Press

Sports teams are entering the news business. Good. Let them have it.

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There’s an illuminating story over at the Washington Post today about how sports leagues and clubs are, ever so slowly, trying to squeeze out the traditional media when it comes to breaking news about them:

For sports journalists these days, the playing field isn’t always level. As the Iowa incident suggests, teams and leagues can break their own news, over and around the independent news media that cover them. Professional and big-time college teams aren’t just news sources now; they’re in the news business, too, with their own radio, TV and Internet operations.

Meanwhile, the Post notes, the leagues and teams are getting increasingly strict with unaffiliated media outlets in terms of how many pictures they can use, how much game footage, and how much one can tweet or blog while events are in progress.

To which I say: good. Let them monopolize the propaganda business. Because that’s what we’re really talking about here.

For the most part, the content the teams and leagues are moving is the sort of “commodity news” we’ve discussed here in the past. Things that everyone was going to get anyway and, as such, provide no real value to the reporters who pass it along nor any unique value to the readers and viewers who consume it.  That day’s lineup.  The player’s “I’m just happy to be here” press conference after joining the team. The coach’s appearance at the local YMCA.

The stuff they do that isn’t pure commodity news — team-sanctioned coach and player press availabilities and the like — are so controlled to begin with and the subjects so conditioned to say nothing interesting anyway, they’re quickly approaching the realm of the worthless too. At least, worthless beyond drumming up generalized buzz, excitement and season ticket sales which shouldn’t be the business of the sporting press.

Indeed, the faster newspapers and other unaffiliated media get out of the shallow-quote-snagging, photo-op creating and press-release distributing business the better.  And it’s actually not that hard for them to get out of it.  There’s a pretty broad swath of content in which to traffic that avoids those areas in their entirety.

Specifically, there are three main areas where the content is simultaneously interesting to the fans and valuable and unique to the media organization that disseminates it:  opinion writing, in-depth and/or investigative reporting and gossip.  There may be a couple of others — suggestions requested — but those are the areas where I think the sports media can still make money and still make a difference. These are also the areas the teams and leagues will never get into because being credible in these arenas require that actual criticism be made or negative information come to light, and teams hate that.

If you’re in the sports writing business and you’re not either (a) helping your readers put the day’s news and/or game action in some kind of intelligent context; (b) digging deep to tell them things about the personalities or the events they’re not going to get from reading the team’s website; or (c) spilling information from inside sources that the teams would prefer not get out into the open, you’re basically competing against the team’s PR department,not other journalists. And you will lose that competition, because the PR department has access to everything and everyone.

The best work out there doesn’t require official access to official events. It requires a brain and an angle for the opinion stuff. It requires some good reporting chops for the investigative/in-depth stuff. It requires Daulerioan-sized cajones for the gossip. If you have one of those things you have a niche.  If you have two of those things you’re going to be a superstar. If you have three, you’re a media empire.

Ichiro was happy to see Pete Rose get defensive about his hits record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Miami Marlins warms-up during batting practice before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.

There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:

I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.

There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.

The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.

There will be no criminal charges arising out of Curt Schilling’s video game debacle

Curt Schilling
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In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.

The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.

As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:

An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”

Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.

Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.