Final Project Preparation

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The Ohio State Women’s basketball team made it to the Sweet 16 this March, though more people seemed to care about the Men’s team’s lack of even an NIT appearance. Though we will not be covering basketball in our final project, this illustrates the problem we will be covering. Photo from Land Grand Holy Land. 

“Basketball or women’s basketball?”

In sports split amongst genders, we often assume that when you mention the sport alone, you are referring to the men’s team. This habit, along with many others, contributes to the sexist culture that still very much exists in college athletics and sports media.

For our final project, we plan to create a comprehensive journalistic package discussing the issues surrounding sexism in the realm of college sports. We will speak with both female and male athletes from a non-revenue sport at Ohio State to gain multiple perspectives on the impact sexism has had throughout their collegiate athletic career.

With Title IX having been passed in 1972, it’s shocking that we are still covering this topic 45 years later. Title IX protects collegiate athletes specifically in the following ways:

  1. Participation: Title IX requires that women and men be provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports. Title IX does not require institutions to offer identical sports but an equal opportunity to play;
  2. Scholarships: Title IX requires that female and male student-athletes receive athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation; and
  3. Other benefits: Title IX requires the equal treatment of female and male student-athletes in the provisions of: (a) equipment and supplies; (b) scheduling of games and practice times; (c) travel and daily allowance/per diem; (d) access to tutoring; (e) coaching, (f) locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; (g) medical and training facilities and services; (h) housing and dining facilities and services; (i) publicity and promotions; (j) support services and (k) recruitment of student-athletes.

Though arguments could be made to nearly all of points, I am particularly interested in Ohio State Athletes’ views of 3(i)- publicity and promotions. Popular culture has come to accept light (at best) coverage of female athletics at both the amateur and professional levels, despite positive social progress for female empowerment in other realms of the world. In fact, as of 2015, many networks actually covered women’s athletics less than they had 25 years prior. I am interested in speaking not only with Ohio State athletes to get their viewpoints on this, but also governing bodies, such as Fan Experience, to learn how they attempt to uphold this requirement.

My team will consist of myself, Jeffrey Jessberger, and Kevin Kwiatkowski.

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Breaking the Ballet Norm

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Photo from Under Armour, Source: Huffington Post

Misty Copeland has been a role model for minority dancers since the beginning of her career. As the first African-American woman appointed to be a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, Copeland has been recognized for challenging the norm of the dance community, while overcoming personal challenges related to body image as well.

Later in her career, Copeland broke another barrier in the dance world, by becoming the first dancer to be endorsed by Under Armour. As they re-branded to appeal to a wider variety of athletic activities, including dance, yoga, and Pilates, the fitness apparel company chose Copeland due to her unique and relatable history.

This photo was one of Copeland’s first ads with Under Armour, who have highlighted her most unique features as a dancer from the beginning. Copeland is more muscular and curvy than a traditional ballerina silhouette, so high-cut bottoms and cropped shirts are used to highlight these traits. Additionally, the photo is shot in an industrial setting rather than a typical dance studio, creating a more “tough” feel to the photo.

This photo, along with the rest of the images from Copeland’s Under Armour endorsement, command viewers to see dancers for the athletes that they are. While there is discrepancy in the dance and athletic communities about whether dance is a sport or an art, Copeland’s muscular, confident image sends a message that dancers are certainly athletes.

Bringing the “Nuts” Back to the Nuthouse

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The Buckeye Nuthouse was sold out in the 2013-2014 season, but now struggles with attendance. Photo by Block “O”

Dear Ericka,

450 Ohio State students is enough to create an intimidating lecture hall environment.

It’s nearly double the size of Ohio State’s revered marching band, which has enjoyed nationwide attention for years.

But 450 Ohio State students is not enough to create a supportive environment inside Value City Arena at the Schottenstein Center, especially for a consistently low-performing Ohio State men’s basketball team.

According to James Prisco, 2016-2017 Buckeye Nuthouse Director, an average of 450 students made the trek up Lane Avenue for each game this season, filling up less than 20% of the student section’s 2,400-person capacity. While a variety of factors likely contributed to the low attendance (USG’s attempt to recover a failed ticket-incentive program, the team’s struggling record) a much less visible factor is the simple laziness of students.

While Buckeye football fans may never stray far from the ‘Shoe, our basketball team does not hold the same rich, winning history. Therefore, in order to entice students to commit the 3-4 hours an entire game experience usually consists of (between walking to the Arena, the game, and walking home), not only do we need to create a more enticing environment—we need to shorten the time commitment.

Though the distance from the Ohio Union to the Arena is under two miles, it is at least a twenty-minute walk. This may not seem very long in comparison to fifteen minutes students have in between each class, but it can feel even longer in winter’s cold. While a consistent game day bus route would likely only cut travel time to the Arena by about 10 minutes for students, a round-trip reduction of 20 minutes and shelter from walking in the cold could be enough incentive for more students to commit to attending games.

In addition to providing better transportation for students, we should work to combat their laziness inside of the Arena, in terms of getting more students to participate in the Nuthouse’s cheers. The current set-up of the Buckeye Nuthouse, spread across two seating sections, is not conducive to the best possible student section. As we do not currently fill both sections, and have not sold out the student ticket section since the 2013-2014 season, limiting the Nuthouse to only the section behind the team benches could help provide a better atmosphere for students.

Having the student section more condensed would make it easier for the Nuthouse committee to lead cheers throughout the arena, which would provide a better atmosphere for students and general fans alike. Additionally, a smaller student section would create a more competitive ticket-buying experience, which could cause students to hold themselves more accountable for the games they do choose to buy tickets for.

While it may take a trial-and-error process to determine which tactic(s) will increase overall attendance at these games, the first efforts should be concentrated on students. If the enthusiasm of students is brought back the arena, people will be more excited to attend games, with less dependency on team quality.

Sincerely,

Sydney Sundell

 

Integrity & the Athletic Activist

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Michael Bennett was the first of many athletes to back out of an NFL trip to Israel. Photo from CBS Sports. 

For fans, it can be difficult to remember that their favorite athletes are more than just athletes. It is easily forgotten that they have thoughts, opinions, and feelings, often reflecting society’s larger issues. With the backlash that often occurs when athletes do choose to take a public stance on issues, it is not surprising that many of them prefer to remain publicly neutral on controversial topics.

In our current reality of extreme controversy surrounding our president, sexuality and human rights, foreign relations, and racial tension, however, many athletes are choosing to publicize their beliefs, regardless of expected retaliation.

This can be uncomfortable for some fans—if your favorite athlete openly admits to an opinion different than yours, can you overcome the cognitive dissonance and continue to support them? Or does saying you’re a Tom Brady fan now have political implications?

Athletes should not let fear of losing fans dissuade them from taking public stances on topics they feel strongly about. Yet they also should not be coerced into publicizing premature opinions on issues they do not feel prepared to represent.

A prominent example of this notion is Michael Bennett, who recently backed out of a trip to Israel with other NFL players. After discovering that the Israeli government intended to send the players back to the U.S. as “influencers” for the good-will of the country, Bennett decided that he was not comfortable with the visit.

After publishing a letter reflecting on why he would not be attending this particular trip (but plans to go in the future), several other players backed out of the trip as well. It became evident that many of the other players did not recognize the suspected intent of the trip, and upon learning that their celebrity was potentially intended to be used as a platform for public Israeli support, they felt uncomfortable.

While Bennett potentially criticized the trip’s intentions more than necessary, his response raises an important question regarding influencing athletes, or celebrities in general, to take a stance on controversial topics.

It is entirely possible that had Bennett traveled to Israel with purely exploratory intent, he would have become an advocate for the “good-will” of the country on his own accord. But integrity must be questioned, regardless of the cause, if celebrities are intentionally targeted and given incomplete information in an attempt to cause them to take a stance on issues they otherwise may not.

Ultimately, athletes should be held to no more or less responsibility than others in the public eye in terms of becoming activists. And when they do choose to take a stance, it should be on issues they are passionate about, prepared to defend, and understanding of the potential consequences of.

 

Pitching and Pivoting- Updates on my First Feature Article

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A selection of Kelly Roderick’s project “The Stronger” is currently on display in the Ohio Union. (Photo of display taken by Sydney Sundell)

I began this assignment with the intentions to write about Tanner Laczynski, a first-year forward on the men’s hockey team who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers before even beginning at Ohio State. After doing some research, however, I found that The Lantern had already written a feature on Laczynski, and that his story did not seem to be astronomically different from those of other strong collegiate-level hockey players.

Nearly every day, however, I pass a giant photo of women’s volleyball middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe, which is currently displayed as an art project outside of the Archie Griffin Grand Ballroom in the Ohio Union. A short description of the piece is displayed alongside of the photo, along with a more feminine photo of Sandbothe in a dress, creating an interesting juxtaposition for those passing by.

After reading the description of the project, I am planning on reaching out to the artist, Kelly Roderick, as well as Sandbothe, to learn more about the piece and what it means to each of them. I believe that her further explanation from Roderick on her inspiration for the piece, as well as why she chose Sandbothe as one of her models, could be an interesting addition to this feature.

In switching focuses, I have been pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and promptness of the SIDs. Both of the SIDs I have contacted to request interviews have been very helpful and understanding of time constraints of reporters, which as a first-time sports journalism student, I did not expect.

Sandbothe’s SID quickly informed me that Taylor is already playing professionally abroad after completing her senior season in December, but that I could contact her directly since her eligibility at Ohio State has expired. The SID (Kyle Kuhlman) also noted that he would help me get in contact with her to schedule an interview if emailing did not work, which I appreciate as a student reporter.

Throughout my research, I have found that Taylor was an integral part of her Ohio State team from as early on as her freshman year. She started all games in her first season (2013), ranked 10th in the Big Ten during her second season, recorded the top-five school records for total blocks in her third season, and began her fourth season ranking top 10 in school history.

While I have found a lot of valuable reporting on her impressive career, nowhere have I seen any reports of her thoughts and feelings on feminism, which is why I am eager to explore them. In addition to Sandbothe and Roderick, I will contact Geoff Carlston, head women’s volleyball coach, to collect some further insight into Taylor’s career.

Is the Rodgers Family Feud “Fake News”?

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Dramatic photos like this are perpetuating the vaguely detailed family feud in popular culture. Photo from Sports Grid

In an era where Beyonce’s pregnancy becomes mainstream news, it is to be expected that media consumers will anxiously grab onto anything that might become a ‘story.’

This is as true for sports fans as it is for consumers of pop culture and political media. For example, take Aaron Rodgers’ strained relationship with his family. While multiple sources site this feud as having begun over two years ago, it did not catch national attention until Aaron’s brother Jordan spoke out about it on “The Bachelorette.”

Multiple sources have since investigated the cause of Aaron’s detachment from his family, including major pop culture sources (US Weekly,  People, E!). Additionally, some traditional news sources have deemed the feud to be an early news lead (Washington Post), or entertainment (New York Daily News).

What all of these stories have in common, however is that none of them have anything more than a few vague quotes and a lot of speculation as to what happened to the Rodgers family. The lack of concrete evidence in each of the articles makes them feel repetitive, gossipy, and somewhat artificial. These qualities are what make their worth questionable.

Versions of the Rodgers’ story are plentiful now, but will likely dwindle of no additional details are uncovered soon. While this topic is by no means “off-limits” to cover, there are certainly more valuable things to report on until more of the truth is revealed. It is not unreasonable for a story about an athlete’s personal life to appear in the sports section—yet it would be more appropriate if and when the athlete himself or a truly reliable source is ready to provide a substantial amount of detail.

Yet, when a substantial amount of detail is available, the story can be even harder to report. When Jack Johnson’s parents left him bankrupt, it was easier to uncover the details, because they were mostly based on publically available information, such as his contracts and court documents. Though this story may have been harder to break on an ethical level, it was arguably done more responsibly. This is similar to when Manti Te’o’s ‘Catfished’ relationship was exposed—in both circumstances, both reliable documents and the subjects themselves validated the story.

Journalists have a responsibility to uphold high ethical standards. And yet, if we let everyone else report a story that we refuse to investigate, we are seen as falling behind. Therefore, the best we can do is try to strike a balance by determining when and how to tell a story. The Rodgers’ story was not “unworthy” of being investigated, but did it warrant an entire feature? Jack Johnson’s story was heartbreaking to read and presumably to write, but isn’t it better for it to be uncovered by The Dispatch than by someone who had less access to credible facts about Johnson?

Overall, professional athletes knowingly open themselves up for scrutiny by putting themselves in the public eye, and should not be surprised when the public takes interest in their personal lives. As journalists, however, we must train the public eye to see what is worth caring deeply about, and what is just “good-to-know.”

Sports Coverage: The Good vs. The Bad

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Does a false tattoo story qualify as good sports coverage? (Photo from Fox Sports).

Though reporting live from games or matches and writing vivid, detailed re-caps afterwards are important components of sports journalism, many compelling stories are written outside of game hours, and focus on the people that make up the sport. Chuck Gormley’s ESPN article detailing former Philadelphia Flyers player Brian Propp’s recovery from a stroke is an excellent example of such human-centered sports journalism.

 

Gormley provides just enough necessary information to familiarize an unknowing reader with Propp’s legendary NHL career, without over-saturating the otherwise focused article with too many statistics and details. Propp’s stroke story is told in chronological order throughout the article, with details of his career woven in where they make the most sense. The article includes quotes from both Propp himself and his former teammates, which not only validate the story, but help illustrate Propp’s personality based on how others talk about him and his influence.

 

The article also demonstrates the relevance of Propp’s story to hockey players, fans, and the stroke community at large. Mentions of his participation in a Flyers alumni game, charity golf tournaments, and counseling groups for stroke victims make this article far more than an update on a former player who suffered an injury, and overall enjoyable to read.

 

Non-game-specific coverage, however, can also seem forced, unexciting, and ultimately irrelevant when non-influential stories are pursued. For example, Cameron DaSilva’s Fox Sports article on a fan’s foolish tattoo appears to be ultimately unnecessary, and therefore did not work for me as a reader. The story of this tattoo can be largely interpreted simply by viewing the photo—an overzealous fan with confidence in his team made a bold gesture that ultimately did not end in his favor. This story is almost identical to that of a confident Cleveland sports fan, which went viral only a few months ago, and packed a larger punch because of how close the premature tattoo came to being accurate.

 

DaSilva’s article is short, factual, and does not provide readers with a substantial amount of information beyond what is intuitively inferable. Even the quote from the fan provided in the article does not reveal much about him—it simply states that he was devastated by the loss, and expects a Super Bowl win from the Cowboys next year. If this article had provided more unique information about the fan, such as a story detailing the history of his fandom, it might have been more compelling to read.

A Career in Sports Media

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ESPN’s College GameDay at Ohio State on 11/26/2016. To many outsiders, TV-facing personalities such as Kirk Herbstreit are the epitome of a career in sports media  (photo by College GameDay)

 

I was a 14-year-old high school freshman the first time I was sent to a Junior Varsity football game with a notepad and a camera. Intimidated by my athletic peers and disinterested in sports, I was not thrilled by my first yearbook assignment, but I would soon be excited by the stories to watch and tell in the world of sports.

What draws me most to a career in sports are just those– the countless stories waiting to be discovered and told, that can change the way others perceive and consume the sports media that so heavily saturates our world today. Seemingly insignificant details, like the timing of a franchise move or the analysis of a team’s color scheme, can unlock dozens of opinions, years of history, and demands for explanations, even years after they happen. Player and team profiles can influence fandom, and with games, matches, and meets occurring daily at amateur through professional levels, the story of sports is never complete.

With the constant influx of stories comes the expectancy of sports media professionals to never “turn-off,” working unconventional hours and being willing to adapt and change themes based on seconds of game play. As we have discussed, reporters can have stories completed, proof-read, and ready to be published before a game even ends, only for the expected results to change minutes (or even seconds) before the final buzzer.

A career in sports media is also not as broad as it sounds. For example, most sports journalists focus on only one or two sports to cover, and build up their expertise over time. While other sports media careers, such as broadcasting, graphic design, and social media management may allow professionals to work with a broader variety of sports and teams, individuals rarely have no specialization due to the nature of the industry.

Finally, a career in sports media requires an ability to look objectively at games, and to leave fandom to the fans (though some people do not believe this is entirely necessary). This is another quality that draws me to the sports media industry—learning to watch, analyze, and publish not just scores, but meaningful results from and reports on these events can help promote a more analytical outlook on the rest of the world.