Monthly Archives: July 2009

Between the Tweetset: 7/24/09

twitter

Like it or not, Twitter is a phenomenon that is changing the way people communicate and gather information. And while there are plenty of good tidbits that can be learned 140 characters at a time through Twitter, there is also plenty of garbage. Between the Tweetset will pick out the best and the worst from the world of Twitter, focusing primarily, though not exclusively, on Tweets from the sporting world.

If you have any good tweets or horrific tweets that you think should make it onto the site, follow me @andrewgothelf and RT (re-tweet) them to me.

The Best:

Hoops coach Eric Musselman (@ericmusselman): Coach K: “I want to see who wants to play for their country. Let’s find out who’s got the intensity to represent their country.”

I grew up hating Coach K because of the Duke/Maryland hoops rivalry, and I still hate Duke, but the man is a great coach and did an outstanding job with the Olympic team. Glad he’s going to coach them again.

Shawne Merriman (@shawnemerriman): Another #confession im tired of espn and nfl network and anybody else putting me anywhere but # 1 on their list…there i said it.

Another #confession the first person i hit this season im going to rip their head off!!!

One of the cooler things about Twitter is that athletes are generally unafraid to speak their mind. Without the filter of sports information directors or agents, they say what they think. Merriman’s tweet isn’t too wild, but it’s refreshing to see him call out the networks when he disagrees with them, even if it seems sort of…well, arrogant.

As for the second tweet…that sounds like a threat.

shaq

Shaq: (@The_Real_Shaq): David beckham I kno u hear me, dnt be scared, dnt make me call u out, u will never score a goal on me

One of the more entertaining athletes on Twitter, Shaq decides to call out David Beckham, challening him in soccer? Interesting tactic. I assume this has something to do with Shaq’s forthcoming reality TV show.

Joe Maddon (@RaysJoeMaddon): Been on bad end of a nohitter v Twins. its only 1 loss but if memory served me we won the day fol no hitter v Twins We play daily Move on

It’s important following any loss to b the same guy who walks in2 the clubhouse the next day. R guys need to see consistent behavior from me

I think it’s pretty cool to read the mind of a baseball manager, and Joe had some pretty interesting comments after his Rays were on the wrong end of Mark Buerhle’s perfect game. He seems to think the Rays can move past the game, but I personally think it will have a lingering effect on the bats.

The Worst:

Fabian Washington (FABEWASH31): Gotta go get a haircut

When people say Twitter is pointless, it’s these kind of posts that they are referencing. I really don’t care that Fabian is cutting his hair. I want him to tell me things about Ravens training camp. I do appreciate this mention of my hometown, though:

Does anybody know what time the 5 guys in owings mills close?

Apparently his phone can tweet questions, but can’t make phone calls to find out the answer.

Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin): Don’t u hate when ur waitin for someone to pull out of a parking spot and someone else comes and takes it? That just happened to me!

Glad to hear people don’t just let Griffin take their parking spots because of his celebrity. Tough break.  I assume he had his own reserved spot at OU.

Les Miles (@LSUCoachMiles): Out with the family tonight. Eating at portobellos and then maybe a movie!

Maybe Bed, Bath & Beyond, I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.

frank old school

The Weird:

Chad OchoCinco (@OGOchoCinco): Word for the day: Twitter me baby, no more getting phone numbers dudes, she want to holla, tell her, Twitter me baby!

Women if the guys gets on your nerves, you don’t have to change your number, just block his ass!

Chad Johnson is the new pickup artist. I would love to have him giving me advice as I peruse NYC bars.

*Have a tweet you think should be on the site? Follow @andrewgothelf and reply to him with the best, worst and weird of twitter.


The end of the Radio PxP Broadcast?

michaels madden

Whenever I consider the consolidation of media outlets, particularly in regards to sports broadcasting, I would always tell myself this:

“There will always be jobs for PxP broadcasters, because sports aren’t going away and fans will always need access to their team’s broadcasts.” I apply this theory to television and radio broadcasts alike, knowing how different the two are in style and content.

But that all changed when I read this report from Darren Rovell, former WNUR Sports staffer and namesake of the famous “Darren Rovell Cultural Embodiment Award,” given to the WNUR Sports staffer who best exemplifies what WNUR Sports is all about.

Anyways, if you were too lazy to click the link, let me give you a quick summary. The New York Islanders last week canned their radio announcers, Chris King and Steve Mears. Instead, Islander fans will now be able to listen to a simulcast of Howie Rose and Bill Jaffe on both television and the radio. This is the third NHL team to simulcast their television announcers on the radio; the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars have done so as well.

Rovell points out that the deal was made easier because Cablevision owns the rights to both the television and radio broadcasts. He asks whether more radio stations will follow suit by negotiating with stations that own the television rights to simulcast the tv broadcast on their airwaves. This will allow radio stations to save money by not paying the salaries of the broadcasters (they would probably help subsidize the tv broadcasters’ pay, which definitely would not equal what they pay their own talent) while continuing the keep the steady stream of advertising revenue they get from broadcasting the games.

So from a business standpoint, this all makes sense. Keep the revenue flowing while cutting back on expenses. As Rovell wrote, “The bottom line is the bottom line.” But from a fan’s perspective, and from a broadcast quality perspective, the move makes very little sense, and is a trend which, if it continues, will frustrate any team’s fans trying to follow their team without a tv in front of them.

There’s a reason that, until now, radio and television sports broadcasts were always done by two different teams. Without overstating the obvious, the ability for fans to see what is happening on the field creates a different role for the television broadcaster in contrast to the radio broadcaster. On television, the PxP broadcaster’s job is to deliver something to the fans that they would not get from watching the game on mute. In other words, they must bring analysis, anecdotes and stats that a fan at the stadium watching the game would not know. The TV PxP man’s job is NOT to describe every play for the viewer, because that would be redundant. They can already see what is happening.

baseball stadium

That’s the job of the radio PxP man. He needs to be the eyes of the listener. My favorite phrase use to describe the role of the radio PxP man is to “paint the word picture.” Radio broadcasts relay everything that happens on the field, on the sidelines and in the stands. Their job is to make the listener, through description, feel like they are actually at the game.

In my opinion, radio broadcasts are more suitable for television than vice versa. There are obvious logistical problems with the idea, but at least you are not compromising the ability for television viewers or radio listeners to understand what is happening on the field or court. By putting television broadcasts on the radio, you are subjecting the listener to descriptions of instant replays that they can’t see and jokes about a fan doing something in the stands or a coach’s antics that again, they can’t see. TV broadcasters are not going to change their style for their radio listeners, and tv color men will not stop talking over plays so that the PxP man can call the action. Basically, if tv simulcasts take over radio, it will eliminate a listening radio audience in sports.

It would be annoying for the television audience to have to listen to the PxP man describe everything they are watching, as well. It would probably drive a lot of people to mute the broadcast. There’s just no need in television for the announcer to call every pitch, describe in detail every shot or tell the viewer every yard line that the running back is crossing. But, again, it’s all about money; however, unlike Rovell, I believe that fans will refuse to listen to radio broadcasts if they can’t follow what is happening in the game. There will be so much complaining on message boards and blogs that radio stations will be forced back into providing their own broadcasts.

Now, if there is one sport that this idea COULD work, it would be hockey. With the constant action, television PxP men are already calling most of the action, so it wouldn’t take a huge adjustment for them to cater to a radio audience as well. Still, some of the problems mentioned above, such as the color man talking over plays, will plague the simulcast from the radio end. But in every other sport, putting a tv broadcast on the radio would be disastrous.

Packer

Can you imagine having to listen to John Madden diagram a play on your radio? What about Joe Morgan explaining a hitter’s swing while you drive on the highway? Wouldn’t this cause you to drive over the divider? This is not just an inconvenience, but a major safety hazard for drivers everywhere. Plus, this would put an end to one of my favorite sports traditions: picking out the fans who wear headphones to the game to listen to the radio broadcast while watching.

So here’s hoping this experiment fails, both from an aspiring broadcaster’s viewpoint, and from a fan’s perspective. I really, really, REALLY hope the next time I’m driving and turn on a college basketball game, I don’t hear Dick Vitale blaring through my car stereo. It might just cause me to drive into oncoming traffic.

Should we even try to save Newspapers?

newspapers

I’ve devoted more than a few lines in this blog to discussing the state of the newspaper industry, and have spent time thinking about how a once proud, now dying industry can be resuscitated. But I have yet to articulate my thoughts on whether the newspaper industry is even worth saving. The answer, in my opinion, is no.

To be clear, the following will be reasoning for not saving hard-copy newspapers. I have no problem with newspapers existing online; however, unless they decide to start charging for online content, papers will be unable to survive in an online-only format.

Here are my reasons for allowing hard-copy newspapers to fade away:

  • Hard-copy papers are always outdated. By the time you read a newspaper in the morning, you are generally reading a story that had been written at least 5 or 6 hours earlier, and sometimes even more. Things change, particularly with big, breaking news stories. Why does anyone need to read old news on a piece of paper when they can get up-to-the-minute coverage of the same story online or on their phone? The answer: they don’t.
  • Papers are slaves to the word count and copy space. Since a broadsheet is a finite thing, journalists have to limit the content in their stories to fit within the design of the page. This means they are generally unable to use all of the information obtained in reporting on a story. While this might seem like a good thing for the reader, who is then given a version of the story highlighting the most important details (often the role of the journalist), it also puts power and trust in the news judgment of a) the reporter and b) any editors who have a chance to tinker with the story. But this might lead to the omission of details that readers want to know. So why not use the unlimited space of the online world to include everything that’s important in a story, allowing the reader to take away the most important details?
  • The limited space in newspapers also prevents the necessary contextualizing that big stories require. Readers are inherently curious about the opinion of journalists, which is often found in small doses on blogs (without compromising objectivity, of course). These blogs might make for good post-scripts on a story or might allow the writer to put a story into perspective. These things are rarely possible in newspapers because of the need to save space for advertisements and pictures. A lack of context for big stories won’t give readers the tools they need to properly digest and understand what is happening in the world around them (television newscasts struggle with this as well). But having an online story, plus links to blogs and other sidebars to help the reader put the story in perspective, makes infinitely more sense to me.
  • Speaking of links, newspaper stories are dead end copy. There is nowhere for the reader to jump to from a story, except the next story on the page. They can’t find out more information about a person, organization or event in a newspaper instantly, for the obvious reason that newspapers can’t link to the massive online database that is the Internet. Instead, those reading newspapers are stuck with what’s given to them, without the ability to dig deeper into a story on their own.

ny post

  • Newspapers are clumsy and difficult to maneuver. Instead of using simple tools such as tabs and search bars, newspapers require folding and waste the readers’ time perusing for a desired story. Tabloid papers are a little easier to navigate than broadsheets, but the stories in tabloid-style newspapers are generally even shorter and less in-depth. It’s very annoying to sit on a train or bus next to someone struggling to fold over a big newspaper, making noise and brushing the paper against you. Maybe that’s not a huge concern for some, but I can’t stand it. Though, I have a lower tolerance for annoying things than a lot of people.
  • Hard-copy papers make revenue based on flat, boring, non-interactive advertising. This is the type of advertising that is ignored in today’s digital world, particularly by the demographic that these advertisers are trying to reach. Why would companies choose to advertise in boring print when they can use flashy videos and games in the online world? Newspapers were slow to come around to this realization, but advertisers are starting to catch on, as evidenced by research in social media advertising budgets. Brands don’t want to try to shape their message through old-world means, so they are pulling out of newspapers. Thus, if newspapers do collapse, the companies will be no worse the wear.
  • Though there have been no conclusive studies done on the environmental impact of newspapers vs. their online counterparts,  it seems like common sense to me. If you don’t print off millions of sheets of paper every morning for all of the world’s daily newspapers, you’re going to save a ton of trees. And I doubt that web traffic on a lot of these news sites will increase enough to offset the environmental gains with the added energy needed to host the extra web hits.

man on blackberry

  • The more pervasive PDA’s and smart phones become, the more on-the-go society will become. Whether or not this is a trend with which you are comfortable, the fact is that people, in ever growing numbers, are going to get their news on the train, in their car, while walking in the park or at their kids’ soccer games. The idea of a bulky newspaper, printed every morning without the ability to update itself, seems completely incompatible with this trend. So why continue to fight the quickening current of news on-the-fly by stubbornly printing thousands and thousands of newspapers each day, that within an hour of printing are already grossly outdated?

The only good reason I can think of for keeping hard-copied newspapers is for tradition purposes. Some people (mostly of an older generation) like the feeling of a newspaper in their hands, and enjoy reading their news over breakfast or on the train. To those people, I say: tough break. Some traditions need to be let go of in the name of progress. I honestly believe that the day of the hard-copy paper is almost over, with its sun set to fully shine on the digital media world.

I’m curious to hear what you think. Should newspapers go by the wayside, or is there a compelling reason to keep printing off the daily copies? Leave a comment below.

Back when SNL was Awesome…

…skits like these came out on the reg. One of Will Ferrell’s best characters, and one of my favorite bits from SNL:

And here is my favorite Goulet impression: The Coconut Bangers’ Ball: It’s a Wrap (you should be able to hold your mouse over the link and watch it on this page).

My Morning with the Old Timers

42-15518299

Some quick thoughts from my day spent as a member of the working media at the new Yankee Stadium…

-The old-timer who received the most attention today may have been Tom Watson, but on the other side of the pond, a group of former baseball greats were reliving their glory days. Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Ken Griffey Sr., Doc Gooden, Joe Pepitone, Mike Mussina and many more former Yankees were on hand for Old Timers’ Day to chat and then play an actual game before the real Yankees took the field to play the Detroit Tigers. I was lucky enough to have access to be on the field while the former players were taking BP and chatting with the media.

Listening to these players took about the game was incredible. For some reason, former baseball players always tell the best stories, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the game of baseball, where individual pitches and at-bats can become instantly legendary. Or maybe it’s because the season is so long and there are so many games, which in turn gives players a lot more story fodder. Whatever the case, it was remarkable to listen to some of these players recount stories of their on-field triumphs from decades ago. Standing next to Yogi Berra on the field before the game is something I will not forget anytime soon.

-The new Yankee stadium is awesome. Very big and very nice while still maintaining the Yankee Stadium feel. I do have two major complaints, however. The first is the ridiculous dimensions of the ballpark, which look even sillier in person. It appears the walls aren’t the only problem, but they are definitely playing a factor. The wall seems close enough to reach out and touch down the lines. I would not at all be surprised if this comes back to bite the Yankees at some point. Pitchers just aren’t going to want to pitch there if they know their ERA will inflate pitching at home.

My second complaint is directed at the staff working at Yankee Stadium: Please realize that you are working at a baseball game, where people come to have fun and pay lots of money to attend and be entertained. You are not working at a maximum security prison. Just because your shirt says “staff” does not mean you are a military general. So stop acting that way. If you agree to stop being so uptight all of the time, I’ll agree to stop trying to sneak into the really expensive seats (just kidding).

-The Yankees have very good food for the media. An $11 buffet that included food from every food group and health range, from parfaits to fried chicken and everything in between. There was even an omelette station. Awesome.

girardi

-I really like Joe Girardi, and not just because he’s a Northwestern alum. He’s very personable and good with the media. He seems to hold his own with the ready-to-attack press in the Big Apple, and is doing a pretty good job this season managing 25 Yankee uniforms filled with stacks of money.

stinkees

- If you don’t have to drive to Yankee stadium, don’t. We had to drive (had TV equipment) and it took forever to get out of the parking garage. The subway is cheap, easy, and is right next to the stadium. Use it so that the media can get home in less than two hours.

-As much as I dislike the Yankees, their fans are great while at the stadium (and generally obnoxious at all other times). They know when to clap, actually stand up and make noise, and come up with clever chants. This is in stark comparison to Met fans who turn on their team after the first base hit and whose most clever chant is “Yankees suck.” I hope one day the Orioles can pack Camden Yards like the Yanks pack their ballpark.

-Baseball is the greatest sport in the world.

RIP, Walter Cronkite

cronkite

Even to those who didn’t grow up watching him deliver the news, Cronkite is still an icon, even for those not interested in journalism. Since there’s no tribute I can properly give, I’ll just let the man speak for himself (which for many years, he did quite eloquently):

My favorite part of the second video comes from the former LBJ aide, who says, “The president knew that if he had lost Walter Cronkite, he had lost the war.” That certainly speaks volumes about the man’s integrity and influence.

Are Baseball General Managers foolishly unselfish?

omar minaya

It’s a question posed to me in an e-mail, once again, by Fus, who is becoming a regular muse for me on this blog. During the All-Star game the TV crew was discussing Toronto ace Roy Halladay,  and the possibility of a trade that would send him to a team back in the States.

This led Fus to consider the following situation: Prospects in baseball are cheap, plentiful and great bargaining chips. Yet, these young players are far from sure things when it comes to producing at a major-league level. Still, baseball GM’s savor these prospects, waiting for them to ripen and become Hall of Famers, even when the large majority of them are out of baseball by the time they reach their mid-20’s. So the question Fus posed is this: why do GM’s, most of whom have relatively shaky job security, insist on hanging on to these prospects when trading a couple of them for a veteran could get them to the playoffs and lock up a playoff spot, thus extending the GM’s shelf life? In other words, why aren’t GM’s selfishly bigger buyers at the trade deadline?

An excerpt from his email: “The best examples are the Rangers, Mariners, Tigers, and Rockies: those teams are all good right now, without any guaranteed lasting power. Why wouldn’t that GM trade a couple of prospects – who may or may not pan out – for a guaranteed ace. Think how good the tigers would be with a rotation of Halladay, Verlander, Jackson and Porcello. Maybe they won’t win it all, but they’ll lock up a spot in October, and extend the security of the GM. In 3 or 4 years when their prospects are ready, that GM probably won’t even be around, ya know?”

It’s a very interesting question, and I don’t think there is just one answer that prevents GM’s from doing this. Instead, I think a number of factors keep those in charge from selling the farm every July for short-term investments. Here is a list of reasons for you, my man:

1. Just as there are no sure-thing prospects (except Matt Wieters), there’s also no sure-thing when it comes to making the playoffs. Remember, the Yankees and Mets both missed the playoffs last year. Teams collapse and injuries occur. It’s hard to assume a team in July is a lock for the playoffs. And if the unforseen happens, and the team misses the playoffs AFTER trading away some of the organization’s best prospects, instead of securing a few extra years of employment, the GM may find himself looking for work immediately.

wieters

2. Being the GM who trades away a future hall-of-fame player lands you in the fan and media doghouse for the rest of your life, and sometimes even beyond. The move will forever plague you, and you will be asked about it on the streets by reporters and total strangers alike. Even if the move was a good one at the time, fans will rarely look at the history books to vindicate you. Instead, you’ll forever be known as the dimwit who “traded so and so away for washed-up veteran X,” even if washed-up veteran X helped the team reach the playoffs. GM’s are acutely aware of this, and this often causes them to act conservatively.

3. While the buck may stop with the GM when assessing a team’s success, a team of executives make player personnel decisions. While the job security for some of these executives may be tied to the GM, many have more stable positions, and thus are going to advise against trading away lots of homegrown talent, even if it means short-term success. And though a GM can get away with ignoring those other voices in the organization for some time, if the team isn’t winning, those other voices will eventually prevail, and the GM will be the odd man out.

4. (Most) owners are not stupid. If they see that a GM is mortgaging the future of the franchise for a quick-fix playoff run, they won’t be happy. If a team has the potential to be good for seven years down the line, or one year this season, the owner will take the seven-year run, no matter who the GM is. But the GM might not have time to wait for the prospects to develop, which, as Fus pointed out, should cause him to play his hand early. But if the GM makes the bold move and it doesn’t work out, he’ll have a hard time getting another job. A mistake like that is potentially career-damaging, and that reputation is tough to change.

5. Money. Prospects are cheap. Successful veterans are not. For a team to borrow a veteran for a couple of months, they are shipping away cheap talent that will need to be replaced at some point. For smaller market teams, they probably won’t be able to resign the veteran (see: Brewers, C.C. Sabathia) after season’s end. This might buy the GM a little time if the move works, but could also sacrifice the team’s future, which would presumably end the GM’s tenure prematurely.

sabathia

Still, despite the stated reasons above, there are convincing arguments for Fus’ position. For one, the goal each season for any team, GM included, should be to win the World Series. If the GM believes that he has an opportunity to put his team in a position to win it all, he should feel some obligation to make that happen. So many things change from year to year, and, as has been mentioned, prospects are risky. If the title is in sight, it only make sense to try to grab it. Nothing does more for a GM’s job security than a World Series ring.

And, when it comes down to it, GM’s are concerned about themselves, and rightfully so. If their jobs are in jeopardy, and they think they can make a move to extend their contract and get the media off their backs, it’s human nature to want to do that. Of course, then the reasons above come into play, but that desire, I would imagine, is present within many general managers.

So as the trading deadline in Major League Baseball nears and as deals are completed, take a look at the rationale and potential motivations that teams have for making the trade. It just might be a little more complex than it seems.

There might just be a man, sitting in an office, hoping he’s not moving his stuff out in October. More than just wins are riding on the deal.