The immediacy of media and the access to video footage of anything and everything has exploded in recent years. Digital video, camera phones and websites like youtube and vimeo allow fans to post, share and view footage and coverage that they might not otherwise be privelage to.
No longer are fans and the media restricted by the length of a newscast, a gameday broadcast or the typical means by which we once viewed our respective teams. The reach has expanded.
This year our own Jayhawks have taken full advantage of this as Kansas is leveraging new media, social media and the talents of one former player to bring us inside and behind the scenes of Jayhawk football.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock you've undoubtedly seen one of Micah Brown's productions known as "The Gridiron". If for some reason you have missed it, think Friday Night Lights but the real deal. Still don't get it? Here's a clip, a preview to entice you.
Now yes that clip is before the hard times began, but even now you can't tell me that doesn't strike a chord if you're a football fan. That's better than Joe Pa, Kenny Chesney and Keith Jackson giving you a personal wakeup call on a Saturday morning.
The Gridiron series apparently started as the brainchild of Brown and he himself brought the idea to the Athletic Department who decided it was a great opportunity to leverage new media and bring the fans closer to the team.
It's a trend all over sports. HBO's "Hard Knocks" is one of the more mainstream examples, but with the Gridiron Kansas has taken full control of a version all their own.
With a new coach and excitement surrounding the program, the potential to leverage such a production was huge. Recruiting, donation solicitation, season ticket sales, you name it. Plain and simple the immediacy and relevancy of the coverage had the potential to drive Jayhawk enthusiasm in a way that just wasn't possible a short time ago. The University hosts the video and provides linking, embedding, and email capabilities which blasts the production out to the Jayhawk nation in a matter of moments. Fans can view it on their own time, in their own way and on the websites that they frequent, brilliant right?
Now obviously the Jayhawks sit just 2-6 with four games to go and the overall mood surrounding the program has taken a significant turn, but does that really change the value of the series? For better or worse it's a "real", or as real as it gets view of what goes on behind the scenes. It puts in perspective the work that goes in from the players, the approach of the coaches and the very real lesson in life that things don't always go the way you hope. Dress it up and paint a pretty picture all you want, Kansas isn't winning and that's real.
As a fan I've grown to appreciate the series for what it is, not what it could have been. In an ideal world Turner Gill takes a Kansas team to a shockingly successful season filled with highlights and happy times. That's "Friday Night Lights", that's Hollywood. What we're getting is a real life documentary of the struggles that a new team and a new staff are dealing with.
Right now it's hard to see the value in that, but for a moment let's imagine if these same opportunities had been available when Mark Mangino took over the program in 2002. Perhaps the video's would have garnered a parental advisory if that had been the case, but can you imagine being able to look back at the program he walked into and the changes that were made between 2002 and 2007? Furthermore can you imagine having this same opportunity just three season's ago when Kansas went to the Orange Bowl?
Those years are gone and for the most part we're left with a commemorative DVD that takes media and television coverage, slices and dices and adds a little commentary. How much more valuable would something like the Gridiron been for capturing those memories? Heck apply the same logic to Kansas basketball, that's must see TV for any Jayhawk fan.
The evolving way that we can view and follow our team might just someday provide us a pretty interesting and unique look back at the start of the Turner Gill era. Obviously he has to produce on the field for anyone to want to see that, but I for one view the series and the concept as a great move by the University, a solid production by Micah Brown and while I'm sure this year isn't going the way anyone would have liked, I certainly hope this is something that continues going forward.
For better or worse, we're seeing Kansas football in a way most rarely do. It's immediate, it's compelling and it reaches the fans the way they want to see it. Win or lose, this is a prime example of the athletic department providing something that fans should truly appreciate.