The Final Draft

The official draft board tells of a busy day.

So I teach Journalism II as an adjunct professor at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. This is my final semester after three years at the school and, therefore, my final draft.

Ah—the draft. I friggin’ love it. I’m sure, as a teacher, I’ve got many flaws, many bad ideas, many lectures that get bombarded by sidetrack thoughts concerning, oh, Alf or Connect Four or Tupac songs. But the draft, well, the draft is my baby.

Here’s how it works: In the weeks leading up toward semester’s end, I rope in a bunch of noteworthy (this word can mean myriad things) people I know to be profiled by my students. Then I show up in class, write 1-12 on little pieces of paper, ball them up and put them in a baseball cap. The hat is passed around the classroom, with each student blindly picking. The person with No. 1 gets the first selection, and can look through the files on the different personalities (I print out abridged portfolios) and pick who he/she would like to profile for the final paper. Then No. 2 pick, No. 3, No. 4 … on and on (Here’s a look at last semester’s draft, if you’re curious. And this one is from 2011).

Today’s draft was thrilling. And cool. And funky. And, as always, fun. Here’s how it went down (with analysis) …

1. Katie Hnida, first woman to play Division I college football—I knew Katie would go somewhere in the top five or six, because her story is compelling, and most of my students are intelligent women who would be drawn to (and moved by) her amazing saga. Brooke Marcimo, the student who made the pick, is one of my best writers, as well as a student-athlete and sports die-hard. Great match here.



2. Mike Tollin, Director/Producer—Mike may well be the star of the group, and when I read his bio aloud to the class, students were dazzled. Mike’s films include Coach Carter, Dreamer, Hardball, Varsity Blues, Summer Catch and Big Fat Liar. He’s won three Emmy Awards for his TV work, which includes Smallville and One Tree Hill. I had Mike pegged as the No. 1 selection, so it sorta turned into a ‘Do I take Durant or Oden?’ scenario. Juliane Pettorossi, another top-notch scribe, took Durant.


3. Chuck Creekmur, founder and CEO of—I’ve known Chuck for years … we worked alongside one another at the University of Delaware’s student newspaper. So, in a sense, that familiarity caused me to label him a mid-round selection. Nope. I have m-a-n-y students into music, and Chuck had a fast rise up the board. He was selected by Jessica Pinkett, who immediately engaged in trade talks with Steven Willis. Alas, Steven was rejected. “No way,” said Jessica, “am I parting with Chuck Creekmur.”


4. Amy Freeze, ABC meteorologist—When I initially mentioned Amy’s name, Willis—a Chicago native—screamed out, “Hey! She used to work in my town!” Indeed, she did. So, with Creekmur gone, Willis went with the familiarity of home. Amy happens to be wonderful people and an engaging personality. Very good bargain at No. 4.



5. Paul Ercolino, gun control activist—Eight months ago Paul’s brother, Steven, was murdered by a shooter outside the Empire State Building. Paul, a truly great man, has since developed a powerful and profound voice for the gun control movement. I told my students, with great sincerity, that interviewing someone like Paul is an honor. Eduardo Wongvalle, the pride of Nicaragua and a very sensitive man, was the perfect person to tab him.

Steven Willis, right, and Jessica Pinkett talk trade. Alas, despite the energy and excitement of the draft, it was a quiet afternoon for swaps.

6. Brittanie Weaver, model—As soon as the wonderfully optimistic Natalie Rodriguez selected Brit, Brittany Wheeler, another student, sighed audibly. She really wanted to draft the model, but owned the 10th pick. She offered a package of that No. 10 selection, plus future candy—and was rejected. Natalie was wise to hold onto Weaver. She’s a good one.



7. Randy Jones, cowboy from the Village People—This shocked me. A journalism lesson from your Uncle Jeffie: If ever gifted the chance to write about  an original member of the Village People, jump on it ASAP. This was a real steal for Mary Evans in the seventh spot.




8. Bruce Kulick, former KISS guitarist—Another one who caught the class’ attention. I’m not sure how many of my students could identify Paul Ryan by face, or name the Mets’ starting outfielders. But they all knew KISS. Adriana Padilla is one of my most artsy and creative students. She also knows her music. Kulick, now with Grand Funk Railroad, was an excellent find.



9. Fred Claire, former Los Angeles Dodgers GM—This is the hidden gem. In my world, Fred is an absolute legend. He built the 1988 world-champion Dodgers, has an amazing legacy in baseball and a deserved reputation as one of the all-time good guys in the game. Nick Jean-Baptiste, a class standout, stole this one. Great pick.



10. Craig Calcaterra, HardballTalk blogger—My class does not include many baseball fans. However, when I told the students about Craig’s emergence as one of the game’s leading online voices, people took note. Craig and I have had our little squabbles, but he’s a great guy and one of the elite MLB gurus. Plus, writers understand writers.



11. Wendell Meldrum, actress—I actually know Wendell best from her role as Kevin’s sexy substitute teacher on The Wonder Years. She is, however, most famous in these parts for guest starring as the low talker on Seinfeld. Wendell actually has a long and distinguished career in TV and on stage. Alla Traun, the student who’s writing is on a roll of late, lands a  good one.



12. Kevin Mench, former Major League outfielder—Were I teaching sportswriting, Mench goes first or second. Here, he’s 12th. Which is crazy, because he’s a GREAT talker, a funny and smart man with a ton of perspective. Eddie Salgado, a member of Manhattanville’s soccer team, doesn’t love baseball. But he’ll love Kevin Mench.




(Left to right) Adriana, Nick and Mary look over the potential draft picks as the tension heightens at Manhattanville College.

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