Thursday, March 4, 2010

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.

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 starts tomorrow 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 will be flying through cyberspace. So myself and thousands of other Jet fans will be scouring,,,, the sports beat writers blogs, Jet and other teams' fan message boards, etc. trying to find out what is going on. We'll refresh every few minutes for every site (opened up in multiple web browser tabs) in hopes for an update.

So I and many other fans won't be turning on Sportscenter to find out the news. We'll have fellow fans to do that and they will report on message boards what they've 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?”

NFL free agency is different this year because of the end of the collective bargaining agreement, the CBA. The final year of the CBA provides for no salary cap and something known as the Final Four Rule where teams that made the Conference Championship Games (Saints, Vikings, Colts, and my Jets) can't sign an unrestricted free agent (UFA) unless they lose one, and can only sign the new player for what the old player signed elsewhere. The definition of an UFA is tricky. It's a player who has had at least 6 years of NFL service and had his contract expire at the end of the 2009 season. Under the old rules, a player needed only 4 years of NFL service and there was no Final Four Rule, so a lot of would-be UFA are denied the chance to truly test the market. The Jets might not be as active as years past since they are hamstrung by the new rules. Yet their general manager, Mike Tannenbaum, is always creative so I wait anxiously to see what he comes up with to improve the team.

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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