Iím no better than Antonio Langham or Albert Means, Gene Jelks or the 1986 SMU Mustangs.
What did I do, you ask? Well, I didnít accept cash from a booster. I didnít sign with an agent and then compete in an NCAA-sanctioned athletic event. I didnít accept a laptop computer from some handicapped guy in Athens, Ala.
No, what I did was more sinister than any of that.
I live-blogged a baseball game.
OK, four baseball games. And a football game. Which means that from May 20 of this year through two weeks ago, Iíve been in direct violation of Section 6 of the NCAA rulebook on broadcasting:
ďEach Credential Holder (including television, Internet, new media, and print publications) has the privilege to blog during competition through the Credential Entity. However, the blog may not produce in any form a ďreal-timeĒ description of the event. Real-time is defined by the NCAA as a continuous play-by-play account or live, extended live/real-time statistics, or detailed description of an eventÖ If the NCAA deems that a Credential Holder is producing a real-time description of the contest, the NCAA reserves all actions against Credential Holder, including but not limited to the revocation of the credential.Ē
At this point I would like to formally request that any and all wins associated with my four-year career playing intramural football and basketball for Lambda Sigma Phi at the University of Alabama not be vacated, as these infractions occurred long after my playing career ended. Itís not right to punish an entire house for the thoughtless actions of one rogue brother.
I guess this also means that Iíll be forced to forfeit my remaining NCAA athletic eligibility ó all four years of it. Alas, another dream deferred. I guess I have no other choice than to turn pro.
OK, tongue and cheek aside, apparently it is indeed a violation of NCAA by-laws for a blogger, even a properly credentialed blogger, to give you a minute-by-minute report on any NCAA-sanctioned athletic event. Iíve done that five times this year alone: four SEC Tourney baseball games in May and the UAB/Rice football game from three weeks ago.
I had no idea that such a ridiculous rule existed until my friend Norm Reilly, UABís Director of Sports Information, brought it to my attention two weeks ago. After our conversation ó and he wasnít mad by the way, thank God ó I looked it up for myself. Wouldnít you know it, Section 6? Section 6! I was in violation of a whole section! I could have been thrown out of the press box, for crying out loud! All because I wanted you the reader to know that UAB quarterback Joe Webb just scrambled for a first down in Rice territory.
Of course, I wasnít thrown out of any press box. I was apparently never caught! Some bloggers havenít been so lucky. On June 10, 2007, Brian Bennett, a reporter for the Louisville, Ky. Courier-Journal was actually ejected from a press box for live-blogging a NCAA baseball Super Regional. The NCAA claimed that he was infringing upon the gameís exclusive broadcast rights, which had been granted to a major TV network. So Iím not being factious about this thing: Thereís precedent for tossing writers and their laptops into the streets!
But is live-blogging infringement? Of course it isnít. Unless the blogger is streaming live video or audio of game action, then he or she is not really providing ďreal-time coverage.Ē I donít know how fast they think I can type, but I can assure them I canít type in real-time.
Letís face the facts here. When it comes to following a sporting event, thereís a hierarchy of coverage. Obviously, nothing beats being at the game live. But if you canít be at the game live, youíll watch it on TV. If you canít watch it on TV, youíll listen to it on the radio. If you canít listen to it on the radio, then youíll follow a live-blog. (By the way, the bottom of the hierarchy is ďread about it the next day in the paper.Ē Just sayiní.)
Reading along with a live-blog is usually the last resort for a fan. Itís for the guy or gal whoís stuck at work or in traffic, or out of broadcast range for his or her favorite team. Itís not costing a TV network any viewers. Honestly, would you have turned off the UAB/Rice game in order to read along with my slow fingers for the afternoon? Of course you wouldnít! I know this. You know this. Why the hell doesnít the NCAA know this? Live-blogging isnít real-time coverage; itís analysis. In essence, itís no different than what I do right here every ThursdayÖ just timelier.
Until now, I used to roll my eyes when football fans ó OK, Alabama football fans ó started bitching about the NCAA and itís oft-violated but erratically implemented standards and practices And while I donít believe the home office indiscriminately targets the Crimson Tide (as so many Bama fans do), I do see where that paranoia comes from.
The NCAA should be far more concerned about graduation rates, fiscal responsibility and rogue boosters rather than whether or not Iím giving you too much analysis too quickly from an afternoon football game at Legion Field.
Iím not going to apologize for violating Section 6 of the NCAA rulebook, in part because I didnít know I was doing anything wrong at the time and in part because itís a stupid rule. Thatís not to say Iím going to keep breaking the rule, because I wonít anymore. After all, I do have scruples, somewhere deep inside of me.
But know this NCAA: Iím a reporter for a damn weekly paper. My allotted budget for covering sports: $0. All Iím trying to do is connect local fans with their favorite teams. Iím not trying to infringe on the rights of ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports or any other multi-billion dollar media conglomerate. Thatís not my gig. Iím just trying to carve out a niche for this paper in a daily-dominant town. And you just made my job a lot harder.
ďUpon Further ReviewĒ is the Birmingham Weekly sports page. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org