Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ESPN' s website gives some coverage to the little guys too

If you go to ESPN.com, the "Headlines" you’ll see will probably be the most prominent stories in sports.  Tonight, some of the top stories are about the NFL having its first regular season game on a Wednesday night this year, and Kobe Bryant having sustained a concussion in the NBA All-Star Game this past weekend. 

But just because ESPN.com usually leads with news about the more salient figures in the sports universe doesn’t mean it’s above covering the lesser-known corners of that realm too.  For instance, though ESPN regularly covers some of the professional sports teams local to Boston, its website also includes some of the lesser-known college squads in Massachusetts.

To give a more precise example, men’s hockey teams from Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, UMass-Lowell, Northeastern, UMass, and Merrimack are all included on ESPN.com.  One spot where they’re all mentioned is in a recent blog post on ESPN Boston that wraps up the Massachusetts-area men’s hockey games from the weekend of February 24-26.

A shot of Merrimack goalie Andrew Braithwaite from an October 26, 2007 game.  This image was taken from Wikimedia Commons, and its author was Michael Salvucci.  

And if I’m going to talk about the “little guys” of Massachusetts college sports, I might be amiss not to mention the BU women’s basketball team.  They’re currently 14th in Charlie Creme’s NCAA tournament field, and I think they’re the only team from the Commonwealth included on that particular web page.  They also have their own page on ESPN.com, as every Division I men’s and women’s basketball team seems to.  And of course, who knows where else the Terriers are mentioned on the vast galaxy that is ESPN’s website.

A screen shot of part of the BU women's basketball team's page on ESPN.com.
Now I don’t think the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is by any means unique.  A February 27 blog post on ESPN New York talked about a trio of relatively obscure New York-area basketball teams (Wagner, LIU Brooklyn, and St. Francis of Brooklyn) that are “vying for a championship and an NCAA tournament bid” (the "championship" mentioned is of the Northeast Conference tournament, and I think it would secure for its recipient a ticket to the Big Dance as well).

And yes, I know…it’s not like the BC Eagles, or even the Boston Terriers, are the most obscure team on the planet.  But the BU women’s basketball team and the men’s hockey teams from BU and BC aren’t leading ESPN.com every day either, so I wouldn’t say they’re ultra high-profile from an ESPN standpoint. 

And I can’t recall ever having heard of Merrimack or UMass-Lowell before I got to BU. 

So ESPN.com does have some info on at least some smaller teams.  I think that’s pretty cool, and I’m curious to see if other bloggers and sports fans agree.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

ESPN Seems to Have Lots of Stuff on Its Website

I’ve spent a little bit of time exploring ESPN.com recently because I’m keeping this blog.  As a result of my searching, I’ve come to believe there really is a lot of material on the website.  Let me give some examples of the things I've found that have led me to believe that's true. 
Second of all, I found a calendar that lists sporting events for each day.  Assuming the information on the calendar is correct, the employees who made it must really do their homework, because there are at least a handful of events listed for every month of 2012.  For instance, the traditional college football game between the Army Cadets and the Navy Midshipmen will be played on Saturday, December 8 this year.
Third of all, I found a page on ESPN.com that lists scores in college sports.  It includes both scores of games that have happened already, and games that are scheduled to occur.  For instance, today is February 23, 2012, and this page tells me that today in the world of women's college softball, Florida beat Texas A&M by a score of 6 to 4 .  It also tells me that San Diego State is schedule to play Texas at 11:30 this evening (Eastern Standard Time). 
Of course, there’s other content I’ve found that I didn’t mention above, but the stuff I did mention is a sample of what I’ve found during my searches of ESPN.com that makes me think there’s a lot on this site.  Hopefully there are still more wonders waiting to be discovered.  After all, I chose to follow ESPN.com on this blog because I’m a sports fan. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

ESPN Women: A Site I've Never Seen Before

I was poking around ESPN.com yesterday looking for RSS feeds I might have missed when I found an ESPN sub-website dedicated to women in sports.  The tag that pops up when you hover over the tab for the site says “espnW: Online Destination for Female Sports Fans and Athletes.”

A Screen Shot of Today's Version of the ESPN Women Home Page

As you can see from the screen shot above, there are six major categories of news listed near the top of the screen: College Sports, Women’s Basketball, Olympics, More Sports, Commentary, and Athlete’s Life.  I looked over these categories somewhat briefly, and though I don’t think any of them are dedicated exclusively to women’s sports, the coverage of women’s athletics on these pages does seem pretty substantial.

It also looks like at least some of the content that isn't about women's sports is commentary about sports by women.  
As for the news itself, there are at least two stories in the six categories that I’d like to check out: a seemingly friendly family feud between Brett and Danielle Lowrie, and a story about an athlete named Kathryn Bertine that looks to be a classic inspirational tale.
I read a quick story about Hope Solo signing with the women's Seattle Sounders too.  I didn’t know there was a women’s Seattle Sounders squad.  It also turns out there is an entire women’s soccer league called the “W-League” that is comprised of 27 teams including Seattle (that’s what it says in the article I read).  I’d definitely like to know the names of the other teams in that league!
As a sports fan, I’m happy that I just discovered a new galaxy of ESPN sports coverage.  At some point, I’d like to take some time to see what else I can find on ESPN.com.  Go sports!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Word on "ESPN Cities"

For those of you unfamiliar with ESPN.com, you may have noticed that I mentioned "ESPN Cities" in at least one of my earlier posts.  I'd like to take a moment to explain these.

The "ESPN Cities" are New York, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Boston.  There are links to the web pages for each of those five cities way at the tippy-top of the ESPN.com home page.  Click on any of them, and you'll be brought to a page that looks much like ESPN.com's home page, except that the news is somehow related to the sports going on in that city or its suburbs.  For example, click on the link that says "New York," and you'll be brought to a page containing news on...well, New York-area sports.

Just like all the other ESPN City home pages, the ESPN New York home page has a big section devoted to sports videos on the left side, and a list of top news stories of the day to the right.  Then, a little above the videos and top stories, is a banner with sports scores.  Again, all the features I just mentioned are positioned comparably to those on the ESPN home page.

There are two main differences between ESPN City home pages and the main ESPN home page, though, besides the fact that the main one doesn't focus exclusively on any particular city. First, there's an ad between the banner with scores and the area with the videos and headlines on the ESPN home page.  There's no such ad on the ESPN City websites (except ESPN-LA).  Subtle difference, I know, but I think my eye notices it when I go on the ESPN City home pages without me realizing exactly what's been changed. 

Second, each ESPN City's "score banner" leads with scores from teams that play in or near that city.  Go back to ESPN New York again.  Its banner leads with the scores of last night's Knicks and Nets games (the two NBA teams in the New York area) before moving on to other NBA scores.

By contrast, today's "lead score" on the ESPN home page score banner suggests the folks in Bristol aren't quite as picky about which game leads that banner (as long as the teams involved are prominent, of course).  The score banner on the ESPN Home Page this morning leads with the 62-46 score of last night's NCAA Men's Basketball game between Michigan and Nebraska.  It's kind of strange to lead with that blowout score given that Duke beat UNC on a buzzer-beater.

By the way, a little later in the day, all sets of sports scores will change to schedules of games that are going to be held tonight (and, in fact, the one on the ESPN home page and the one on the ESPN Boston home page already changed by the time I posted this).

Okay, back to talking about the ESPN Cities.

One thing on the ESPN city pages that you won't see on the ESPN home page is a pretty small section devoted to sports team logos.  On the ESPN New York home page, it's located above the sports scores and to the right of the headline announcing that you have arrived at the ESPN New York web site. Comparable sections are positioned in likewise locations on all other ESPN City home pages.  On the ESPN New York home page, logos for teams like the New York Giants, New York Yankees, and the New York Liberty can be found within this area.  Plus, all the ESPN City team logos in these sections serve as links to blogs about their respective teams.

Okay, so now that I've gone over what I think are some of the main features of the ESPN City home pages, it's time to address a question: What are the purposes of the ESPN City pages?

To me, the answer to this question is two-fold.  First, without looking up any statistics, I believe New York, LA, and Chicago are, respectively, the first-, second-, and third-largest television markets in the country (According to Professor Larry Bean).  That, logically, makes them worthy of their web pages, in my opinion.

Second, all five cities have some of the premier sports franchises in the country: the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Lakers.  Certainly, the fact that each city is home to at least one well-known and popular team also makes them well-worth the dedication of, essentially, entire web sites.

Well, that's about it for now.  Although, there is one thing I wondered recently: Will there be any more ESPN Cities?  I doubt it, but as a sports fan, it makes me excited to just talk about what city could be the next one worthy of such devotion from ESPN.  Some ideas I had: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Miami.  What do you think, fellow bloggers?  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Convergence on ESPN.com's "Headlines," Part 1

I'd like to do a few blog posts about ESPN.com's use of convergence in their "Headlines," so here is the first of (what I hope will be) several discussions on convergence in ESPN.com's news.

I've picked an article about the Dallas Mavericks today, and there are a lot of features in this case that contribute to telling a story about the Mavs.  There's a written article, of course, and in this case, it talks a lot about Mark Cuban's being discontent with the performances of at least some NBA referees. 

The article also says the Mavericks' lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night.

There are also links to four videos right on top of the written article.  Not a single one that I watched** had any mention of Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks.  That's good, because the videos give new information instead of going over the same stuff that's in the written article. 

For example, in the "Mavs Pick and Roll," Ben Rogers' and Skin Wade's respective beliefs on who the Dallas Mavericks' biggest rival is is among the topics of conversation. 

Then, the text of the article wraps around a podcast in which ESPN reporter Tim MacMahon interviews Cuban.  Although some of the information contained within the podcast expands on what was included in the written article, much of it isn't new. 

Also, some of the audio in the podcast, which does not include a visual element in this case, is inaudible.  In fact, none of the audio in the cast is what you could call "clean."

Then there's still more content: a link to ESPN reporter Jean-Jacques Taylor's written arguments about the Mavs, a link to a page on which ESPN fans can vote on various issues related to the Dallas basketball club and their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, a link to a blog on the Mavericks, and a link to ESPN Dallas website.

So overall, I think I'd give ESPN.com a "B+" for their use of convergence in this case.  They have lots of features, most of which add to the overall story of Mark Cuban complaining and the Mavericks losing.  The biggest knock on their convergence in this case is they podcast, because it repeats information and isn't fantastic in terms of audio.

**Just a note: In a show of how fast-paced the world of news is, ESPN changed one of the four videos above the written article before I finished this post.  Though I didn't get a chance to watch it, the title of the link suggests it's at least related to the Dallas Mavericks and some of the stuff that appeared in the written article.