Friday, April 30, 2010

Last Day ... Woo-hoo!

A couple of notes to observe/celebrate the last day of classes here...

The International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing is accepting submissions for a special issue, "Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability and Stewardship Within Sport." The deadline is August 2; you can find more information at the journal website.

And this Monday, May 3, Marist College will host the Associated Press Sports Editors Northeast Regional Meeting. What makes the meeting interesting is that for the first time APSE will stream its meeting online, allowing interested viewers not only to watch, but to ask questions of the panels. The first panel at 1:15 EST is "Finding Your Role in the New Journalism Landscape;" the second panel at 3:30pm is "Great Sports Writing."

To view the sessions you can go to the Marist site and follow the links, or type this link directly in to your browser. And if you're going to be in Poughkeepsie for the meeting, be sure to say hello to Dr. Keith Strudler ...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Slippery Slope

Interesting comments from the NFL Players Association regarding the handling of newly-drafted receiver Dez Bryant. It seems that as part of the interview process between NFL teams and prospective players held before the draft, Dolphins G.M. Jeff Ireland asked Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. Ireland later apologized and is now under investigation by Dolphins ownership.

The NFLPA was obviously critical of the situation and executive director DeMaurice Smith went on to say, "During interviews, our players and prospective players should never be subjected to discrimination or degradation stemming from the biases or misconceptions held by team personnel. NFL teams cannot have the free reign to ask questions during the interview process which can be categorized as stereotyping or which may bring a personal insult to any player as a man."

OK, no problem there. This is an internal matter and the NFLPA is telling the owners to use more discretion in its pre-draft interviews. But play the "what-if" game for a minute. Substitute
the word "media" for "NFL teams" and read the sentence: "[Members of the media] cannot have the free reign to ask questions ... which can be categorized as stereotyping or which may bring a personal insult to any player as a man."

No one is saying the NFLPA would ever take such a step. And no one is defending the type of question Ireland asked of Dez Bryant. But if the NFLPA can lay down rules to the league about what types of questions it can ask, is it completely out of the question to think that somewhere down the line it might make rules for the media? NFL players are already complaining that they give away their interview time for free as part of televising the games on Sunday, so the slope keeps getting slipperier, which is not good news for the sports media. In its report, the ESPN headline says NFL interviewers can't "cross the line." The question then becomes ... who determines that line?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Quick Update ...

... on yesterday's story involving the suspension of Mike Bacsik at Sports Radio 1310 in Dallas; today the station fired Bacsik for his Twitter comments (and other inappropriate behavior).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When Will They Learn?

You would think that in this day and age sports media types would be aware of the dangers of saying something potentially offensive in a public forum, but here we have not one, but two instances of reporters in some hot water.

Sports radio 1310 in Dallas has suspended on-air personality Mike Bacsik for derogatory comments he made on his Twitter account about Hispanics in San Antonio following a Spurs-Mavericks NBA playoff game. (If Bacsik's name rings a bell, he's the guy who served up record breaking home run #756 to Barry Bonds a few years ago). There's no word yet on what will happen to popular Boston sports radio personality Fred Toettcher, who compared Tim Tebow and his family to "Nazis."

Three points here, the first being ... how dumb can some guys get? People have lost jobs and careers have been destroyed for saying racially insensitive things on the air. Secondly, those in the sports media have got to start realizing the potential danger and impact of Twitter, Facebook and other instantaneous social media. Too often, people post reactions without stopping to think about the ramifications of their comments. That includes the offensive, the angry and the just plain mean.

The last point is about the Tebow comment. David Whitley rightly makes the case that if it's not OK to say offensive things about Hispanics and blacks, then it shouldn't be OK to offend whites by comparing them to Nazis. It will interesting to see what, if any, punishment Toettcher receives for what he said. If nothing is done, or he merely gets a slap on the wrist, then there's a very serious double standard at work.

Monday, April 26, 2010

One Final Thought

One last thing on the just-completed NFL draft, then I, like Mel Kiper, will keep quiet about it until 2011.

Kiper, ESPN's draft expert (and famed for his pompadour), is one of several "experts" at ESPN who give additional coverage for additional money. ESPN calls these guys (including Chad Ford on the NBA) "Insiders," and to access their content requires you to pay a fee--anywhere from $2.50 to $6.95 a month. For example, Kiper's draft analysis for all 32 teams is now available, but only to ESPN Insiders.

But you can easily find the same material for free elsewhere on the Internet, which shouldn't be that surprising. The most likely culprits are those fans who pay the ESPN Insider fee, then reproduce the material so they comment on it for their own blogs or websites.

There are two issues here, legal and economic. I'm not a legal expert, so I don't know how (or if) ESPN (or other pay sites) can protect their copyrighted material. But it does seem like they are losing a lot of potential revenue in this deal. Why should I pay ESPN money when I can get essentially the same content for free somewhere else? I'm sure ESPN is thinking the same thing, but a good solution to the problem (at least from the content provider point of view) escapes me.

Friday, April 23, 2010

NFL Draft (Cont'd.)

Haven't seen the television ratings numbers yet for the new (and improved?) NFL draft, but the league is expecting monster numbers; certainly bigger than for any previous first-day ratings. Last night's first round, which was again televised live by NFL Network and ESPN, got a boost because it moved so quickly. Usually, the first round drags on for several hours, but perhaps aware of their new prime time role, NFL executives rolled through all 32 picks in a little over 3 hours.

While the NFL and its fan base will certainly celebrate a successful night, not everyone is so happy. The decision to put the first two nights of the draft in prime time (tonight's second round starts at 6pm EST) pushed all other cable sports off the front pages, including some interesting games in the NBA and NHL playoffs. Even though its early in the NBA playoffs, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban doesn't like the idea of playing second fiddle to the NFL draft.

But hey, Mark ... it's an NFL world and we're just living in it. In many ways, the NFL draft has become perhaps the premier sports event that doesn't actually involve competition. (Unless you count the Lingerie Bowl). My guess is the ratings numbers will be strong enough to convince the league to keep its Thursday-Friday-Saturday TV format.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Enough, Already

The sports writers, bloggers, reporters, Internet experts and almost anyone else with a pulse have talked ad nauseam about the NFL draft since one minute after the Super Bowl ended. Finally, and mercifully, the day is finally here (or is it Day with a capital D?). In an effort to make the draft more viewer-friendly, the NFL has moved it to prime time starting tonight and Friday. Saturday's wind-up starts at 10am (EST).

The idea is to make the draft (or is it Draft with a capital D?) more like the Oscars, so tonight's first round coverage will include red- carpet appearances by former NFL stars who were voted "best draft picks" of all time by the fans. All of this comes two days after the NFL announced its 2010 schedule with a fanfare usually reserved for the election of a new pope.

Apparently, there is no event, no story, no league matter too trivial to publicize. Then when a really important story pops up, like the recent suspension of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, it gets lost like just another snowflake in a non-stop blizzard. Yes, the media covered the incident, but the major question seemed to be how the suspension would affect the Steelers draft plans.

I'm not naive; I realize the NFL is the hottest thing going and that there is tremendous interest in the draft. But at what point does overexposure start to endanger the golden goose? Not too long ago, NFL games on Sunday and Monday night marked those times as culturally significant; now the league is everywhere and anywhere 365/24/7. At what point does it become just something else on TV to help people kill time? When do the NY Giants become just more programming to compete with Housewives of NY? At what point do they become the same program?

Many years ago Jack Nicklaus was playing a round of golf and teed off on a long hole with a 3-wood. His playing partner asked him, "Why didn't you hit the driver?" Nicklaus responded, "Sometimes, you've got to keep a little bit back." It applies to the sports media as well, and it's a lesson the NFL could well learn.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shamless Self Promotion

If you are in the market for a textbook this fall on sport/media relations, I would recommend the 3rd edition of Media Relations in Sport from FIT in West Virginia. Myself, Craig Esherick (the former Georgetown basketball coach) and Phil Caskey have just completed this revised edition.

I realize the writing in the image is teeny-tiny; if you don't want to get out your glasses, it reads: "The book is written with the idea that sports media communication does not exist as something as only something to be discussed in the abstract. Rather, there are fundamental skills, approaches and procedures that relate directly to the success of communication."

If you're interested in a more detailed explanation or a Table of Contents, email me and I'll send it to you ( If you want an exam copy you can order one here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Final Thoughts from BEA-Vegas

I'm somewhat recovered from the BEA trip to Las Vegas, but sure could use a little more sleep ...

Based on discussions I had with colleagues, talks are moving forward regarding making JSM the official publication of the new AEJMC sports interest group. If it does become official, interest group members would receive a JSM subscription (at a discounted price) as part of their membership fees. None of this would be finalized until the official interest group meeting at the AEJMC convention in Denver this August. One of the things we'll have to discuss at that meeting is perhaps increasing publication frequency to 3 or 4 times a year. If there is an affiliation with AEJMC, JSM submission rates should increase. We're already backlogged with submissions and I certainly don't want to turn away any good research. I would be interested in your thoughts on increasing publication, if you care to share them.

One non-Vegas note ... Sports Marketing Quarterly has issued a call for papers for a special issue on the topic of sales force management in sport. Scholars and practitioners with research interests in the area of sales force productivity are invited to submit. Deadline for submission is June 1, 2010. For more information, or to submit a manuscript, contact:

Dr. Richard L. Irwin
Professor & Director
Bureau of Sport & Leisure Commerce
University of Memphis
(901) 678-3476

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Few Notes from BEA

Lots of great things going on here at BEA in Las Vegas, especially regarding sports scholarship. On Thursday, a day-long sports syposium featured some outstanding research by sports scholars from across the country. Many thanks to Andy Billings of Clemson who organized and directed the symposium. Today, our JSM panel takes place. In all, I believe there were more than a dozen or so sports-related panels and presentations. Much credit goes to Mike Bruce, the chair of the BEA Sports Division.

Most of all, it's just the chance to meet and talk with other sports scholars in an informal setting. I had breakfast this morning with Marie Hardin of Penn State and Scott Reinardy of Kansas (both of whom have been instrumental in bringing a sports interest group to AEJMC) and it was an enlightening meeting. Scott is a firm believer in 'micro-journalism' as the future of both journalism and journalism education; that is, students must be trained to become media specialists and become experts in one field. He believes students must sell themselves as media entrepreneurs (which includes individual blogs and web pages), rather than trying find jobs in the established mass media. I can't say I disagree, particularly after he told me about some success stories of students who used the newer media to position themselves in a shrinking job market.

More to come when I get back to Oxford, which thankfully will be this weekend. I have never been a big fan of Las Vegas, which has become kind of a Disneyworld with gambling.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thank you, Ron

One more thing before Vegas (see the previous post) ...

It's Journalism Week here at Ole Miss, and we have invited in several guest speakers for the students. I suppose the headline speaker would be Dan Rather, but for me one of the highlights so far was ESPN's Ron Franklin. Franklin is an Ole Miss alum whose voice is heard by millions every Saturday night during college football and basketball seasons. But he acts like anything but a big-time sports announcer.

Today, during his presentation, lunch and classroom visit, Ron was gracious, polite and genuinely interested in what the students had to say. He gave as much of his time as anyone wanted, and certainly didn't try to 'big-time' anyone.

In a business where nice guys are sometimes in short supply, Ron is a true gentleman. And if you ever see him on one of his many travels, in an airport or maybe at an arena, go shake his hand and tell him so.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What happens with JSM, stay with JSM

I'm off to Las Vegas for the annual BEA convention. If you're anywhere near the area don't forget the JSM panel discussion is Friday at 2:45pm at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It's one of several sports-related panels, thanks to the work of the BEA Sports Division. If anything interesting happens in Vegas (at least, sports - wise) I'll be sure to pass it along.

As a parting gift, here's a call for the Journal of Physical Education and Sport Management. JPESM is a relatively new journal that we have not referenced here before. It publishes more frequently than most other journals (once a month), so there might be a better opportunity to get something in print.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ratings Rush

It's Journalism Week here at Ole Miss, so my time is somewhat limited, but I did want to spend a few minutes on the dominant sports story of the weekend.

The Masters golf tournament gave us an instructive lesson in how the sports media succeed today: start with celebrity athletes, throw in some compelling story lines, and then add a dash of dramatic competition. This weekend's Masters had all three and it may end up as the highest rated golf program of all time. Tiger Woods provided the celebrity cache, and his mere presence juiced the first-round TV ratings 50% over last year. By staying in contention all through the weekend, Tiger added drama to Sunday's final round, which was won by another sentimental favorite Phil Mickelson. Mickelson took some time off last year to attend to his wife, who is suffering from breast cancer, so the win had something of a feel-good storybook ending. The end result was another monster ratings win for CBS, which has been on a pretty good roll so far this year.

It was surprising that Tiger played so well, despite his long layoff and the enormous pressure he faces. Golf on TV simply isn't the same without Woods, even if he does occasionally cuss on the course. Tiger promised a different outlook to his game after his fall from grace, but this weekend it looked much like the same old player. For that, the networks, corporate sponsors and the PGA Tour have to be breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Help needed: AWSM

And now this public service announcement ...

The Association for Women in Sports Media is looking for a sports comm professor to moderate a panel at its annual conference in Los Angeles at the end of the month. If anyone will be at the conference or in the LA area and would be willing to do it, please send an e-mail to Marie Hardin at Penn State,

Tiger Woods tees off in the Masters at 1:42pm (EST) today ... and the world waits.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What's in a Name ... ?

... plenty, according to the NCAA. But the organization's effort to rid college sports of potentially offensive Native American mascots is riddled with inconsistencies, much like the NCAA itself. The NCAA said William & Mary had to get rid of its logo, which contained two feathers. Today, W&M decided half a loaf was better than none, so it simply kept its Tribe nickname and came up with a new mascot. (On the subject of inconsistency, why does W&M have to get rid of its logo, yet Florida State is allowed to keep its Seminole mascot and tomahawk chop? The NCAA says it's because the Seminole tribe in Florida signed off on the mascot, while no "tribe" can give the OK to W&M. Gee, could big-time money also be involved?).

William & Mary's decision gives us a chance to revisit the media policy on these potentially offensive nicknames. You'll remember that in the early '90s, thanks in part to the efforts of the Native American Journalists Association, it became quite fashionable for some newspapers to refuse to reprint offensive team names. But that movement seems to have died down. The Portland Oregonian and the Lincoln (NE) Journal-Star seem to be the only major media outlets to have a ban in place. The Minneapolis Star- Tribune enacted a ban in 1994, only to rescind it a couple of years later. Editors said they reversed the policy in the name of "accuracy" and in response to "the changing society covered in these pages." A few years ago, John Levesque of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote, "It's whether the sports pages should reflect reality or promote morality." If that's the case, then the sports media are overwhelmingly taking the reality road, or at least hiding behind the fact that it's hard to report on the Redskins game without using the word Redskins.

Writing for the Poynter Institute in 2003, Fanua Borodzicz was surprised to learn how little traction the issue had at that time. It's more surprising to learn that seven years later the sports media have done even less.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Win ... or Else

Tiger Woods played a practice round at the Masters Monday, then met with the media in his first uncontrolled interview since his world unraveled last November. Whether this was general contrition or simply more media management is anybody's guess, but Tiger seemed surprisingly open, refusing to answer only one two questions as "personal." (If you were keeping score, the final tally was 35 non-golf/personal questions and 9 golf questions). He even posted a transcript of the entire event on his own website.

The most interesting question came from someone who asked if Tiger was surprised at the media attention. Woods's answer:

Well, I was surprised at the mainstream media. I think it's also the times have changed, as well. With 24-hour news, you're looking for any kind of news to get out there. I know a lot of my friends are in here, and I haven't seen them, I haven't talked to them, but I've read their articles, and of course they have been critical of me. They should, because what I have done was wrong. But then again, I know a lot of them -- I know a lot of you in here are my friends and will always be my friends.

That shows an amazing amount of naivete for someone who has controlled and manipulated the sports media his entire career. It's not like the tabloid media suddenly popped up when Tiger started winning tournaments. Add to that the fact that Woods has aggressively marketed himself as a global sports icon, and it puts him squarely in the center of the sports media bullseye.

His statement also raises the long-standing issue of the relationship between sports writers and athletes. Woods' statement is true in that he did deserve the criticism, but if you read between the lines he seems to be feeling a bit betrayed by some of his media friends. Woods apparently cultivated some friendly relationships with golf writers (such as with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi and the Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman, to whom he gave his exclusive interviews last month), and it seems as if he expected a few favors in return regarding coverage of the affair(s).
Instead, the media laid him bare and turned the world's most powerful sports icon into a frail, flawed figure. For the time being, Woods is a freak show; someone you would buy tickets for to see in the circus. (And people will buy the tickets; expect the Masters ratings this weekend to be through the roof). The only way the emperor gets his clothes back is to win the tournament. If Woods does that, after all he's gone through, the sports media will fall over each other to fawn over him, and he will almost instantly regain his power and prestige. The questions will shift away from his personal life and focus instead on his comeback. But a poor performance means a little more time in the media big top.

In many ways, this is the most important week of Woods's professional life.

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Day After

I was going to run this picture yesterday, but got busy with other things. Hope your Easter was a blessed one ...

The Journal of Sport Administration and Supervision has announced an interesting partnership with trade journal The Sports Business Exchange. The relationship will allow for cross-publication of selected articles on various sports business topics. The partnership came about when both sides noticed a lot of overlap in terms of content and core audience.

JSM applauds this effort and we think more academic journals should look to partner with professional outlets. On a personal level, I have often felt that many academic journals are published solely for the sake of the authors and those looking for tenure. During my 15 years in local television sports I can say with certainty that at no time did anyone in the newsroom learn about the industry from an academic journal; those in the business read trade magazines like Broadcasting & Cable.

This is not to say that academic journals don't have a role. But if such journals are going to be relevant in a streamlined, digital age, (not to mention an age of uncertain media economics) they have to reach out in partnerships like this one. JSM continues along that road, although I will be the first to admit we're not there yet.

BTW, today marks the 400th post for the JSM blog. Celebrate as you feel appropriate.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

From the Booth to the Bench

The hiring this week of Steve Lavin to coach basketball at St. John's University was interesting for several reasons, including the fact that Lavin has not coached since 2003. For the past seven seasons he has worked as a game and studio analyst at ESPN.

A lot of coaches take a hiatus as broadcasters before they go back behind the bench. Dick Vermeil spent 13 years as a broadcaster between coaching gigs. When he returned to the NFL he became the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl, so the time off certainly didn't hurt (or hurt his pocketbook; Vermeil now commands up to $50K as a motivational speaker).

In many ways, broadcasting has become a valuable safety net for coaches between jobs. Sometimes this works out really well, as it did with former baseball manager Bob Brenly, who went from the broadcast booth to Diamondbacks manager, and helped the team win a World Series in 2001. (Brenly went back to broadcasting with the Cubs). But a lot of times it doesn't work at all, such as with Barry Melrose. In 2008, Melrose left a 12-year career with ESPN to coach the Tampa Bay Lightning, an experiment that ended badly after only 16 games. Melrose has since returned to the network.

This kind of musical chairs between the booth and the bench has become extremely popular in the past 10-15 years, especially as sports networks have grown in size and number. In a way, it's also a confirmation of the importance of the sports media. In the old days, sports broadcasting was viewed as more of an oddity, and sometimes not taken very seriously. Today, spending a few years as an analyst is a great way for a coach to stay in the spotlight and work on his Xs and Os. Name recognition may now be more important than coaching pedigree. (Consider that despite a ton of talent in his last job at UCLA, Lavin was considered by many to have underperformed as a coach).

Before we leave this discussion, we can't forget the case of Jerry Coleman. Coleman is in his 38th year as a broadcaster for the San Diego Padres, with whom he has become a legend and fan favorite. But in 1980, mainly as a way to save some money, the Padres elevated Coleman from the booth to the bench. Coleman had played 8 years in the majors, but had never coached or managed at any level in professional baseball. The Padres finished at 73-89, and Coleman quietly returned to the booth the following season. Even considering baseball oddities like Emil Fuchs and Ted Turner, it was one of the more bizarre managerial moves in baseball history.