Survey Says: Margin of Error Indeed
I recently had a dust-up with ESPN’s Darren Rovell about the reliability of Poptip poll results. Poptip is a program that allows users to conduct quick surveys on Twitter, and then compiles the results. No harm, nothing foul. But apparently some folks got into it with Rovell about references to a “margin of error” in his Poptip polls. So being a professor and a math nerd, I...
Does the NFL Own the AP's Annual Top 10?
Is the AP’s annual list of Top 10 sports stories biased toward the NFL? If you have asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would have guessed that the list was biased toward New York — citing the ranking of the Giants’ Super Bowl win as the No. 8 story of 2012. The Miami Heat’s NBA championship was totally off this most recent list, despite what it meant both to LeBron...
The Sports Media Post-Te'o
As the sports world moves on (if that’s possible) from the Manti Te’o case, sports journalists still need to stop, take a breath, and reflect on what we have learned from this. To be honest, journalists are poor practitioners of self-reflection. We tend to move on to the next story, promising to do better next time and looking for an article to paste over our previous mistakes....
Manti Te'O and the Stories We Hope Are True
After the Manti Te’o story broke on Deadspin, I was not able to write much about it because: 1) When the story broke, I was on my way back from Birmingham, helping a good friend who needed a ride back from UAB Hospital. 2) Then I taught a 6-9 graduate class. 3) Then I crashed, because of 1) and 2). So now, the next day, with a story that has spread and been critiqued with lightning...
B'ham Sports Radio: Who Will Own the Zone?
Birmingham is sports crazy, and these days sports radio in Birmingham is almost as crazy. I wrote about Paul Finebaum and the changes that might be on the horizon as his contract with Citadel/Cumulus broadcasting comes to an end. But where Birmingham sports radio is concerned, expect more. In particular, ESPN 97.3 the Zone, the station that had been trying to lure Finebaum from 94.5 WJOX, is...
Finebaum: What's the Right Call for Paul?
When it comes to sports, few broadcasting markets are as hungry and crazed as Birmingham. Thus, the changes that are on the horizon should bring as much attention as fiscal cliff negotiations. Forget that: more attention. I mean, here the negotiations will result in real change. Probably the two biggest changes, which will interest all fans, involve sports talk show host Paul Finebaum and the...
If Petrino were named coach ...
This is not one of those wild parallel reality articles; I’m not that talented. It’s my take as a faculty member on the just-concluded search for a head coach. For those nine days, I lived in fear that somehow, Auburn would name Bobby Petrino as head football coach. Yes, I know that most Auburn fans are glad the process is over and want to move on. I’m glad too. And it might...
The 'Sports' Stories We Don't Care About
After reading about Brian Downing and Garrison Stamp in the most recent issue of ESPN the Magazine — the Bama teabagger and his unconscious LSU victim — I must admit: I considered the article, and the two individuals, a waste of my time. As I tweeted about it, one of my friends compared the article to the disproportionate amount of air time given to Harvey Updyke in the ESPN 30 for...
To Philip Lutzenkirchen
My first memory of Philip Lutzenkirchen was when he had scheduled an appointment with our Communication and Journalism department chair during his official recruiting visit in 2008. The chair at the time, Dr. Mary Helen Brown, referred me to his highlight video on YouTube. Plenty of high-high-highlights. My favorite was of him blocking a punt and running it in for a touchdown. He...
Steve Spurrier and the Media Mess
There is so much not to like with this Steve Spurrier-Ron Morris dust-up in Columbia, S.C. It’s hard to find anyone doing the right thing. 1. Start with Spurrier. His remarks seemed directly not only at Ron Morris, the offending sports columnist for The State in Columbia, but also at any sports journalist who would be tempted to take on the Old Ball Coach. It just seems a bit creepy when...
Remembering Paul Davis
To learn that Paul Davis had passed away certainly caused sadness to many who love journalism and appreciate its rich history in Alabama. Those of us who knew him were bummed too. The basics: Paul died Monday after a brief illness. He had been in declining health for some time. The sad news of Monday brings to an end a newspaper career that will not be replicated — not because of the...
When God Hated SEC Football
These days, Southern football and evangelical Christianity have forged a strong bond. But it hasn’t always been that way. At least, so wrote Andrew Doyle of Winthrop University, in an article he wrote titled, “Foolish and Useless Sport: The Southern Evangelical Crusade Against Intercollegiate Football.” In fact, the article was published about 15 years ago, in the Fall 1997...
"Red and Dead"?
Most of the top student staff of the Red and Black, the University of Georgia student newspaper, resigned en masse last night. Why and what will happen from here is not clear, and might change in the time it takes to write and post this. But here is a try. The resignations were announced on a WordPress blog Wednesday night. The blog was written by now former editor-in-chief Polina Marinova...
Michael Carvell and the NCAA, I mean AHSAA
In reporting on the Watergate Scandal, for one story Carl Bernstein was trying to get a source to confirm a hot news tip over the phone, but the source was hedging. So finally, Bernstein told him that he would count to 10, and if there were any reason to hold off the story, the source should hang up. If the source was still on the line, he would assume the story was solid. You can imagine...
Ryan Lochte, Tiger Woods, and the Simple Narrative
Sportswriters sure seem cheesed at Ryan Lochte. Winning only two gold medals in five races (though medaling in all five), left them cold. Gregg Doyel of CBS tweeted, “One-hit wonder Ryan Lochte needs a nickname. I know! ‘Vanilla Ice.’” Why is Doyel (and no doubt other sportswriters) so indignant? Simple. Lochte messed with their simple narrative. Sportswriters...
A Little Poop in the Brownie Mix
Tom Hoffarth is no doubt celebrating the attention his blog about Erin Andrews received. If only he gave that much attention to his spelling. It’s been a sticking point since everyone and his/her pet began blogging. How important are spelling and grammar? But Hoffarth is no casual blogger who caught a flyer. He is a staff columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. Granted, it’s...
The Media v. Zeke Pike
As I read the growing body of work surrounding the arrest of Auburn freshman Zeke Pike, I found myself involuntarily grimacing. The facts are pretty clear. Pike was cited for public intoxication on Saturday. By Monday, he was heading home. It was the latest chapter in a troubled story. What troubles me is the news that is being leaked since then. Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News...
The Plainsman Reports a Tragedy
If it had not been for Twitter, I might just have gone on to church last Sunday. As I prepared to leave at 6:30 a.m. for an early service, I checked al.com, where there was news of a shooting in Auburn with unidentified fatalities. But it was not until I checked my Twitter feed and saw re-tweets of expressed grief for two former Auburn football players that I realized. This was a big story. ...
The Fake Pimp and Darren Rovell
Darren Rovell of CNBC can tell you: If you’re going to do something really dumb, like use an escort service owner as a source based strictly on e-mail interviews, you’d better hope that Deadspin.com does not find out. The sports business reporter might have done the deed a whole six months ago, as part of an article on effects of the NBA lockout, but Deadspin found out and exposed...
On the Set of '42'
I had a chance to visit the set of 42— the biopic on Jackie Robinson that filmed recently at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field. I had already planned to roto-geek out over the film for two reasons: 1) It’s about sports history; and 2) It is directed by Brian Helgeland, who wrote “L.A. Confidential,” one of the best 1940s movies ever. But when Ernie Malik, unit...
An Example of Transparency for ESPN
In mid-March, I published a column in SportsBusiness Journal in which I challenged the notion of whether ESPN’s relationship with the Poynter Institute, a respected journalism think tank, is in fact changing the ethical climate there. I was shocked when, six weeks later, a representative of the Worldwide Leader replied in a column of his own. I figured the column had gone the way of my...
Don't Dump the Q-School!
The PGA has decided to do away with qualifying school in its present form, starting with the 2013 season. I object. Previously, the PGA divvied up its new tour spots between Q-School survivors (six aneurysm-inducing rounds) and Nationwide Tour survivors. But next year, the PGA will change the way that players outside the Top 125 money winners earn their tour privileges. At the end of August,...
Auburn's 40-Year-Old (PGA Tour) Virgin
Auburn’s notorious Journalism 101 class (now JRNL 1100) has claimed many victims. Most forget the shame, especially if they survive a retake. PGA Tour rookie Gary Christian can only wonder what might have been. Having sailed past the spelling test, he confronted the usage module. Strunk & White. (The very mention sends a painful shudder through most.) For a student who grew up...
Poynter and ESPN: The Short Way Down
(The following has been published in the March 12 print edition of Sports Business Journal. Many thanks to the folks there.) I remember an illustration from youth rallies and assemblies. The speaker would have someone stand on a chair, with a friend standing on the floor next to him/her. The one on the chair would be challenged to lift the friend. Impossible. Then the speaker would challenge...
The Never to Yield Foundation v. Evan Woodbery
Some sports page readers claim that Nick Saban intimidates Bama beat writes to the point of compliance. But more than a few Auburn fans might wish that Auburn beat writers took the same approach. Take the recent controversy involving Evan Woodbery of the Mobile Press-Register as an example. The claim is that Evan, a Bama alum, has been using his position at the Press-Register to advance a...
The NCAA v. Joe Nocera
The NCAA staffer’s blog attack on New York Times columnist Joe Nocera is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it’s definitely out of character for the NCAA to go on the offensive like that. True, they took on Danny Sheridan for his insistent bagman publicity stunt. But that had the feel of a one-and-done. Mostly, the NCAA is content to sit back and watch the proceedings...
No Respect for/from ESPN
It’s a standard rule with a standard concept of “professional respect.” When one of the so-called “big boys” runs an article, and a smaller outlet provides good information that contradicts, the “big boy” at least acknowledges it. Not when the “big boy” is ESPN, apparently. Let’s trace this one. First, on Friday, January 23, Mark...
First and Wrong -- The Paterno 'Death' Debacle
If you follow Twitter and sports, then you are aware of the mess that occurred last night, when the Web site OnwardState.com reported prematurely that Joe Paterno had died. The site reported the news at 8:45 p.m. The news was quickly picked up and run, particularly by CBSSports.com, which issued an obituary at 8:47 p.m. The news spread quickly across Twitter — with many expressions of...
A New Sports Talk Station, Shows, and Host in...
Cox Media Group’s 97.3 The Zone might not be able to get Paul Finebaum away from WJOX, but they are trying something different in sports talk radio in Birmingham, with an Auburn alum sharing the helm. Rachel Baribeau, Auburn Class of 2003, joins Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News for four hours of sports talk starting at 2 p.m. They call themselves “Baribeau & Scarbo.” (It rhymes. ...
An NYT Columnist's Plan for Paying College... →
John Nocera is a Pulitzer finalist for commentary. This piece, for New York Times magazine, presents a plan for paying college athletes. It might be a little oversimplified in some of its assumptions, but it does show were a lot of the thinking is going.
Clay Travis on Twitter →
I know that Clay Travis picks up a lot of grief for his throw-it-at-the-wall form of journalism. But this column is an excellent journalist’s perspective on why Twitter is important and how to best utilize it.
The NY Times Report on NHL Enforcer Derek Boogard →
For an excellent example of in-depth reporting on a sports-related topic, check out John Branch’s three-part article on NFL enforcer Derek Boogard, who died of an accidental overdose at age 28. You will get lost in Branch’s excellent work enough to get mad as hell as an NHL hockey culture that condones brawling, even as medical evidence mounts related to concussions in all sports.
What I Hate About the Heisman Trophy Presentation
I usually don’t blog this quickly, but having just watched RGIII win the Heisman, I am once again reminded of how much I hate ESPN when it comes to award programs. I watched only the last 15 minutes, but there was plenty to hate. 1. The fact that they wait until the very end of the program to actually award the Heisman. Keeps the viewers watching, but makes for a very rushed end of...
A Day With the ESPN GameDay Crew
Woody Allen is right: 90 percent of life is just showing up. I showed up, and I got to talk sports media with Chris Fowler, Erin Andrews, Kirk Herbstreit, and David Pollack. One-on-one. Take a number and wait your turn, guys. When Jeremy Henderson of The War Eagle Reader Web site called me about an ESPN GameDay media meet, I thought, Why not. Campus was deserted; parking in the deck was...
The Press Doesn't Get Tim Tebow
As Tim Tebow continues to ascend — from University of Florida BCS Championship Heisman Trophy winning quarterback to heroic Denver Broncos comeback engineer — the sports media seem like party poopers, unwilling passengers along for the ride. What is Tebow’s sin? Hard to say. It’s probably his refusal to crumble to expectations of failure — athletic or moral. And...
Tressel, Then Paterno
As the media turn their attention to Happy Valley, Joe Paterno in particular, the long-time coach finds himself in the same uncomfortable position as Jim Tressel did at Ohio State over the summer: an iconic coach whose above-reproach reputation is being undone by an unexplainable lack of wisdom. For Tressel, his actions after learning that his players had, in fact, broken NCAA rules showed a...
ESPN and Realignment →
From USA Today, a well-reported look at the role ESPN might or might not be playing as conferences realign. Click on the title to find it.
Why Updyke Calls Finebaum
Perhaps the saddest chapter in the Harvey Updyke saga occurred when Updyke made his most recent phone call to the Paul Finebaum show about a month before he was scheduled to go on trial. The call was not only pointless but also self-destructive: It cost Updyke his high-profile pro bono attorney, Glennon Threatt. You can still hear the call on Finebaum’s show; he seems to run it daily. ...
A Journalistic Sin Involving Saints →
The New Orleans Times-Picayune’s parent company got some New Orleans Saints to tweet about the new Saints site on the T-P’s Web page. Was it a conflict of interest, since the T-P also covers the Saints objectively on its sports pages?
First Names First
To see how racial attitudes have changed, witness the first name. Really. At one time, early in the integration of sports, African-American athletes were more likely to be mentioned by their first names in sports headlines. White athletes, by their last names. (“Willie, Mantle Shine in All-Star Game,” for example.) Younger readers might find this hard to believe, but in an earlier...
Realignment --> Playoff --> ???
With all of the realignment mania, a recent article in Atlantic magazine by Taylor Branch is worth reading. (Note: Yes, THAT Taylor Branch, who wrote the three-part trilogy “America in the King Years.” His new book is “The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA.”) Granted, the motive behind the realignment is money — more television money for the...
Can Finebaum Join the New Party?
Cox Media Group wants Paul Finebaum. But can they get him? The group has launched a new sports talk radio station in Birmingham, 97.3 The Zone. The huge (Annual revenues = $1.8 billion) multimedia conglomerate no doubt sees potential in our sports-crazy state. One component of their plan is to snag Paul Finebaum away from Citadel Broadcasting, which owns WJOX 94.5. In fact, in its current...
The Shame of College Sports →
Like most Atlantic articles, it is well-researched (particularly on legal details) and powerfully worded.
Does Scandal Coverage Hinder Real NCAA Reform? →
A great article on how scandal coverage deflects attention on the real issue — colleges making millions of dollars off players receiving a small fraction of the income they generate.
ESPN: Too Big for Its Own Ethics
As the Bruce Feldman situation illustrates, ESPN has outgrown its own ethics. To become the Worldwide Leader, the network has had to ignore the inevitable conflicts of interest and continues to put itself in awkward situations. When everything comes to a head, as it did in Feldman’s case, the network shows how out of practice it is in dealing with such situations. I am going to state the...
UK bans student newspaper after unauthorized... →
I blogged earlier about the whole access struggle for those covering major college programs. Here is an example of what happens when the school “punishes” a media outlet for an unauthorized article.
[Post Insane Comments Below]
Read the comments below most online newspaper articles about Auburn and/or Alabama football, and eventually you realize that you are not just killing time — you are beating it to death with an ugly stick. The comments follow a predictable pattern: back and forth, sometimes with increasing anger. Civility flies out the window (along with spelling, grammar and word choice). But no harm. ...
How Yahoo! Sports X-posed the U →
Charles Robinson discusses the excellent reporting techniques in his University of Miami expose. (Still, Dylan Stableford — Read over your stuff before publishing it!)
I feel like I should write something about the Danny Sheridan debacle from a sports media perspective. But to be honest, I do not listen to Finebaum. Check that: I do listen to him for the four minutes it takes me to get from the Comer Hall parking lot to my home behind Auburn High School. (And since I usually leave around 4, to miss the local school traffic, that means I hear a LOT of Tim...