Friday, March 13, 2009

Thank You For Calling The Tiger Sportsline

Back in the day, when TigerBlog was still working in the newspaper business, one of the great sources of comedy would be then-Princeton media relations director Mark Panus' attempts at updated the Tiger Sportsline.

Back then, the Sportsline was actually an answering machine that was housed in the back of the Office of Atlhetic Communications. It had a four-minute tape, and it needed to be pretty much a four-minute recap, because the machine would not automatically reset for the next caller. For those who used to pay $1.50 to go to the movies, it was like the message on the theater's machine that ran down the movies and start times; when someone would call and hear "Less Than Zero" playing at 7:10 and 9:45 and then hang up, the next caller would get the message from that point forward.

Anyway, on more than one occasion, Panus would completely flip out after getting 3:30 into his message and then make a mistake, causing him to restart. Often, other members of the office would attempt to distract him, which would really make him mad.

When TigerBlog came to Princeton in 1994, the Sportsline had moved up a bit in technology to become part of the University's voicemail system. After endless meetings, it was decided that there would be four mailboxes within the Sportsline, with No. 1 for scores only, No. 2 for schedules of upcoming events, No. 3 for highlights of men's sports and No. 4 for highlights of women's sports. It was also part of early marketing efforts, as the Tiger Sportsline in 1994 was brought to you by a hotel that has changed owners at least three times since: "the Novotel hotel, hospitality with a European touch."

There became all kinds of issues with the Sportsline. Should the scores from Friday night be kept on after games Saturday were played? Should the entire weekend's scores be left up there? How far in advance should the schedule be updated? Is it okay to have multiple voices recap scores and highlights, and if so, what does the first person need to say to welcome callers and what does the last person need to say to alert callers that the call is over? When do the instructions need to be listed: press 1 to start over, press 3 to fast forward, etc.?

Back then, the Tiger Sportsline averaged around 10,000 callers per month. In many ways, it was the only way to get information about many Princeton sports, back before there was a Webpage. If you wanted to really annoy the fan base, the best way was to not update the Sportsline.

The internet, and especially, obviously changed all that. Understandably, as the numbers of page views went up, the number of callers to the Sportsline went down and down.

Today, gets around 1,000,000 page views per month. To put that another way, the Website averages more page views per hour than the Sportsline averages per month.

Actually, that should say averaged per month, as the Tiger Sportsline has officially been retired. By the end, the Sportsline was down to around 10 callers per week.

It's a great testament to the evolution of technology and information. It shows how the world has changed in a short time, that something that could have been such a big staple of the communications world a decade ago no longer exists.

And, to prove that the right decision was made to get rid of the Sportsline, since its demise, only one person has called to complain. In that same amount of time, has had 21,000 unique visitors.


Anonymous said...

The Tiger Sportsline also existed in the days prior to the cellphone's becoming a staple of everyday life. So updating the hotline with results of a road game often required finding a pay phone in a tucked-away corner of a hockey rink or finding a phone booth in downtown Ithaca in sub-freezing temperatures.

Getting the update done early was always a priority for me, if for no other reason than the first person to update on a given day could only report was done to that point. The next person to update would have to scribble down every score the first person logged and add to it. The next had to do the same. If the event I was covering ended late, then it required writing down about a dozen scores and including the whole slate of events ... again frequently from a cramped phone booth in less-than-ideal conditions.

Anonymous said...

This post makes me extremely sentimental.

Tiger Sportsline was an important part of my fandom in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I can still remember the anticipation of waiting to hear if Princeton had won or lost while hitting fast forward to try and get to the men's basketball score. I'd even phone Sportsline after games I had watched/listened to, looking for more information.

I distinctly recall dialing Sportsline from a pay phone at a dingy burrito place in Chicago very, very, very late in the night to find out how Princeton had done.

Jon Solomon

Princeton OAC said...

Jon -

On more than one occasion, TigerBlog had people say to him that his was the voice on the Sportsline, and so yes, it is a time to be nostalgic about the Sportsline. Still, it is TB's opinion that you appear to have moved beyond the Sportsline in your general technology development.

Anonymous said...

Was 2008-09 the first season without Tiger Sportsline? I recall a certain bespectacled member of the Athletic Department recording messages for this service on his cell phone in the last two years.

Just tried to call 609-258-3545. Got a busy signal.