Overview

Introduction

The era of information specialization is brought to a climax with ESPNet's SportsZone, a sports-only news center on the Internet. The following sections give a brief overview of some of the capabilities of this wonderful site.

The News

The news breakdown as seen by an American sports-only site is not surprising: football, basketball, hockey, baseball, soccer, and other sports. The depth of coverage on each of these topics is incredible. I will use professional football as an example for the rest of this discussion.

The Stories

The football section provides a number of daily stories and columns. During the week, these stories concentrate on the on-goings in the league, including injuries, gossip, and miscellany. On the weekend, first you get a series of game previews, and after the games, summaries of each game, as well as box scores.

The Standings

A good, clean look at the standings never hurt anyone, and it certainly doesn't here. Check out the example below (but don't click on anything, the links aren't meant to be working ones).


AFC West
W L T PF PA Home Road NFC AFC Div Streak
Denver 12 1 0 351 199 7-0 5-1 3-0 9-1 5-1 Won 9
Kansas City 9 4 0 262 230 5-2 4-2 4-0 5-4 4-3 Won 1
San Diego 7 6 0 277 323 4-3 3-3 1-2 6-4 4-3 Lost 1
Oakland 6 7 0 274 234 3-3 3-4 1-3 5-4 2-3 Won 2
Seattle 5 8 0 250 317 3-4 2-4 2-2 3-6 1-6 Lost 3


The Statistics

As you can imagine, this site runs rampant when delivering statistics. Statistics on players and teams, statistics you want; well, it's statistics you've got. Keeping just professional football in mind, there are about 50 individual and team stats that are accessible round the clock, and some of them you can sort in any way that you desire. Computers were built for this kind of stuff, and now the sports fanatic can have at it.

Here's an example of a player bio , where you find out even more about your favorite star. Is this beginning to scare you? Don't you wish people had this much information about politicians?

The Scores

Check out how scores are reported. A clean, simple format gets you the information that you want.

The Day's Highlights

Two special sections complete the content of the site. The first is a multimedia mausoleum of highlights from recent sporting events. Basically, this page just has gobs of QuickTime animations on it, and not much else.

Interact

Finally, there's the Interact page. This place has "chat," where you can talk with superstars of the past. Also included is a set of polls, including a current one you can participate in, which include gripping questions such as "Should Steve Young retire?" You get the point. Don't forget the letters section, where you send e-mail to the site to be answered by the pros.

Analysis

Presentation

The presentation is slick, with a good use of color to enhance the delivered product.

Quality of Articles

The quality of the articles is high. They are well written, and provide good information about the subject at hand.

Article Format

The format of the articles was one of the best of all the services. Hyperlinks were abundant, even within each article. Most other news services only had links to other relates sites or articles, usually at the top or off to the side, but in the ESPNet articles, links pervaded the text, allowing a nice flow to follow your interests.

Navigation Tools

Given that, I never had any trouble getting around, with the aid of a large text-based control panel that went down the left-side of the page.

On-line Help

On-line help was adequate but not much more.

Search Capabilities

This seemed to be the one site with no search capability . Not much else to say about that.

Timeliness Of Content

Up to the minute sports scores are one of the highlights of this service. Unbelievably quick game summaries find their way on-line only minutes after the games complete. I am truly amazed by this incredible service, most of it at no cost.

Use of Multimedia and Technology

Heavy use of hyperlinks made this site the most hyperactive. Player bios are the best example of this, as a story about a football game would be interlaced with links to the important players of that game, as well as links to the team.

The usage of gifs was clever and not overdone. A tasteful image or two accompanied each story, and gave the feel of a quality sports magazine like Sports Illustrated.

Finall, a cool java applet could sit anywhere on your desktop and give you score updates. Now that's technology! Unfortunately, it also gave you advertising.

On-line Forums

Some of the usual chat forums existed here, though nothing too exciting.

Electronic Partnerships

TV station ESPN is the main partner here.

Summary

The three keys to sports news are timeliness, timeliness, and timeliness. Sportszone understands this and delivers scores and game summaries with haste beyond compare. The use of the Internet as a news medium is well done, with color, pictures, and java applets, all enhancing the site.
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