Monday, April 27, 2009

What Can The OAC Learn From Mel Kiper?

There is nothing that is forced on the national sporting public quite like the NFL draft. Here is something that probably generates more text than any other single sporting entity with the possible exception of NCAA men's basketball tournament selections.

Notice the use of the word "entity" and not "event," as neither of these is actually what you would consider a sporting event, meaning a real game.

No, the draft, and the NCAA tournament, are about the lead-up to an event. How many mock drafts did you see last week, last month? How many lists of players whose "stock is rising" and "stock is falling?" Or lists of "all-time busts" or "all-time sleepers?"

It's like the NCAA tournament, to a certain extent, with its bracketology and last four in and last four out and bracket this and bracket that. There are people whose full-time professions are to know everything about the draft (or tournament). They go on TV and the Web all year long, and the sporting public is supposed to gobble this stuff up like it's gospel, and at the end of the day, what do they really know?

At least in the NCAA tournament you're talking about teams you've heard of. For the NFL draft, does any random sportswriter really know if Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith, the second pick in the draft, is really better than Arizona's Eben Britton, who went 39th to Jacksonville in the second round? TigerBlog watches his fair share of college football and never heard of either one before the draft, but TB can tell you that they're both 6' 6" and 309 pounds and that they both have exactly the same chance of being great NFL players. And yet the fact that almost none of these reporters have ever heard of these guys either until they read about them in some draft guide prevents them from writing about them with great authority.

The personnel people, who are paid huge amounts of money to know this stuff, get as many picks wrong as they do right. Of the last eight NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year, only one, Julius Peppers in 2002, was picked higher than 10th (Peppers, by the way, destroyed Princeton in the opening round of the 2001 NCAA basketball tournament in the Superdome in New Orleans). Two of the eight were second-round picks. What happened to the 40 or so defensive players picked higher than these guys?

Now that TigerBlog got that out of his system, he can get to the main point, which is that the lead-up to the NFL draft far exceeds the event itself. In many ways, the NCAA tournament is becoming anti-climactic after the months of build-up as well.

In other words, it seems like interest in greater in reading out something before it happens. Once it happens, fans appear to move quickly on to the next event rather than focusing on a review of what just happened.

Back here in the Office of Athletic Communications, this raises the question of what Princeton fans want to read. Are they more interested in game stories or a preview of the next game? And if you knew those answers, what would you do differently?

Checking page views for men's lacrosse for the month of April shows that only three of the top 10 most-viewed entries were game recaps, while four were preview stories, one was a feature, one was Greg Seaman's video of the trip to Syracuse and one was an Ivy League Player of the Week story.

TigerBlog is sure that the times they are a-changin' when it comes to athletic communications. The profession bears little resemblance to the one of 15 years ago, and TB wants to see Princeton be out front as it continues to evolve. Being on top of what people want to read/see/view/etc. is a huge part of it, and there are lessons to learn from the coverage of events like the NFL draft.

For this, we say "thank you, Mel Kiper."

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