Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Why I’m a Tsaiko: Sports and Social Media

Posted on | October 30, 2010 | No Comments

I don’t have a lot of time for sports these days but I do stay true to my alma mater, the University of Hawaii (UH) despite the fact I live in New York City. Forget professional sports. I may catch a Jets or Giants game now and then while I’m working on my computer. Yankees? Sorry you got to get into the World Series to get my attention. Knicks? Sad, but you lost me a long time ago. I will, however, stay up to 3:30am on a Sunday morning to stream a Hawaii Warriors football game.

Part of why other sports have faded from my attention (aside from my 6 year old daughter) is the access to the games and the information about the team I really care about. I remember after I graduated from UH in the early 1990s and was living in New Zealand. I used to have to go the public library in Wellington and read the scores off a two-week old USA Today. Now, if I don’t see the game on HDTV, I can stream it on my computer from ESPN3 (a benefit of going with FIOS TV) or pay $12 to stream it via Time-Warner’s Oceanic operation in Hawaii. The Internet also allows me to hear the games on with the added benefit of having announcers that are much more knowledgeable than your average sportscasters. In addition to the actual games, a variety of social media has made following the team much easier and also created a sense of community. For example, another blog, aggregates information and links from a number of sites, including Youtube videos of the Honolulu evening news. Thus my reference to being a “Tsaiko”, a loose group of UH football fans who congregate electronically on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s Warrior Beat blog run by sports reporter Stephan Tsai.

First, a little about the name “Tsaiko”. Obviously it is drawn from Stephan’s name and his leadership and popularity is largely what makes the blog so popular. It sounds like “psycho”, a often used term for someone who is a bit crazy. The name “fan” comes from “fanatic” so this is a good and expected trait for any sports follower. The name picks up some local flavor becomes the word “saiko” in Japanese means great or outstanding. Those familiar with Hawaii know that the Japanese influence through its immigrants and visitors have a strong cultural influence on the islands and, as you might expect Stephan Tsai is Japanese-American.

Besides writing his daily features for the newspapers sports pages, Tsai also posts inside information and up-to-date information on the blog. Participation from the readers is encouraged and comments range from an average 200-300 a day to almost a 1000 on gamedays. Comments come from the “Tsaikos” but no one has to sign up and posts are anonymous although an email is required. Posts range from encouragements like “Go Warriors” to in-depth personal analyses of game strategy and the economics of college sports. The latter made more interesting by the precarious state of the venerable Western Athletics Conference (WAC) that UH currently resides in.

In social media terms, this is a classic case of “user-generated content” but it also suggests some insights into the role of journalists. The readers/participants provide a wide range of content from heated personal opinion to updates on NCAA statistics (Hawaii tends to be one of the top passing teams in the country) to links to articles coming out in other online newspapers and blogsites. The blogs provide unique perspectives outside of the official conversations between journalists, coaches, ADs, and public relations staff, suggesting new leads and angles on stories.

Following my alma mater’s sports teams, particularly football, provides a close examination of how social media is being used to garner user content and engagement. It also provides insights into how these technologies are changing the field of journalism by stressing the role of community manager and moderator. Perhaps even more consequential, the money involved in college sports forefronts the impact of television, the importance of high definition, and the increasing relevancy of streaming games over the Internet. Besides, it’s a lot of fun.



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    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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