sports blogs

Blogs With Balls Video- Jonathan Tannenwald, Philly.com

Another member of the mainstream media at the Blogs with Balls conference was Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com.  Here is our conversation on what he hoped to get out of the conference…

Tannenwald had quite a bit more to say about the conference at Philly.com.  Here is his review of the conference.  Here are Q&A’s with organizers Chris Lucas and Dan Poiva of HHR Media.  And one with Deadspin editor AJ Daulerio.

That’s all the video we have from Blogs with Balls.  Overall it was a wonderful opportunity to network with other bloggers and to learn from those who have been successful in making writing online their passion and profession.  It was well worth the trip.

Blogs With Balls Video- Neil Best, Newsday

Members of the mainstream media did have a presence at the Blogs with Ball conference. One of the columnists who understands the role of sports bloggers is Neil Best, sports media columnist for Newsday. Here’s our talk…

It’s apparent that Neil understands the evolving trends in technology and sports reporting and has done his best to adapt to them. He’s one of the good guys. Thanks again Neil!

Blogs With Balls Video- Ken Fang, Fang’s Bites

Here is my interview from the Blogs with Balls Conference with Ken Fang of Fang’s Bites…

In terms of the lighting issues we faced, this interview was the best of the bunch. Thanks go out to the Blogs with Balls television crew who happened to be filming in the area and added the extra light.

Ken has become a good friend of SMJ. And what I said at the top of the clip is true. We both live in Rhode Island, less that 25 miles from each other. It’s probably not a stretch to say that the Ocean State has the highest number of sports media bloggers in relation to the size of their home state than anywhere in the country. Thanks again Ken!

Blogs With Balls Video- Peter King Opening

The organizers at the Blogs with Balls conference promoted the event by telling attendees that their opening speaker would be someone of note.  That lead speaker proved to be none other than Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.  He wasn’t at the event, but did pre-tape a greeting.

Here is my video of King’s prepared remarks…

Say what you want about Peter King, but give him credit for recognizing the work sports bloggers put forth.

Costas on the Ball

I know we are all tired of the Costas NOW program and the assertions of Buzz Bissinger and others about the state of sports media.   But please indulge me one more reference.

I happened to be listening to the radio early Saturday morning when I came upon Costas on the Radio, Bob Costas’ weekly radio venture.  He began the show by once again bringing up some points that he’s stated both on his HBO program and in other publications.  And the more I hear what he has to say the more I wholeheartedly agree.

He began by talking about how he was tuned into sports radio in St. Louis and the callers were viciously attacking Cardinals’ releiver Jason Isringhausen, to the point that the host said he was ashamed of the medium of sports talk radio.  That’s when Costas said the following:

“It’s not about the Internet or new technology or new media, it’s about this tone, and this approach wherever it’s found.  And it’s the tone of mindless, mean-spirited, ad homonym attacks and abuse, which more and more are part of general culture.  Politics we’ll talk about another time.  But in this case we’re talking about sports in particular.  You almost get the feeling with each passing day that sports is more and more the province of louts, bullies, cretins and creeps…that you can’t be a reasonable person and still be a sports fan.”

Costas then proceeded to talk about how youngsters, who become entrenched in team rivalries, get caught up in perpetrating the negative tone…

“It’s this atmosphere…you find it on sports talk radio, you find it, regrettably, along with all the good stuff, you find it regrettably on the blogs. You find it more and more in print because it’s seeped into the mainstream media.  This attitude not just of smarminess, but of flat-out abuse.  Where what’s fair or what’s true or what a reasonable person ought to want to say, either publically or privately, is right out the window.  And we just say anything we want… anyway we want… about anybody or anything.”  

Costas finally talked about the Sports Illustrated article dealing with abusive fans at sporting events and the comments about such by Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo.  He then finished his remarks…

“Is this really what we became sports fans for?  Is this really what it has to be?  Is it really just for louts, and creeps, and bullies and cretins?  I hope not.”

I could not have said it better myself.  And for those of you ready to jump down Costas’ throat, he did not say anything about infinging on people’s Freedom of Specch or that we should get rid of all blogs. 

As I have said already, despite Bissinger’s irrational tone, his point about how this type of content is the future of sports journalism troubles me…and possibly Costas, greatly.

You can hear Costas’ yourself from his May 24th-25th radio broadcast here.

More Buzz…Less Angry…Still Half Misguided

In case you missed it, Buzz Bissinger talked about blogs again yesterday durng an interview on NPR.

He was a lot more calm in this interview, which was part of a larger discussion focusing on his work chronicling the life of Barbaro.  He said he regretted his tone on the Costas NOW program but is still passionate in his oppositon to blogs.

He mentions on a couple of occasions that not all sports blogs are bad.  That’s a good first step.  He still, however, seems to not understand the purpose of blogs.  He also continues to be confused as to the difference between a post and a comment.

I still agree with Bissinger in that the unintended goal of some sports blogs is to dumb down the level of discourse and to cater to the lowest common denominator.  And sometimes these blogs get the greatest number of hits.  There is a level of “gotcha” reporting on some blogs which can be seen as entertaining, yet damaging to athletes.  Bissenger says these stories sometimes impacts an athlete’s relationship with ALL reporters.

There is an audience for this content.  I don’t want to see it curtailed.  It’s disappointing that many of today’s youth take the juvenile behavior of some of blogs as to be the authority in sports coverage.  Many of us can see the difference.  Many others do not.  It’s this credibility that Bissenger, and I, feel is of concern when it comes to the future of sports journalism.

Coming Out Is Hard To Do

Editor & Publisher (E&P) has the story of the firing of Washington Post staffer Michael Tunison, who was let go after he identified himself as the Christmas Ape, a frequent contributor to the satirical sports blog Kissing Suzy Kolber (KSK).

According to the article, the Post said the firing was as a result of Tunison not abiding by, “standards for people’s outside work” which should have been approved by the Post’s management.  The paper also proclaimed that Tunison’s blogging “brought discredit to the paper.”  Outside work is permitted as long as it is not deemed a conflict of interest.

Tunison responded to E&P by saying, in his opinion, his work at KSK was not a conflict of interest because he was working as a news reporter for a suburban county outside Washington, DC and his beat did not include coverage of the NFL, which is the target of the blog.

I do not read KSK, because I’ve never been a fan of blogs that resort to using crude language to attract readers.  I support their right to produce that content, it’s just not for me. 

In terms of Tunison’s termination, on the surface it looks a little unfair.  But if his work agreement with the Post included the need to seek permission to work elsewhere on his free time, then he did violate the terms of that agreement. 

I do, however,  think the Post may have been too quick on the trigger to terminate Tunison without any apparent period of negotiation.  He was not getting paid for his work at KSK and as long as it did not conflict with his work at the paper, there should have been some compromise reached.

I can understand how language in some of Tunison’s pieces did not sit well with management of the paper.  That indirect compromising of the Post’s integrity may have been his undoing.

I do give Tunison credit for finally identifying himself on the blog.  Coming clean and taking responsibility for your work is always a good idea.  Well, perhaps not in this case.

SMJ Book Review- God Save the Fan, Will Leitch

Another new feature here at SMJ, one we hope will be useful when you take your next trip to the bookstore.  Our book reviews will consist of those dealing exclusively with the sports media or those written by sports media members.

Our first foray is God Save the Fan- How Preening Sportscasters, Athletes Who Speak in the Third Person, and the Occasional Convicted Quarterback Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports (and How We Can Get It Back), the latest book by Deadspin creator Will Leitch (in bookstores Tuesday, January 22nd).

Those of you who follow the sports blogsphere know all about Deadspin. It’s arguably the most popular sports blog on the Internet.   And all the credit goes to Leitch.

In short, if you love Deadspin, you will love this book.  Unlike other authors, Leitch does not resurrect old Deadspin posts and publish them in book form.   This read is all new material.  And there is no doubt that Leitch’s sense of humor and irreverance comes through.  God Saves the Fan reflects what attracts people to Deadspin, taking fun jabs at the people who play for, own, report on, and cheer on sports franchises.

Leitch takes great steps to detail how he feels players, owners, the media, and fans have evolved within the sports culture of today. He points out that sports today are different from years ago, and these changes are not necessarily good ones.  And much of that has to do with the growing influence money now plays in the world of sports.

Leitch shares many a story, some personal, others forwarded through Deadspin, to illustrate these flaws in the sports world.  He also notes out that we, as fans, hold the ultimate chit in changing these flaws, through our decisions to buy tickets, watch television and patronize sponsors.

I was particularly interested in Leitch’s section on the media.  He details off-the-air encounters by famous personalities, most of which are known to those who visit his site.  He takes shots at ESPN.  And like many of us, points out how its mega growth has clouded its judgement, especially how it covers events based more on promoting the ESPN brand then the sport itself.  He tries to support the case that the World Wide Leader is more interested in controversy and confrontation over informed analysis.  And he points to those who were let go for not heeding the ESPN message.

Leitch does a good job in detailing the problems with sports media today.  Where God Save the Fan falls short is that after all the dissection of the ills within sports and the media, he really doesn’t offer many solutions.  It would have been helpful for Leitch to take the role as head of ESPN and come up with concrete, constructive ways to make ESPN better.  Maybe that will be in God Save the Fan 2.

Leitch is spot on toward the end of the book in his evaluation of blogs and how they are viewed negatively by those in the mainstream sports media.  I agree with him that blogs offer everyone a voice, and that’s important to the discourse of the country.

Leitch has done well by Deadspin and God Save the Fan will be a winner with his fans.  But Leitch missed an opportunity to not just be funny, but to use his influence to do some good in devising ways to make sports better.  That gesture would have not only lent Deadspin more credibility in particular, but by association all sports blogs in general.  That’s too bad.