Sept. 5, 2009

By John Heisler

In 1973 I plunked down $38 for a three-month mail subscription to the South Bend Tribune.


I was headed off to college out of state and there was no other way to follow Notre Dame football fortunes on a daily basis.

Hard to believe, isn’t it?

These days you are absolutely inundated with options when it comes to Charlie Weis and his squad.

Just last week we spent the better part of an hour with the marketing team from NBC Sports responsible for promoting the network’s new iPhone application on Notre Dame football. Meanwhile, CBS Interactive, representing, has produced its own iPhone app that includes everything that’s part of Notre Dame’s official athletic Web site – from press releases, features and media guides to press conferences to live video.

Those are the just the most recent modes of following the Irish.

In the absence of video boards in Notre Dame Stadium, you may be watching replays today as part of the live NBC feed on your iPhone. In fact, University officials made sure the campus had enough back-end technology to support the concept.

Think how far we’ve come.

In ’73, there was the South Bend Tribune, three live football games that season on ABC-TV (two national, one regional), Sunday morning television replays by the C.D. Chesley Company, and live radio on the Mutual Broadcasting Company.

There was Joe Doyle, Van Patrick, Lindsey Nelson, Al Wester, Paul Hornung,

That was it. Seriously. No Internet. No tabloids.

Athletic communication with media covering the Irish back then moved at such a caterpillar pace that the favored mode was the then-state-of-the-art Xerox telecopier that required six minutes to transmit a single page of copy via a telephone line. Imagine how much time would be spent monitoring that device when you were sending eight or 10 pages of a press release and statistics to a newspaper?

No e-mail.

No ESPN. No CBS College Sports.

No Blue & Gold Illustrated. No Irish Sports Report. No Irish Eyes.

None of the five web sites that now cover Notre Dame football all-year around.

No Sirius or XM. No Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio. None of the dozens of other local, regional and national talk-radio sports shows.

No access to every newspaper and essentially any other print publication via the Internet.

No Hulu. No Kindle.

No chat rooms anywhere in sight.

No Lou Holtz (he was coaching at North Carolina State). No Mark May (he was 13 years old).

Seriously, how did anyone ever keep up with Notre Dame football back then without Twitter?

Weis Tweets regularly. Maybe you follow his Tweets. The Notre Dame athletic department has several other Twitter accounts.

I registered on Twitter some months ago. I still get e-mails every so often letting me know I have another Twitter follower. However, after investigating this new-fangled fad (will all these people be Tweeting a year from now?), I decided even my own family members had little interest in any of my Tweets about what I’m doing right now (that’s supposed to be the basic concept).

Back in ’73, sports media relations were heavily print-focused.

Press guides (until 1966 the Notre Dame football guide was known as the ‘dope book’). Press releases that went via traditional mail (there was no Fed-Ex or other express mail service). Printed game programs.

Now, the immediacy of our need for information is so acute that printed pieces are all but obsolete. Why wait for the morning paper to show up in your driveway, when the same information could be found on various Web sites hours earlier?

Media guides, long the staple of sports information offices, are going the way of the dinosaur. If they are being printed at all, they are now more likely to be found in a digital, online format. The Notre Dame print version must be in black and white, based on NCAA regulations, but the online version on is in full color and is easily accessible in nifty page-turning format by Issuu software.

Meanwhile the social media revolution rolls on. Last week a colleague forwarded me a YouTube video (oh, by the way, there was no YouTube in ’73 either) on ‘socialnomics.’ It contained some startling statistics:

* One of every eight couples married in the United States last year met via social media.

* It took radio 38 years to achieve 50 million users. It took Facebook less than nine months to reach 100 million. If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth largest in the world (China, India, United States).

* Ashton Kutcher and Ellen DeGeneres have more Twitter followers than the entire populations of Ireland, Norway and Panama.

* Seventy percent of 18-34-year-olds have watched television on the Web.

* Twenty-five percent of Americans in the past month say they’ve watched at least one short video on their phone.

Meanwhile, 24 of the 25 largest newspapers in the country have experienced record declines in circulation.

That’s partly because my mail subscription to the South Bend Tribune became extinct some time ago. I can find all I can handle between the Tribune web site, the ISR site, not to mention the dozens of other options.

As the saying goes, we no longer search for the news about Notre Dame football – the Notre Dame football news finds us.

If you’re an Irish fan, consider yourself lucky.