All posts by Alex Kwas

NBA surprises & disappointments so far

Over the past few years, the NBA has faced a difficult competition problem. Unlike the other professional sports leagues, the championship teams have been mostly predictable, and the talent level converged. Recently, however, smaller market teams have stockpiled young talent and created an entertaining, competitive balance for the league. After passing the halfway point of the season last week, several teams sit at unexpected parts of the standings.

Starting on the positive side of the standings, the Indiana Pacers have improved drastically from last season. They sit at 23-21 (8th in the Eastern Conference). Since the Pacers came into the season with the tenth-youngest roster in the NBA, most experts thought this team would be playing for a lottery pick at this point of the season. Also, the Eastern Conference is stacked this season, and the Pacers did not fit anywhere near the playoff conversation.

Acquiring Tyrese Haliburton at the trade deadline gave Indiana an up-and-coming superstar, and their young players have seen a major improvement. The Pacers’ guard depth has given them a boost from the bench, with Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Ben Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard, Chris Duarte, and TJ McConnell averaging 15+ minutes per game. This team’s youth could carry them to a play-in appearance and pose a struggle to some playoff teams.

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Over in the Western Conference, the Sacramento Kings might be the most surprising regular season team in years. Their 23-18 record puts a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in sixteen years at fourth in the conference. Following the win-win trade with the Indiana Pacers at the trade deadline, which landed them Domantas Sabonis, the Kings have developed a potent dynamic duo with Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox. At the beginning of the season, I do not think many people saw these two evolving into a superstar tandem.

Like Indiana, this team stockpiled young talent through trades and the draft. Keegan Murray has risen to the Summer League hype, averaging about 12 points and 4 rebounds per game. Also, former Atlanta Hawk and Maryland star Kevin Huerter is averaging 16 points per game, a drastic improvement from last season.

Finally, and probably the least surprising out of the three, the New Orleans Pelicans have solidified a superstar big three and are creating a case to be one of the top teams in the West Conference. After the hard-fought series with Phoenix last season, fans expected a substantial improvement with Zion Williamson returning from injury.

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Zion, newly-acquired CJ McCollum, and young star Brandon Ingram all average over 20 points per game. The youth coming off the bench for this team creates a difficult group to compete with on the court. With Jonas Valanciunas locking down the middle and players like Herb Jones, Jose Alvarado, and Larry Nance Jr. bringing great energy, New Orleans poses a potent threat to many Western Conference playoffs teams.

On the other hand, the Chicago Bulls’ locker room drama has caused a difficult first half of the season. Fans saw Demar Derozan and Zach Lavine as one of the most formidable duos in the league when the season started. Still, a scoring feud between the two stars has generated unnecessary attention.

The lack of playmakers on this team, though, creates a problem only Lonzo Ball can solve. Many people thought he would be back by the start of this season, but injury setbacks have left a massive hole in the backcourt. They hold a reasonably strong frontcourt, with Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams locking down the basket, but it hasn’t been enough to lift their record.

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Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat’s performance has caused lots of surprise around the league, considering their great star power. Following an Eastern Conference Finals run last season, the Heat kept their core of Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, and Tyler Herro together. Looking at the Eastern Conference at the beginning of the season, Miami looked poised to finish in the top six of the standings. They sit at 24-20 and are seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Last season, we saw lots of their depth come alive in the playoffs to help carry Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry in the backcourt. That depth hasn’t stepped up to their prior levels, and most of their bench players have specific roles. Now that Butler and Lowry have entered their thirties, this team may find some difficulties as these veterans face fatigue toward the end of the season.

Finally, the Los Angeles Clippers are difficult to explain, considering their performances over the past few seasons. With Kawhi Leonard finally returning from injury, many experts expected a resurgence from the Clippers. His limited appearances so far this season raise a serious question about the future of him and Paul George. Their management assembled a solid supporting cast for these superstars during the 2019 offseason, but they cannot seem to rise to an elite level.

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We saw last season that without Kawhi Leonard, the Los Angeles Clippers are average, which speaks to their 23-22 record this season. If he cannot return completely healthy by the end of this season, the Clippers may be looking at another low seed in the playoffs. To climb out of this disappointing stretch, Kawhi must provide this team with more scoring and production.

Alex Kwas is a sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

MSJ at the Movies: Christmas movie tier list

After finally reaching the conclusion of Thanksgiving, the Christmas season is finally upon us, and the transition to holiday movies has entered many households. Some people simply resort to their all-time favorites yearly and watch them on repeat. Meanwhile, others widen their viewership to include newer and more eccentric films. 

Regardless of your desire, we picked eleven of the most popular holiday movies and separated them into three tiers. The first tier represents all-time greats; the second denotes average films; the third signifies some of the worst Christmas movies created. With that out of the way, let’s discuss the four best Christmas movies of all time.

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To start us off, Elf is one of my personal favorite Christmas movies of all time. Elf, Starring Will Ferrell, is about a kid raised by Santa and other elves. He grows up thinking he’s an elf until he discovers the hard truth that he isn’t and has a real family. He leaves the wonderland of the North Pole and deals with the city of New York in search of his dad. This movie is top-tier because it brings out good family-friendly comedy and brings joy and belief back into Santa and Christmas.

Next on the list is Christmas Vacation. This movie is about a family staying in one house for the holidays. Clark Griswold wants to have a perfect family Christmas, so he pesters his wife and children as he tries to make sure everything is in line. This movie includes a lot of hilarious comedy and is required to watch every year. 

Home Alone is also another classic one that you have to watch every year. This movie is about an 8-year-old boy who is left home alone while his family goes on vacation without him. Suspicions rise about a young boy being home alone, so two burglars try to rob his house. Little do they know that this 8-year-old has some fight in him. This movie brings comedy and overall holiday spirit. These are just a few of the fantastic Christmas to watch yearly, but some aren’t good enough to be watched every year.

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The movies in this tier list are good but not spectacular. The movie Polar Express could go either way, but I think it falls in the middle tier. This movie is about a bunch of kids who get on a train that is supposedly taking them to the North Pole to see the first gift being handed out. When they get there, Santa chooses one kid from the crowd to receive the first gift of Christmas. The movie has a very scattered plot, and it is hard to keep up at times. 

The next movie I would like to discuss is Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Everybody likes Charlie Brown, and the movies are classics. However, they are more for a younger audience. Charlie Brown has a lot of different movies for different holidays, like the Halloween one. In my opinion, that is an excellent movie, but the Christmas movie just doesn’t reach expectations and is just a good movie to watch every once in a while. 

Now for the next movie, nothing is wrong with the film itself, and it is an excellent depiction of the story. Rudolph is a great movie and is definitely a classic to watch. However, everyone knows of the Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer story. Therefore, since everyone knows the story, there is no motive to watch it yearly. 

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Finally, these three movies do not make the cut of worthy Christmas movies and should not be the first viewing choice. Though the first Home Alone movie makes the first tier, the rest of the movies are not nearly as entertaining. The rest of them do not meet the uniqueness of the first film and are pretty much about the same topic. With the repetitive nature of all these movies, they get boring after a while and should not receive the same clout as the first. 

Next, the Disney remake of The Grinch similarly does not make the cut as the original film. It takes an animated approach instead of the realistic ideals of the original movie. Also, Disney puts a childish twist on it, making the movie boring to older viewers. Even though they take the same plot, the original movie easily deserves a higher ranking in this list.

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The final movie on this list, Santa Claus, also comes in a series, but the disappointment of the first version explains them all. The plot is about a man who finds Santa in his front yard and travels back to the North Pole to replace him. His son tags along, and they go on an adventure through Santa’s workshop. This movie appeals more to children and does not provide much competition to the Christmas comedies. 

The uniqueness of Christmas movies fits all tastes and provides an excellent viewership experience during the holiday season. No matter the quality and subject, these movies get us in the holiday spirit and supply all types of people with unmatched enjoyment.

Alex Kwas is a sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Tyler Martin is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Why LIV Golf is growing despite the efforts of the PGA Tour

Beginning in May 2020, the PGA Tour saw a massive increase in viewers and attendance. Across the summers of 2020 and 2021, the PGA saw some of its highest TV ratings and a staggering 30% increase in views on NBC. All aspects of business looked good for the league, with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing the growth of golf in the United States.

However, it was not all that pretty on the inside. Players disapproved of the hard-ball tactics by Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner. His unwillingness to assist the stars; the players’ frustration over course rulings painted a negative picture among professional golfers. 

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And so, with the founding of LIV Golf in October 2021, Greg Norman gave players an escape from the harsh and neglectful PGA. He launched the brand with the hopes of signing international stars to participate in the monthly invitationals. Norman found immediate success, signing fifteen of the world’s top 100 players in April. 

Though the more laid-back environment proved a large part of the players’ decisions, Norman received tremendous financial support from the Saudi Arabian government. The kingdom provides all the guaranteed contracts and purse money for each tournament. For players on the bottom tier of professional tours, this supplied a substantial raise from their usually volatile salary. 

All of these factors make life for professional golfers much easier. Usually, players outside the top 100 struggle to obtain fair wages for their families. At most PGA tournaments, the competitors that finish toward the bottom only make about $50,000. If you add tournament entry fees and playing expenses, some players barely squeak by with a profit. However, the LIV Golf tour allows every player to make decent money and support their families.

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In addition, a less-demanding schedule allows older players to spend more time with their families. The PGA Tour only provides a two-week offseason and hosts a tournament every weekend during the season. LIV Golf organizes tournaments once or twice a month, permitting players to go home and see their families.

The simpler and quicker format of LIV Golf makes playing golf more enjoyable for all players. A shotgun start—where everyone tees off at the same time—decreases the amount of time on the course. Players can play five-hour rounds and leave instead of having to wait so long to tee off. 

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Through COVID, the PGA Tour looked to grow the game of golf but did not listen to the needs of its players. However, LIV Golf provided an escape for frustrated competitors and created a more player-friendly atmosphere. They exposed an ignorant organization and gave players a modern, more enjoyable experience on the golf course.

Alex Kwas is a sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Facing participation issues, the golf program looks to take a step forward

Mike Dooley marks his 30th season as Head Varsity Golf Coach.

For 30 years, the Varsity Golf Team has competed under the watchful eyes of Coach Mike Dooley. Photo Credit: Edward Schultheis

Following a difficult season for Varsity Golf in 2022, the team anticipates a massive leap forward into 2023. Mr. Mike Dooley, entering his 30th season as the Varsity head coach, positively approached these struggles: “Last season, while we might not have had a great record, we had a very unique roster. We started with one senior, two sophomores, and three freshmen. We had a roster that looks forward to the next couple of years.” Coming off a season with two wins in twelve matches, Coach Dooley used last season as motivation to build a winning program for 2023.

Though young teams are an issue in any sport, sophomore J.D. Mahoney confronted the development with a concrete solution: “It came down to whether they [the players] had tournament experience or not, experience the stress that comes in competitive play. Once you get into that, it becomes more of a mind game among yourself.” He added that this mental challenge hurt their play and match scores.

J.D. Mahoney chips onto the green during a match against McDonogh. Photo Credit: Mr. Schultheis

I also asked J.D. about an issue that has plagued the golf program for many years: participation. He continued to emphasize the mental struggle that comes with playing golf: “I think they don’t like it competitively. Match play is all walking and completely serious, with a lot of mental games. If we were to popularize the sport more, we would have to make it more casual for people to go play.”

The participation issue has also plagued the coaches’ ability to select their teams. Coach Dooley said, “We don’t have the volume. Like this year, in our fall organizational meeting, we only had 23 students attend, and we will carry rosters of perhaps 18/19. We’d like to have more to choose from and people coming into MSJ with more accomplished golf games.” According to Coach Bob, the assistant JV coach, there is not a solution, but the players “have to want to do it.”

Coach Mike Dooley instructs a player during practice. Photo Credit: Mr. Schultheis

On the other hand, the increase in golfers due to COVID has become a massive assist to the golf program. Coach Bob had this to say about the growth of MSJ golf over the years: “We’ve had some lean years and some really good years. Back in 2012 or 2013, I had one freshman. But COVID brought a lot of people out because it was the first sport people could do. The last two years, we’ve had really good groups of freshmen, which will translate into a really good Varsity team over the next two or three years.” Unlike other sports, these coaches must factor in the unpredictability of the incoming golfers, and that makes it hard to know what might happen in future seasons.

Through all the ups and downs, Coach Bob has thoroughly enjoyed his time in the MSJ golf program. As the king of golf references, he paraphrased a quote from thirteen-time major champion Bobby Jones: “If you take everything out of my life except the experience I’ve had with St. Joe, I’d still think I had a really good career.”

Coach Bob intently watches his players during practice. Photo Credit: Mr. Schultheis

Though sometimes completely unrelated, Coach Bob also holds countless golf stories through his years wt Rolling Road and traveling with the JV golf team. When I asked him about some of his favorite MSJ stories, he flashed back to last season’s JV golf finale at Diamond Ridge: “My highlight last year was when Brian Cecil made that birdie on #10 in that last match. Where did that come from? But I’m glad he did it. I think that’s provided him with a, ‘Hey, I can do this.”

Junior Brock Weisman expects to lead a better St. Joe squad this season. Photo Credit: Mr. Schultheis

The MSJ golf program, although sometimes overlooked, provides a fundamental look into how a sports program should be run. Obviously, hard work and dedication come first, but the excitement and enjoyment from all the coaches and golfers build incredible trust that runs deep in the program’s history. The game of golf can be difficult and frustrating, but it provides lifelong memories and improves people’s everyday lives.

Alex Kwas is a sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

A new era in the NCAA: college football playoff expansion

During the first week of the college football season, LSU and Florida State competed in one of the most exciting games in modern history. With less than a minute remaining, LSU drove 99 yards down the field, scoring a touchdown, cutting the lead to one point. As their fans celebrated with overtime looming, Florida State blocked the extra-point and squeaked out a one-point victory. 

The excitement and unpredictability of college football recently skyrocketed to high levels with the expansion of the College Football Playoff. After growing to four teams in 2015, the format has faced scrutiny for not allowing enough deserving teams to play for a championship. 

As the 2021 season wound down, only six or seven teams had a real shot at making the playoff. At the end of the season, four teams cemented themselves as playoff contenders, which provided zero controversies or arguments. A twelve-team format allows for more critical and exciting games toward the end of the season. 

The increase in meaningful games across the season increases student interest. However, one of the most considerable drawbacks in postseason college football is the neutral site games, which make it hard for students to attend. The new playoff format allows for on-campus games for the first round, which will enable huge profits for the schools with students and alums traveling on-campus to attend the big games. Tailgating, pre-game gatherings, and post-game celebrations will increase revenue among schools across the country.

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Conference stability has also become a recent issue among smaller market schools that have trouble competing with the college football kings. Allowing more teams to fight for a championship means greater exposure for the recently weakened conferences, like the PAC-12 and Big 12. With UCLA and USC leaving for the Big Ten, and Oklahoma and Texas leaving for the SEC, new competitors may replace those teams in their respective conferences. Previously, we often saw the SEC and Big Ten dominating the College Football Playoff, but this expanded version will allow for more conference representation.

On the other hand, the players may have trouble keeping their endurance throughout an extended season. Usually, NFL teams play between 18-21 games, while college football teams play around 13 or 14. A college football championship team may now play upwards of 17 games, depending on their schedule. That resembles a full NFL schedule and could negatively affect the health of future professional stars.

The weather could also factor into the first round of the playoff. If Wisconsin has to play its first-round game on-campus, weather conditions could affect the game’s outcome. Wisconsin in December is not ideal for sports, with the snow and brutally cold temperatures battering the state. Since most successful college football teams come from down south, it poses the question of how the weather will affect their performance.

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Usually, the weather does not impact the postseason, as southern locations host the bowl games. Smaller bowl games, played earlier in December, do not receive much viewership because some casual fans view them as meaningless. Since the College Football Playoff will host more meaningful games, the NCAA could eliminate some bowl games to increase viewership for the playoffs. As a result, this could affect the success of the smaller market colleges that play their entire seasons to win bowls. 

The thrill of regular season college football games goes unmatched in sports. A rise in the significant regular season and playoff games will continue to attract new viewers around the country. The LSU-Florida State game only scratches the surface of the exhilaration of college football and its drama. Once the playoff begins in 2026, nothing will match the brilliance of playoff football in the United States.

Alex Kwas is a sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism Class.

Solutions Showcase: Part 2 – Navigating the stock market with a professional

This is Part Two of a series completed for Solutions Showcase. To read Part One, please click here.

Through the volatility of the stock market and the difficulty of picking stocks, Equity Analyst Simon Paterson of T. Rowe Price has thrived throughout his career in giving stock advice. An 18-year career at Brown Advisory and M&T Bank has helped him learn about market trends and helpful tendencies. His role includes providing advice to portfolio managers within his company: “As an analyst, I say, ‘Hey, you should buy or sell this stock.” Then, the managers use that advice to purchase or sell their fund’s holdings.

Simon Paterson, CFA, Equity Analyst at T. Rowe Price

Every analyst within a company covers a market sector, ranging from technology to energy. Mr. Paterson covers the “multi-industrials or companies that have businesses across different types of end-markets.” Across the defense industry, he covers companies such as Booz Allen Hamilton, General Dynamics, and L3 Harris. Meanwhile, companies in the multi-industrial industry include Roper Technologies and Teledyne. He covers “everything from transportation, construction software, and things like that.”

When covering companies and tracking their stock market activity, a large portion comes with reading news articles and press releases. He and his colleagues read “everything we can get our hands on.” Services dedicated to stock market activity such as Bloomberg and CNBC serve analysts well, according to Mr. Paterson. However, trade magazines, company filings, disclosures, and especially conversations with insiders serve them well. He mentioned that he speaks to people dealing with investor relations and listens to their advice on the company guidance. I asked him to rank the three sources of information for market advice: news, numbers, or charts.

While explaining the significance of all three, he chose charts as the most paramount: “What’s important is forecasting, so we spend a lot of time figuring out what the numbers were and why they were, so we can figure out what really matters in driving the numbers in the future.” Though they play a significant role, the other two do not hold the edge against charts. With numbers, “The whole name of the game: we are trying to figure out what’s something worth, and how much cash flow they will generate in the future.” On the other hand, with news, “I think finding out what’s actually happening is most important; there’s a tendency to have a narrative and look for things that support it.”

“What’s important is forecasting, so we spend a lot of time figuring out what the numbers were and why they were, so we can figure out what really matters in driving the numbers in the future.”

Mr. Simon Paterson, Equity Analyst at T. Rowe Price

News and charts are pretty simple to explain when researching stock trends. However, business websites provide large amounts of numbers to investigate. My first article mentioned four numbers that investors use: PE Ratio, PB Ratio, Free Cash Flow, and PEG Ratio. Mr. Paterson explained that the Free Cash Flow metric is the best out of the four because “that’s what they [a company] has earned.” Instead of the quarterly earnings that companies send out, which “are an accounting construct, so there are some non-cash factors in there, free cash flow is the true cash measure of what a company earned.” Usually, significant changes in share prices occur after a company sends out earnings results.

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According to Mr. Paterson, a stock begins a positive or negative change in the margin begins the same trend in a company share price. Also, he mentioned, “Most stocks go up when the market goes up, and down when the market goes down. A company typically needs to grow faster than the benchmark, sometimes will do worse if it slows down.” If analysts expect a company to improve by 20%, but they only grow by 10%, investors consider that as slow growth. However, if they outperform that expectation, it is believed that they performed well in the previous quarter. The earnings significantly affect stock price due to “either the earnings numbers or what they say on the call about guidance or sales.”

Through the volatility and unpredictability of today’s stock market, different market sectors fit our world’s positive and adverse events. Infrastructure and capital spending (new federal infrastructure bill), defense (Russian-Ukraine war), cloud technology, and the travel industry (recovery after the pandemic) are some of the best sectors to invest in, according to Mr. Paterson. On the other hand, transportation and retail goods (government not sending money relief) sit on the negative side of today’s world. Through the economy’s difficulties, he admitted that people are worried about a recession due to the high inflation and the rate increases by the Federal Reserve.

For young investors in middle school and high school, Mr. Paterson had some suggestions to start: “Read. Find some good books, and recognize that I’ve been doing this for over 20 years, and I’m still learning all the time. It’s maybe like an athlete, but the good news is our brains can get stronger even as we get older.” Also, he mentioned compound investing: “The most powerful thing in investing is the power of compounding. Any dollar you put in today is going to be worth a lot more when you are fifty or sixty.” When speaking about conversations with experienced investors, humility plays a prominent role in the stock market: “Be humble. People love to talk about their winners, and they never mention their losers. You should have some humility and make sure you are learning from your mistakes. Your expectation shouldn’t be that you are going to get rich quick, and if it is, you are going to do things that will increase the likelihood of you losing everything.”

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As I mentioned earlier, money problems and scandals will plague our world, changing company confidence and negatively impacting investors. The trick about the stock market is managing these issues to bring in the most considerable profit. Mr. Paterson’s advice and expertise have grown since his early days as an investor, and his experience assisting professional fund managers helped him learn the craft of investing. The stock market will become more challenging to navigate with future complications that we cannot predict. Taking advice from the best will only help improve an investor’s attempt to traverse the market.

Alex Kwas is a freshman member of The Quill.