Socially Freelancing — BWB Style

Freelancing has its benefits.

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[I’ve never claimed to be an expert photographer but I’ll always take a picture of the beach when near one]

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Home Depot Center - pregame

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Home Depot Center – pregame

Whether at a beach or on the gridiron, there are benefits to being a freelancer. The downside, of course, is that it’s your money you are spending for those said benefits.

But it is worth it when it involves trips to the NFLPA Digital Symposium and Collegiate Bowl in California. 

***

This trip actually came up out of the blue (bird). I had read about “Blogs With Balls” events previously on Twitter. Based on the West Coast like I am, making the trip to the East Coast where the previous events had taken place, was out of the question [remember, I’m a freelancer]. Blogs With Balls (“BWB”)is an event that’s focus is sports media, specifically “new media”. As someone who is involved in new media on a daily basis, I found it intriguing and decided to head to Los Angeles for this West Coast event.

Collegiate Bowl

Coach Herm Edwards speaking at the NFLPA Digital Symposium while Coach Dick Vermeil listens intently.

Working in conjunction with the NFLPA (National Football League Players’ Association), BWB in L.A. had a definite NFL/College Bowl flavor to it. Panel discussions included the BCS/Bowl system, the NFL in L.A. and the one I was most interested in, Sports and the 2nd Screen.

Each panel brought its own unique insight. Having been crashed by two Los Angeles Rams fans (No that’s not a mistake – two Rams’ fans that came just for that one panel discussion. They’re passionate but, not the venue for it guys. Commissioner and owners were not present to hear your pleas.

BCS/Bowl system is the topic that will never end. Even with the advent of a playoff system, there will still be dissent, arguments, imperfection and the like. It was stated as much when one panelist referenced that there will still be controversy when a team is “left out” of the playoff system that is deserving. Why?

I believe it’s because of the polls. I believe a team may get left out because they are unable to get through to voters who had other teams ranked higher in the preseason. A team that was #1  preseason, could only drop down a few spots to #4, for example, after a loss in September. Meanwhile, a non-big conference team could potentially be unbeaten (even with road non-conference wins) and never be able to break through the top spots and thereby not in the playoffs. Something to think about when it comes to preseason polls.

***

As for the panel I had anticipated most, the 2nd screen, was slightly disappointing. Don’t get me wrong. There was quality discussion on it. However, the advent of the 2nd screen in sports is a topic that requires much more than a half-hour to an hour discussion. There are so many variables.

Yes, of course, the Manti Te’o issue was front and center but 2nd screen is beyond what most people think of nowadays. Truth be told, you could do a whole day on the topic of 2nd screen in sports. The Te’o issue, in my opinion, became a 1st screen topic, not 2nd screen.

Deadspin broke the story on Twitter. Not television (generally referred to as 1st screen). Twitter. The news of it, the subsequent rumors, innuendos, questions, reactions all were begun on Twitter. Deadspin is a website to read but getting the message out came through Twitter. Eventually, television picked up on it but it appeared most people were taking to Twitter for their news (and rumors, and innuendos, and questions, and reactions).

***

In my freelancing efforts, Twitter is my workplace, my cubicle, if you will. Following a lot of people is not my style. As a Twitter sports reporter, following too many people means there’s potential to miss too many stories. Lists, and multiple accounts, are the only way I can monitor what’s going on in the world of sports, what people are talking about. Those rumors, innuendos, questions, reactions all occurred quickly on Twitter. People weren’t waiting for reporters to bring more information on it on television. They read the story but looked to Twitter to find answers.

This led to many bloggers/reporters writing quickly on the topic, without even knowing all of the facts. Speculation was rampant.Why? Put simply, views. Views = advertising dollars, yes? The Te’o story, as wild, crazy and unbelievable as it may be, was open-season for some in sports media.

Many a reporter/writer/fan felt duped into believing Te’o’s story of overcoming this past season. I believed the story of his dealing with tragedy. What I thought were ‘trusted’ writers and news outlets, told me so. What’s not to believe, right? I’m not writing the story. Covering Notre Dame isn’t my gig. Looking at myself as a fan first, I’m going to “believe” what I’m reading from trusted sources.

Failure on my part. Failure on media’s part to not dig a little deeper in the first place.

Failure acknowledged. But that doesn’t remove the stain. And that’s where this thing took a little twist.

Media blaming media. Media blaming social media.

Fans blaming media. Fans blaming social media.

But let me stop right there. 

I could go on and on about the things I read on Twitter about this. Rabbit trails of discussion exist all over the place on just this one topic. I started out calling Twitter the 1st screen and ended up raising the blame-game issue.

Therein lies the rub.

The so-called 2nd screen is so complex a topic that it would require much more than a single panel discussion, a single column or  blog post. 2nd screen (social media) is changing at such a rapid pace that all of us can’t possibly keep up (that includes you too, social media experts). Immersed in the world of sports, I see professional and college teams/organizations/athletes all struggling to keep up too. There will come a time, I believe, when all of us will catch up but only with education. Then, perhaps, the next big thing may come along and we’ll start the process all over again.

Sorry about that…I could go on & on about sports/social media. Goes to show you how complex of topic it really is. 

I believe I mentioned a football game right?

***

Yes, there was a football game yesterday (Saturday, January 19th, 2013). Held at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, home of the LA Galaxy (heated rival of “my” Sounders). A gorgeous day in Cali for a football game:

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As gorgeous a day as it was, the on-field performance was, alas, not. It is, after all, an all-star game. A game where players from different teams are brought together to practice and work as one in a short amount of time. But this week is beyond the game for the players. They learned skills about their craft, their chosen vocation, if you will, and also about life.

Former players and NFL coaches (see Herm Edwards and Dick Vermeil pic above), people who have been through the process and the highest level, imparting to these young men what it will take for them to make it there. Scoreboard shows that the game was a laugher on the surface (final score: 34-0, National Team). Five fumbles in a game will do that. Some decent plays were made and hopefully, many a player helped their draft stock, or at the very least, helped them to get noticed.

In the aftermath, I was able to chat for a few short minutes with one player [ADDED audio 1/31 https://soundcloud.com/cadchicasports/jeff-tuel-nflpa-collegiate]. He reiterated much of what I just said above. Learning from those that have been through it all, even learning from the other players, was invaluable.

But then again, he was on the winning team.

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***

Thankfully, I was able to speak with the NFLPA’s Assistant Executive Director – External Affairs, George Atallah. Mr. Atallah allowed me to bend his ear for a few minutes on athletes and social media. Social media is a definite part of the education process for these players, according to Mr. Atallah. 

It goes beyond “think before you tweet” anymore. We’ve seen that in stories of athletes getting in trouble for their tweets or comments on Facebook. They didn’t think before they tweeted. Why? Because they didn’t know “how” to think. It sounds silly, in theory, that they “didn’t think”. But as I stated earlier, social media is changing at an exponential rate. Twitter’s boom alone has been within the last three years, in terms of a sports-media platform. Keeping up has been a challenge for every sports organization and athlete, no matter what the level.

If they have a hard time keeping up, imagine how parents and educators feel. They’re struggling to keep up too in this fast-paced, social world. But it starts there. Even at the most elementary/middle-school levels, it starts there, at home and school. My hope is that professional leagues/teams will work with schools to provide social-media education. We all see the various programs they have to promote an active lifestyle or simply visiting schools in their area. If it’s not already, the challenges (pitfalls) of social media should be a part of those events.

***

So yes, freelancing has its benefits. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was slightly in awe of being there. It was all a little surreal to think that a year ago at this time I was sitting at a desk job. Now, I’m an accepted member of the media. [Okay, so I’m a little delusional on the accepted part but work with me here.]

Special shout-out to Brian Bassett from TheJetsBlog.com. He didn’t know a simple hello would mean that he’d become my friend for the day. He’s a pro at BWB and was very helpful to this newbie. Too bad he’s a Jets fan. (Kidding, Brian)

Thank you to the folks at Blogs With Balls for allowing me to be a part of this. Although after reading this post, they may decide that it wasn’t such a good thing and never allow me to attend another one again. And, of course, they may very well unfollow me on Twitter. No matter. I enjoyed the symposium and meeting many new people. Putting a face with a Twitter handle is always a good thing too in this post-Te’o era. And yes, some are exactly like they come across on Twitter.

Thank God they’re real.

***

CadChica Sports

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