Curt Schilling, the recently acquired starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, loves participatory media. When he was first traded to Boston, he logged onto a chat room at redsox.com to discuss it with fans before talking to the general media. Last week, he took his online explorations a step further, joining The Sons Of Sam Horn (SOSH), one of the larger Red Sox fan message boards, to post in threads and offer his candid opinions. Red Sox owners John W. Henry and Tom Warner have started posting on the same fan site and scheduling live question and answer sessions. Henry seemingly put a bee in the broadcast sports industry’s bonnet when he logged on at one in the morning to give fans an update on the day’s closed door trade meetings while the local news and ESPN stalled viewers with broad speculation. Schilling was involved in a chat session when he heard that the hosts of “The Big O” sports talk show on WEEI were bad mouthing him for privileging the internet over broadcast media. He picked up the phone and called in to fire back. Beginning by saying that he felt that he could get his message out to his supporters most effectively through two channels – the internet and radio – he proceeded to discuss the gatekeeping function of traditional media and the ways they selectively filtered out what he was trying to say. He talked about the power of digital media to cut across hierarchies and to include the public more fully in the process. He talked about the challenges of identity theft online and the steps he’s taken to make sure his fans know it’s really him when he posts things. And he told the reporters that it was their job to track down the news, not his job to hand it to them. “Maybe this is a medium you’re going to have to start following if you want to get the story,” he said. An Mp3 of the interview is circulating among his fans and reached my attention through my son. What Schilling had to say about the transformative power of grass roots communication technologies was smart and articulate and right up to date. Schilling’s love of the Internet has become well known among the Red Sox’ active followers, creating a growing interest in media and media theory on the fan websites. Looking for information about the latest controversy, I stumbled on an interesting fan post on Musings from the Red Sox Nation, which draws on the Cluetrain Manifesto to explain how digital media is changing baseball. Media theory crops up in the most surprising places these days.
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