Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Big ... East?

In a move that made no sense geographically, TCU has decided to become a member of the Big East conference. (That's Texas Christian University, by the way, located in Ft. Worth, Texas, where the city motto says, "The West starts here").

But it made a lot of sense for other reasons, primarily because TCU wants to join the big boys in college football. The Horned Frogs have been shut out of the BCS title game the past two seasons, despite going undefeated in the regular season both times. They figured the Big East's automatic bid was the end run they needed, especially when Connecticut is currently favored to go to the BCS this year as the Big East representative with a 7-4 record.

What does the Big East get out of this deal, besides a school 1,400 miles away from conference headquarters in New York? Recruiting and TV exposure--the two big bywords today in conference expansion. Big East schools can now get a toehold in the rich Texas recruiting area; more importantly, they "get" (if that's the right word) the 5th-ranked Dallas-Ft. Worth television market, although it's hard to believe that folks there would watch TCU play Rutgers in football as opposed to teams from the Big XII.

TV money, markets and exposure are driving conference expansion, which is why other schools like Memphis, who were begging to get into the Big East, couldn't even get a look. As Susan Powter, the one-time weight loss guru used to say, it's time to "stop the insanity." TCU belongs in the Big East about as much as Texas does in the Big 10, which courted the Longhorns hard over the summer.

You can't blame TCU for following the money and grabbing a chance to get into a big BCS game. But what happens when the Horned Frog football program starts to bottom out, which has pretty much been its history for most of the last 70 years? The answer to all this seems to be a college football playoff, which would not only be a television bonanza for schools, but also end this game of conference musical chairs which threatens the stability, and credibility, of college athletics.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bo and the Blogosphere

One of the big complaints about how the sports media use new technologies such as blogging and Twitter is the lack of time and consideration devoted to stories. Today, ideas and rumors are often posted immediately to the web, with little or no investigation or old fashioned journalistic leg work.

A perfect example took place this weekend involving Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and his coach, Bo Pelini. After Pelini went after his quarterback on the sidelines in Saturday's loss to Texas A&M, rumors started to swirl that Martinez had quit the team, and by Monday, the Internet was buzzing with reports of Martinez's departure. It got to the point that Pelini finally had to respond, flatly denying that Martinez had quit.

Interesting that none of the rumors (as far as I can tell) appeared in what we would call the traditional or "legacy" media (television, radio and newspapers) that cover the Nebraska program. They all surfaced on fan or private blogs, which forced the traditional media to pursue the story, thus giving it longer life.

There are plenty of people today who predict that the traditional media are doomed, and will be replaced by some form of new/social media. But this is another important demonstration that the "old" media, particularly in sports, still have a place in our news society, especially because they are willing to do the dirty, old-fashioned work of journalism.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Bit Early, But ...

Happy Thanksgiving from the Journal of Sports Media. We get a full week break here at Ole Miss, so in case you don't hear from us in awhile, here are some pre-Thanksgiving tidbits to nibble on--

The first anniversary of the car accident that caused Tiger Woods' world to spin out of control is next week, and Woods seems more eager than ever to try and rehabilitate his reputation in the sports media. He wrote a first-person story for Newsweek, appeared on ESPN Radio, and opened a Twitter account. His first tweets: "What's up everyone. Finally decided to try out twitter!" And then, "Yep, it's me. I think I like this twitter thing. You guys are awesome. Thanks for all the love."

Interesting that Tiger is just now starting to realize the value of Twitter and social media in terms of how he can connect to fans and shape his image. Tiger actually created a Twitter account in June, but apparently didn't get serious about it until last week. So far, he has 230,000 followers, which sounds like a lot, but consider that fellow golfer Stewart Cink, an avid Twitterer, has 1.2 million followers and Shaq has 3.3 million. Tiger is going to have to do more than just plug his website and Facebook page if he's serious about connecting to fans.

The International Sociology of Sport Association World Congress meets in Havana, Cuba next summer. There's still time to sign up and you can find more information here.


There is a call for submissions for special issues of Mass Communication & Society. The issues will center on the 2012 Olympics in London, with Volume Two to focus on the blurring of lines between producers and consumers of the 2012 Olympics in the new media landscape. Manuscripts of up to 9000 words (including references, tables, and endnotes) must be submitted by January 2, 2013, and should be submitted electronically through this site. Authors should indicate in their cover letters that the manuscript is for the OLYMPICS SPECIAL ISSUE NO. 2. Selected manuscripts are scheduled be published on December 1, 2013 in Volume 16(6) of MCS.


And finally, the deadline for abstracts for the NASSH Conference in Austin, TX next year is fast approaching (December 1). If you're interested, there's much more information here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Home (Fashion) Plate?

It's now official ... ESPN has run out of content to put on its self-titled "Family of Networks."

ESPN is now featuring Boston Globe style reporter Chris Muther in a series of in-studio reports that look at sports and fashion. (Yesterday's big news? Terrell Owens' decision to wear a fedora to a post-game press conference and this interesting choice of sideline attire for Morehead State basketball coach Tom Hodges).

OK, sports is not all life-and-death and Muther apparently has a serious interest in sports fashion. But is this what ESPN has come to in order to fill time on its various networks? Filling time with this kind of reporting suggests one of two things: 1) ESPN has too many networks and not enough compelling content to fill them all, 0r 2) ESPN is falling too far into the pit of "infotainment."

I seriously hope its 1) and not 2); ESPN already produces far too much sports shtick in order to fill out its schedule, and in many cases has come dangerously close to becoming the TMZ of sports.

Here's a suggestion for ESPN--either get rid of some of those thousands of networks or just create one more. Call it ESPN Whimsy and be done with it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New JSM Editor

Please join me in welcoming Howard Schlossberg of Columbia College in Chicago as the new editor of the Journal of Sports Media, effective February 2011. Howard brings years of experience as both a sports journalist and a teacher/academician to the position, as well as a passion to maintain the quality of JSM. There were several outstanding candidates who applied for the editor's position, but it seemed like Howard best fit the mission and work of JSM.

If you're interested in contacting Howard to volunteer your services regarding JSM, he can be reached at hbssports@gmail.com or hschlossberg@colum.edu. He also has his own blog related to JSM and sports journalism, and as you can read, he is not afraid to share his opinion.

As for me, I'll still be involved with JSM, but to a much lesser extent. (I'm just now finishing getting Volume 6, Issue 1 ready for press). I haven't yet decided what to do with this blog; let me know if you want me to keep it going ...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Probably a Moot Point, but ...

... it's interesting to consider what role the media (and the fans) played in the sacking of America's Coach, Wade Phillips.

Yes, Phillips was a dead man walking after the Cowboys' 1-7 start, and almost certainly would have lost his job at the end of the season. But the media and the fans certainly had fingerprints on the gun that ended his coaching career in Dallas.

Jerry Jones had never fired a head coach in midseason before, and the Cowboys had never, ever fired one midseason in their 50-year history. But the clamor for Phillips' job got so loud from the Dallas media and from disgruntled Cowboys' fans, that Jones decided he had to act.

If not for the 24/7 harping, Jones probably would have waited until the end of the season. But the realities of today's sports media landscape are impossible even for Jerry to ignore. Every owner can read the blog and Internet comments, and the homemade "fire_________.com" websites, and that gives today's coaches a very short shelf life. It was almost unheard of to fire an NFL or college coach midseason, but now it happens almost as regularly as the leaves turning colors.

It also signals a shift in the role of the hometown reporter, who instead of staying somewhat neutral, has now become something of a mouthpiece and advocate for the fans. To put it in political terms, the reporter becomes "elected" by fans to represent them and their opinions in the Congress of sports discourse. It sure empowers the fans, but I'm guessing it also makes life a lot harder for the reporter.

And, of course, for guys like Wade Phillips.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Several items going today

... so I decided to just lump them together in one post:

1) Sports researchers at Murray State are investigating the ways that football fans react to games and express their fandom. The researchers need some feedback through an online questionnaire and encourage you to take part.

2) The Mississippi Communications Association has an open call for papers for its annual convention next February. The submission deadline is January 21, 2011 and you can get more information about the call here. I'm not sure if it's limited to scholars in Mississippi, but I would have to believe they would accept submissions from the region. The competition is open to all sports entries.

3) And don't forget the sports journalism chat hosted by the Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. The topic is "The Intersection Between Fantasy Sports and Sports Coverage: Implications for Journalists and Predictions for Media Organizations." It takes place at 1pm Eastern time on November 15 and you can access the chat at this site.

Monday, November 01, 2010

But MLB Network will have it covered

And yet more ammunition for our discussion last week of the problems of baseball on TV. Tonight, the Giants could win their first World Series in 56 years and their first representing San Francisco ... and more people might be watching the Colts and Texans on Monday Night Football.

Don't mean to pile on, but just sayin'.