Social Media: The Game Changer in Sports

ImageCurrent estimates of the world’s population are in the neighborhood of just over 7 billion people.  With a number like that, anyone that continues to doubt the impact of social media in today’s world is in denial.  For perspective, Facebook announced in the first quarter of 2013 that they are at 1.11 billion users; that’s roughly 1 out of every 7 people throughout the world.  YouTube isn’t too far behind with 1 billion users, but each user apparently watches an average of 4 videos daily because they guesstimate 4 billion views per day.  What is a bit of a surprise is the distance created thereafter with Twitter falling in third at 500 million users and the 343 million users of Google+.

With the staggering numbers that it brings to the table, it’s been amazing to witness social media’s impact and effect on our world at a global scale.  More specifically though, think about the impact that social media has had on the world of sports.  The NCAA has had to modify policies in order to make room for social media.  For instance, the University of Southern California acknowledges that, “Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have increased in popularity globally, and are used by the majority of student-athletes here at USC in one form or another.”  USC’s Social Media & Policy Guidelines for Student-Athletes also provides examples of why students should be cognizant of the information they share and explains what content is deemed to be inappropriate in accordance with university policies.  While many NCAA institutions have individuals within their athletic department to monitor compliance, Arkansas has become the 6th state to take a slightly different approach by becoming “the latest state to enact legislation that bans schools from deploying social media monitoring firms to track their students’ personal digital accounts.”  The ultimate purpose of these laws is to save collegiate institutions around the country hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance costs, legal fees, monitoring and compliance.

What is a bit surprising is the NCAA’s Social Media & Blogging Policy.  The NCAA states that, “A credentialed media member may blog or provide updates via social media during any NCAA championship event, provided that such posts do not produce in any form a “real-time” description of the event as determined by the NCAA in its sole discretion.  If the NCAA deems that the credentialed media member is producing real-time description of the contest, the NCAA reserves all actions against the credentialed media member, including but not limited to the revocation of the credential.”  The NCAA’s leniency is significant because it is nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and almost unheard of, when compared to professional sports.  The NBA, for instance, states that, “The Holder agrees not to transmit, distribute, or sell (or aid in transmitting, distributing, or selling), in any media now or hereafter existing, any description, account, picture, video, audio or other form of reproduction of the event or any surround activities (in whole or in part) for which this ticket is issued (the “Event”).”  Surprisingly, many fans probably don’t realize that these terms and conditions are made very clear on the back of their ticket as they sit in the crowd uploading photos, video, and updates to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts; among others.  While he wouldn’t say it, we also know Mike D’Antoni wasn’t thrilled with Kobe tweeting from his couch.  That said, it could actually be good for professional sports to embrace the actions of guys like Kobe Bryant tweeting in-game tips and suggestions.  The NBA has to remember that this was a good thing, because it engaged even more fans while providing them unique access to a world they wouldn’t normally get a glimpse of.  Plus, it’s not as though this is a real distraction for the players in the middle of the game while they’re following the game; not checking their Twitter accounts – hopefully.  Even Major League Baseball recognized the power of social media during the 2011 MLB Home Run Derby – and that league is about as old-school as you’re going to get in American professional sports.

Fortunately, the likelihood of our professional leagues cracking down on fans for sharing this information in the social space is unlikely because it’s actually a good marketing tool for the league; nor is it hurting the league from a profit standpoint.  Not to mention reality has shown us finding a wireless or WiFi signal when surrounded by thousands of fans trying to do the same thing is challenging in and of itself.  Fans uploading real-time information to the social media space really should be the least of league concerns at a sporting event.  However, that priority may change once stadiums and arenas have really perfected WiFi access for all in attendance.  Until then, it makes more sense for sports to wait till they get to that bridge before deciding whether or not to cross it.  Regardless of what the future holds though, you’re naïve if you don’t think social media is the way of the future for public relations in the sports realm.

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An Act of a Coward

ImageAs an athlete, there is a competitive drive in you that allows you to take your game to the next level.  Occasionally though, this same drive results in poor judgment and decision making.  Whether or not people like it, it’s part of the game and I feel very strongly that sports would be diluted if it wasn’t a factor.  Some sports definitely embrace it more than others and I think it is an idea that would be very difficult to just change.  Casual fans and non-fans of hockey watch the game for the fighting involved, completely forgetting that there’s a 60 minute chess-match taking place.  NASCAR isn’t all that different.  How many times do you hear people talk about an amazing pass that took place as a result of getting a good bump coming out of the final corner of a race?  I guarantee it pales in comparison to the number of people talking about the wrecks and melee that occurred because a few drivers had very short fuses that day.  Regardless of what happens on the field, ice, track and wherever else you want to take this topic, things happen and we move on.

What really fires me up though is when I hear about a soccer referee in Utah fighting for his life after a being punched by a 17-year-old player in a recreational soccer league.  I would be a liar if I said I always agreed with calls that referees made.  I’m pretty sure I even lead my hockey league in penalty minutes on more than one occasion.  But would I ever go as far as making physical contact with a referee?  Not. A. Chance.

Witnesses and detectives of Taylorsville, a Salt Lake City suburb, told the Portillo family that Ricardo was hit by the player in the side of the head after he issued a yellow card.  Johana Portillo, Ricardo’s daughter, went on to say, “When he was writing down his notes, he just came out of nowhere and punched him.”  Meanwhile, the Portillo family says they are, “hoping for Ricardo’s miraculous recovery and want justice for him.”  They deserve so much more than that.  I’m sorry, but I hope this little scumbag absolutely gets the justice he deserves.  I couldn’t give two shits that the player is a minor, why does our legal system insist on booking him in juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault?  Someone’s life is on the line here and the best we’re going to get is, “those charges could be amplified if Portillo dies.”  What do you mean could be amplified?  I’m not a lawyer, but that’s 2nd Degree Murder if he dies.  Even if Mr. Portillo is able to make a miraculous recovery, I whole-heartedly believe this little punk still needs to have his ass sent to the big boys penitentiary and we’ll see how tough he really is.

Godspeed, Ricardo.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the Portillo family.

Changing Landscapes: ATL Style

ImageIt’s funny how a building or structure can not only captivate an audience, but in many respects be iconic and define a city.  Thomas Jefferson once said, “Architecture worth great attention.  It is then among the most important arts: and it is desirable to introduce taste into an art which shews so much.”  Perhaps The White House as we know it is not quite what President Jefferson would have experienced when he first moved in back in 1801, but it is certainly a landmark that draws immediate associations with Washington, D.C.; along with so many other cities.  San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge.  New York has the Statue of Liberty.  Chicago has the Sears Tower.  Atlanta will have its new stadium…wait, what?  I’ll give you a moment to process this as you rack your brains…

I don’t know how that curveball made you feel, but trust me, I feel the same way after reading this story multiple times.

Okay, so it may not even be built yet.  However, judging by the proposed stadium designs for the new Atlanta Falcons facility, it’s not a question of if it will make many architecture lists, but rather under what name.  The two current options out there are:

  1. The Atlanta Pantheon
  2. The Solarium

The name isn’t all that important right now because they are both pretty outrageous designs.  The first design features what looks like a giant metallic starfish lying on top of a relatively normal stadium design – with an “oculus” that opens up in the middle of the roof.  This is a great feature for those of you that have spent any time in Georgia during the summer months, but the thing is, it’s not nearly as hot when football season roles around.  In any case, the second design goes in a very different direction of retractable roofs and creates what looks like a ginormous greenhouse/airport hangar.  I personally think the first option would be more intriguing if the City of Atlanta is really looking to stretch the limits of architecture.   Mostly because the second design already has a somewhat similar feel to Chase Field in Phoenix.

Creating an iconic design doesn’t end with the exterior though.  Especially when Arthur Blank and his Atlanta Falcons want to create something that will bring sports fans out of hibernation from their man caves and back to the stadium.  Some of the proposed features include:

Rich McKay, Atlanta Falcons CEO, would go on to say, “It has to move the needle with respect to the fantasy experience.  It has to be a game changer, not just when it opens and everyone goes “wow”, but as you move forward.

Regardless of which design the Falcons and City of Atlanta decide on, they’re definitely going to end up with something pretty radical.