogs on the state’s various professional sports teams. 

Similar to WEEI, other websites were also launching blogs, which is something we should all credit Bill Simmons (now with The Ringer) and Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports for leading this current revolution of sports media. 

Blogs were slowly becoming a big deal – in fact, it almost felt like blogs were not just an overnight sensation, but something myself and others would use as part of the ever-changing sports media landscape. And as someone that did not go to school for journalism – I majored in American Studies – I thought starting a blog would be a great way to build digital clips and produce content that I could show off to future employers.

But little did I realize Noontime Sports would become my future employer – that story will be discussed and observed in a future blog post – but after writing my initial post on May 14, 2009, about Duke University basketball, I became immediately obsessed with blogging. 

And thus began a journey that I hoped would be shortlived – seriously, I did not want this blog to last long as I had post-graduate visions of one day joining a digital team at ESPN or Bleacher Report, but currently, I am the digital team here at Noontime Sports – in fact, I still wear multiple hats in case you were wondering – that oversees a site that has and continues to be extremely important to me. 

Next week, I will tell you about that first year of blogging for Noontime Sports to covering my first-ever semiprofessional sports team to finagling a way to welcome Bill Hancock, who is currently the executive director of the College Football Playoff, onto my no-name podcast. 

Mass. College Hoops: Catching Up With Chris Bartley (WPI Basketball)

By Matt Noonan 

It’s been an exciting season for the WPI men’s basketball team, which is currently ranked fourth in the country, according to the latest D3Hoops.com poll.

Chris Bartley, who is in his 13th season with the Engineers, has guided the Crimson and Gray to a 17-1 overall mark, including a 7-0 record in NEWMAC play. Bartley’s crew, which hasn’t lost a regular season contest since falling to Castleton State in November, will look to continue its momentum on Saturday when they host Springfield College for a 3 p.m. tip.

We caught up with Coach Bartley earlier this afternoon to chat about his team’s next contest, but also the Engineers’ resiliency and defense, too.

On the team’s foundation: “I think we’ve always had tough kids. One of the things that’s been really important for us is trying to recruit tough kids and help them with their mental toughness, so we just approach everything by doing the best we can with what we have (each) year. The names change sometimes and the faces changed, but hopefully the foundation and the pillars of the program as far as the work ethic and guys that care about each other and hold each other accountable and play hard every night out.”

On identifying the team’s identity: “If you look at us statistically, we’re pretty good on defense. We kind of hold our own on the boards and when we’re playing well we’re playing a pretty good team defense and the guys play hard. Offensively, I think the biggest thing is that we’re a team that has to share the ball and we have to help each other score. When we struggled earlier against Wheaton and last night against Coast Guard and in the second half against Clark (because of ball movement), but for us to be successful we need to pass it to each other and we need to cut and screen. We’re not the type of team that has guys that’ll create their own shots because we really have to create shots for each other, but when we play the right way we’re pretty good.”

On the importance of team defense: “It always starts with our defense. Every single day starts with our defense and so does every meeting and film session, so it always starts there. (Against Wheaton), Agyei Gregory made some ridiculous shots. He made NBA type shots, but I thought Wheaton came out with a lot more enthusiasm than we did and typically when guys from the other team (knows they’re playing us), I find that (our opponent’s) kids shoot the ball better because they’re more focused. So, if you don’t bring equal intensity level and energy level and enthusiasm, which I didn’t think we did (from the start) that can happen. I think it is important to play through adversity, so I don’t take a lot of quick timeouts, but I think our guys are mature enough to play through stuff like that and I thought we did a good job in the second half of the first half of that game of getting back to our identity and making it a little more difficult for them. I thought we started sharing the ball (toward the end of the first half) and we started to play WPI basketball, which is what it’s all about for us.”

On the play of Ryan Kolb: “He plays exceptionally hard, he really plays hard. I was texting him this morning and was like, ‘Dude, you played really hard last night.’ And when your seniors and best players play really hard, it’s kind of filters down to everybody else. He’s got a lot of versatility in his game, but the biggest thing is he’s a really tough kid. He’s tough mentally, he’s tough physically, he’s a hard shell to crack emotionally because he doesn’t show a ton of emotion, but he’s playing like a senior should and a senior usually does.”

On Domenick Mastascusa and Ryan Kolb working together, as well as the impact of Sam Longwell: “(Kolb and Domenick have) been together now for three years, so they know when one is low (on defense) the other is usually coming high. They know where they’re going to be, too. We pretty much run motion offense, so having those guys in sync and working well together is huge. Some games, it is better for Ryan to be on the perimeter, while other games he needs to be down on the post, so it just depends on the matchup. I think Dom knows when he has a good matchup and goes to the spots where he can score and he’s been terrific for us.

“I think one of the keys to the whole thing has been Sam Longwell. He’s just (exhibits) consistency on both ends of the floor for every single practice and every single game, and he’s just been a rock for us and just has brought it from a leadership standpoint, talent standpoint and toughness standpoint. He often covers (our opponent’s) best player, too. He’s doing it on both ends of the court and he’s really had a special season so far.”

On the play of first-year guard Marcus Middleton: “What I have found with Marcus is he’s a really a good all around player, he’s got a really good understanding of what we’re trying to do and he’s got a lot of confidence in himself, both mental and physical toughness. I think our guys are pretty good when they get an opportunity because they try to take advantage of it and he’s one of those kids where we put him in there in some tough positions and he seems to come through every single time.”

On facing Springfield College on Saturday: “They’re a very mentally tough team. I think Sean Martin is one of the best point guards and one of the toughest kids in the region from what I’ve seen and I think Robbie Burke is the same. Tim Swenson gives them a dimension where he compliments those guys really, really well and he’s a beast in there. They also have a bunch of guys that can make shots from (beyond the arc), so they really have a nice balance and statistically they’re terrific, they do a nice job on defense by holding teams to a low field goal percentage and rebounding the ball well. They also take good care of the ball with Martin as their point guard because Charlie Brock’s teams always execute well. They’re a very, very formidable team, they do everything well, so you really have to be on top of your game to battle and we’ll have to be on Saturday in order to be a position to be successful.”

At Wheaton College: You Can Play (VIDEO)

By NoontimeSports.com 

Noontime Sports is proud to unveil the Wheaton College athletics’ You Can Play Project video, which was published on their YouTube channel this afternoon. The video was directed by Noontime Sports’ Matt Noonan, who is an alum.

Noonan worked along side Devon Soucier, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, as well as her teammates and head coach Emily Kiablick.

As noted in the athletic department’s release, “You Can Play’s mission is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success. You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.”

Wheaton became the first NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference) school to join the project, but is one of many institutions from across the country, along with NHL and minor league hockey teams that produced a video.

For more information on the You Can Play Project — HOP HERE

Mass. College Soccer: Wheaton’s Finkelstein Commits To Real Boston Rams

By NoontimeSports.com 

Courtesy of the Wheaton College sports information department, here’s this afternoon’s release about Luke Finkelstein, who committed to play for the Real Boston Rams of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL) this spring:

NORTON, Mass. – Wheaton College sophomore midfielder Luke Finkelstein (Peabody, Mass./Peabody) has committed to play for the Real Boston Rams of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL) this spring.

Finkelstein joins the Rams after a standout second-year campaign with the Lyons. Finkelstein earned National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Division III All-New England South second team honors and New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) All-Conference second team accolades. The sophomore midfielder notched 12 points in 19 games played (all starts) and finished second overall among all midfielders in the NEWMAC with eight assists.

“The professionalism from the club has been great. I’m very motivated and ready for the season to start,” said Finkelstein of joining Real Boston. “I just want to help the club go as far as we can. I’m looking to improve as a player and help promote the club in any way I can.”

As a freshman, Finkelstein was tabbed as the NEWMAC Rookie of the Year and also garnered All-Conference second team accolades. Finkelstein has started in all 38 games he has appeared in over two seasons compiling three goals and 15 assists for 21 points. Finkelstein is currently three assists shy of cracking Wheaton’s top-10 list for helpers in a career.

“Finkelstein is a quality player,” said Real Boston head coach Jim Costa. “He has a great attitude, hard work ethic, and is good on and off the ball.”

The Real Boston Rams open the 2013 PDL season at home on May 11th against CFC Azul. For the full schedule and more information on the Real Boston Rams visit: www.bostonrams.com.

Mass. College Hoops: Bridgewater State 62, Wheaton College 50

By Brian Willwerth 

NORTON, MA – Bridgewater State is above .500 for the first time since winning its opener. Wheaton College is undefeated no more.

In a defensive battle that was sluggish throughout, the Bears (3-2) defeated the Lyons, 62-50, on Saturday afternoon at Emerson Gymnasium. Michael Lofton led the way offensively with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

“It was a rock fight. It wasn’t aesthetic basketball,” said Bears’ head coach Joe Farroba. “In some cases it was good defense, and it same cases it might have been poor shot selection.”

He won’t get any argument there. Bridgewater State shot just 28% from the field. Wheaton was just 36%. The teams combined to go 6-for-29 from three-point range. But one area where Bridgewater State had a big advantage was on the offensive glass. The Bears had 17 offensive rebounds to eight for the Lyons. They also got to the line three times as often, too. Farroba said both of those were keys.

Once the Bears took the lead 18-16 with about eight minutes remaining in the first half, they never trailed the rest of the way. They jumped out to an eight-point advantage early in the second half, but the Lyons were able to cut the margin to two, as they switched to a zone defense that started to cause problems for the visitors. But the Bears never did relinquish the lead.

“The kid I brought off the bench, [Diijon Reid] hit those 3’s, and that helped,” said Farroba of Wheaton’s zone defense. “That made them blink in terms of what they’re going to do strategy-wise.”

Ryan Clinesmith led Wheaton with 18 points.

I thought he [Clinesmith] really stood out in the second half,” said Wheaton head coach Brian Walmsley, whose team dropped to 5-1.

“Unfortunately he got two quick fouls in the first half and we sat him, [but] then he came back with a lot of energy [and] that was a big difference in the game, having him sit 15 minutes worth.”

Bridgewater State travels to Anna Maria on Tuesday night, while Wheaton will host Gordon, also on Tuesday.