Why I’m Skipping Blogs with Balls

by Bryan

One thing I’m not doing today is getting on a plane and going to Las Vegas. I’m not watching out the window as we pass over the Alleghenies, the Great Plains, the Rockies and, finally, the desert. I’m not, upon arrival, dropping 50 cents into a slot machine at McCarran Airport, and being happily greeted by the blast of hot air just outside baggage claim. And I’m not attending the Blogs With Balls 2.0 convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

I don’t think the conventioneers will take it as a real loss. Many of the sites that will be represented get more hits in an hour than I get in a month. Plus, I’m not really a sports blogger. I’ve tried, again and again (and again), but I can’t write about sports day in and day out. I find pretty much everything fascinating, inside and outside the lines. On the Internet, that’s a liability. The best way for success online is to find a small, unlit corner of the web and make it your own. Not like “Covering Cleveland sports” specific, but like “Covering Cleveland sports and gambling, taking a unique progressive/libertarian/Republican stand on social and political issues, and tying every post together under the guise of a curse against the region perpetuated the racist mascot for the Cleveland Indians” specific.

The blog in question is Cleveland Frowns. It’s written by one of my friends and it’s one of my favorite. Its proprietor is in the air as we speak, probably enjoying a complementary tomato juice and getting his “game face” on. This is the second Blogs With Balls convention in less than a year, and he’s attended both. The networking opportunities are unmatched: all the heavy hitters in this relatively new genre will be there.

But the whole thing strikes me as fundamentally odd. If blogging is the way of the future, why are sports bloggers meeting at a convention—an increasingly outdated mode of gathering and exchanging information? Doesn’t the Internet, the very thing that makes this convention possible, also make it redundant?

I’m not begrudging people’s chance to have a good time. If they enjoy hanging out with people they’ve never met, or only “met” online, that’s fine with me. Put $50 on black and toss back some G-and-T’s. They’re free!

What does affect me is the quality of sports blogging that I read on a daily basis. And I think that sports blogging needs a resolute kick in the pants if it’s ever going to be taken seriously.

What sports bloggers need to understand is that they’re no fundamentally different than the sportswriters to whom they are “alternative.” If Peter Gammons was born in 1985, he’d probably be a blogger today, and if Deadspin founder Will Leitch was born in the 1940s, he’d be the guy at the daily newspaper cranking out columns for you to hate. The point is, there’s nothing about blogging that exempts it from the rules of any other consumption. It needs to be interesting and fresh, sure, but it also needs to be true. And the more work you put into any one post, the better it will be. Bloggers need to focus less on how to increase their hits via keywords and headlines—though these are important—and more on how to reach out to teams, players and other writers to make their work better.

Bloggers have come a long way, the work only gets harder from here. Maybe that’s the point of the convention, but it seems more like a celebration to me of something that’s not yet worth the self-congratulations. Blogging is still an alternative to the mainstream, and simply outlasting the dinosaurs isn’t going to change that. Bringing light into a bigger corner of the Internet will. The better bet might not be to squeeze your arms into coach class, but to stretch them out, as it were, at home.