Several days ago, on 18to88, there was a post about bloggers not being allowed to report on the Colts in an official capacity and the team’s “No Blogger” policy. This was kind of a follow-up to last year’s turf war between 18to88 and the Indystar over secret identities, press access, and legitimacy. While this is all well and good, I think it dances around a more fundamental issue:
Football Wants To Be Free
As it stands, teams act in a way that would make Papa Joe (you know, Stalin) proud. Look at your average injury report from the Colts. That is a game of cat and mouse as sophisticated as any news piece coming out of the Soviet Union in the good old days. We get an injury report and it is just like a report of a new Soviet missile being tested; we tear it apart and overanalyze it for hidden meanings—is it accurate, is it a fake to make us think its real, will we get to see it in action, is there any way to verify, will we ever know the truth?
Perpetuating their Stalinist lock on communication, our team (and most others) refuse bloggers and their requests for access, while working exclusively with “legitimate” media. This is no different than any totalitarian regime with their official news outlet (Pravda anyone?). The Indy Star (even Kravitz) is just another piece of the Colts media control since the Star won’t do anything to jeopardize their relationship with the team.
On the other hand, you have bloggers who can do anything they want to: use any advertisers on their sites, offer recipes for barbecue puppies, complain about any player, or take video cam shots of graphic nudity with a team’s logo pasted all over. It doesn’t matter to the blogger, but it matters mightily to the Colts, the other teams, the league, and other pro sports. They have to control the message and the bloggers are uncontrollable.
What brought down the Soviets, in part, was information wanted to be free. Cats like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who went to gulags and kept an oral tradition alive eventually got the word out about all the regime’s crimes and abuses. The official connections and control of information could not be maintained. And they cannot be maintained today.
Take the case of .mp3 recordings. Once music went digital and The People figured out how to rip and burn music, it was the end of monopolistic control by record companies. It used to be they controlled the music and the message. Now music is free (and by free I don’t necessarily mean without cost or that piracy should be encouraged, but that music and its distribution is in the hands of the artists and the fans resulting in a circumvention of the corporations). I think football wants to be free in exactly the same way. The guys and coaches want to play ball and they don’t care as long as they get to play and they get to perform. And, us fans want football, no matter how we get it. The TEAM (and please be straight, I am not knocking the Colts at all, I do love them, but I am referring to the corporate structure that is the team) is oftentimes in the way. Gary Brackett injures his hand in a preseason game and the team goes into information control mode. If you bumped into Gary at Burger King, he probably shows the injury to you and tells you the deal.
Also prompting this post is the recent awesome video of the team bowling. Did we find out through an official press release? Nope. Through player tweets and online posts. And you know what, in my opinion, some of the most interesting football video in a long time. Unedited, unsanitized, and fun. Straight from the players to us. No intermediaries. No censors. This will only increase in the future as tweets, blogs, and even newer technologies appear.
Another take on blogs is to ask how long will “official” media outlets last. I point this out to everyone I talk to. Phil B. blogs for the Star. Does a bang up job. Love his work. However, he probably makes $35,000 to $50,000 a year to blog (in addition to his other duties). How much does Stampede Blue make blogging? How much does 18to88 make blogging? How about us here at weareindy? I bet we make peanuts if anything at all. That leaves us with an economic problem: how long can the Star afford to pay a guy that much money for what has to be a sanitized, corporate approved message when there are dozens of Colts blogs that are low cost, more entertaining, free-minded, and absolutely independent? That is an unsustainable situation.
And that kind of pressure extends to all other areas of football. Take Netflix (which I know has nothing to do with football). It is now doing what cable TV should have been doing for decades now. You should be able to pick and choose what you want to see and pay for it. The end. I don’t want a cable package. I watch football games and one or two other channels. That’s it. Why do I have to pay for Martha Stewart, Fox News and CNN (shooting for political balance here), and tons of other stuff? Netflix lets you stream what you want to see when you care to see it with no strings attached (unlike so many “On Demand” services that charge different amounts and obligates you to have basic cable).
The same problem applies to football. Why can’t I see the Colts game? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t have the right provider. Maybe I can’t get the NFL ticket package. Why can’t I get a live feed without announcers jabbering their inanities? Why can’t I get overhead camera shots so I can see the plays develop? The obstacle is the NFL. The fact that you can get and watch pirated/bootleg games seems to be part of this pattern I’m writing about: football wants to be free. Games will find away around the corporate structure and get to us someday. How will they do that? I have the answer.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback, one of the greatest living sports writers, has talked about stadium financing and free speech. We own those stadiums. Why can’t we photograph and film the action? I am sure in my lifetime I will see this as a lawsuit. The NFL will try to spin it as they are entertainment and they should control the content, but I would argue games are a news event and should be open to all kinds of recording by all kinds of recorders. A football game is an event so counts as newsworthy in way seeing a movie or play doesn’t. One city’s team goes and plays another. Somebody gets hurt. Somebody gets fired. That’s all news in my book and news is no longer the province of official statist media. It is moving into the hands of the people as will happen to football eventually, because football wants to be free.