Friday, October 30, 2009

JSM Halloween quiz ... can you name the famous face that graces the pumpkin carving at left? We'll answer at the end, but if you can't wait you can find it and other sports-related pumpkins at this website.

A couple of things to pass along on this day before Halloween (and Reformation Day) and two days before All Saints Day ...

A reminder of the approaching deadline for the CSRI Scholarly Conference on College Sport, April 21-23 at the University of North Carolina. The conference is now accepting abstracts and will continue to do so through next January 15. More submission information can be found here.

Also, don't forget the Sports Division blog at BEA. It has important information about events, programs and panels at next year's BEA Convention in Las Vegas. BEA is also conducting a survey to learn more about college sports programs around the country, and hopes to present the findings in a pre-convention panel. If you are interested in the survey you can find it here.

One more reminder ... don't forget to set your clocks back one hour Saturday night when Daylight Savings Time ends (remember, fall back ... spring forward). Yes, an extra hour of sleep this weekend!

The answer to our pumpkin puzzle? None other than St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial, the only person upon his retirement to rank in the top 25 all-time in every major batting category.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Religion in Sports (Continued)

We ended last week talking about the growth of religion in sports, with a particular emphasis on what role the media play. What got the conversation stared was an op-ed piece by Tom Krattenmaker that appeared in USA Today.

After my blog post on Friday, Mr. Krattenmaker graciously contacted me to correct a point I had made. I stated that like so many others he seemed to be advocating a separation of 'church and sport.' But Tom wrote back to say that his writings typically defend the freedom of religious expression. To set the record straight, I've attached more of Tom's positions here and here. At the risk of another misinterpretation (anathema to a journalist), Tom's postion is, "I’m not against religion in sports, and that I’m not against religion. I do have a passion for interfaith understanding and cooperation, so from that standpoint I question the use of sports to advance an exclusive and potentially divisive agenda that asserts the superiority of one particular religion."

But I will make one final point. Tom's position is commendable, but in a very real sense impossible. I'm not an expert on religion, but almost every major world religion (including Christianity and Islam) believes that it is the only path to eternal salvation and those who don't share its views are doomed to damnation. Thus, it would seem that almost by definition religious faith is "exclusive and potentially divisive" (as the Christians, Jews and Muslims fighting in the Middle East for hundreds of years can attest).

Perhaps we're arguing here over the difference between "acceptance" and "belief." Is it possible to have a strong faith and still "accept" other religions? In response the faithful Christian would say, "I accept the fact that you have a different faith, but from my perspective that faith is misplaced. Anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ as a personal savior is spiritually lost." (Obviously, a Muslim could say much the same in regards to belief in Allah). Thus, is it truly possible to "accept" other faiths? The Christian would say "no." Any faith beyond Christianity is misplaced and those who do not share the faith need to be led to an understanding an acceptance. There is no "tolerance" in this sense; either you believe in Christ and are saved or you do not and are not. (And again, the same can be said for other beliefs).

Thus, if you are for freedom of religious expression you must be willing to hear messages that are potentially divisive and exclusive. Freedom of expression only for inclusive religious messages misses the point of what true faith is all about.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Remember this guy? Those of us who go back to the '70s can probably identify "Rock 'n Rollen," the name he used at various sporting events where he sported his trademark rainbow Afro and usually held a sign that said "John 3:16." (His real name is Rollen Stewart and believe it or not, there is actually a documentary about him).

Rollen's act seemed harmless back in the day; nothing more than a chucklesome curiosity. But now more and more athletes, coaches and other sports figures are pushing a religious message, both on and off the field. Florida quarterback and former Heisman winner Tim Tebow is among many who have promoted a pro-Christian message, which has now created an anti-religious backlash. Tom Krattenmaker's op-ed piece in USA Today (a shorter version of his book on the subject) basically said that people are tired of the proselytizing and that athletes like Tebow should keep quiet (basically the sports version of separation of church and state; not an uncommon analogy given the religious symbolism of today's sport). Just as quickly, pro-Christian groups rose to Tebow's defense.

There are a few points from all this that I think need to be said:

1) This is an issue because there is so much media out there. In the days before YouTube, FaceBook and other instant access, instant communication technologies hardly anyone was complaining. So if you want to blame someone, blame the media for constantly sticking a microphone in someone's face. You can't blame Tebow or others for using the opportunity to espouse something they feel strongly about.

2) Say what you want about Tebow and others like him (including Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and another Heisman winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma), but they are not hypocrites. Many of these athletes and coaches have gone on mission trips, worked in disadvantaged inner city neighborhoods and generally done a lot of positive things to help people all over the world.

3) The main thing that disturbs me about the religious promotion, especially after a game, is that it gives the impression that faith is a zero-sum game. In other words, if God gets the credit for Team A's victory it suggests that God wanted to hurt or punish Team B. I can't believe that God would want anyone to lose, get hurt or otherwise fail in a sporting event. Failure, defeat, humiliation and the like happen because we live in a fallen world, not because God chooses one team over another.

4) What especially seems to upset Krattenmaker and others is what's perceived as Christianity's exclusivness. In an age that puts so much emphasis on diversity, inclusion and acceptance many can't accept the basic Christian message so clearly expressed in John 14:6--"Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" In most cases, the desire to see non-believers come to Christ is not a matter of trying to force or impose one's belief, but out of a genuine sense of love. There is a real sense of urgency because Christians believe that the person who does not accept Jesus is lost to eternal damnation.

That's a strong motivation to get out the message ... and a lot more serious than losing a football game.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

CFP: The Development of Women Sport

Thought I'd pass along this CFP. I've never been to Sweden, but I have been to Norway, Iowa; Scotland, Texas; Brazil, Indiana and Paris, Illinois.


The Development of Women Sport: Separate but not Equal

Saturday, April 10 – Monday, April 12, 2010

Department of Sport Science, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden

Location, Orkanen

Gender differences and similarities, and whether differences and similarities should be reflected in the organization of sports, is a hotly contended issue in media, in sports, and between scholars. There is consensus about the basic inequalities within sports, but how can that be corrected? Who will spearhead the campaign for gender equality in sports, and in what way should it be run? In various ways, feminists have tried to steer society towards gender equality, but how did the association sports respond? These and many more questions concerning men, women and sports will be subject to thorough exploration at this unique conference.

The conference on gender and sports will have a number of exciting keynote speakers: Raewyn Connell (Australia), Kari Fasting (Norway), Pirkko Markula (Canada), Celia Brackenridge (UK), Gertrud Pfister (Denmark), Sigmund Loland (Norway), Marion Keim (South Africa), Boria Majumdar (India) Martin Polley (UK), Susanna Hedenborg (Sweden).

The conference committee now invites participants to present PAPERS, relating to the theme of gender, women and sports.

Please submit ABSTRACTS (250 – 400 words) electronically to

o Annika Larsson (

no later than December 15, 2009. Notification of acceptance will be given on January 11 2010. Accepted articles must be submitted in full by March 15th, and will be considered for publication in a special issue of Sport and Society, in 2011, or in Nordic Sport Studies Forum.

For further information, please contact Susanna Hedenborg, Malmö University (

But Actually, It’s Two Conferences...

The Department of Sport Science is organizing two separate, and yet partly coinciding conferences, under the joint heading of ”Centers and Peripheries in Sport”. Both conferences are focusing on inequalities in the development of sport. The first conference, “The Development of Football: Commercialization, Culture and Identity”, commencing on the 8th of April, acknowledges the inconsistencies in association football between centers and peripheries in the European context. On Saturday the 10th a particular focus on women’s football will mark the end of the first conference and the opening of the second conference, “The Development of Women Sport: Separate but not Equal”, which concentrates on the development of women’s sports, with an emphasis on equality and differences. A separate Call for Papers for the second conference has been distributed, and can be accessed through the conference website, http://www.centersandperipheriesinsport (active from October 26, 2009).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Job Opening: University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas has posted an opening for a position in sports media. The ad is below, but can also be accessed through the AEJMC website.


The University of Arkansas

Assistant Professor, Sports New Media
The Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism

The Lemke Journalism Department seeks an assistant professor (tenure-track) in sports journalism, with an emphasis in new media and video production. Candidates must have professional background in multi-media sports reporting and/or promotion, with college or professional teams. A Masters degree is required. The successful candidate will build and direct a new sports journalism curriculum that will involve a partnership with the Department of Athletics. Responsibilities to the Lemke Journalism Department will include coordinating a sports media internship program and teaching classroom and practicum courses in sports reporting, social media and video production for broadcast and web streaming, Responsibilities to the Athletic Department include directing student production teams for “RazorVision,” including live in-venue video production, coaches’ shows, press conferences, live broadcasts and video highlights.

The Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism offers bachelor’s degree and master’s degree programs in journalism, with concentrations in advertising/public relations, broadcasting and news/editorial. The undergraduate journalism program has more than 530 majors and the graduate journalism program has more than 20 majors. Accredited by the ACEJMC, the Lemke Journalism Department is one of the oldest at the University of Arkansas and has alumni working across the country and internationally. The journalism department is a part of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences. The post will begin as early as the January 2010 academic semester.

The University of Arkansas, with an enrollment of approximately 19,300 students is in Fayetteville, which is in the northwest corner of the state, approximately 35 miles south of Missouri and 35 miles east of Oklahoma. Fayetteville, with its population of more than 70,000, is part of a northwest Arkansas region that has a population of more than 380,000 and boasts three Fortune 500 companies in a two-county region. Fayetteville is the flagship campus in the University of Arkansas System. The UofA is the state Land Grant research institution and a member of the Southeast Conference.

Applications from qualified candidates who are committed to enhancing education in a diverse learning and work environment should send a letter of interest, resume, three references and samples of or internet links to production work to:Professor Larry Foley, Chairman, faculty search committee, Lemke Department of Journalism, 116 Kimpel Hall, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Because I don't often go to live sporting events, it was an obvious treat to watch the Texas-Oklahoma football game Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Our seats were in the upper deck end zone, which gave us a really good view of everything going on. Even though we were up high you could clearly see the action on the field. It was a great day, beautiful weather and a nice outcome on the field.

But when I got back home and watched the ABC replay (yes, and more than once in fact) it became apparent that maybe I missed more than I thought. There were several plays on the field that I was sure the officials got wrong, but changed my mind after looking at the replays.

It now seems that sports media technology has made the home viewing experience superior to the live experience. High definition TV has made the home picture equal to the real thing, and a multitude of cameras from different angles make sure you don't miss anything. As much as I often rail on sideline announcers, I actually missed having access to one Saturday to get updates on the Sam Bradford injury. (It was interesting to note that the many people in our section with wireless Internet/phone access were getting regular updates). And yes, I even missed the ABC game commentary. To be totally honest, the State Fair was very overcrowded (lines for corny dogs after the game were 45 minutes plus), all the additional trains going to and from the game didn't work very well, and sunburn was a very real concern in a game that lasted more than 4 hours.

One of the reasons the game lasted so long was because of numerous reviews and TV timeouts--things that make the game better for those watching at home, but not for the fan in the stands. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I went ... but it seems like we've reached the point where media technology has made it easier, cheaper and even better to just stay home and watch.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Off to Big D

Sorry about the relative lack of postings here this week ... it has been a very busy time. In addition to everything else, my son and I are headed to Dallas for the Texas-OU football game and the Texas State Fair. (The picture should at least suggest which side we're rooting for). In an attempt to connect at least some of this to sports media--

Have you noticed that despite two OU losses, ESPN has plugged the game almost as much as last year when the two teams were unbeaten? The game is on ABC Saturday, and both ABC and ESPN are owned by Disney. By comparison, ESPN has said almost nothing about a very intriguing matchup between Notre Dame and USC, a game that will be televised on the Notre Dame Broadcasting Company (NBC). Last week, ESPN's tone on the Florida-LSU matchup was relatively tame because the game was on CBS. (Although, credit to ESPN for having its College Gameday program from Baton Rouge). By contrast, the ABC primetime game was Iowa-Michigan; an interesting matchup, but not a marquee TV attraction.

It's a difficult balancing act for ESPN, CBS, ABC and the major carriers of college football. You want to hype the games on your related networks, but at the same time you shouldn't ignore important games going on somewhere else. If nothing else, don't bury your head in the sand and pretend that the other games aren't even going on. If you tuned in to ESPN this week you would think the biggest game was South Florida-Cincinnati (a Thursday night ESPN game) instead of Notre Dame-USC.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dumb and Dumberer

Can major league baseball do any more to hurt its already shaky reputation?
Forget the sub-zero temperatures for last night's playoff game between the Phillies and Rockies in Denver. It's essentially the same problem all northern MLB teams face every year in April, so unless you build a dome there's no use complaining (just bundle up like Jayson Werth of the Phils).

But MLB can do something about start times, and Sunday night's 10:07 (!) pm (eastern) start for Game 3 was absolutely ridiculous. The start virtually guaranteed the game would go past midnight in the east (past 1 am, actually), meaning lots of interested fans in Philadelphia (especially kids) were probably already in bed and missed the dramatic ending.

As usual, this whole mess is about television and ratings. The logical thing to do would be to put the games in the daytime, but MLB doesn't want to (or doesn't think it can) compete with the NFL. So the sport's most dramatic time of the season gets shunted off to the nether-world of 10pm start times on cable channels, while the NFL teams play all through the day on the major networks. Even when baseball doesn't go head-to-head with the NFL it stubbornly schedules most of its games so that they end well past midnight in the east.

MLB finds itself in a very difficult position, caught between the needs of television and the best interest of its fans, who too often these days get the short end of the stick. It's very easy to blame television, but that's where most of the money comes from, and without the media money baseball is in real trouble (think of the NHL and Versus).

Even so, baseball could take back a measure of control from the networks and insist on more sensible scheduling, which includes more day and early evening games. The networks will ask, "Who's going to be home watching at one in the afternoon?" A better question is, "Who's still going to be awake and watching at one in the morning?"

Friday, October 09, 2009

PSU's "Expert Opinion"

Kudos to Penn State (and its Center for Sports Journalism) for producing its "Expert Opinion" series. The 3 programs all focus on a different area of sports media, including careers in sports journalism (which ran Wednesday), the impact of new media (Oct. 14), and how athletes can handle life after college competition (Oct. 21). All the programs all available on the Big 10 Network, which airs campus programming from conference schools when it's not showing games or other sports features.

But having said that, the show really drags with low production values (a nice way of saying it's pretty boring ... essentially four people sitting around set talking for an entire hour), which means a lot of the good information gets lost. Now, maybe they did something later in the hour to perk up things, but I had quit watching long since then.

At the risk of coming off as too critical--c'mon Penn State! These important topics deserve a little bit better treatment.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Me and some of my colleagues here at Ole Miss are considering putting together a football video chronicling the history of Ole Miss football. In the process of trying to get permissions cleared up, I was shocked to learn that the university has sold many of the rights to its stock footage to an independent production company. In other words, the university doesn't even own the rights to its own games! Apparently, this independent company will make the material available (for a fee, of course) to consumers through online downloading.

That just goes to show you how valuable sports content is in today's market, a lesson that is not lost on the Southeastern Conference. Every year, the SEC revises and updates its media credentialing policy; rules that define who can cover its games and what they can publish or broadcast. What made this year's guidelines so controversial were several new rules, including restricting the use of photos and broadcast material on newspaper web sites, a virtual ban on all user-generated videography, limited blogging and a stipulation that only full-time salaried employees could get credentials.

Obviously, such rules created a firestorm of negative reaction among the media. Three leading media organizations affiliated with The Associated Press officially protested the policy. "The SEC and some other big college conferences want to become publishing and broadcasting businesses now," said David Tomlin, The Associated Press' associate general counsel. "They see the pro leagues doing it and they think it's the way to go. So the strategy is to push independent news coverage into a corner to make room for their own information services and programming.

Essentially, the SEC was trying to become both content provider and distributor, taking control of content created by media outlets covering the games. Although the SEC listened to the complaints and has revised its policy (you can see the final version here), there is no doubt that Pandora's Box is now open. The conference will undoubtedly try again, because sports content is simply too valuable, especially for a hot product like the SEC. This tug-of-war is going to continue, with more and more content providers getting into the areas of distribution and ownership (notice how Mr. Tomlin said, "The SEC and other big college conferences ... ") It's a dangerous sign for the traditional sports media, despite what appears to be a victory for the moment.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Penn State, BTN team on interesting sport media talk shows

I posted this on my personal blog a few minutes ago and thought the audience here would want to tune in.

Just caught this today on my Twitter feed (H/T @KnightAthletics). Penn State is hosting a series of Expert Opinion talk shows on sport media and college athletics. The shows, part of the “Expert Opinion with Graham Spanier” series, will also air on Wednesdays in October on the Big Ten Network.

From the news release: the first show is “Careers in Sports Journalism” (Oct. 7); the second show is “Impact of New Media” (Oct. 14); and the third show is “Life After NCAA” (Oct. 21). The New Media panel includes Marie Hardin of the Penn State’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism and Kathleen Hessert of Sport Media Challenge. Hardin does good research in the sports media area and writes an insightful blog, Sports, Media & Society. Hessert must have an amazing amount of frequent flyer miles, because she has been everywhere in 2009.

The series looks worthwhile.

Help needed: Students in sports studies

The following comes from Karen Hartman at Ashland (OH) University. If you can help her out, please contact her directly:
I am currently writing a pedagogical paper on the benefits of using sport as a frame to draw students into courses they might initially think are "boring." I am in search of statistics and articles that demonstrate trends in sport and academia. In other words, what (if any) information is out there that shows the numbers of students involved in sport studies, trends of more students participating in sport studies, or even the increasing amount of jobs in sport.

I have plenty of research on the qualitative benefits of studying sport, but thought some of you might be able to point me in the right direction to find some quantitative research.

Thanks in advance for your time and help!

Karen L. Hartman
Assistant Professor of Sport Communication
Ashland University