First Annual Cross-Conference Holiday Gift Giving Guide

As David Sedaris wrote, Christmas means giving. WPS teams are in danger this year, but we can still find time to celebrate and give. This is our first year writing the blog, and I thought I would take the opportunity to create a guide for gift purchases this season.

For the women’s soccer fan who can stomach Anson, Book: The Man Watching

For the soccer fan who wants the best book on soccer ever written, Book: The Ball Is Round

For the fan not averse to risk-taking: 2011 Tickets

  • Don’t live near one of the four WPS towns? Donate the tickets to a charity or nonprofit, like GONZO SOCCER.

For any Chicago Red Stars fan:

For the green-conscious or Chicago Red Stars fan: Green Laces

For the national team coach: Flexible Desk-size Vertebral Column Item #: CS85X

For your favorite Chicago Red Stars midfielder: Dep Sport Endurance Gel, Intense Hold, Level 11, 12 oz

For the WCC fan: anything from TearCatcher.com

For your favorite goalkeeper:

For your favorite Swiss forward: Actors on Acting: The Theories, Techniques, and Practices of the World’s Great Actors, Told in Their Own Words, though be aware she actually may be a contributor.

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So much love, it’s like we’re in Portland.

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. This is my first Thanksgiving at home in two years, so I am super grateful for that and won’t be around much this weekend. Still, I want to take this opportunity to thank some people that have been a big help to Cross-Conference.

Tiffany Weimer, for your encouragement, ideas, and sense of humor. You jumped in and gave us a push when we needed it.

Shek Borkowski, again for the encouragement, but also for not pulling punches when it comes to your analysis of women’s soccer. Someone has to tell it like it is, and you do that well.

Kai Edwards, for taking an interest and inviting us to come watch your team play. We both plan to look into making this happen in the new year.

The Portland Pilots and Santa Clara Broncos, for being so generous with your time and, in some cases, helping us connect with other people in order to make the rivalry project happen. Your alumni, current players, SIDs, and coaches were very accommodating and great to work with.

The 2010 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, for thrashing UNC out of the NCAA tournament. Enough said.

Alina Garciamendez, for making sure we have a reason to say your name nearly every podcast. It’s like magic.

And on a personal note, I’d like to thank Joan for saying “Let’s wait” when we first started talking about Cross-Conference and “Let’s do it” when it was time to get rolling.

A New Look for Cross-Conference

Cross-Conference original

Back when Joan and I started Cross-Conference, we didn’t sit down and say, “Okay, this will be the easiest url, this will be the best layout, this will be good for SEO, this is in line with our mission and brand.” We were concerned with our content, not our image. We incorporated improvements as time and money permitted. We brought up changing our “logo” once or twice, but it was never a priority.

The original icon should be familiar to our readers and listeners. It never varies. And it has served well enough–to the uninitiated, it isn’t player-specific or team-specific. But for WPS fans, 2009 is fresh enough that the year and team should be obvious. The legs belong to FC Gold Pride’s Allison Whitworth (who then did time with Atlanta and Chicago). The photo, by the way, was one I had taken myself.

In eleven months, Cross-Conference has come a long way. We are a blog and a podcast now, and we have expanded to other social media platforms as well. We have direction, character, and a voice. We know Cross-Conference better now, as do our readers and listeners. A couple of weeks ago, Joan made the aside that it’s time to start working on a logo. And I jumped at the green-light; it is time.

I’ll gloss over the creative process here. I am an out-of-practice artist, so the details are only astonishing (and embarrassingly so) to me. Suffice to say, inspiration took hold, ate up my time for days, and after some variation and much tweaking, resulted in the basic shield that is at the core of our logo.

We laid two ground rules in the creation of our logo:

  1. No ponytails
  2. Avoid blue

When I look through my twitter feed, the icons that stand out for me are the ones with the crests. I know those are for soccer. I can usually tell, even in small dimensions, who those icons represent. Crests and shields are very soccer (or rugby) specific in the American sporting landscape. A couple WPS teams missed the boat on that one (my FC Gold Pride being one of them), but Athletica nailed it–especially if you are local to the St. Louis area. Ownership was shady, but damn if they didn’t brand well.

Cross-Conference shield

The shield is perfect from a design standpoint. Historically, it serves two functions: to protect and to send a message. Heraldry is intended to be read. It tells you something about who you are dealing with. It can be as simple or as complex as you like. In Cross-Conference’s case, we decided that simple was best.

I wanted to avoid a shield shape that would be too closely associated with a WPS team (New Jersey, Boston, and Philly have very distinct shields in my mind) so I spent a good amount of time looking for a basic shape that was fairly triangular, incorporated convex curves, and allowed for creative variation.

Since a big part of the Cross-Conference personality is the NCAA/WCC/SCU-UP bias that we hold, I decided to draw on that for our colors. Santa Clara tends towards maroon and grey, Portland tends towards purple and gold, and both use white as a base. Incidentally, the West Coast Conference also uses the maroon-indigo-white color combination in its logo. I realize that these colors are also similar to the colors of the WPS and US Soccer logos, but that is a perk, not a driving factor.

I wanted to find some way to indicate the podcast, blog, and soccer facets of Cross-Conference, because those are the most important aspects of the brand. Initially, I was thinking of headphones for the podcast, but settled on the microphone. Instead of the quill that was in my head originally, I ended up passing by that and the pencil to a fountain pen. We nixed the inclusion of a soccer ball. While Cross-Conference is soccer-specific, it is not solely soccer, and the shield can carry the weight of conveying sport.

The combination of the colors and icons went through a number of variations. I wanted a balanced, unified combination of the colors without letting one “school” of color overpower the other. I was also determined to keep the microphone on purple (Pilots + Podcast = Joan) and the pen on maroon (Broncos + Blog = Ruth). The gold symbols unify the two “sides” of the shield and the grey “holds” it together.

Joan and I are both really excited to unveil and start using the new Cross-Conference logo as we head into Year Two. In fact, we were so excited that we jumped the gun, and fans of Cross-Conference on Facebook got to see the new look on Saturday. Today we will make the switch on our other platforms as well. Let us know what you think!

Penn State, probably lucky to get 13th

That's right, 2010 - the alumni were watching all along.

I know I have been hard on Penn State this season. They have been painful to watch when they are on TV and sometimes worse to follow online–not for lack of coverage, but because they are a very good team that constantly came up short. 2010 has been nerve-wracking and frustrating.

Today Penn State played Michigan at home to close the regular season. A win would give PSU a share of the regular season title, and a tie or loss would leave the whole title to Ohio State. The fact that this 2010 team had clawed its way back into this position meant that the least I could do was watch the game… and both overtime periods. It was worth it to not only finally see them pull out a win this season, but to also claim their share of yet another Big Ten title, and in such dramatic fashion.

The 13th straight title is the most in Big Ten women’s athletic history, besting the Michigan swimming & diving teams of the 1990s. Currently, Northwestern tennis has a chance to match Penn State’s feat this spring, but for the time being, the Nittany Lions are atop of the heap.

Schaefer’s first collegiate goal was last year against Virginia in the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 15, 2009, but this goal was even bigger and may have clinched the Nittany Lions’ berth to this year’s NCAA Tournament. Penn State is co-champs with Ohio State, who clinched the Conference’s automatic bid the NCAA tourney on Friday.

Coach Walsh phrases it best in her interview:

Pilots-Broncos Rivalry – Meagan McCray Interview

Meagan McCray

Although the Portland-Santa Clara game for 2010 has been played, we have a few more player responses to share.

This time through, we have Meagan McCray, Julie Juarez’s successor. Meagan was with the Broncos from 2005 through 2008 and clocked significant minutes even before claiming the starting spot. In 2009, she spent the WPS season with FC Gold Pride, and in 2010, she was with the Washington Freedom.

Here is her take on the Portland-Santa Clara rivalry, written prior to the game…

Read more of this post

Lists for the week/weekend

This is the end of a very busy weekend at the end of a very busy week. Here is a list of entries I want to pretend I have written about for Cross-Conference:

  • Penn State games I watched: Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin. Most of my commentary is for Nairn, Hayes, and that Wisconsin game. However, it was very nice today to see that Penn State got the road win over Illinois, 2-0.
  • Notre Dame: clinched the division, drew UConn and Georgetown, beat Villanova. I was at the Nova game and had good things to say about the fans (the children!), notable things about the freshmen, and the random point of seeing Philadelphia Independence’s Riley and Magnusdottir there. Villanova, you need to update your website.
  • My issues with Pia’s college call-ups the past two years, namely Alex Morgan. I get that when you are called, you go, because that is what every female soccer player aims for, but I have more reasons than just disliking the WNT for Alex Morgan to have stayed with Cal.
  • On the topic of the USWNT: why it might be a good thing for the US to not qualify outright for the World Cup.
  • Portland vs Santa Clara. I am torn between actually talking about the game and only talking about Santa Clara, because the ESPNU commentators basically ignored the home team in a game where they kept possession percentages close. I’m sorry, the Broncos are not props for your Pilot narratives to knock over.
  • Pretty much all of my favorites and least favorites in the ACC. Things are so weird this season.
  • A revisit of my post on teams to watch this season.
  • Also, a check-in with the U-20s.

It’s hard to know which should be written first, or at all.

Who is your target audience?

Funny, how easy it is to get into reader/researcher mode on other people’s media. “Who is the target audience?” is an easy question to ask. Usually the answer is written all over a text. You use the answer (and the steps to get to that answer) to interrogate the text. That’s freshman 101 type stuff.

So I’m not sure whether it’s rhetorical when we at Cross-Conference were asked that. I’m not sure what it says when I heard the question and blanked. A writer must know the answer to that, because it does inform the text. But within a split second, I was thinking, “Isn’t it obvious? Our audience is women’s soccer fans.”

No, that answer is too obvious, and too easy.

For the first six or seven months, we didn’t have a “target” audience. We had an ethereal audience that was maybe, sometimes, when we were looking the other way, sneaking looks at us. At our most cynical, we had no audience. So instead of shooting for “them” or “no one,” I looked at Joan, myself, and my immediate friends and asked what we would like to read, hear, or talk about. When a friend said, “It’s a good podcast, but it needs more snark,” we listened. When we got a message on twitter that we’re hard on the WNBA… well, it probably won’t make the final cut of the upcoming podcast, but I did reference Anne Donovan when talking about WPS coaching.

I think sometimes we are very clearly just talking into the void for anyone to hear. We expect our audience to be other fans, not current players, former players, journalists, media folks, or team/school/league staff. Not that we would discourage these people from following us, but it’s always a surprise to hear from insiders. And we probably appeal to a particular type of fan–because Cross-Conference isn’t the place to go for stats and summary or breaking news. We don’t pursue interviews with the current hot topic.

Our target audience loves women’s soccer, certainly. Our target audience is prone to skepticism and dissatisfaction and probably has a dry sense of humor. Our target audience likes long walks on the beach but would never admit to that out loud except when drunk. Let’s face it: Cross-Conference is run by a couple of twenty-something former grad students who enjoy indie music and intelligent, witty discussion. And it shows.