Favre, Peyton bring Midwest Sports into National Focus Part 1


By Paul M. Banks

Brett Favre’s incessant media circus and Peyton Manning’s undefeated Colts have put national spotlight on the Midwest, I discuss this and the future of sports media with Midwest Sports Fans.com’s Jerod Morris.

(PMB) Last weekend, I was at a party and referred to ESPN as Eastern Seaboard Programming Network, as I always do. Someone said to me non-jokingly, “Is that what it really stands for?” And with the non-stop emphasis on New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox, Duke-North Carolina and the unhealthy man-crush that they (along with seemingly every other journalist in this country) seems to have on Florida QB Tim Tebow, I do wonder if it’s literally true.

Of course, they also unjustifiably blanket teams like USC and Notre Dame which appeal to large numbers of frat boy front-runner types who don’t really like sports, but pretend to. Your thoughts on bias, East Coast or otherwise?duke_vitale

(JM) By now I think it is pretty clear to everyone that a strong bias exists not just at ESPN but at all major television networks; and the bias can be boiled down into one nice, neat, tidy word: ratings.

ESPN is no longer just the upstart underdog from Bristol. They are now a Disney-owned, worldwide conglomerate with serious stakeholders to answer to. No longer can they be “every sports persons’ network”; rather, they must be “every sports plurality’s network”, and by this I mean that they must, in the majority of cases, broadcast whatever they can get their hands on in each time slot that will drive the highest ratings.

We can bitch about it all we want (and we do!) but Yankees-Red Sox will always drive more viewers than White Sox-Twins, no matter how good the teams are. Duke-North Carolina will always drive more visitors than a game for first place in the Big Ten between Michigan State and Purdue. It is what it is. And it just so happens that most of the ratings drivers are East Coast-based teams and the majority of the country is on Central or Eastern time.

I would think that by now sports fans would be conditioned to the reality that sports is a business. We hear the athletes say it all the time, and I think that despite our frustrations we have to understand that the same is true for those who broadcast them.

And if we don’t like it, there’s always the Big Ten Network!erinandrewswis

(PMB) As polarizing a figure as Brett Favre is, and he’s certainly done a few things to warrant that hatred people have of him, he made the 1600lb. gorilla in the sports media room ESPN focus on the upper midwest, Wisconsin and Minnesota particularly, and that never happens. Was this a good thing for Midwestern sports fans? Not just for your site, but also actual people who can legitimately be described with this designation?

(JM) I guess it depends on whether you were in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

It has been great for Minnesota. Not only has Brett Favre’s arrival created more excitement in the city, but the team has a serious shot to be playing playoff games at home and possibly even go to a Super Bowl. And think about how much revenue was generated just from the reporters being dispatched to the Twin Cities to cover the Favre saga. I may stereotyping here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most sports reporters can eat; the restaurants were no doubt pleased.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, lost one of their favorite sports idols to a rival. So they couldn’t be too happy and it’s doubtful they see it as a “good thing”.

In all seriousness, I’m not sure what the Favre story really does for the Midwest per se because anything involving Favre is such a national story now. I’m sure that Vikings and Packers blogs, plus the papers that cover the two teams, enjoyed a nice spike in eyeballs but the real winner was the NFL. Favre = ratings, jersey sales, and ticket sales. Cha-ching.

(PMB) You became somewhat of a sports media star this past summer, even appearing on ESPN Outside the Lines. I know you’ve likely told the story a million times, so I apologize, but please tell us what you learned from the experience and how you use those lessons today…

(JM) I learned more than anything that I’m not just writing in my own little personal sports diary at MSF. Every word I write is open to be consumed by anyone on the web, and that includes the possibility that my meaning could be misunderstood as well as the chance that real lives can be affected by what I write.

Bloggers may not be journalists, nor ever aspire to be, but the platform – especially if you are actively promoting yourself to drive traffic – should compel us all to be accountable for what we say. I don’t believe that means that bloggers should necessarily be held to the same standards and “rules” as the mainstream media, but I do believe that there is a minimum level of accountability that any person publishing work for public consumption should adhere to.favre02_600

Fortunately, I felt no need to back down from or apologize for the spirit of my post, and that is one thing I always make sure of now before I hit “publish”: am I prepared to defend these words if necessary? If I believe in what I am saying and am writing without malice, I am confident in the final result.

The whole Ibanez situation helped me to realize this.

(PMB) One thing that was sort of lost in the experience was your personal story, as well as that of your site, Midwest Sports Fans

(JM) It’s pretty simple really. I grew up in Indiana, lived in the Midwest my entire life save for a few years down in Miami after graduating college, and am a devoted fan of the Hoosiers, White Sox, and Browns…an eclectic mix to be sure.

Once I moved to Dallas in April in 2008, I wanted a way to stay connected to my Midwestern roots. I started working for a social media and online reputation management firm and starting MSF ended up being a great way to get hands-on experience with what we were doing.

It’s been a labor of love that I’ve truly enjoyed ever since.

(PMB) So you must truly know a lot about SEO then. Everyone has been beaten over the head with the story of newspapers dying out. But what do you see as the future of sports media? What might the next apparatus to die out after print? And also, no a brighter note, what do you envision as the future of the industry to be? Beyond “blogging” of course.

(JM) The future is that we are going to continue to see the lines blurred…between everything.

National writers put things into national perspectives. Local writers obviously localize the perspective. The local papers are already on thin ice as it is; if the ESPNs continue stealing their readers, how will they survive?

And, of course, blogs are a part of that. But I don’t see it as a zero sum game. If the MSM sees blogs as a threat, rather than an opportunity, they will get killed. The same is true for blogs with the MSM and other blogs. More synergy will lead to better, more intertwined, richer content. If the user experience is enhanced, the time spent will increase.benetton

I think this is a formula still to be unlocked.

In general, I think we are going to continue to see fragmentation of coverage with more and more specialization, which I think will ultimately lead to a better product for consumers. Those who are forward-thinking and strategic enough to build strong revenue models around the content will prosper. Others will fall by the wayside, and it should be clear by now to everyone that clinging to the status quo is a recipe for doom.

(PMB) Very true, less than 100% of sportswriters today have the luxury of making a living with the old “just write your story and send it in” approach that I was trained with in the newspaper industry. Those days are dinosaur.

Readers, be sure to check out Midwest Sports Fans.com early and often!

Packers vs. Vikings II: Judgment Day exchange

Vikings Steelers Football

By Jake McCormick and Andy Weise

As of roughly 3:13 p.m., Sunday, October 25, the Brett Favre Ball dropped in Minnesota and Wisconsin, prompting the inevitable, yet excruciatingly redundant conversation about Favre’s return to his former 16-year winter home in Green Bay. His first game against the Packers went as well as he could’ve hoped, but returning to the scene of the crime in Northeastern Wisconsin is really the more interesting game of the two for obvious reasons. As much as The Sports Bank’s Andy Weise and Jake McCormick LOVE talking about the most polarizing quarterback since Tom Brady, they also realize that a game of football involves more than the play of one man. Welcome to the second, and barring a playoff matchup, last Packer/Viking exchange!

Jake McCormick: First off, I would like to apologize for 16 years and 32 games of being on the opposite side of the Brett Favre slopfest from every network’s television announcers. My revelation came about halfway through the Monday night matchup when Jon Gruden started welling up with tears of joy that he coached the honorable, distinguished, Jesus Favre for a season or two. I feel closer to Viking/Bear fans than I ever have. Going into this weekend, I will promptly mute the television after I get goosebumps from an entire stadium booing so loud they are hoarse before the first quarter even starts. With that said, I couldn’t ask for a better situation for the Packers going into this game: They’re coming off two straight rightful blowouts where they actually looked pretty good on both sides of the ball and the Vikings are coming off a loss and previously, a win that should not have been so except luck and time were wearing purple and yellow.

Vikings Steelers FootballAndy Weise: This whole Vikings-Packers matchup really worked well this year. You sent Green Bay to the Metrodome first, which is Favre’s first game against Green Bay since being traded away. Then you take Favre a month later and send him into Green Bay (how is this not a Sunday night game though?) and put him in front of the crowd he spent 16 years with. It’s going to be special, that’s for sure.

This game is certainly important with the Favre aspect but the players will tell you there is something bigger on the line: the division. Green Bay stands at 4-2 now and the Vikings not too far ahead at 6-1. If Green Bay wins Sunday, they head to Tampa and by week nine you’re looking at two teams that are 6-2 tied at the top of the division. Both teams have fairly favorable schedules the rest of the way, it’s not preposterous to say both teams win at least 10 games and both make the playoffs.

The Vikings should feel better about themselves after a game on Sunday that turnovers cost the game, not a defense that allowed 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Plus if there was one game on the schedule that you put a gun to my head and tell me the Vikings are going to lose, it’s on the road against the Steelers. On a lighter note, T.J. Lang might be starting at left tackle if Clifton doesn’t play again.

JM: The Vikings have gotten better week to week, but it’s pretty unlikely Antoine Winfield and Bernard Berrian will be playing, so the Packers get some relief there. Of course, we’re down to three healthy receivers and JerMichael Finley probably won’t play, so maybe that evens out. As bad as the Packer line was in the first game, I don’t see a repeat performance only because I think the grass takes away some of Jared Allen’s extra burst off the snap. The line actually looked good last week, although that is relative to the Div. III team they were playing, but that’s still some sort of a confidence boost. Lang’s decent performance does stabilize the starters for a second week in a row, although that’s like solidified mercury.

Packers Browns FootballThe one matchup that should be pretty intriguing will be how the defense plays, considering guys like Clay Matthews and Aaron Kampman have started to look more comfortable as starters. Sure they played the Browns and Lions back to back, but scoring 57 points and only giving up three shows the team is focused on their gameplan and isn’t looking ahead.

AW: I never understood why national writers and broadcasters were picking the Bears over the Packers and the Vikings but maybe that’s just me. I expect both teams to make the playoffs at this point in the season.

Injuries have played a big part in the weakness of both teams. Berrian might go but he hasn’t been the #1 guy that Sidney Rice has been so I’m less concerned about the WR spot right now. With Antoine Winfield, anybody with a good football mind would think the Vikings are more concerned about the entire season so they would caution Winfield to play too soon. The Vikings go into the bye week and would much rather have Winfield healthy the rest of the way than risk a more serious injury against the Packers in week eight.

I’m interested to see how the Packers defense does the second time around against Peterson. I’ll admit I was pretty impressed with the linebackers stopping the run game for the Vikings when they met last month. My sense is that the Vikings will try to run more between the tackles and continue working Peterson into the screen plays that normally go to Chester Taylor. It’s been a few weeks since I saw Kampman and I have to say it didn’t look like he was very comfortable in the 3-4.

Packers Browns FootballJM: Wherever you’re coming from on this game, I think it’s safe to say that this could be one of the most unique regular season games we’ll ever see, unless Tom Brady becomes a New York Jet. As far as a final outlook/prediction goes, I picked the Vikings last time, but I have a feeling that the Packers are a lot more focused and ready to take on Favre at home. With the crowd on their side, I think the Packers will win by 10 points or less. Then we can get this whole revenge/rematch hoopla past us and look forward to a (hopefully) tight divisional race.

AW: It’s always a unique game when these two teams meet and they’re both having success. It’s been a handful of years since both teams started out in good fashion like this. I do think the Packers will have a clear advantage with the crowd and the factor of not wanting to lose at home to Brett and the Vikings. It’d be hard for me to put money on this game but I can’t go against the Vikings at this point. The offensive line was too much of a weakness for the Packers last time and the Vikings kind of let Green Bay back into that game. Whoever makes less turnovers will win this game and I have a feeling when it matters the most, the ball will go into the hands of Adrian Peterson. Vikes win by 3.