Live From Louisville…It’s the NCAA!!

Brian BennettThe convergence of blogging and sports reporting took a cruel turn yesterday after Brian Bennett of the Louisville Courier-Journal was evicted from the press box at last night’s University of Louisville’s College World Series-berth clinching game over Oklahoma State.  Why was Bennett banned?  Because the NCAA determined that his blogging from the game site was in violation of its rules on reproduction of game accounts.  The Courier-Journal’s account is here.   Bennett’s so-called non-conforming blog activity is here.

As you can see, what Bennett did is done by many sports reporters, and non-reporters for that matter, providing live blogging of events as it is unfolding.   I don’t like the term “live” blogging because, in fact, the blogging takes place after the play is completed.

I never understood the need for “live” blogging from an athletic event.  If the goal is to simply describe the events that just took place, why would anyone seek out a newspaper website for that information?   My first stop would be the television broadcast of the event.  Or, if I didn’t have access to a television but did have Internet access, I would seek out either ESPN or other media outlets that are providing live updates.  Even then I would do so sporadically, not spending any prolonged period of time glued to my PC for the details of the game.  Bennett said people enjoyed his posts, receiving over 10,000 hits during the earlier rounds of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

If the blogging, however, consisted of analysis of what happened or information not gleaned from the television broadcast, then I would be more inclined to read about it, although again not for any long stretches.  There’s a lot that can be gained from reporters at the scene of the game which would not necessarily be picked-up by television or radio broadcasts, adding more flavor for those at home.  These “behind-the-scenes” moments fit well into the notion of blogging during a game.

Here is part of a memo that was sent around to the media at Patterson Stadium in Louisville prior to the three game Super Regional:

The College World Series Media Coordination staff along with the NCAA Broadcasting group needs to remind all media coordinators that any statistical or other live representation of the Super Regional games falls under the exclusive broadcasting and Internet rights granted to the NCAA’s official rights holders and therefore is not allowed by any other entity. Since blogs are considered a live representation of the game, any blog that has action photos or game reports, including play-by-play, scores or any in-game updates, is specifically prohibited. In essence, no blog entries are permitted between the first pitch and the final out of each game.

The memo clearly states that blogging during the game was prohibited.  The part that I question is the following: 

Since blogs are considered a live representation of the game, any blog that has action photos or game reports, including play-by-play, scores or any in-game updates, is specifically prohibited. 

Who determined that blogs are a “live representation of the game”?  What standards did they use? 

The NCAA will surely catch some flack as a result of this episode at a time when it should be focusing on getting positive publicity for sports like baseball which generally do not receive the same attention as football and basketball.  They should embrace “live” blogging from an event as a way to spread the word about these sports.  What Bennett did in no way infringed on the rights holders’ exclusivity to the “live representation of the game”.  

If nothing else this will be a test case as to the definition of “live representation of the game”I fall in line with the Journal-Courier’s initial assertion that reporting of the facts after a play does not negatively impcact upon the exclusivity of the rights holder.

I wonder who is really driving this action?  Is it solely the NCAA, or are some of the rights holders holding its feet to the fire?  This should be an interesting case to follow.

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