Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Halftime (I)

Can you believe that one-half of 2009 has already passed by?

In some sports depots around the country, this year can’t end soon enough (talking to you, Detroit and Washington DC, despite your successful NHL teams). In others, the fun shouldn’t stop (the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Los Angeles). However, as we move into the second half of the year, there are six more months for a city/town to experience nirvana. There are also six more months for a city/town to discover sports’ version of The Ninth Circle.

You will undoubtedly read, listen to and watch a plethora of previews, mock fantasy drafts and ‘fearless’ predictions as all of the inactive leagues return this fall. If you’re fortunate to have a team in the active sports still in a playoff chase, you’ll certainly get swept up in the push for the postseason and beyond. However, between today and tomorrow, here are a few stories that you should keep an eye on as summer cools into fall and fall freezes into winter.

Today will be a general look at the sports industry while tomorrow will take on specific games.

“You know? I could do without the senior prom.”: For starters, there has been much made in recent weeks about gifted young athletes (and their families) trying to capitalize on their talents sooner than American society has traditionally expected them. Those of us who have followed sports long enough are certainly aware that leaving college early or forgoing it entirely is nothing new. However, there are players who are forgoing their senior years in high school because they feel that there’s not much left to accomplish at that level.

Bryce Harper and Jeremy Tyler are going to grab those GEDs and take faster tracks to their lofty professional goals. The ultimate senioritis, if you will. This has the “get your education” crowd up in arms because as opposed to dealing with athletes who rather pass on being essentially rented by colleges, now they have to contend with those see little opportunity to mature against players they routinely dominate.

While the next six months are far too short of a time to answer these questions, hopefully, we can finally ask what our country seems to avoid; Why is it such a problem for kids with NBA dreams – or truthfully, American kids – to take a different path where prodigies of nearly every other sport save football can get a leg up on their pro careers without a college degree? Will Harper, Tyler and many others who will follow be better players for the extra year they are giving themselves? Most of all, is it time to redefine, if not eradicate amateurism as we know it?

“Recession-proof? Yeah, right.”: There is this long-held belief that both sports and alcohol are recession-proof industries as the consumer demand is supposed to be so strong and insatiable that it will buoy both business through the tough times. Yet, you can’t change the channel or read something online without noticing beer ad after beer ad after hard liquor ad during programming that historically strayed from those spots.

Not too long ago on Scribe (via Advertising Age), you may have read about NBA teams taking advantage of relaxed rules about liquor ads in stadiums and team paraphernalia. MLB and the NFL have a longstanding relationship with the liquid courage producers – you can even say that those leagues were founded on them – but they have given those companies more opportunities to advertise. Even ESPN has taken to adding more hard liquor companies to sponsor and integrate their products into their shows and broadcasts.

This may reek of desperation or speak to a well-designed strategy, but with so many media and entertainment vehicles hitting them up for money, is when will the alcohol well run dry? Also, with the controversial, but effective means of PETA in terms of the Michael Vick scandal, should we expect organizations like MADD and the NCADD to pressure the NFL in light of Donte’ Stallworth’s vehicular manslaughter?

“Geez, did he really say that?”: A few weeks ago, you read about a rich-media application currently being used by the New England Patriots to keep fans abreast of their comings and goings. This came about because of a previous discussion on social media as the NFL used fake MySpace and Facebook profiles as part of background checks on draft prospects. Now as players, coaches, even teams and commissioners are gravitating to Twitter, there has been plenty of news about what’s being said on the micro-blogging service. Unfortunately, it’s not always for the right reasons.

Social media – more specifically, Twitter – is something that we are still trying to understand, if not, master. As Yahoo!’s Charles Robinson points out, there are some pros and cons of these figures being able to use 140 characters to speak their minds without a middle man (which isn’t all that bad, despite the access I have through the Beacon). Within the last few days, we’ve read a Twitter war of words between the Cincinnati Bengals’ Chad Ochocinco and Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers, we found that Dwayne Wade may not be getting a NAACP Image Award any time soon (a screen cap of an n-word laden tweet was removed) and Charlie Villenueva may be a free agent because of his Tweets… okay, so maybe not the last one.

Some of you probably have your own accounts to follow your friends and family, favorite athletes and entertainers, media figures and bloggers. Because of that, I must ask the all-important question: is this only the beginning thanks to its increased use from our stars or has Twitter jumped the shark?

And if you’re wondering, Facebook is just enough for me and Scribe.

Say What?!?!: It’s been quite a while since you’ve been treated to a video. While it’s not going to be the most anticipated video posted on this blog (from the new Yankee Stadium), I hope you enjoy what’s to come tomorrow night/Thursday morning.

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