Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sports on the web

As journalism has progressed into the 21st century, blogging has become more and more of a part of its rising popularity. And as blogs have grown, sports blogs have grown in number, sophistication and range. Just like a column in a newspaper, sports blogs have turned into websites where you can find information and opinion that you wouldn't get anywhere else.

Some of the blogs have turned into sources of honest, credible, straight sports information. The "worldwide leader in sports", ESPN, is an example of both the recognition of the importance of blogs (seeing as every sport ESPN covers has its own separate blog), and the sports blog that seeks to inform instead of offer opinion and controversy. With ESPN's blogs, you get straight journalism: reporting and stories from those qualified to be the top sportswriting minds around.

A similar blog is the Bleacher Report. A comparison can be made between BR and Wikipedia. Like Wikipedia, anyone can write for Bleacher Report, and anyone can join to write comments on stories (similar to edits). Also like Wikipedia, the open-source nature does not contrast with the site's mission to present the reader with quality sports news. As BR develops, it turns into a leading sports journalism website, and becomes more of model for sports blogs. Sure, some of BR's articles are on the lighter side, but that hasn't taken away from the site's becoming an internet power among sports blogs.

However, as was said earlier, the spread of blogging means the inclusion of a wider variety of blogging objectives. Some blogs go straight for the attitude and entertainment of blogging, decency and fairness be damned. Deadspin is a prime example; a blog that will take real sports news and issues, and present it with its own special seasoning.

Take for example, Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel. An issue that is growing in major football discussion groups is how much money the blossoming QB might make elsewhere next year. So Deadspin reports on this, without forgetting to remind the viewer what he or she is viewing:

I can think of about ten thousand better ways to piss away ten million dollars (one of them involves power tools, thirty pounds of cocaine, and Michael Irvin), and I can't imagine any team is going to pony that up. First of all, Cassel has been able to overcome his lack of pro experience with his familiarity of Belichick's system, which he's been learning since 2005. He won't enjoy that benefit with a new team.
Secondly, those shitty teams that need a QB (San Francisco, Kansas City, Detroit) won't be shelling out that kind of money. They're shitty for a reason...okay, a handful of reasons, but one of those is their total absence in the free agent market. Look, Matt. There's nothing wrong with re-upping with the Pats for the minimum and riding Brady's jock for two or three more rings.
You can be America's Favorite Backup Quarterback, or get pummeled in Detroit. Easy choice, really.
Another example of the professional wrestling of sports blogs is Not for the kids, Bad Jocks is an R-rated look at the world of crime and sports. And because the website ("Where Cops meets SportsCenter", it brands itself) is so focused on broken laws by athletes that alcohol, sex or sometimes shocking combinations of the two rule the page.

A popular question centers on the value of Bad Jocks/Deadspin-type blogs. And while the writers on those blogs may not be professional journalists per se, it has become increasingly clear that their work has journalistic value. Bad Jocks, for example, fulfilled the role of an investigative reporter when its publishing of hazing pictures by the Catholic University of America women's lacrosse team led to the school suspending the team for three games.

Print journalists have had their say as well, a particularly ardent example being Buzz Bissenger, a former writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer whose book "Friday Night Lights" is among the finer examples of sports writing. In an argument with Deadspin creator Will Leitch on HBO, Bissenger launched into an anti-blogging tirade, saying that blogs allow any person to write the opinions that sports writers work hard to acquire the opportunity to give for a newspaper. Leitch held his ground, saying that if a professional writes a good story and an amateur writes a good story, why is the amateur not as well-considered?

The more time that goes by, the more it becomes apparent that Leitch was right. Blogs are becoming more popular, and more people are starting their own up. They may be all over the sports spectrum, but their points are being absorbed like never before.


Bob Mantz said...

Good Job on the article. Well done.


Drew Bonifant said...

Thanks for the comment, Bob. And I took the opportunity to check out your blog, and was very impressed. Excellent work, especially with your use of photos to compliment entries. By the way, I hope you're right about Sabathia.