Friday, March 28, 2008

Stupid is as Stupid doesn't See

I may be the only person in the western world who didn't get worked up over the recent Vogue cover featuring NBA star LeBron James and supermodel Giselle Bundchen. In fact, I didn't even make a connection to the King Kong image until someone pointed it out to me. (That someone being our deparment chair, "Mr. Magazine," Dr. Samir Husni, who has been quoted on this issue in just about every media outlet in North America).

The cover has received much criticism (and more here) for its seemingly animalistic portrayal of James, and JSM contributor Marie Hardin has some issues with the picture in her blog.

Maybe it's my personal perspective and/or background, but to me this seems like a media-generated controversy (in more ways than one). Yes, Vogue put the image on the cover, but there were plenty of other photos of LeBron and Giselle featured in the spread. If anyone has the right to be offended it's LeBron James, but he has said publicly that he doesn't find anything wrong with the picture.

I guess there are two camps on this issue--one who looks at an image and sees racial insensitivity and another that looks at an image and sees a basketball player with a supermodel. Put me in the latter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The SI Vault

Given the unlimited space available on the Internet, I've often wondered why media companies could not (or would not) make all their historical archives available to the public. There are obvious questions about the labor involved and the economic angle, but there are plenty of benefits as well. (One notable exception is the New York Times, which offers limited archival information going back to 1851).

Sports Illustrated has taken a big step in this direction with the creation of the SI Vault, which is a complete record of every SI issue going back to the first one in 1954. That includes articles, covers and photos. The site is laid out so you can pick and choose what you want to see, but it's also possible to browse an entire single issue page by page, including original advertisements.

JSM applauds the effort and hopes it encourages other sports content providers to do the same. Imagine if the NFL made available on the Internet the original broadcasts of league games (and not just the ones from two or three years ago, but how about the Ice Bowl or the 1958 Colts-Giants game? Some games are available on YouTube, such as Super Bowl X).

Congratulations to SI for taking this step, which should be a big help to researchers in sports media, and especially those whose focus is history or content analysis.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

CFP: Fan Studies

Call for Papers: FAN STUDIES
2008 Midwest Popular Culture Association Conference
Friday-Sunday, October 3-5, 2008
Cincinnati OH
Deadline: April 30, 2008

The Fan Studies area of the Midwest Popular Culture and Midwest American Culture Association is now accepting proposals for its upcoming Conference in October. The MPCA/MACA conference will be held in Cincinnati, OH October 3-5, 2008. Topics can include, but are not limited to fan fiction, multi-media fan production, fan communities, fandom of individual media texts, sports fandom, or the future of fandom. Case studies are
also welcome.

Please send 250 word abstract proposals on any aspect of Fan Studies to Paul Booth, Department of Language, Literature and Communication, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180 or to More information about the conference can be found at Please include name, affiliation, and e-mail address with the 250 word abstract.

Paul Booth

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Forum on Sports and Social Change

The following comes from Eli Wolff at Northeastern University regarding the Forum for Sports and Social Change. For more information the website address is listed, along with his contact information.
Dear Friends:

On behalf of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society, we would like to cordially invite you to the first Power of Sport Summit: A Participatory Forum on Sport and Social Change on June 14th and 15th, 2008 to be held at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Summit will be an interactive meeting of academics, practitioners and advocates working together to define and address current and emerging issues involving the intersection of sport and social justice. The objective of the Summit is to generate discussion around current trends, including what's working, what's possible, and what important actions are needed to help advance the sport and social change movement. All those interested in the intersection of sport and social justice are invited to attend and participate in the Power of Sport Summit, where experts in the fields of research, education and advocacy will unite to celebrate, reinvigorate and advance this very important work. All participants will be vital contributors able to share their expertise. Coaches, program managers, athletes and activists, both youth and adult, will be among those whose tangible experiences are key components in understanding the vital intersection of sport and social justice. The Power of Sport Summit marks the conclusion of a year of innovative research carried out by Sport in Society’s inaugural team of Research Fellows. Their research activities cut across disciplines and demonstrate the powerful connection between sport and social change. Due to the breadth and depth of possible topics, the Power of Sport Summit will combine interactive breakout sessions led by Sport in Society's Research Fellows with “Open Space Technology” (OST) working groups. Rather than concretely define all topics and presenters in advance, participants will also take active roles as self-organizers, setting the agenda for a collaborative working meeting. This dual structure offers participants an opportunity to learn about the latest trends and research currently advancing the sport and social change movement, while also allowing unforeseen topics to emerge and ensuring that the best outcomes are everyone's to create. These working sessions are intended to foster concrete action steps that can make a valuable impact in a variety of ways.

For more information regarding the Summit, including event details and the use of Open Space Technology, registration information and visitor information, please visit the event website.

Any questions may be directed to my attention.

Eli A. Wolff
Manager, Research & Advocacy Center for the Study of Sport in Society
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue, Suite 350 RI
Boston, MA 02120
Work phone: 617-373-8936
Fax: 617-373-4566

Monday, March 17, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Wish I could say I did something productive over spring break, but such is not the case. But I thoroughly enjoyed a week of sleeping in late and not keeping up with things at the office. I was even too lazy to drive down to our town square and hang out with Fox's Shepard Smith, who was in town for the Mississippi primary.

Lots of stuff to catch up on this week, including some advance pub for the College Sports Research Institute conference in Memphis, April 16-19. This link can give you more information on times, schedules and presentations.

The CSRI is also starting a scholarly journal called the Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics. It's a peer-reviewed journal, which at this point appears to be totally online. Submission guidelines are available at the website and the first article has already been posted. As someone familiar with trying to start at academic journal, good luck to CSRI Director Richard Southall and journal editor Kevin Burke.

Friday, March 07, 2008

CFP: New Directions in Communications and Sport

We're supposed to get 1-3" inches of snow and ice here this afternoon, so what better time for spring break? We'll be off all next week, but if I get the urge I'll continue to post. I'm sure our other contributors can help fill the void.

A note before leaving--The Electronic Journal of Communication has announced a special issue focusing on New Directions in Communication and Sport (Volume 19, 2009). The intention is to assess where sport research and communication currently exists, and to forecast areas of research that will merit additional and future attention from communication scholars. The special issue will be comprised of essays that review particular topics or issues pertaining to communication and sport which remain underexplored.

Deadline for submissions is September 1, 2008. For more information contact editor Jeff Kassing at or by phone at 602-543-6631.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

More Sports on the Hill

So far this year, Congress has held hearings on baseball (several), Spygate, and, once again, the NFL Network-Cable Operator debate. Yesterday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, ESPN President George Bodenheimer, executives from Time Warner and Directv, and policy analysis from non-profit organizations testified before the Telecommunications subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The topic? "Competition in the Sports Programming Marketplace".

As usual, nothing was resolved. Goodell asked Congress to crack down on cable operators (namely, Time Warner and Comcast) who refuse to carry the NFL Network on a basic sports tier in favor of networks in which they have an equity stake. The cable operators shot back asking Congress to force the NFL Network to offer its Sunday Ticket package to all consumers, not just Directv.

And so it goes. These type of hearings have become commonplace recently in Washington, D.C.
I attended the Sport and Recreation Law Association conference last weekend in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Dr. Mark Nagel of the Univ. of South Carolina and Jennifer Gibbs, a law student at Emory, presented on some of the current regulatory issues facing the cable industry, focusing on the bundling aspect. It's good to see some academic discussion beginning to surface on this issue.

I have come full circle on this. Neither side is right, yet both sides are right. I understand why Goodell wants Congress to breakup the monopoly power that cable companies have in a given market. I understand why cable operators want Congress to dissolve the exclusive arrangement between the NFL and Directv for Sunday Ticket.

But, it strikes me that the carriage issue (topic of yesterday's hearing) is best left to the marketplace to decide. Fans who really want to watch the NFL Network should switch to satellite (if they can. I know a view of the southern sky is required). Fans who cannot switch and cannot receive the NFL Network should press the marketplace to find alternatives, such as Verizon's FIOS, to deliver video content into their homes.

The solution to this problem is not for Congress to step in and regulate. It is for the markets to sort it out. If the NFL Network (or Big Ten Network or any other governing body-owned entity) or the cable operators find they are losing money or customers, they will adjust their business models. It is what markets do. This debate is too young (18 months) for Congress to step in and regulate. The markets have not had a chance to work it out.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Help needed: Survey on Sports Images

The following comes from a student at Quinnipiac University asking for help on a research study related to sports images. The survey only takes a few minutes, so help out if you can.

My name is Jared Zeidman and I'm a senior Media Studies major at Quinnipiac University. Last semester, I conducted a research study that examined racial and ethnic stereotypes of sports-related images (mascots and athletes) in media texts. I found a significant difference between responses from sports fans and non-fans. The overwhelming majority of participants that identified themselves as sports fans saw little to no issue in any of the images. Meanwhile, more than 75% of the non-fans who participated felt that the images were offensive and or racist.

This semester, I am expanding my study. Here is a link to the survey I have developed. My goal now is to collect significantly more responses from people around the country. Please ask your students if they have a few minutes to set aside and carefully respond to the survey. It would certainly be of great assistance to me. I would like to begin compiling results by March 16th.

In advance, I thank you for your assistance,
Jared W. Zeidman

Sunday, March 02, 2008

What's at "Play" this issue?

I subscribe to only one newspaper and it arrives one day each week - the Sunday New York Times. It is too bad that only once every four months Play Magazine arrives with it. Great writing and unique perspectives on sports. It's a refreshing break from much of the drivel of today's Cold Pizza sports media. This issue's highlights include:

Joe Nocera writing about why owners of lousy pro sports teams refuse to sell and Jonathan Mahler writing "Oedipus Bronx," a profile of the Steinbrenner family.

But the article of interest to many of the readers of this space should be Bryan Curtis's analysis of the Rick Reilly from SI to ESPN and Dan Patrick from ESPN to SI "trade." Curtis discusses how each will contribute to multiple platforms (.com, magazine, radio) and offers the following observation at the end of the article:
"the Web has changed something about the essential nature of sports journalism. For the better part of a century, we sports fans lived in a media universe ruled by swaggering, outsize voices — from Royko to Reilly, from Howard Cosell to Dan and Keith. But the stars of the new frontier, the Web, are not what we would recognize as general opiners so much as experts on particular niches: statistics, college recruiting, major-league farm systems and other forms of advanced sports studies. of’s John Hollinger, fantasy savants like Matthew Berry, gossip outposts like Deadspin and the Big Lead, recruiting gurus at (A notable exception is Simmons, a general columnist with broad reach.) ... The Web is not, at its heart, a place for nihilistic attitude-mongering but something that feels more like sports academia. In the face of all these bits of information, Patrick and Reilly, of course, are offering up what is essentially shtick. You can lead a sports fan to a smart-alecky, middle-aged white guy, but can you make him pay attention?"

Sports academia?! Clearly there are many reputable "sports academia" web sites (e.g. Sports Law Blog, Sports Economist, maybe even this one). However, I would argue the sports Web feels more like bar debates, fan forums, and gossip than academia. Don't get me wrong, I love Deadspin and The Big Lead as much as anyone (must reads for my RSS feed), but I do not consider them academic and it strikes me that Curtis does. I think they perform an important function as a quasi watchdog of sports media and frequently they alert me to things I would not otherwise have paid attention to.

I think Curtis's best observation was earlier in his column, where he stated:
"What looks like a small masterpiece on the back page of Sports Illustrated might seem somehow smaller on the Internet. But where some of us gaze at the Web and see a delightfully shaggy form of journalism, Reilly sees too many sloppy, overly indulgent meditations."

Perhaps so, Rick. But that seems to be what people want right now and what seems to be working. I understand why traditional mainstream media resist the Web and blogging (it runs counter to their education and upbringing), but it does not appear this new form of sports journalism is losing momentum.