... Here's a round-up of this week's group blog posts from my Sports, Media, & Society class. For a full description of the "group blogging" course component, see here.
STATEment looked at the round-the-clock coverage of Carmelo Anthony's (NBA) trade last week to the New York Knicks (Here's a great mash-up they link to that illustrates the way the trade has dominated the news cycle).The group considers the way beat reporters have jumped at the opportunity to weigh-in on the Anthony trade: "Beat reporters across the country are excited that something is happening in the professional basketball world; no matter how distant or irrelevant the trade is to their actual beat, they have found a way to tie the trade back into their writing." Using Lowes' work, the group explains the widespread interest in the Anthony trade by considering the ways pressures and constraints facing sports beat reporters have made reporting on the trade more likely. The group provides links to a few stories that emphasize "fluff instead of hard news and rumors instead of facts."
Lowes argues that journalists employ routines to deal with the pressures and constraints they face on a daily basis. Those routines, in his argument, make some content more or less likely than others. STATEment, then, drew on a useful perspective from class to try to understand why we might see so much attention paid to a specific topic (it can also be used to understand why some sports and topics infrequently make it into print). While Lowes' perspective is helpful, it can't explain everything: during the second half of the semester we will fill in some of the gaps, exploring the cultural dynamics that shape (and, in turn, are shaped by) sports media content. Are there values (e.g., "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing"), norms (e.g., common promotional strategies), and beliefs (e.g., assumptions about gender and sport) that may also provide helpful explanations for the relative attention paid to the Anthony trade rather than other sports or topics? This is where we're headed with things...
To provide an example of this sort of cultural perspective on sport and the media, look no further than this past week's post from another class blog group--Cause and Effects of Sports and The Media! This group looks whether "parity" exists at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level of big-time intercollegiate football. After developing their argument, the group says, "In a 119-team league, where half of the teams lose every week, can we really say there isn't fair parity when 60+ teams have a chance to go to a BCS Bowl any given season?" Further, the group questions whether the public would be as interested in college sports if the playing field was leveled via television contract redistribution: "If these contracts were distributed amongst all 11 conferences and all teams had an equal chance of contending for a national title, would we want to watch? Personally, I wouldn't get too excited over Louisiana Tech versus Wyoming in the big game."
Note that while this post addresses economic issues of competitive balance in intercollegiate sports, it also provides a cultural perspective on sports and the media. The group incorporates key cultural assumptions about the relationship between sports and society. For instance, they note that, "The United States thrives on the ideal that all are created equal. Every person has just as much of a chance of being successful as everyone else. Many feel that this same concept should carry over into the sports world, especially in college football." The group also says that, "Everyone loves a David vs. Goliath matchup in sports." From a cultural perspective, we can look at these two statements and consider how ideas like the "level playing field," "the underdog," or a "Cinderella story" are shaped by a broader U.S. culture that celebrates these very ideas. Are sports, then, shaped by our cultural assumptions about "equal opportunity," "upward social mobility," and "pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps"? Furthermore, how does emphasis on these sporting ideals shape the wider U.S. society and culture? Our Jhally reading for Thursday will begin our thinking about sports media as texts that shape and are shaped by the broader socio-cultural context (p. 83-88).
Another group also examined issues in intercollegiate football, specifically Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's recent creation of the company "Radical Football" that is aimed at bringing a playoff system to big-time college football. Despite the $500 million figure Cuban has floated as an inducement for implementing a playoff, this group notes that those in positions of power within the college football establishment are resistant to change: "If the higher-ups of colleges and universities, along with government officials and conference presidents, are in no rush to change the current BCS format, then it seems highly unlikely that any modifications will be made in the near future." Fans may want a system that provides all FBS schools a shot at a title, conferring greater legitimacy on the term "national champion," this group's post highlights how the uncertainty associated with potential changes leaves those in position to enact that change clinging to the established though unpopular status quo.
Another fourth looked at the growth and success of a major intercollegiate sports media property -- the NCAA men's basketball tournament or "March Madness." They provide a brief history of the event's relationship with CBS, the media outlet that has carried the tournament since 1982. The group considers some of the promotional strategies CBS has employed, including a shift in focus from "the Final Four" to more expansive coverage (and interest) on the tournament's entirety (i.e., "March Madness"). They also note CBS' incorporation of new technology in their broadcasts and content delivery, the company's new deal with Turner that will bring the entirety of an expanded 68-game slate to TV, and the opportunities for sponsorship and promotion that these technological and organizational moves facilitate. While this group has tried to tackle an topic that would take volumes to fully encapsulate, their post does provide a nice synthesis of important sports/media developments related to the event. As the group sums it up: "The NCAA tournament will continue to expand coverage and find ways to incorporate a larger audience in their package. It captivates viewers and fans for over a month while it brings in multi-million dollar checks to corporations who continue to cash in the tournament's advertising opportunities."