Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Of Birdies ... and Tweets

First, they couldn't ... now they can, but only just a little. It seems that the big story at this Ryder Cup is not the golf, but Twitter.

Captains Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin relaxed their total ban on Twitter during the competition, allowing players to tweet as long as it doesn't reveal anything from the team clubhouse. European golfer Ian Poulter was already out tweeting to his 1+ million followers about the course conditions after a practice round in Wales; the real competition begins on Friday.

Ah, yes ... the real competition. Isn't that why all these golfers are there? Yet, Twitter has threatened to become the main event--not just at the Ryder Cup, but in other venues as well. Who cares what happens in the actual game ... it's what the athletes think about it, right Charlie Villanueva?

It's fascinating now that the mediated sports experience is in many ways becoming more important than the experience itself. Athletes like Poulter are using Twitter to increase their fans base and visibility, which makes them more marketable ... which, connecting the dots, makes them more money. So does it make any difference anymore who actually wins?

Instead of golf, maybe there should be an 18-hole "tweet-off" where players compete against each other to see who can get the most followers for the week.

Monday, September 27, 2010

(Sports) Journalist Barbie

It has not been a very good week for women in sports media, or television journalism as a whole. Mattel announced that the next evolution of career Barbie will now include TV Journalist Barbie, complete with pink power suit and high heels. To some, this development means nothing less than the end of journalism as we know it (with some help from CNN).

To those of us who watch the sports media, there are already plenty of TV Journalist Barbies out there. The lesson here? If you want to be taken seriously at work, dress the part ... including you, Barbie.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

CFP: NASSH

The North American Society for Sport History (NASSH) will hold its annual convention next May at the University of Texas in Austin. Abstracts for submitted papers or sessions are due December 1. For more information, you can contact Program Chair Catriona Parratt at catriona-parratt@uiowa.edu; there's also more information about the submission process here.

Also, a shout out to JSM editorial board member Michael Butterworth at Bowling Green (OH). Michael has just published a book, Baseball and Rhetorics of Purity: The National Pastime and American Identity during the War on Terror, published by the University of Alabama Press and now available on Amazon. Sounds like a good Christmas stocking stuffer ...

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Oxford Bolt

Apropos of nothing really related to sports media, I wanted to pass along this web link to you:

http://oxfordbolt.blogspot.com/

It's a site created by our local high school, which is taking its first steps into broadcasting. The school has always had a pretty good newspaper, but this summer decided to get into multimedia. I've been working with the teacher of the class and the students for about a month, but what you're seeing on the site is all them--their shooting, editing and layout.

If you have any comments or suggestions to pass along, I'm sure they would love to hear them. You can contact the teacher at: marni.herrington@gmail.com

And my apologies for use of the word "apropos."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Both Sides of a Double Standard

It is sportscasting's version of a Catch-22, and I'm not talking about a deep sideline pass.

The untenable position of female sportscasters was brought home during NFL opening weekend. Azteca TV reporter Ines Sainz was allegedly harassed while trying to cover practice and interview players with the New York Jets. In response to that, Redskins running back Clinton Portis told a sports radio station,"You put a woman and you give her a choice of 53 athletes, somebody got to be appealing to her. Somebody got to spark her interest, or she's gonna want somebody. I don't know what kind of woman won't, if you get to go and look at 53 men's packages." The NFL chastised Portis, who then apologized.

Here's the problem for Sainz and other would-be female sportscasters: you've got to be fairly attractive to get a job in the first place, which then unfairly exposes you to potential harassment.

Let's be honest--whether you think it's right or wrong, fair or unfair, the women covering sports on television have to be good-looking. The audience is dominated by men and that's what they want to see. Is it a double-standard? Certainly, but we're not talking about fairness here, we're talking reality. Google something like "hot female sportscaster" and see what you come up with. Some women even embrace the attention and use it in their careers. It's a little too early to tell about Sainz, but she hasn't been shy about using this situation to her advantage, and she wasn't exactly looking demure in her interview with Fox.

On the other side, you have female sportscasters who rightly who want, and deserve, to be known for their ability and professionalism. There's the Catch-22, and the women are caught right in the middle.

This in no way is to condone harassment in any form, and the female sportscasters who have suffered from it have every right to complain and fight back. But there's a long history of this kind of thing in the sports media and based on what happened this weekend it is apparently not going to go away any time soon.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

How Not to Use the Sports Media

What a great time to be a sports fan--college football underway, the NFL to start this weekend, baseball pennant races, the U.S. Open tennis reaching a climax, Ryder Cup golf coming up, racing still going, etc.

Seemingly lost in all this in the WNBA, which opens its championship round this Sunday at 3pm on ABC. That's right ... the WNBA is going toe-to-toe with the opening weekend of the NFL regular season. That shouldn't do much to help the WNBA's regular season cable ratings of 0.2 on ESPN2, which translates to about 263,000 viewers. By contrast, the NBA regular season drew 1.65 million or a 1.1 rating on ESPN.

The WNBA is doing everything it can to hold on in tough economic times. This year it signed new sponsorship deals and doubled the number of jersey sponsorships. (See the cool sponsored jerseys in the picture? Hint: they are not a reference to former NBA great Dave Bing).

The fundamental rule of the sports media, especially television, is "thou shalt not compete with the NFL if at all possible." Major league baseball knows that, having moved most of its playoff games out of direct competition with the NFL, and even the popular NCAA football doesn't try to compete. If the WNBA is truly going to make it, the league needs to adjust its schedule to 1) maximize television exposure and 2) avoid the NFL. What about a season that starts in January and ends with the playoffs in April? Yes, I realize that puts them in direct competition with NCAA and NBA basketball, but that's still better than the current summer-early fall schedule, which puts the regular season in July and August when people are at the beach, and the playoffs in September when everyone's attention turns to football. The NBA, which bankrolls the WNBA, doesn't want direct competition, but does it honestly think that a significant number of people would switch channels?

I'm not sure what the over/under is on Sunday's television ratings, but my guess is you'll need a microscope to find them.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Coming this Sunday to MPB

I realize only a small part of our blog audience can get Mississippi Public Broadcasting, but if you happen to be one of the select few ...

My documentary "Rebel Rewind: Where are they Now?" will appear this Sunday at 12:30pm. It's a look at some former Ole Miss athletes and what they are doing today. The half-hour program focuses on five different athletes--Larry Grantham, Jake Gibbs, John Stroud, Ben Williams and Billy Ray Adams.

You may remember Grantham and Gibbs, but probably not someone like Billy Ray Adams. He was my favorite story and I've included that part of the program here:


video


Ole Miss alum and ESPN broadcaster Ron Franklin is the host, which alone makes the program worth watching. Mark those calendars ... Sunday, September 5 at 12:30 pm on Mississippi Public Television.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

See No Evil

When I was younger I had a subscription to a publication called Dallas Cowboys Weekly. (It still exists, just in a slightly different format). It was interesting (and the pictures of the cheerleaders were great), but I eventually stopped my subscription, because even as a teenager I realized the magazine was only giving me the "official" Cowboys party line.

The situation here at Ole Miss with Jeremiah Masoli reminds me a lot of the old Cowboys Weekly. You probably heard about the NCAA's decision to deny football eligibility for former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was trying to play this season at Ole Miss. It was big news nationally, and especially here in Mississippi.

What's interesting is that the University's official website has not a single mention of it, even on the page called "Newsdesk." The athletic department site does have press conference comments from athletic director Pete Boone, Masoli and coach Houston Nutt. However, there is nothing beyond that and you'll notice that no reporter questions were allowed to be asked.

Understand, this is not simply a rip on Ole Miss. All universities do the same thing during crisis situations--circle the wagons, limit access and say absolutely as little as possible. The fact that Ole Miss even made Nutt and Masoli available speaks in its favor.

But it also reminds us how limited "official" sources are. Ole Miss Sports is going to give you the party line, which generally means "all good news, all the time." That's why we have independent
media--so they can give us the full story, warts and all, even if that story is unpleasant. Yes, the media do go overboard at times in bringing us that story, but that's the price we have to pay to get at the truth.

And, sad to say, DCW apparently no longer has a cheerleader feature.