Wired.com: NFL Teams Embrace iPads

27 12 2011

When I decided to write a story about the effect iPads are having on the NFL, I knew at least four or five articles about the topic would come out in other publications before mine. I was spot-on.

My research on the subject began in early September after I read an article in the St. Petersburg Times about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ use for the tablets. I knew the way I would start it was by contacting each team in the NFL. It was necessary to run team-by-team to see who was putting their playbooks on iPads, who was using them to watched edited video and to see who was and wasn’t using iPads, or other tablets, in the first place. It’s a responsible thing to do when writing a national story, as I intended this to be for Wired.com.

Given that I didn’t have a particular locale to cover, it was better for the story that I cover all my bases. So, I contacted each team. As you might suspect, that is a lengthy process. Some teams respond immediately; others doesn’t. For those who do, it then takes awhile to coordinate interviews with those willing to talk and it takes time to convince other teams to discuss things. But this was just one part of what I knew had to be a well-rounded story.

By October, I noticed the New York Times had a story of their own. In it, they detailed the Bucs and the Baltimore Ravens creating digital playbooks via iPads. The story also incorporated information from the NFL on how the league monitors security issues. Contacting the NFL was a given, but this story made it that much more of a priority that I included it in my story.

I recognized that my goal for the story had to encapsulate as many aspects of the NFL’s relationship to tablets as I could find. That meant embracing teams which use them for more than just playbooks, as the two stories I had seen represented only that part of it. Which led me to contact the software companies which make applications and programs that make it possible for teams to view playbook information, scouting reports, video edits and other stuff on their tablets. (I discovered early on that iPads were the only tablets relevant to this story.)

So, I called and emailed XOS Digital and DV Sport, two software companies I already knew of. Through speaking with people there and with more teams which were getting back to me, I became aware of Hudl and Coach’s Office. Then I found out about Ironworks Sports through an email the founder of that company sent my editor.

Player quotes weren’t a valued asset for this story. They’re in the newspaper stories I mentioned above as well as subsequent stories in the Baltimore Sun and Los Angeles Times, which each outlined only the Ravens’ incorporation of their playbook into iPads. (A CNN.com story shined a light on how iPads were revolutionizing several sports, including basketball.) While those newspapers likely included player’s quotes on iPads because fans are intrigued by what they have to say, I avoided players for their lack of specificity. I did make an exception when the Bills told me they would rather offer a player to speak with than someone in their front office; I relented.

By and large, I wanted this story conveyed by the several teams I spoke with and then the software companies to explain what they’re focused on developing. The NFL interview would play a supporting role in it. That’s how this story came together.

Click on the link below to read the story:

For NFL Teams, iPad Is Valuable Playbook


Mark Cuban’s opinion on the media

8 04 2011

Have you read Mark Cuban’s recent blog post about the role media play in covering the NBA? It’s an essential read for anyone in the media or anyone who has interest in the relationship between the media and sports teams. Cuban’s basic premise is that some parts of the media – the Internet reporters, specifically the paid ones – don’t need pre- and post-game locker room access.

He feels that newspapers and TV folks provide value to teams because they dispense information to an audience not ordinarily familiar with the Mavericks. Yet Cuban claimed Internet reporters, mostly the paid ones, don’t provide any commensurate value. He thinks they prey too much on players about rumors and act in extremes too often. “The team has lost three straight games…has the team bottomed out?” That’s an actual question I heard from a reporter ask a player in an NBA locker room this season. The player look at him like he was cross-eyed – or too obviously looking for a “money quote.”

I understand where Cuban is coming from on some accounts. Some reporters are lazy. They don’t ask interesting questions, and they rely too much on just access, rather than maximizing the opportunity the access brings. Reporters shouldn’t feel proud for getting a quote from Dwyane Wade or Amar’e Stoudemire or Blake Griffin. They should reveal something about them that fans have never known. To cut off access and get quotes from players via a team’s PR department – as Cuban suggests in the blog post – is ridiculous, though.

Cuban and I exchanged a few emails after I approached him following my read of his post. What we discussed can stay between us, but I respect that Cuban thinks about these things and has intelligent thoughts about it. The PR thing, though, is dumb. I told Cuban that we all know how different a response reporters would get in a PR-enabled email versus asking a player in-person. Sometimes players say things in a way – tone of voice, choice of words, giving a certain ‘look’ – that couldn’t be captured by a PR person who’s going to protect the player from saying something controversial.

For instance, I recently grabbed enlightening quotes from a couple players whom Cuban pays – Jason Terry and Shawn Marion. I spoke with them for a story about yoga in the NBA, for SLAMonline. They dismissed yoga as a worthy activity, which ran counter to what I had found from others for the story. Take another story I wrote for SLAMonline, which came out yesterday. It’s about how NBA teams use iPads to scout and develop their players.

There aren’t many player comments in here, but John Wall noted within this story that iPads provide all the convenience others had told me. Wall’s take matters. It substantiates everything I learned from NBA execs and software companies. Without locker room access, I may not have been able to get a comment from Wall. Even if Wizards PR had provided me his comments (in a scenario in which I didn’t have locker room access), the words may not have been written in the same way Wall spoke them. That matters for something. Enjoy the story and let me know if Wall’s comments give the story any kind of added value.

Click on the link below to read the story:

iPad is NBA’s New Best Friend