Friday, April 27, 2007

Hidden Nuggets of Sports Research

You are probably familiar with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). The organization exploded on the scene about 30 years ago and made its founder Bill James a household name. (Another great place for baseball research is the Library at the Hall of Fame and Museum).

But there are other sports research organizations that are not as familiar. The Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA) and the Association for Professional Basketball Research ( focus mainly on history. The Institute for Hockey Research (IHR) says it "is the only organization in the world that has a dedicated research agenda for the scientific investigation of hockey. " It deals mainly with the physiology and performance of hockey players. The Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) is a more traditional site related to history and stats.

Most of these organizations were created and are maintained by people like Bill James--serious fans who wanted a much deeper understanding of sports. Their contributions to the body of knowledge of sports literature should be considered valuable and important.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Coming to your bookstore ...

Paul Pedersen at Indiana, a contributor to JSM and now editing his own sports communication journal, has co-authored (tri-authored?) a new textbook. It looks pretty inclusive and is published by Human Kinetics, the same group that will begin publishing the The International Journal of Sport Communication in 2008.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The sports media industry lost a great supporter Monday when author David Halberstam died in a car wreck at the age of 73. Halberstam won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in Vietnam, but one always got the sense that he would much rather write and report on sports. His books on sports, and especially baseball history, have become classics.
Perhaps Halberstam's greatest contribution is the prestige he gave to sports media. Sports journalism has long been derided as the "toy" department of news, but Halberstam gave it weight and importance. All his accomplishments, including the Pulitzer, made sports journalism seem much more important and relevant. In a much smaller way, that's what we're trying to do with the Journal of Sports Media.
I actually got to meet Halberstam a couple of years ago. He was the commencement speaker here at Ole Miss and the night before the department hosted a meet-and-greet with him. I remember how big and imposing he seemed (much like Frank DeFord), but also how open and honest. When I nervously asked if he would be interested in contributing to the journal he politely said that he was simply too busy with other projects to consider it. The next day at graduation, just as Halberstam stepped to the microphone to begin speaking, the skies opened up and it began pouring. Halberstam had the good sense to cut his remarks short and run for cover like everyone else. Good sense and great writing ... that's what we should remember about a remarkable sports journalist.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I'm off to BEA/NAB for the next few days, as are many of you, and probably won't be able to post until next week. If you're in Vegas, don't forget to sign Max Utsler's petiton about creating a Sports Division within BEA.

On a completely unrelated subject, I talked some time ago about what schools were offering sports media programs. I found out that the Texas Tech graduate program offers a speciality in sports media. It appears to be more business and public relations oriented, and also requires courses in exercise science. It's great to see more and more schools recognizing the need for such programs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Brief Word ...

Given the excellent and timely post by Joe Gisondi, I feel almost guilty talking about business today, so this will be brief.

If you're heading out to Las Vegas for NAB/BEA, please contact Max Utlser of Kansas. He is circulating a petition to create a Sports Division within BEA. He can also be reached at

On a day like this, sports are put in perspective

On a day like this, it is difficult to think about sports. Nothing much matters when you hear 31 people have been massacred on a college campus. Nothing matters except taking care of family and connecting with friends. So your school softball team wins 3-2, or your high school captures a conference title. That doesn’t mean much on a day like this. Instead of worrying about pitch counts or golf strokes, we’re too busy counting blessings. Thank God for the people who survived the shootings. We give thanks for the nurses and physicians who plugged and sutured and saved the lives of bullet-riddled young (and old) bodies and for the people we know in Blacksburg, Va., who were not injured and for the police and EMTs who rushed in to save so many others.

On a day like this, we do not worry whether the Yankees won or whether a sprinter can break 22 seconds to reach the NCAA nationals or even that a coach refuses to answer our calls. Instead, we count our blessings, that our family members are safe and secure, and we smother our daughters with long hugs and try not to cry as we watch the ghastly pictures on television. We are numb.

On a day like this, nothing makes sense. Not that a young man could methodically kill so many people. Nor that he could calmly walk down the aisles and shoot students in the head or that he could laugh as classmates slammed to the floor, life (and hope) spilling from their bodies. No matter how much we learn about the shooter’s psyche and background and life, we will never understand or accept that this rampage could happen.

On a day like this, sports do not mean a whole lot – they are just games, ways to celebrate life by romping over freshly mown fields and by chucking round balls into hoops and by kicking balls into nets. We are thankful for these more peaceful times spent with friends and teammates where all was well with the world. Sports can heal and salve the wounds suffered outside the lines, bringing us together and allowing us to forget our worries. In time, games will return to Blacksburg. Athletes will throw pitches and return serves and drive balls down the fairway. And students will return to watch, perhaps to cheer for their school or to escape their worries for a few hours. But these games will matter less for the more obvious reasons one plays sports – to win. That will not be the point on these fields in the coming weeks.

On a day like this, sports are put in perspective. Players who miss free throws in the final seconds are not losers, and young women who strike out to end a game are not proverbial goats. They are just students trying their best, kids who are sad and angry. As journalists, we will certainly cite these plays, but we should not exacerbate the moment, inflaming readers to wonder how someone could fail so miserably. Nobody wants to strike out or miss a shot. We need to be reminded of this as fans and journalists. It’s sad that it takes something so brutal as these shootings on a college campus to remind us about something so obvious.

On a day like this, I feel sadder than I have in some time – even though I am several hundreds of miles away. On TV, the campus police chief is telling me who the shooter is, a senior at the college who majored in English and who used a 9-millimeter handgun. But I really don’t know what this means. I can only hope, in time, I will not want to sit down and cry. My daughter tells me, “I do not want to go to college.” I tell her everything will be okay, that this rampage is not normal. But how do you tell that to a 12-year-old – or to a parent of one of the young men and women who were killed yesterday morning? Or to the kids whose dad was taken away? All I can do is sit on the couch and hold my daughters tightly and watch the scenes on television, wishing hugs were flack jackets. We sit and wait for soccer practice this afternoon, when, once again, they can escape into games with friends. My daughters will fly across the field, spring breezing through their hair, adrenalin pumping through them as they race for loose balls. They will high-five one another after a good play and laugh and joke with their coaches. For a while, I also will be able to smile and laugh and enjoy these games on an open field half a country away. Afterward, I may feel guilty. But these moments are part of the healing process, one I hope the people in Blacksburg can experience soon. My thoughts are with them.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Welcome Aboard!

Joe Gisondi joins the JSM blog team from Eastern Illinois University, where he teaches sports media and sports reporting classes, and advises the daily newspaper. He also has his own sports blog, which focuses on tips and advice for college/high school sports reporters.
Joe didn't say, but it looks like this picture was taken from the Yankee Stadium press box. We won't hold that against him.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Research of the Week

Below is an abstract from an article that appeared in the May 2007 edition of the Journal of Sports Economics. What's interesting about it is that in calculating economic value a lot of things are considered--social peace, hooliganism, etc.--but what's not talked about are the media. Sports are valuable because of the media (team values, rights fees, etc.), but they also create a positive media value (content, jobs, advertising, etc.). A better question might be--if the media suddenly vanished would sports have any economic value at all?

The Total Economic Value of Sporting Events Theory and Practice
Eric Barget, University of Poitiers
Jean-Jacques Gouguet, University of Limoges

The production and consumption of the sporting event generates not only positive externalities (social peace and social links, etc.), butalso negative ones (hooliganism and doping, etc.). Therefore, it is necessary to try to internalize these external effects and determine the total economic value of the sporting event, which would measure the real net social utility created. On this basis, it would be possible to decide whether sporting events deserve to be subsidised—and at whatlevel. More than the general principle that the economic calculation can provide to make a decision, such a determination of the total economic value of a sporting event poses formidable methodological problems. In the case study presented, the authors believe they have reduced many of the biases attached to the travel costs method and contingent valuation method. However, faced with the shortcomings of the cost/benefit method (even when expanded), it is nowadays recommended to resort to a deliberative approach with a view to providing some help in making a decision.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Attention Sports Journalist-Bloggers!

In the process of trying to do a research project I need information from sports reporters/anchors at local television and radio stations who are also blogging. I'd like you to fill out a short survey related to your blogging experience. If you qualify, I can pass along the address for the online survey.

We've found some interesting things so far. Blogging doesn't appear to be changing journalist work roles very much, which may be related to attitudes about management and the age/experience of the respondents. But again, we need more response. Starting next week we'll be making phone calls to pester people, so this is your last chance!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

There's no crying in hockey

I realize this has absolutely nothing to do with sports media (except that in ran in Newsday), but a great story on the the New York Islanders "Ice Girls" and their complaints of rough treatment by the New York Rangers. I ran this by a friend, hockey fan and former television colleague, who said, "All that was missing was the Tom Hanks line from League of Their Own: 'Crying? There's no crying in hockey!' What are these women doing violating the goalie's inner sanctum? Get them off the ice!" Of course, he's also a Rangers fan.
My personal take? The girls were lucky it wasn't Tie Domi or Bob Probert.
Have a safe and blessed end to Holy Week and a joyous Easter ...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

If you're already having college baskeball withdrawals you can find an interesting read at Former Iowa State player (and now author) Paul Shirley offers a first-person essay about the role of the sports media in college basketball. It's a somewhat cynical look at how the media focus too much on the entertainment and profit aspects of the game to care what happens on the court. Although Shirley softens a bit at the end, it's still a fairly strong condemnation of the media and a good example of why such mistrust exists between athletes and reporters.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Student Internship Opportunity

A former student now working at Fox Sports South in Atlanta says there are some great internship opportunities in sports production for interested juniors and seniors. The official job posting reads: "Intern will be working on ACC All-Access, SEC-TV, and the college football preview shows. Job functions include logging tapes, doing melt reels and assisting the AP's and producers on other original programs and features. Must be a Junior/Senior in college receiving credit for internship."

For more information about the internships you can contact Alicia Bowles directly at