ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports routinely attract tens of millions of unique visitors each month, but alternative websites that most sports fans have never heard of are quickly catching up.
Those alternative websites generally get grouped together in a diverse group of websites known as sports blogs. They range in terms of variety from sports news aggregators like Deadspin, a site that receives upwards of ten million unique hits each month, to humor sites with obscenity warnings like Kissing Suzy Kolber, a blog that makes fun of all things NFL.
The problem sports blogs face is they all share the same title: sports blog. Legitimate blogs suffer from the stereotype that all bloggers live in their mother’s basement in Albuquerque wearing only underwear.
“Deadspin and Kissing Suzy Kolber are sports blogs. What each of them are trying to accomplish is totally different from the other. Deadspin tries to maintain a semblance of accountability and truth-telling while KSK just wants to make you laugh and doesn't really care about the facts. So how can we truly apply the same rules and expectations to both of them?” says Sean Keeley who runs a Syracuse blog called “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”
“Making that delineation is what the next step of sports blog acceptance is going to be about,” says Keeley. His site which garners 60,000 unique hits each month, is already gaining acceptance from one media member.
Brent Axe of Syracuse.com says he’s in frequent contact with Keeley and other SU bloggers, “I would define [our relationship] as very good. I communicate on a regular basis with a lot of Syracuse bloggers and am a big fan of [TNIAAM, 3 Idiots on Sports, Orange-44] and a few more.”
Other main streamers haven’t been so nice. A year ago, ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd asked his listeners to unleash a DNS attack on The Big Lead, a well known sports blog.
On top of Cowherd’s wrongful assault is the fact he asked his listeners to attack the wrong site. Deadspin criticized him for something he said, not TBL which shut down for several days while TBL’s technical staff fixed the server.
ESPN’s ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber criticized Cowherd’s actions and said future events like Cowherd’s will come with a stiff penalty. She agreed with readers who wrote to her calling Cowherd, “immature, irresponsible, arrogant, malicious, destructive, and dumb.”
While many main streamers continue to criticize sports blogs, the continuous war between blogs and the main stream media has died down in Philadelphia.
Several sites have landed interviews with Philadelphia 76ers’ GM Ed Stefanski. One of those sites, The 700 Level is the most visible alternative sports site in Philadelphia.
Co-editor of the site Matt Pesotski says the response the site has received from the Philadelphia media has been great, “The [Philadelphia] Inquirer and Daily News reporters have mostly been professional and friendly, exchanging thoughts via email, answering questions we might have, etc., and many of them tell us they read the site every day. The same goes for some of the hosts and producers at WIP and 950 ESPN, Comcast SportsNet, and the local news from time to time.”
What Pesotski and most bloggers offer that the media can’t is the fan perspective. The website Bleacher Report is another alternative sports website that has begun to mix the media with diehard fans.
It’s an open source website that allows anyone to join and write whatever they want about sports.
“Sites like ESPN publish 15-20 original editorials per day; Bleacher Report publishes hundreds,” said co-founder of B/R Alexander Freund, “While ESPN fills the pages of small market franchises and colleges with AP press releases, Bleacher Report fills the same pages on our site with quality content.”
In less than year, Freund’s site gained partnerships with Fox Sports and CBS Sports to display B/R content on their sites.
While Bleacher Report hasn’t seen widespread recognition from professional and collegiate organizations, Freund says that can change, “We're getting increasingly more opportunities to put our writers in the press box. That said, as Bleacher Report becomes a household name I anticipate that we will be treated no differently than any other media organization when it comes to getting press access.”
Most professional organizations haven’t put the “fan perspective” in the press box, but some have hired a team blogger.
“Most teams will probably try to just use the moniker of having a "blogger" on staff, but will still control some of the content that they produce,” said Brian Powell who critiques the media on his site Awful Announcing, “The Redskins just hired someone for this role for their website, and while the content is still good, you're not going to hear the author, Matt Terl saying anything bad about Jim Zorn or the team.”
***This article originally appeared in the Syracuse Student Voice magazine.***