Tag Archives: SportsPhone

Mike Francesa, Marshall McLuhan, and “Hot” Sports Media

A few months ago, while listening to Mike Francesa on the YES Network, the normally sports-oriented talking head took a tangential moment to talk media evolution:

Beginning with the evolution of sports media (evening news anchors to ESPN), Francesa notes that the evening sports anchor’s power was in his knowledge of scores.  In the end, anchors on ABC/CBS (Warner Wolff, 1976-1980/1980-1995 & 1997-2004)) and NBC (Len Berman, 1982-2009), New York.  Obviously, there has been an abrupt shift in power.  As mentioned in my previous post (Wikipedia: The Ultimate Good?), the consumers became producers.  This shift first began with “SportsPhone.”

Amazingly, there’s no Wikipedia entry for “SportsPhone,” but, essentially, this service was, initially, a free service .  After providing sports fans with a desirable product, much like fantasy sports, the content provider began charging money.  According to a member of HFBoards:

“I lost my cable TV and internet service last night and had no way of getting a score for the Isles’ game. That made me think of Sportsphone, which I think was from back in the 70s. The younger people might find this hard to believe, but there was a time before cable sports channels and the internet when, if you missed the nightly TV news or it was a late game, you could not get a result until the next day. So, someone got the idea of “Sportsphone”, a number you could call which played a tape of game results.”

The author of this post, an obvious former SportsPhone user, depicts the necessity for such a service.  A breaking trade?  An extra-innings/overtime game?  A late game?  No matter the time, Sportsphone would provide a up-to-date delivery of the day’s sports news.  As novel as it seemed, dialing a combination of digits into a telephone at work or home would give one what one wanted.

Today, there’s a reflection of the same with the network television and, more-so, the Internet.  Much like local news’ relationship with network news stations, local sports anchors share the same relationship with the advent (1979) and success of ESPN.  Minus the cost, the web provides up to the second (a minute is much to slow in this day-and-age) scores for sports fans across the globe.  The question now: is there room to grow?

I surmise there is.  The aforementioned YES Network has teamed with Cablevision and Verizon (independently, not as a conglomerate) to bring “live” Yankees’ games to fans wherever there’s Internet access.  In the end, it’s fantastic to have scores and statistics to temporarily quench one’s thirst for sports, but reading about Kobe Bryant’s career defining performance and seeing it with one’s own eyes are two completely different things.

Classic “hot media” v. “cool media” take place in this statistical realm.  As Marshall McLuhan describes, “hot media” require less participation… whereas “cool media” require a bit more interaction.  When seeing an athlete, like Kobe Bryant, penetrate defensive pressure, artistically maneuver through the paint, and  finish with a “pump-handle-slam” it’s easy for the viewer to identify this performance as “career defining.”  Especially when this sequence is repeated during a performance.  As McLuhan, himself, states:

“Any hot medium allows of less participation than a cool one, as a lecture makes for less participation than a seminar, and a book for less than a dialogue” (Understanding Media, 25).

Though the Internet provides instant statistical delivery for consumers, the YES Network’s partnership with the aforementioned cable companies displays the “warming” of sports entertainment and media from “cool” to “hot.”

Though Mike Francesa didn’t read up on Understanding Media before his broadcast, his TV broadcasting partner, the YES Network, assuredly did.  In my prediction, this move– whether it be revolutionary for the time or not– will result in many television/Internet networks partnering to provide sporting fans with similar “hot” content.

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