Third in a series of nine daily essays leading up to the 2008-09 college basketball season.
New technology always takes time to find its proper place, to soak into the mainstream. Over three centuries passed before the printing press changed from a luxury item for the powerful into a tool of the people. There were 50 years between "Watson, come here, I want to see you" and the Model 102
that brought simple telephony to the masses. It took nearly 100 years for television to go from early and halting experiments to worldwide acceptance.
The cycles are getting shorter, though. In just 25 years, a global web of interconnected computers grew from a defense communication system to a limitless, bottomless information and multimedia network for consumers. One particular use for this internet contraption is the transmission of sequential packages of information, presented most recent first. Sometimes progress works faster
than careful labeling techniques, so the generally accepted and unfortunate term for this mechanism is and always will be "blog." (Which is just as unwieldy and incorrect an indicator as "mid-major," if not more so. At least "mid-major" hasn't yet devolved into a verb.)
Despite that speed, blogs still encountered the entrenched status quo that greets any innovation. There are cold-dead-hands adherents to the previous way of doing things, industries inherently resistant to change, and, frankly, old people. Blogs, much like the new technologies that came before, are the sexy racing vehicles of the young. But another key dynamic that slows market penetration is the simple fact that bright new minds usually have no idea how best to use their own inventions properly, or they start out by using them in misguided and myopic ways. The history of blogs proved no exception.
I started my first blog in 2000. I used it to present my problems with girls as wide-screen epic adventures, and to rewrite my own personal history in a way that made me the Protagonist of Everything. Not surprisingly, the few readers who stopped by via Altavista or Netscape searches didn't find what they were looking for (usually some manner of obscure pornography), and I was lucky to get 20 hits per day. That collection of writings is not something I go back to read again... since it's all been pretty well scrubbed from the indexes, few others can either.
Online diaries, ends unto themselves, were a dead end. Screens with no links to elsewhere invited swift extinction. There had to be a takeaway, a reason to keep going. No surprise, then, that the people involved in pushing the arc of this format's maturity in recent years were aggregators and distributors -- Jason Kottke
, Glenn Reynolds
, Anil Dash
, Mark Frauenfelder's Boing Boing
. Each gained massive readership by standing between an endless ocean of scattershot information and like-minded recipients, filtering the world into beautiful order by showing only the interesting parts, leaving out the rest. For their efforts, these bloggers are trusted like true friends by their audiences.
More recently, as the old paper-based order begins to fall away, this format has grown to include a different type of key conduit. Seasoned writers and reporters, with press passes and access to public figures, with familiar names and representing familiar outlets, fire off public missives about current events in a format more immediate and efficient than any paper-based vessel could ever be. The contract between them and their audiences are similarly built on trust, a level of warm comfort, and results in a better and more immediate understanding of the covered issue. Some call this the "reported blog" (as poor a term as "super mid-major"), and the current United States election cycle has cemented its power as a communication tool.
The "sports blog" hasn't quite reached the level of maturation as the "political blog," but serious gains are being made. Specifically here in the college basketball sub-genre -- there are thoughtful and intelligent sites springing up every day, many with multiple contributors and a national focus, popping up too quickly to properly include all of them in any complete linkroll. Which is a relief, because 2006-07 truly was the dark ages (most of the predating survivors of that season, it turns out, have been kindly rewarded with jobs and cash). In the past year or so, there's been an increased premium on intelligence, intellectual curiosity, the furthering of arguments with statistics instead of baseless (and presumably drunken) claims of historical supremacy.
And that's the way forward. The new generation of sports bloggers who will go on to make a career out of this will build bridges between audiences and a better understanding of the games they cover, which will bring them legions of trusting supporters. As newspapers continue to die, those with press passes and an understanding of this new reality will have an increasingly important job to do, and our own responsibilities will grow. In the coming years, the "reported sports blog" will be the choice of informed audiences. The future looks a lot more like Joe Posnanski's site
than A.J. Daulerio's
, and thank heavens for that.
The result of the first blogging shakeout is that navel-gazing exercises were safely cordoned off in facebooks, myspaces and livejournals. The segment of the market that runs on dick jokes, ill-informed rants and anonymous jackassery is in the process of sealing itself into a separate corner, creating its own self-fulfilling dead end. Blogging as a medium is growing up, and those who refuse to do so themselves will be left behind. After all, it's happened before.