It’s no deep or dark secret that many aspects of sportswriting, and storytelling, indeed operate behind the scenes.
Hence, it’s always interesting to pull back the curtain — even a bit — from time to time.
You may have noticed appearing, for the past two Wednesdays and Thursdays at least, the 2022 weekly Associated Press statewide girls and boys basketball polls.
The boys poll, released every Monday, appears in Wednesday editions while the girls poll —released every Tuesday —appears every Thursday in print.
These polls are voted upon every weekend with the opening week in January, and end in conjunction with the regular seasons —usually resulting in six girls polls and seven boys polls.
You also may have noticed some of our Southern Ohio Conference and/or Ohio Valley Conference teams appearing in the polls, including Scioto County’s own Valley boys and Wheelersburg girls.
In the opening Division IV boys poll, Valley checked in ranked sixth with a 9-0 record and 50 points —before moving up two spots to fourth in this week’s poll, collecting 104 plus one first-place vote, which is worth 10 points apiece.
And, that was without the Indians even playing a game —with one postponed because of Oak Hill’s coronavirus situation at the time, and the other with Wheelersburg weathered out on Friday night.
Speaking of 104…..
In the opening Division III girls poll, Wheelersburg in fact was your top-ranked team in the state —with 104 total points and two first-place votes.
This week was even better for the Lady Pirates, picking up seven more first-place votes (90 total points worth) for 164 total points and yes, maintaining that top-ranked billing.
We also want to acknowledge of course Waverly’s boys, which were eighth in the opening Division II poll — prior to moving up to sixth.
South Point’s boys, in Division III, followed suit (eighth to sixth) from polls one to two.
All that said, at this point, John Q. Public probably wants to know how this all works.
And, do keep in mind, before any bandwagon boarding or even bridge-jumping begins, the Associated Press polls NEED to be taken into account for what they truly are.
That is simply, and solely, some nice weekly statewide recognition — nothing more and nothing less because it’s all an inexact science —from a handful of statewide sportswriters for your team.
Alas, that group of Ohio sportswriters you ask about?
It’s those whose outlets are indeed affiliated with the Associated Press.
Yours truly is one of those, as I represent the Portsmouth Daily Times with our official — for football and basketball both — AP poll vote.
So what does that entail?
It’s a weekend workload, in addition to any games — or other events — which we cover from Friday night thru say Sunday afternoon.
I’m also the chairperson for our Southeast District panel of the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association, so first things first with these polls — usually on Saturday afternoons and nights — we’re gathering updated records and information for the weekly recommendations.
Updated records, “quality” wins, “quality” losses, and even “bad” losses are all taken into account.
These teams are compiled into a recommendations list — sometimes detailed and even quite cumbersome — covering all four divisions.
Then as the Southeast District chair, I send them along to other AP statewide poll voters —along a lengthy e-mail chain.
On Sunday afternoons, from the house office and while watching often times NFL football, I wait with laptop in front of me — on other statewide recommendations from fellow colleagues.
Then, the AP sends out a weekly “How They Fared” — which is simply scores of games from the previous week, involving each of the top-10 teams in each division.
Using that as a guide, and after reviewing recommendations, I cast my votes electronically —usually no later than midnight on Sunday night.
The votes are then tallied on Monday mornings before the noon deadline, and the polls are e-mailed out inside for revisions or corrections —prior to appearing along the AP wire on Mondays and Tuesdays.
After that, it’s up to the masses to read and analyze the polls — prior to their agreements or disagreements with others along Internet message boards.
So that’s how it works —with a couple of key editorial points to be made.
For the weekly football poll, I rely heavily on the respected computer rankings website www.joeeitel.com — where you can view each team’s unofficial ranking, but more importantly is its entire schedule, and basically its strength of schedule supporting its weekly ranking.
For basketball, there’s much more work involved —and it occupies a lot of your weekend.
My colleagues and I must first do our parts, and take the time and effort necessary to not only compile the recommendations, but conduct some research as well.
Again, that’s not something everybody is always committed to doing.
There’s also the issue of “homer voting”, which unfortunately some of my colleagues are guilty of in their respective quadrants—and for that, at times, should be ashamed.
While it’s regarded rightly to include teams from your district or coverage area among your top-10 votes, deliberately over-voting them is NOT in my cup of tea.
Or, actually, make that bottles of Wellston “SKI”.
For instance, and contrary to some short-sighted yet popular belief, I did NOT vote the Lady Pirates as my top-ranked team in either of the Division III girls polls.
That would be two votes for the opening poll, and nine votes in the second poll.
While Wheelersburg has been quite high on my two cast ballots, and at the top of our Southeast District recommendations list, I can’t so far —in a clear conscience —vote them at THE mountain’s summit.
Of course, that can all change over time.
I’m happy for the Lady Pirates to be ranked number-one, but as I’m sure they would even admit, games are not won on paper —but indeed on the court itself.
The same goes for the Valley boys —as I did NOT supply the Indians with their lone first-place vote this past week.
Like the Lady Pirates, the Indians have appeared high on my ballots, but not quite at THE apex.
Again, happy for their high ranking, but games are won or lost on the actual court —and not in the court of pollsters’ opinions.
Although, as was for this reading lesson, it’s just refreshing sometimes — I think at least — to pull back the curtain on sportswriting behind-the-scenes.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved