Archive Page 2

23
Apr
08

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Press Pass – pt. 3

Some day soon, a book will come out entirely centered around the journalistic phenomenon we now call blogging. Specifically sports blogging. It won’t be written by a blogger, but some Ph.D. at a liberal arts school. The book will analyze all the ways in which this new form of media has effected “traditional sports reporting” and how the landscape of event coverage has changed forever. One of the chapters in this book will be an expansion of this article (or at least the beginning of it), published in the New York Times on Monday, April 21. The chapter will center around access, and who deserves what amount. But before all that happens, we wanted to address this issue in a five-part series. We will view the access question from the perspective of all the major parties involved: owners, players, reporters, bloggers, and we’ll end on Monday with the most important perspective of them all — the fan’s.

PART 3 — THE REPORTERS

Alright, let’s get this out front first. Yes, a lot of reporters write blogs for their given outlets, but it’s not necessarily by our own accord. More often than not, an editor calls us into the office, tells us that management wants to establish more of a “Web presence” because that’s what all the kids are doing these days with their Giggles and Tube Yous, then they tell us to cross our arms and “Oh my god, look at the spider on the ceiling!” then *FLASH*-*SNAP*, we have a blog.

What I’m trying to say is, that’s not entirely by choice. As much as I love being forced to write twice as much as I used to, I’m not the biggest fan of sports blogs. Never really have been.

I look back on how I got to this point, and I see college where I spent countless hours in sweaty rooms writing news leads and memorizing the different between lay and lie. I covered field hockey and volleyball and water polo and track and softball… And what did it all get me? My first job covering all the same shit — except at a high school. My big stories were about a basketball player with down syndrome and a football recruit getting arrested (which I co-bylined with a fat man named Bill who had a burly mustache and a car that smelled like sour hot dogs).

Ten years of that landed me right back at the colleges, and another 15 years after that I finally cracked open the doors to a professional press room. That’s how I got the job I have, how about you bloggers that want a seat next to me? You opened an account at Blogspot and started calling me a shmuck.

I’m not saying all that makes me more or less worthy, I know the world doesn’t work like that. What I’m saying is that you can’t replicate the passion and respect that those 30 years have left me with. I approach these games like a surgeon approaches a patient; like a lawyer approaches a courtroom. These are not some free tickets to me. This is work.

When I look around that press room, I see a bunch of tired faces that carry the same battle scars as my own. And I’m just as dependent on those guys as I am on my recorder and notebook. You see, in the eyes of these athletes, we’re all the same. Lumped into one giant bunch. “The Media.” And the fact of the matter is, if one guy pisses of the coach, he walks out on all of us. I have to tell my editor that my story won’t have quotes tonight, just like the other 20 guys in the room. Around here, there isn’t any room for renegades.

Listen, even though I could go on about “ethics,” and “standards,” and how “I can’t do what you do and get away with it,” I don’t think those are the central issues to this matter. I think journalists have proven they are just as capable of acting unethically. What’s bigger is the history, tradition, and honor that surrounds covering a coach who just won a Super Bowl, or a 22-year-old kid that’s sobbing into your microphone because he just lost the last meaningful game he’ll ever play in his life.

Those are the things that are not to be taken for granted. And unless you’ve seen that same elation on the face of a little league coach or that same anguish in the eyes of a high school softball pitcher, I argue that you’ll never truly understand what a privlege it is to cover these games. So for now, let’s just stick to what we each do best. I’ll keep writing game wraps, and you can keep calling me a shmuck.

View the other perspectives: The Owners and The Players

22
Apr
08

we don’t need no stinkin’ press pass – pt. 2

Ron RonSome day soon, a book will come out entirely centered around the journalistic phenomenon we now call blogging. Specifically sports blogging. It won’t be written by a blogger, but some Ph.D. at a liberal arts school. The book will analyze all the ways in which this new form of media has effected “traditional sports reporting” and how the landscape of event coverage has changed forever. One of the chapters in this book will be an expansion of this article (or at least the beginning of it), published in the New York Times on Monday, April 21. The chapter will center around access, and who deserves what amount. But before all that happens, we want to address this issue in a five-part series starting today. We will view the access question from the perspective of all the major parties involved: owners, players, reporters, bloggers, and we’ll end on Monday with the most important perspective of them all — the fan’s.

PART 2 — THE PLAYERS

Today’s perspective is that of the player. And after much Fynal Cut editorial board discussion, it was decided this particular segment could not be done from the first-person point of view. Here’s why:

As far as being opinionated on the media (whether it be traditional reporters or bloggers), we’ve separated professional athletes into two camps:

One group (in the extreme minority) write their own blogs. These range from the ungodly annoying to the extremely insightful and entertaining. It’s fairly obvious that some athletes (cough, Schilling, cough) do this with the specific intent of avoiding media contact. It’s direct contact with the fan. Cut out the middle man.

On the other hand, some, like Gilbert Arenas, probably just do it for fun — which feels pretty damn good to say.

The player blog has even spun off into a news topic of its own — friend of the Cut Ryan Corazza now writes specifically about athlete’s blogs for ESPN the Mag.

The other 98%, which would be most players in most leagues, could care less who gets credentialed to be in the locker room. As long as they aren’t bothered.

Few athletes actually open up to these individuals anyway, so why would they care for which publication these pests write?

I could see a few potential problems developing out of bloggers being allowed in the locker room.

The first is something like this happening, which would be horrific to bloggers everywhere.

The first time a player complains about a writer — who later turns out to be a blogger (gasp!) — would signal the end of the basement dwellers in the locker room. Ideally, bloggers shouldn’t be subject to different treatment than the regular reporters. But the fact of the matter is, bloggers in the locker room will be a disruption at first.

The reporters will question whether the bloggers should be there. The bloggers will have an air of confidence in thinking they will soon be replacing the beat reporters. And the athlete will be thrown out of his comfort zone and complain to the media relations person.

In the end, the athlete will be fine with bloggers in the stadium, on the team plane, in the shower locker room…until they get annoyed. Which is going to make it extremely difficult for bloggers to do their jobs.

We can only hope players like Gil will try and talk some sense into their fellow players.

21
Apr
08

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Press Pass — Pt. 1

Some day soon, a book will come out entirely centered around the journalistic phenomenon we now call blogging. Specifically sports blogging. It won’t be written by a blogger, but some Ph.D. at a liberal arts school. The book will analyze all the ways in which this new form of media has effected “traditional sports reporting” and how the landscape of event coverage has changed forever. One of the chapters in this book will be an expansion of this article (or at least the beginning of it), published in the New York Times on Monday, April 21. The chapter will center around access, and who deserves what amount. But before all that happens, we want to address this issue in a five-part series starting today. We will view the access question from the perspective of all the major parties involved: owners, players, reporters, bloggers, and we’ll end on Monday with the most important perspective of them all — the fan’s.

PART 1: THE OWNERS

I’m a business man and my model is simple: Win. Winning = good press = more fans = dollars. It’s that simple… On the surface.

The only things that fuck up that model are the elements beyond my control: A head case of a closer, my point guard finds out his prozzie is a cop, the backup QB gets caught railin’ lines off a hooker, hell, some punkass fan decides to start a riot… These are the only chinks in my armor. The only ways I loose money. So what I do I do? I control. As much as I can. That’s the name of the game in this business — control. You’re either gaining it, or you’re losing it.

So what are bloggers to me? They’re sharks. I know, we usually reserve that title for prick agents, but let me lay a different analogy on you. See, us in management are like dolphins. We work as a group, everyone with their role, and together we create structure. We organize all the little fish into a perfect, compact space and through this organization and planning, we get what we want. Bonus with sports is, we don’t have to eat the fish, the fish get what they want out of the bargain too.

But bloggers, you see, they exist outside our control. We can’t exude any command over them, we can’t work them into our overarching plan. They’re just out there sniffing for blood in the water, and when they catch a whiff they attack! They come barreling in, caution to the wind, and make a big spectacle out of everything, just trying to gobble up as much (attention) as they can before everything is gone. Then they swim on, back to the darkness, looking for their next meal. And it’s us dolphins that are left with the mess.

I love analogies to nature because it speaks to something bigger than the human mind. It’s nature. It’s the way things are. And believe me, I understand that in the age of the Internet, this is the way things are. It’s the way they’re going to be. These guys writing blogs are no different from what I used to be — just a guy looking to make it on his own, to carve a niche. So, don’t get me wrong here, I don’t have a problem with what they’re trying to do, you’ve just got to understand the differing perspectives.

Granting access to bloggers is just bringing a shark into my family of dolphins. The head case closer, my sex-craved point guard, the QB addict — that’s all blood in the water, my friend. Don’t you see? A blogger’s wet dream is my nightmare. 

What about regular reporters, you ask? All I’ll say is this: Reporters report. I can live with that. Bloggers, they  try to stir the pot even if nothing’s cookin’. Look, this issue is nothing personal, it comes down to a conflict of interests. Where I look for control, they look for chaos. What they see as page views, I see as lost ticket sales.

And at the end of the day, that stadium, those seats on press row… Those are my waters, son.

 

17
Apr
08

But what do you have to say about…THIS!?

For a good majority of this week, the focus of my conversations with BabyJ has been the ridiculousness of the NBA MVP coverage. It’s come up a scary number of times.

Today, a major media outlet (that we enjoy greatly) gave its take on the shitstorm.

We battled the depression with Onion clips like this and this.

I would say everyone’s pretty used to critiques on the media. But in one week, it couldn’t get any worse, right?

Holy. Christ.

This is ESPN’s new investigatory journalism?

A sick twist of Candid Camera, 60 Minutes and everything on Telemundo?

At least it involved some serious discussion first (sarcasm included free).

I imagine the “roundtable discussion” they frequently show on the program went something like this:

Main douchy reporter: OK guys, I’ve spent the last 14 years getting the Dominican authorities to release this document. I’ve done some things we must never speak of…Anyway, so we get Miguel Tejada to come into this fake interview. We’ll chat about — oh I don’t know — his background or something to distract him. Then BAM — I bust out this! (pulls out birth certificate)

Subsequent douchy reporters: Excellent!…Super!…Pulitzer, here we come!…

Why is this news? So he lied about his age. He was poor kid coming to a new country, I’m sure no one in a similar situation would ever think of doing such a thing.

Plus, he’s 2 freakin’ years older. 2! It’s not like he’s 50.

It appears your local Channel 5 “gotcha!” brand of journalism has spread to the Leader.

09
Apr
08

Beep! Boop! I win your pool!

Alright, so we let our gut-wrenching fear admiration of robots go a little overboard here at the Cut, but might I stress a point I made last month that math is really just robot DNA. How does this ridiculous robot/math rant have anything to do with sports? Cuz the soulless bastards just won our pool!

As you may or may not recall, we started a pool this year to find out who can truly claim to be king when it comes to predicting the NCAA Tournament. Are there truly “experts?” Do bloggers know more than there bad grammer let’s on? Or is it all a fruitless quest to try and predict the totally random?

Well, I’m not licensed bracketologist, but based on our results that answer to that last question is a resounding, “Hell no!”Quite the opposite. If this year has proven anything it’s that the tournament is far more predictable than we make it out to be — at least this year it was.

As evidence, we present Exhibit A: Ken Pomeroy. The man’s revolutionary new approach to ranking basketball teams (judging them on efficiency per 100 possessions as opposed to anything based on their final score results) was able to clean up in our pool and earn the man computer program first prize. And for its prize: 0110010 1110010 0011100. Yup, out of the kindness of our hearts. Congrats!

From there, however, we get to the goods. In other words, the pwning of the pros. Second place went to yours truly — coming in only 11 points shy of the Pomeroy rankings, and guessing 46 games correct (the computer got 48). Third place went to Ft. Wayne Mad Ants Head Coach and former NBA-er Jarren Jackson — the only participant who gave Memphis any respect. Fourth place was fellow blogger Eamonn Brennan aka Postman E, who you may know from AOL Fanhouse, We are the postmen, and I’m pretty sure there are another two or 20 he contributes to out there. Rounding out the top five was the RPI rankings.

What do we learn here? Well, obviously that bloggers are smarter that “real reporters.” Or at least the ones that have unhealthy infatuations with Bob Dylan and the Wu Tang movie masterpiece “Iron Fist Pillage.” But on the whole, it also revealed that taking a serious approach to the bracket does pay off. Sure, inevitably Sue from accounting will catch a break and take the pot, but our friend Brittany was the only “casual fan” in our experiement to finish in the top 20. And she even faltered down the stretch.

The bigger thing to take away is the rising significance of stats in sports. These number crunchers are for real folks.They are able to sift through all of Dick Vitale’s rants and Billy Packer’s insensitive comments to find some real objective measuring sticks by which to judge these teams. And in closing: 0110010 0110010 0011101 1100101 1100010!

SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT! SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT! I was actually able to interview Ken Pomeroy a couple of times for an article I wrote for popularmechanics.com. Rather than bore you with details here, I’ll just let you know that if you are interested in his pool-winning formula for ranking teams there is a much more thorough breakdown of his method riiiggggghhht HERE!

Oh also, just to let it me known, Bill Simmons finished second to last in between a small child and the “Places I’ve Been” bracket. The small child was the one ahead of him.

04
Apr
08

The Fynal Say: Josh Levin

Slate front pageHere at the Cut, we always like to bring you fresh content.

At least when it doesn’t get in the way of our real jobs. Or playing Wii. Or drinking.

But other than that, we always want to give you as many perspectives from as many people as possible. That being said, I’m proud to introduce a new FynalCut feature – The Fynal Say.

And boy, have we started off with a bang for our inaugural piece.

Josh Levin, an associate editor at Slate, was kind enough to be our first. If you don’t read Slate, you’re probably leading an aimless life, destined to die young. If you do, join us we discuss insanely tall basketball players, John Kruk’s hair and Coach K on the scoreboard at a Wizards game…

—Let’s start off insanely broad. What’s the biggest flaw in the way we cover sports right now? Or, in what facet is sports media most in need of improvement?

I’m not sure this quite answers your question, but one problem the sports media has to face these days is that athletes really don’t have any need to talk to the press these days. Back in the day, a newspaper story or a Sports Illustrated profile was a big deal. People got to know their heroes through the papers and magazines, so star athletes had a strong incentive to talk to the press. Now, everyone gets their news from TV and the Web. LeBron James can get famous and rich by doing commercials and hosting the ESPYs without ever talking to a newspaper reporter. Also, guys like Barry Bonds and Curt Schilling use the Web to bypass the media and take their messages straight to the fans. There will always be great stories in sports, and there will always be plenty of fascinating people to write about, but it’s probably never been harder for writers to get an unguarded look at a superstar at the top of his game — maybe I’m forgetting something, but I can’t remember reading any great profiles of Tiger Woods or LeBron or Kobe Bryant recently.* Of course, it’s possible to write a great, insightful piece about an athlete without getting any access — see Pat Jordan’s hilarious incisive takedown of Jose Canseco on Deadspin — but it’s a lot harder.

*There was a pretty stellar profile of Kobe in Esquire awhile back, but the pouty image Bryant portrayed just furthers Levin’s assessment.

—“Freshness” is a big key in journalism these days, what with the invention of and complete/utter dominance by the Internet. It seems as though maybe this hinders creative, well thought-out stories because they aren’t “first on the scene.” How do you balance Web freshness, with also being the first to have a particular story.

Continue reading ‘The Fynal Say: Josh Levin’

02
Apr
08

Stealin’ the Lucky Charms…

Celtic gloryYesterday, on April Fool’s Day, Tooch graced you with his impeccable memory and wove a tale of Crystal Pepsi and inappropriate facial hair.

Today, he’s back. And with a real NBA playoff preview.

Let’s begin with the tricycle race that is the Eastern Conference playoff competition.

Led by the stud-heavy Celtics, the East boasts just a few teams (Boston, Detroit and Orlando) that have any remote chance of winning a championship.

 

Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Philadelphia have all locked up their spots, but none boast enough star power to compete with those power players – or a single Western Conference playoff team for that matter.

 

One E.C. team to keep an eye out for – besides the Celtics – will be the Wizards. Gilbert Arenas has been medically cleared to play and could return to the team any day now. Let’s just hope he doesn’t commit suicide the minute he’s sent to the bench. The Wizards, when they are completely healthy, are a dangerous team and maybe, just maybe, could slip past the Celtics. (Just don’t count on it though.)

In the end, I – like the rest of the NBA-watching world – will be absolutely shocked if the Celtics don’t cruise to an NBA Finals appearance. Kevin Garnett is at the top of his game right now, Ray Allen is relatively healthy, and even “Big Baby” Glenn Davis is contributing. One of the only things working against Boston is the incredible amount of pressure on the team to return the city to the glory it enjoyed in the 80s. I’m going to go out on a limb here though, and predict that that pressure will send the Celtics the way of their Boston brethren Patriots this year.

 

You read that right. In what I’m sure will be a shocking pick to all of you, I’m going with the San Antonio Spurs to reign as champions yet again this season. The Spurs have won eight straight games now and, as usual, are getting huge contributions from their role players (Jacque Vaughn, anyone?).

New Orleans is having a fantastic season as well and boasts this year’s regular season MVP in Chris Paul, but nobody – and I mean nobody – can compete with the postseason experience of the Spurs. Give credit to the rest of the Western Conference though, which has played an absolutely incredible season. Look no further than the Golden State Warriors, who – with a 45-29 record – have NOT even locked up a playoff spot. That’s just how damn good the West is.

Snoop Dogg, rejoice – the West Coast is undoubtedly on top this year, and it looks like they mean business.