When thinking about blogs there are many ideas on what is the best use for them and the best areas for them to be used in. In today’s world though, there are many constraints being placed on what people can do in their spare time by the companies that they work for.
The sports information field is no different than anywhere else, except that it may have more constraints than some businesses. This field works in the university setting and is not only constrained by what the university wants them to say, but also by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
However, if done in the right way a sports information blog could help both the sports information director and the university that they serve. This essay will look at different ways that the sports information blog could work, some of the constraints associated with it, and what the ideal blog would look like.
BLOGS ARE LIKE DOCUMENTARIES…
The first area that I looked in to find the best ways to produce a sports information blog was at documentaries about those in the public eye. One of the first movies suggested to me was The Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night.
After watching The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night I have realized that documentaries were the early blogs. Both are designed to let more people have easier access to a subject.
In the case of the Beatles movie it was to find out more about how the group acted off the television screen and the stage. While this wasn't completely a documentary about the true life of the Beatles, you can't really tell the whole true story without making a lot of people upset.
This is the same for Sports Information Blogs. While, if they were able to be uncensored, they would be great to be able to get the media and fans more interested in the area that you were writing about. However, since as representatives of the university or the sports organization there are always things that the upper management would not want the media and public to know about.
For this movie I was able to come up with several ideas that would make a sports information blog.
1. Above all make sure that you tell a full story. Little chunks about things that happen with the team can and should be strung together to explain a full story, instead of just having small chunks that don't necessarily connect. The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night is a full day in the life of the Beatles, and that is what makes it more interesting. They didn't just talk about the concert itself and the things that happen backstage, it is about the entire trip leading up the concert, including the "boring" travel time.
2. Comedy always makes things more interesting. The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night might have been designed to explain the daily life of the group, but it was mainly about the funny things that happened to them and the funny things that they did or caused. This would be the same way with the teams. People wouldn't want to just hear about the stats of the game, they want to know what the personality of the team is.
3. Make sure to include sight (pictures) and sound if possible (movie clips). Having more than just words is what would make a blog more interesting. In the Beatles movie they broke up different parts of the story with the songs from the album. While a blog is not a movie it would be important to include at least pictures on the blog to show the action that is going on.
4. Make sure to show more than just things about the sport that you are covering with the blog. The movie about the Beatles showed the things that the group liked to do besides playing music. This is extremely important because it allows you to show that the athlete is just like everyone else, while showing the personalities as well.
5. Focus at least a large portion of the blog on a player that is not as well known. This idea allows the viewer to know more about that person, while allowing them to tell more about the highlight players on the team from a different angle. The Beatles did this by using a lot of time to focus singularly on Ringo, not Paul or John.
6. Make sure to constrain the blog to a special time in the season. While it would be nice to continue the blog throughout the entire season, but you would lose interest. So in a sports information blog you would want to focus on specific times in the season like:
• Preseason, when the team is just starting to get to know each other
• Big Tournaments, so you can see how the team reacts under pressure
• Post-Season play, get a behind the scenes look of a successful team so that the media (who like to concentrate on this time anyway) can have more human interest story ideas to write about)
The next area that I looked at was in the sports world itself. While trying to find another documentary type movie to compare to The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night I came across NHL: All Access. The description on this movie reads:
"Hockey fans will feel they've scored with this behind-the-scenes look at the National Hockey League. The disc includes game clips, locker room footage and insights from players, coaches and officials as they prepare for and play one of the world's most intense (and bloody) sports. The DVD also features memorable events such as Wayne Gretzky's retirement and Mario Lemieux's post-cancer return to play."
This screamed blog to me. This is exactly what a blog would have in it if it were done on the National Hockey League. I know that the NHL now does have a blog page set up. (http://www.nhl.com/blogcentral) But this video was the pre-blog world for the NHL.
While watching this video I saw more example of what would make a good blog for sports at a university. The best ideas that came through in this movie were:
1. Do different entries as "A Day in the Life of..." This would allow you to keep the blog interesting throughout a season as each day or week would have a focus on a single athlete. At UMD we have started to do something like this on a small scale. We now put up the spotlight on the players that go in each edition of the program the week after they were spotlighted. This is all supplemental information about the athlete that makes fans feel like they know them better and could give media human interest story ideas based on the responses.
We do have to sensor these entire often to make sure that there isn't anything to disgusting or too personal about them, but you do get to know a lot about the athlete. (http://www.umdbulldogs.com/womens/hockey/index.php?sect_rank=5
THE BEST TACTICS...
The NHL: All-Access video helped me understand the best way to approach a sports information blog, but it also gave me great ideas on how best to accomplish those ideas. Luckily these tactics can cross the border from television to written material as well without much problem on a blog.
The best ways to convey aspect of a sports information blog are:
1. Make sure you have several and complete interviews with the entire team, from the coach all the way down through the trainers. Every person that is on the bench or sidelines of a game is a great source of information about the team and players. Especially those that are not normally though of as being part of the team like the equipment manager and trainers. These members actually have more information about the personal traditions and habits of the players and the coaches than anyone because unlike the coaches and players they tend to stick with the same team for their entire careers and can tell you the differences in what a player of coach was like at the beginning of their career as apposed to the end.
2. You also want to make sure you have entries on the blog that talk about the atmosphere of the building that you play in, what the fans bring to the game, and the day-to-day aspects of being part of the team. The building and fan atmosphere would be most important on a blog. This would again draw the fans to the site to find out what is best about what they do at the games to pump the team up and what they don't respond to. It helps not only educate the fans on what the team would like to draw from them, but it also make the fans feel like they are part of the team.
Atmosphere is the most important thing in a sports building. There are several stadiums and ice rinks around the country that give the home teams a distinctive advantage because of the atmosphere that is created. When you have visiting team is dreading playing at a specific rink it gives the home team a jump start on their way to a win. Just look at teams like Duke basketball, who have not lost much in the last two decades in their home arena, or North Dakota at the Ralph Engelstad Arena for hockey.
3. It is also very important to make sure that there is a graphical element to the entries. Having something like a photo gallery is important because if a fan can't be at the event that you are talking about the images that result from them can be the next best thing. This would be especially important when events that you want to highlight, such as post-season play, are our of town and travel is too expensive for most of the fans.
CONSTRAINTS ON BLOG WRITING...
After watching The Beatles: A Hard Day's Night I came up with several constraints that would not allow a sports information blog about athletes. These constraints would not only effect the amount of content that would be allowed on the site, but it would also sensor it too much to have the blog seem real enough for fans to enjoy or media to trust as a source of possible story ideas.
1. You can't talk about or show anything that revolves around alcohol, sex, drugs, or anything illegal. While this seems like a no-brainer, alcohol is the most important rule that would be missed. The schools that we deal with all know that the athletes drink, but you would have to make sure that there was no reference to it and especially to under aged drinking. The media would love this stuff and grasp on and not let up until something happened to the athletes. Just look at the local example of the mayor of Duluth getting arrested for Drunk Driving in Wisconsin. This story has been front page news since Sunday (that is four days now). If a normal citizen had been involved it wouldn't have even made the news. This just goes to show how much the media like to crucify public figures.
2. You are not allowed to talk about new recruits in Division II sports. Division I sports have lifted the rules saying that you can only mention a new recruit once, as long as they are not the only topic in the story, but Division II has not. This is all about the constraints of the NCAA and this leads into the next constraint.
3. The NCAA would want the final say about what could and could not go up if it had anything to do with the staff of the university. So if you wanted to have the sports information person be the editor the NCAA would eventually become involved and set more and more constraints about what could go up. But if the school did not have any involvement in the process it could be totally uncensored by the athlete, but that would defeat the purpose of trying to create more media and fan attention for the school.
This is just the beginning of what I'm sure would become a full and drawn out process of review and rules placed on a blog written by or about athletes at a university. It just adds to my idea that a sports information blog, while interesting, would not be a good idea to write because of all the constraints.
THE IDEAL SPORTS INFORMATION BLOG...
NHL blogcentral is the exact replica of a sports information blog that you would want. Before viewing it I hadn’t thought about adding in blogs about the sport that you are covering from the fans and the media’s viewpoint, but it seems like a good balance.
NHL blogcentral has blogs from several of the teams in the NHL as well as featured blogs written by journalists from around the world, fans from different backgrounds, and even a stats blog.
The team sites vary from team to team, but all have a general layout that would be a good starting point for a university sports information blog. You should have entries written by the coaches, and players as well as from the sports information staff. On the Vancouver Canucks blog they even go as far as giving a detailed account of each game, down to the minute. (http://blog.canucks.com)
The addition of the media point of view is a great idea. If, like here in Duluth, you have a dedicated sports writer for a sport if they want to they can start a blog on your site. Duluth News Tribune sports writer Kevin Pates currently has a sort of blog on the papers site that could be linked to the schools site to increase traffic and information about the teams.
Pates currently answers questions that are sent in to him from a form on the DNT site. If you combined this with a UMD Hockey blog and added in the fan sites that are currently out there you would have a wide variety of information for those viewing the site.
However, you would have to do like the University of Minnesota does and add a tag line at the bottom of the blog saying that the opinions expressed on the site are those of the posters and not the University of Minnesota Duluth.
The most similar blog to what a sports information director would write in their blogs. The stats blog on the NHL site is about interesting little tidbits that at least the media is interested in. In a way it is more like the notes pages that we put out.( http://blog.stats.com/nhl_blog)
Right now blogs are so new that many people are just starting to understand them and because of this they are just starting to come under scrutiny. In the sports information field there could be a great advancement in the field with them, but they would have to be heavily constrained to make sure that they didn’t violate rules set forth by the universities and the NCAA.Posted by laje0007 at December 15, 2005 9:30 AM