Friday, February 27, 2009

12:01 a.m.

One of the most significant (and panned) byproducts of the internet is the 24 hour news cycle. Gone are the days of reading about the news in the morning papers, finding out more during the evening and late night news shows, and the then waiting for the next morning for an update. With the 24 hour news cycle, stories can pop up at any time and have a life and death within a few hours. While the cycle allows for frivolous stories to take on steam, such stories can easily disappear just as quickly as they arrived. This was never more evident than this past presidential election.

It’s not just “hard” news that works with the 24 hour cycle; entertainment and sports news does as well. The NFL’s free agency signing period started this morning at 12:01 a.m. Prior to the internet, football fans like myself would stay up late watching Sportscenter and go to sleep at about 1 a.m. waiting for any hard news which hardly came. Then we’d wait for the morning papers to see if there was anything new, but most likely it was simply a rehash of the news we saw last night. Who signed where and for how much? What did our team do? Sportscenter, however, only reported what deals were actually made. What fans couldn’t get at a moment’s notice was what we feed off: sports rumors. Who’s getting offered what? Who’s visiting where? Who’s in the know?

With the internet, even before 12:01, rumors were flying through cyberspace. I’m a Jets fan and one of the key sought after free agents is Bart Scott, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. Rumors were that the Ravens were feverishly trying to re-sign him before midnight. So myself and thousands of other Jet fans were scouring,,,, the sports beat writers blogs, Jet and Raven fan message boards, etc. trying to find out what was going on. We refreshed every few minutes for every site (opened up in multiple web browser tabs) in hopes for an update. The countdown was on and there was a sense of relief when we refreshed our browsers at 12:02, then 12:05, and 12:07 and found, at first, no news that Scott signed with the Ravens and then later that he, in fact, did not.

So I and many other fans didn’t turn on Sportscenter to find out the news. We had fellow fans to do that and they reported on message boards what they had seen. Of course, this is not reliable information, but it’s a good starting point. Whenever a fan declares something such as X player is on his way to Y team, or Z player is about to sign with B team, other fans take it at face value but want confirmation. The request is made simply by asking: “link?”

The first significant free agency news was the Washington Redskins signing former Tennessee Titans Defensive Tackle Albert Haynesworth to an exorbitant contract. This news broke at around 5:30 a.m. NFL fan message boards were flooded with posts criticizing or praising the move all before 8 in the morning. The morning papers, of course, missed it since the news came after the papers went to print. But the fans were still able to get the news, pass it along, and comment on it all because of the internet.

And so it goes for NFL fans on the start of free agency. We stay up much later trying to find out as much as we can and are able to find out real-time news the moment we wake up. For us, at least, the 24 hour news cycle is a godsend.

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