Saturday, January 31, 2009

Newspapers on the Internet, 1981 ...

In 1981, I had a bad haircut, my first driver's license and was in a basic computing class at Lincoln (Neb.) Northeast High School. I was a year away from my first "home computer," a Commodore 64. And I wrote my school newspaper stories on a typewriter.

In 1981, KRON TV in San Francisco aired this news story about the Internet and its possible impact on daily newspapers. Now, almost 30 years later, it's kind of eerie to see a story like this, particularly the ending. It was a sign of things to come.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

No Cheering in the Press Box ...

Sportswriter Larry Fitzgerald Sr. will be covering his son, Larry Fitzgerald Jr., in this weekend's Super Bowl. How can a parent not cheer for his son?

Rick Reilly of ESPN has one take.

Josh Levin of Slate takes another look.

New York Times Super Bowl Package

The New York Times has a great combination of multimedia and interactivity on its online sports section. The site features two staffers debating who will win the Super Bowl.

After viewing the video, readers are asked to vote for the "point or counterpoint" and results are shown. It's a lot of fun and is a great use of the web.

Give it a try.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Piece of History ...

On the heels of MLK Day and Barack Obama's inauguration, I started wondering about what happened to MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech.

A friend of mine, a USC graduate, told me a great story about how former USC basketball coach George Raveling was handed a copy of the speech by King after leaving the stage. Raveling, 26 at the time, was doing some minor security detail near the stage.

Sure enough, ESPN's Outside the Lines has a great interview with Raveling about it. What a great job of looking behind the scenes at a great moment in history.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

NBA All-Star New Media

Sports Illustrated's Scorecard section has an interesting feature this week on how NBA teams are using viral marketing to promote players for the All-Star Game and Slam Dunk Contest.

It started last year with Toronto forward Chris Bosh's hilarious impersonation of a used-car salesman in this YouTube video campaign.

This season, others have followed suit:

Amare Stoudemire's video includes celebrity endorsements from Beyonce, among others. There are several video shorts, but they lock the creativity of Bosh's video.

Devin Harris does a parody of George W. Bush's Iraq press conference complete with teammates throwing shoes at him. The quality's a little poor, but it's pretty funny.

Bucks rookie Joe Alexander campaigns for the dunk competition in a series of videos at This is one of the most creative uses of viral marketing I've seen with an athlete. It's done in the spirit of the ESPN "This is SportsCenter" ads without looking like a knockoff.

And Portland's Rudy Fernandez campaigns with some bilingual ballads. He raps in one and tries to sing in another. Overall, it's pretty weak.

College Basketball "Safe Lead" Calculator

Baseball statistics expert Bill James has built a great tool that calculates how "safe" a college basketball lead is at a specific point of a game. James wrote an article about it in the March 17, 2008 issue of Slate.

James explains the mathematical formula that determines the percentage of "safety" a lead has at a specific point of the game. While it doesn't take into consideration a team's personnel, injuries, style of play, etc., the research is based on thousands of games and the statistical probability (or improbability) that a team can come back from a deficit with the shot clock and amount of time remaining. It's a fun tool to play with.

Scroll halfway down the page to find the calculator.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Can Sports Writing Recapture Its Relevance?

Gary Andrew Poole has an excellent essay on the state of sports writing in the current Columbia Journalism Review.

It explores how much a sports reporter's job has changed since the days of Grantland Rice, Red Smith and Jim Murray. After all, you didn't read W.C. Heinz on a blog and Smith didn't have to chase rumors from a chat room.

It raises the question: Where have the storytelling skills gone in sports writing? Has the Web's instant gratification -- fantasy football fanatics, real-time stats and aim, ready, fact-check approach to sports news -- drown out some of the best writing? They are legitimate questions.

Give the essay a close read. It hits on a real issue facing today's sports journalists.

Preps Gone Wild

Steve Tucker of the Chicago Sun-Times had a great column about how unsubstantiated rumors on the Web, scouting services such as impact college recruiting.

The column outlines how rumors start about a prep player's "skills" (or who is recruiting them) can be quickly accepted as "fact." It's a great warning for young journalists: Don't accept a rumor generated online as fact. Like the saying goes: If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

And apparently you can't check with dad. One of Tucker's examples was about a family member who generated press releases and e-mails with untrue information about a potential football recruit. The scouting services said the kid had scholarship offers from schools such as Louisville and Boise State.

None of it was true.

Ricky Rubio: NBA Marketing Darling ...

But is Ricky ready?

There's no question that point guards are a precious commodity in today's NBA market. Just look at Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd and Chicago Bulls rookie Derrick Rose.

Spain's Ricky Rubio is still a teenager, but he's become the darling of NBA scouts and international basketball fans. His highlight videos are all over YouTube. Fans draw comparison's to former NBA star "Pistol" Pete Maravich. The frail Rubio, 6-feet-4 and only 180 pounds, does look a lot like Maravich. And emulates the Pistol's legendary playing style with his flashy passes, dribbling and open-court freestyle play.

But if you watch Rubio closely, he's still a long, long way from being an NBA player, even though many project him as a lottery pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He's looked strong in international play, including last summer's Olympic Games. But he still doesn't have the defensive skill and jump shot a point guard needs to play in the NBA.

Early buzz has Rubio projected as a marketing sensation with his flashy play, good looks and international appeal. The NBA loves the potential of expanding its European market, much like it has done with Yao Ming in China. See Ricky play. See Ricky sell: soda, shoes, socks, video games. Just wait.

But a team would be wise to develop Rubio slowly and let him grow both physically and mentally as a player. He could use a couple of years of international or college play, but he'll likely be drawn to the NBA's promise of financial security. Still, any team that drafts him should bring in a veteran point guard to tutor him and bring him along.

And for those of us who are old enough to remember Maravich, the Pistol had one heck of a jump shot to go with all those hot-dog moves. He was a prolific scorer, that's for sure.

NATA Sports Medicine Guide

As a sports reporter, you're always writing about injuries and sports medicine. But how do you explain complex medical procedures and describe an injury to a specific muscle, joint, organ, etc.? You don't need a degree in medicine.

One suggestion is to interview sports doctors and trainers skilled in the specific subject (knees, concussions, etc.) Another helpful resource is a free media guide from the National Athletic Trainers Association. Reporters jokingly call it the "know your knees" booklet.

A .PDF of the booklet is available on the NATA Web site. You'll have to scroll down to page 12 for the alphabetical list of medical terms. It'll help you understand the differences between ACLs, MCLs and PCLs.

And it will help you better explain it to your readers and viewers.

Business of Super Bowl Ads

Besides watching the game, one of the best parts of Super Bowl Sunday is viewing the commercials. This year, NBC is expected to charge more than $3 million for some 30-second spots for pre-game and during the game. One of the best Web sites for tracking ad-buying trends leading up to the game is The site has clips of upcoming ads, history of Super Bowl advertising, polls, costs and lists of top advertisers.