Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Though I have delved into this topic in some degree recently, this article about Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton on Page 2 seems to confirm something that has been on my mind for quite a while now. It’s as if there is something in the water or maybe some of us fans, media and athletes are bringing this to light more than others. When it comes to sports in 2008, you have to ask one question.

What’s with all of the hate?

Hating is nothing new in the sports realm; in fact, sports may not be as major in the public conscious if fans didn’t hate – or at least show disdain – towards a player, team or city. Yet, it seems as if this generation of sports media has turned up the volume for fans to voice their displeasure or more often than not, sheer ignorance. It’s no longer the newspapers and televisions shows that are strictly responsible for fanning the flames. Even as sports radio became the biggest culprit in the past fifteen years, it didn’t seem as bad as this.

We have the unfiltered and unregulated platform of blogging to thank for this.

It may sound hypocritical for a blogger as me to say this, but so much has changed since web logs hit the mainstream four years ago.

I’ve been blogging about sports since late 2004. It started almost accidentally as I never considered writing about sports in any fashion before, not even for the high school or college paper. Yet, having graduated a few months before, I had missed the public discussion of what we saw last night, what might happen tonight and what we’ll talk about tomorrow. One day while suffering interning at a public relations firm, I spoke with a few friends about bringing back a college radio show, “I Dunno, But…” in web form.

At that time, the country at-large was focused on the upcoming Presidential elections. I was doing some research for the website Beliefnet, which gained a tremendous amount of press around the discussions of religion, faith and politics. The project involved scrolling through the ‘Net for political blogs that either referenced the website or its content for ABC News. What was a growing, but still limited forum hit the mainstream as political candidates, analysts and some very angry citizens began to blog to add their thoughts to the already boiling caldron of opinions and unconfirmed facts. Yet, I was fascinated by the concept. Blogging was an extremely cheap (mostly free) way of being your own media personality without makeup, editors, producers and time constraints.

It would also become the way to resurrect IDB.

Version 2, as it’s called by its founders (Sumit, JB and I) had a nice two-year run until it took a sharp turn towards negativity around the time of the Duke Lacrosse scandal. While it was the conversation-du-jour, there was this aura over it that didn’t seem right. This was already a charged topic across the States and not too many civil discussions that we noted individually. Yet, as you will see if you scroll though the archives, it just turned real bad.

We weren’t happy with what was becoming Version 2. While Sumit and I made our share of mistakes during IDB’s four years at Babson, we matured into our roles as opinion leaders and commentators while bringing along people who would only add greater insight. When coming up with Version 2, there was already a superfluous amount of “Such-and-such sucks” and “this guy’s an a**” and “you’re an idiot”. Those sorts of blogs and websites add little new to the discussion, even if they are some of the more popular sites on the ‘Net. At times, we still made some of those mistakes, but as time moves along, you figure out what works and what is a major faux-pas.

It seems as if most other sports bloggers haven’t figured that out just yet. Or maybe they don’t need to.

If a blogger decides to post some Photoshopped image of an athlete that (s)he detests, it invites a crowd of bleacher bums to join in on the hate fest. If someone adds a short post about how a ball player is the worst person in the world for having a bad game, there is a legion of so-called fans waiting to add their crass comments. Even if a columnist or host from a reputable outlet expounds on his or her daily work with some thoughts that were left out, (s)he is left with highly-offensive commentary that makes you wonder if those readers were raised right. And for what, really?

Is it because these ‘fans’ feel that they are better informed?

Is it because these ‘fans’ feel entitled to say and do whatever they want?

Is it because these ‘fans’ are ‘better at your job than you’?

Outside of actual broadcasting and reporting, providing opinions and making observations are at the core of the very existence of sports media. Without debates of who will pull away to win the National League East or if any team still in the NBA postseason can win a road game, many sports fans may not tune in as often as they do (if at all). Yet, just as the old guard of media invited and created some of the tensions that cloud the games these days, the sports blogging community overall hasn’t done much to break through the gray.

So, what will it take to change things? Do they even need to change? These are questions I ask every day, not only as a blogger, but as a freelancer and a sports fan. As the technology boom settles down and many people fall out of the blogosphere, maybe the tenor will change. Or maybe not.

Only time will tell, as the adage goes.

Say What?!?!: When Annika Sörenstam officially walks away from the LPGA, she should be one of the most lauded athletes in history. Female or male. What she had accomplished has many who follow the sport considering her the greatest female golfer to ever hit the links. Seventy-two wins as a professional in sixteen years gave her single name status in many realms that only Arnold (Palmer), Jack (Nickalus) and Tiger (Woods) have enjoyed. What may be the defining moment to some would be her appearance at The Colonial in 2004, just missing the cut in the men’s tourney, but handling the historic feat (and Vijay Singh’s unfortunate comments) with class and poise. Sörenstam will be looked upon as a beacon for many female athletes, especially the young golfers that have carried the LPGA as of late. Yet, only time will tell if she’ll be recognized as a great golfer who happens to be female or a great golfer for a female.

*photo credit to The Situationist

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