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!

Episode 19 – Punishment Is Imminent

In our latest episode, recorded Wednesday, the NCAA D-1 women’s soccer tournament causes tears, exaustion and pain. The US Women’s National Team will play in Italy. FC Gold Pride is gone, but WPS soldiers on.

Action Items:

  • Give us a mystery to solve. Send your mysteries to crossconference@gmail.com.
  • Rate us on iTunes.

Music:

  • “Down By the Water (Skinny Friedman remix)” –  The Drums
  • “All That” – A1
  • “Girl, Here’s Another Lie” – Ultimate Fakebook
  • “Sandcastle Disco” – Solange

NCAA Tournament!

  • Seeds out
    • Maryland
      • Wake is, too – FYI, ACC (conf. tournament finalists)
    • Portland
      • Who’s fault?
        • Mine
        • Garrett’s
        • Everyone’s (for booting Sweeney)
  • Stanford
  • UC Irvine – All the way
  • UND @ UNC
    • Against USC, Notre Dame looked like a real Irish team for the first time this season
  • St. Mary’s senior goalkeeper on SMC’s season and last game against Portland

USWNT

  • Italy trip
    • They’ve never won in Italy
    • Hope Solo says your statistics mean nothing
  • DiMartino, Osborne, Tarpley
  • Everyone is gushing about the performance of the young players on the USMNT against South Africa. Like, you know, DEVELOPMENTAL PLAYERS.
    • Yeah, they were excellent. And 4 years away from the next world cup.
    • This is astonishing and innovative and I’m not sure we’ve ever seen such a thing on the women’s side!

WPS

  • Bye, bye, bye FC Gold Pride?
    • No investors
    • A survivable loss for the WPS. DC? not so much.
  • Chicago?
  • Western New York is a go. Keeping “Flash”
  • I have thinky thoughts about advertising/fan involvement
    • Sort of along the lines of the old WNBA t-shirt design contest, but more extensive than that – like a marketing angle, but the league would have to give the fans access to high-quality images.

Whatever works

So Portland lost in the second round. It was an anxiety-ridden affair. Washington did what they had to do to advance. It’s fine when I don’t think about it, but real misery when I do. The Pilots haven’t reached the Final Four since 2005. There were some amazing seniors on the team. Losing on PKs at home is bunk. It feels cruel, awful, and strangely so familiar.

Keelin Winters, Sophie Schmidt, Jessica Tsao

I’ve been watching a lot more boxing and MMA lately. I grew up watching boxing with my stepfather and practicing martial arts as a hobby. For combat sports, they are very different. This is something very obvious to anyone who’s followed either, but allow me to explain a little bit about the differences to those of you who might not be familiar.

Boxing might be considered the more pure of the two. There are basically two ways to win a fight: knockout or decision. (Yes, this is oversimplification. Indulge me.) Knockout is pretty self-explanitory: clean the other guy’s clock. He can’t stand up or defend himself? Fight over.

Decision is a little harder. You have to go the distance and you have to win enough rounds. To win a round, you have to punch clean, move around the ring well, be aggressive and still keep up your defense.

Plenty of title fights go the distance without a fighter attempting to really earn the belt away from the holder. Anyone who saw Manny Pacquiao’s fights against Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margartio knows what this looks like. You can’t luck your way into winning a fight by decision. You have to work, and if the guy you’re fighting has the belt you want, you have to take it from him. (The issue of taking a title is one we will have to revisit with the USWNT, but another time.)

Diaz vs Noons II

MMA fights can be won and lost like this. Nick Diaz is the current welterweight champion for Srikeforce. He recently defended his title against KJ Noons (who is WAY too pretty for a white boxer, but that’s neither here nor there). Diaz took what Noons could dish out. Noons managed to land punches, stay out of Diaz’ grasp and go the distance, but the question was: did he take the title from Diaz? It was obvious he did not.

While a mixed martial arts fight can be won in the same way as a boxing match, but it also introduced a new element: submission. Getting a fighter to submit involves putting them in a position (usually through grappling) where they cannot see an out; staying in the position would be costly. This is entirely unique to fighting: it means that one fighter can dominate for potentially a majority of rounds, but if they are caught in a split second, in any round, by a skilled grappler… game over. The fight can be lost in a single moment.

On the same night as the Diaz/Noons fight, one of my favorite upcoming MMA fighers, Sarah Kaufman, recently lost her title in a fight where she had to submit. She’s an amazing striker, and is usually crafty (or lucky) enough to work her way out of whatever trouble her opponents can get her in. However, in her last fight, against Marloes Coenen, she ignored the instruction of her trainers and found herself in an armbar. Moments before, she had Coenen on the ground, receiving her fists at a furious pace. Kaufman seemed primed for yet another knockout, but within a few seconds, she had to submit.

Kaufman in the armbar

As a fan of Kaufman, it momentarily felt unfair. As a fan of MMA, that it took so few seconds between Coenen receiving hard punches to the face and dishing out swift punishment of her own was stunning.

Soccer feels like it should be pure, that outcomes should be clear, but it is far more like MMA than perhaps any other sport. The game is not necessarily won by the best team, just as an MMA bout may not be won by the best fighter.  Soccer is described as the beautiful game, not necessarily the fair one. Great teams can be consistently dominant over a season. Smart teams do whatever works for them on the day. Washington did it. Teams will do it against North Carolina year after year.

A game can be stolen away so easily in the sport of soccer. It is incredibly hard to accept as a fan, but without defeat feeling this cruel, I wonder if victory can ever feel sublime.

NCAA Tournament Webcasts

The tournament is upon us! Technically, it started yesterday at UCLA, but the bulk of first round action happens today. First up will be Penn State vs Penn in West Virginia at 3:30 ET. You know I am invested in that one. Although, my biggest concern today is that Notre Dame learned from the past month and put a hurting on New Mexico instead of the Irish fans.

Here is the bracket, and here are the webcasts, all in one tidy (free!) bundle. The Portland Pilots have their games here. You know you want to watch the Purple.

Interview: Kelsey Davis

I don’t think it’s a big secret that Ruth and I really like Kelsey Davis.  We’ve mentioned it before on the blog and possibly in every episode of our podcast.  When the opportunity to talk to Kelsey came up, we jumped on it, and I worked through the night to make the episode available for you today

Kelsey Davis (Photo by ohhh_yeah80)

Kelsey had a lot to say about the 2006 US team that competed in the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Russia, which is a particular topic of interest to Ruth and I, and what she said about that team and the coach surprised me.

In a Bleacher Report interview, Kelsey discusses some of her charitable work with the Ronald McDonald House, and we talked with her about that as well. Since the end of the season, she’s worked with teammate Natalie Spilger’s GreenLaces.

Kelsey was a Theology major at Portland, and she explained her interest in the topic quite passionately and eloquently.  Speaking personally, I think I could have asked her to keep talking about religious writers for a good hour.

It’s rare to have an engaging conversation about so many interesting topics with someone you admire. Talking with Kelsey was a real honor and a pleasure and I hope we get to do it again.

Kelsey on Twitter.

Writers mentioned in the interview:
Thomas Merton
Wendell Berry
Brennan Manning
Anne Lamott
Henri Nouwen
Jay Bakker
C.S. Lewis
St. Augustine
Julian of Norwich
(my small plug for David Dark)

Leah Fortune: The Pearls Profit

For the past week or so, women’s soccer is the busiest that is has been since 2008. Last night, NCAA  released the post-season playing field for D-I and D-II. The US scraped out third place in world cup qualifiers. Canada and Mexico played a much-improved game that Canada got the best of–but hey, Mexico still has the honor of having cut the US down! There was further talk about Florida State, about Leslie Osborne being invited back to save the national team, and whether Alex Morgan is actually going to finish her college career.

But a significant part of my evening dealt with Leah Fortune and the news that she had been injured. As soon as “MRI” was mentioned–well, that says it all, doesn’t it? Leah left University of Texas to take full advantage of her opportunity to play for Brazil. From a soccer standpoint, I understand her decision. I am wary of her reasoning, though, as I don’t share her religious views–but to each their own. I have continued to follow her. Somewhat cynical, I mentioned to a friend that I wondered which verse Leah was going to use to explain the misfortune of leaving school to pursue a national team, only to have it all cut short in her first game. Really, what I was wondering was, is Leah someone that would write this off as part of God’s plan, or would she dig into it, interrogate and grapple with it? Because I cannot understand the first, but the second can make a person (of any persuasion) stronger.

The conversation that followed my comment isn’t important, but Leah’s blog is.  It’s easy to doubt a person when you don’t share their deeply held beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that you are rooting against them or can’t connect with them at all. I read the first line and almost laughed with relief. It’s terrible that this athlete has torn her ACL, but I seriously admire her response to the situation. She isn’t passive. She isn’t letting herself be carried. She is going to fight like hell.

And I want to take note of this because, as my co-writer has said, bloggers are quick to criticize or mock athletes who cite faith as their motivation. So, to be clear, I don’t share Leah’s convictions, but that doesn’t stop me from finding inspiration in her journey.

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: