1. NFL All A-Twitter
NFL players are notorious for getting themselves in trouble in the real world, and the NFL is taking steps to make sure they won't repeat the same mistakes in the cyber one. Across the league, teams are implementing guidelines on players' use of Twitter.
The notoriously image-obsessed NFL has virtually no control over Twitter and other social media tools, of which pro athletes have proved early adapters. While athletes have used "blogs the past couple of years," according to the Washington Post, "they say Twitter is quicker, more accessible, and less likely to be filtered through agents, publicists, or team officials before publication." While that's great for the athletes and their fans, the NFL sees a huge cyber danger zone. Says Sports Fan Live Founder David Katz: "The NFL in many respects drives the sports industry in this country, and we're now about to go through our first season with Twitter as a viable media distribution outlet. It'll be interesting to see how the NFL reacts and adapts, what rules they create, and how the players will embrace it all."
In Florida, the Dolphins have curtailed tweeting during training camp, wary that players will inadvertently release competitive information. Other coaches are concerned about players discussing injuries: after Vikings quarterback Tavaris Jackson sprained his knee on Saturday, teammate Bernard Berrian "jokingly" tweeted that Jackson was out for the season.
Other teams are getting downright punitive. Pro Football Talk sites sources as saying that the Chargers' Antonio Cromartie was fined $2,500 "for complaining on Twitter about the quality of the food at training camp." And Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy reportedly told his team that "any player caught tweeting during a team function will be fined the maximum of $1,701." Said Packers running back Ryan Grant, "I don't want that heavy fine."
Grant made the statement…on his Twitter feed.
2. NFL Training Camps: Patching Things Up
As NFL players settle into their 2009 training camp routines, the tiny 3-in.-by-4-in. practice-jersey patches adopted by a handful of franchises as yet another revenue stream are writ large under the sports media microscope.
At least a dozen NFL franchises either have or are actively seeking practice-jersey sponsors, including the Patriots' makes-sense deal with stadium naming rights holder Gillette, a division of Procter & Gamble (PG), and the Colts' agreement with Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance. The Rams' American Airlines (AMR) practice-jersey patch is part of a three-year air charter and marketing campaign at the St. Louis airport hub. And several teams have partnered with health care concerns, including the Jets with Atlantic Health, the Bears with NorthShore University HealthSystem, and the Titans with Baptist Sports Medicine, who are credited with pioneering this little piece of sports sponsorship inventory.
Among the controversial, the Texans wisely rejected a jersey sponsorship offer from adult film company Zero Tolerance, while Cincinnati is puzzling pundits with its deal with Spongetech (SpongeBob Bengal Pants, anyone?) And the Giants' seemingly innocuous agreement with Timex is causing untimely headaches for quarterback Eli Manning, who has a preexisting six-figure endorsement deal with Citizen.
The NBA is also exploring practice-jersey sponsorships, and NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins has stated that his league "might put ads on game jerseys for the right price." Meanwhile MLB President and COO Bob DuPuy claims that league "has no plans to sell such advertising"—but since so many baseball players' chests are much smaller now that they've stopped taking steroids, it's really just a micro issue.
3. WGC Bridgestone: Woods, Mickelson in the Ohio Woods
How pleased are organizers of this week's WGC Bridgestone Invitational? Not only will the event welcome back fan favorite Phil Mickelson from his seven-week absence, but the tournament is also coming off one of the highest-rated golf Sundays of the season, as Tiger Woods' 20-under victory at the Buick Open drew a 4.0 rating and 9 share for the final round (close to 4.58 million households tuned in).
The Bridgestone boasts the best field in golf since the U.S. Open, and more viewers than ever will likely tune in on Sunday to see if Woods, who has won the event at the Firestone Country Club in Akron six times, can make it a seventh and add a 70th Tour title to his resume, only three behind Jack Nicklaus' record of 73 and all-time leader Sam Snead and his 82 Tour wins.
The Bridgestone is the third leg of the four prestigious WGC events, after February's Accenture (won by Geoff Ogilvy), March' CA Championship (won by Mickelson), and before November's HSBC Champions in Shanghai, its first foray into China. Making headway in the enormous Chinese marketplace is more critical than ever to the struggling U.S. golf industry—equipment leader Callaway Golf (ELY) just reported Q2 net sales of $302 million, down 17% from $366 million during the same period last year.
4. Closing the Lid on Retractable Roofs
Thanks to volatile summer weather conditions, 4 of the 14 Major League Baseball stadiums built since 1998 have come equipped with a retractable roof. Do you know how long it takes your team's roof to close?
5. Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) 20 minutes
4. Miller Park (Brewers) 15 minutes
3. Minute Maid Park (Astros) 12 minutes
2. Safeco Field (Mariners) 10 minutes
1. Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 4 minutes
5. A Different Way of Reviewing the Play: Bear Bryant Takes to the Stage
The Southeastern Conference's 15-year, $2.25 billion TV deal with ESPN announced last week is newsworthy, as is Florida head coach Urban Meyer's new six-year, $4 million annual contract, making him that conference's highest-paid coach and the third-highest in college football. But another SEC coach is the one making REAL headlines this week. After being dead for 26 years, legendary Alabama head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant has returned—albeit to the stage.
Bear Country, a drama about Bryant, the impoverished Arkansas farm boy who earned his nickname wrestling a carnival bear and became a 323-victory college football icon, is being staged August 6-20 at Birmingham's Virginia Samford Theatre. The play's five-week run earlier this year in Montgomery attracted tailgaters and theatergoers resplendent in Crimson Tide gear, its atmosphere more stadium Saturday than hushed anticipation of Macbeth.
The Birmingham performances are sponsored by Coca-Cola (KO) and Golden Flake, which also sponsored Bryant's popular Sunday afternoon TV shows (in which the coach drank Coke and munched on Golden Flake chips while rehashing replays of the previous day's game). After Birmingham, the cast is planning a road trip to Tuscaloosa and other stages around Alabama.