Before throwing the switch, he gathered his thoughts in the virtual darkness, choosing his words carefully. He didn't know who was out there on the other side -- who his audience would be, whether or not he would be able to find one. If an audience for someone like him even existed. This was something very new, without any sort of market testing, and represented a leap of faith.
And so he leapt, issuing his first missive out into the ether.
I am your voice, the voice of the fan, the everyday Joe who can't afford a beer and a hot dog and shouts bloody murder from the first pitch to the last out because I paid for my ticket and I am entitled! ... I am your best friend and management's worst nightmare! I am... Superfan!
Superfan was a pseudonym'd pioneer, and like many pioneers he was shot down and left for dead on progress' dusty trail. Superfan's assassins were general ambivalence and apathy, as well as the all-powerful WTF factor. He was just too far ahead of his time, there were too few fellow fans ready or willing to accept his solicitations and join him in overheated banter. Superfan was a hero and a patriot, fighting for the true spirit of sports, protecting the games he loved against greed and avarice.
Superfan did not go down in vain, however. Once the match was lit, there was no putting out the hot burning fire. Other revolutionaries stepped forward, and then others. More and more joined the chorus. Some used their real names, and some did not. Many fell by the wayside, victims of audience neglect or views too arcane, unpopular or unfocused to survive. But some became sponsored and supported by media entities of various sizes, and a few even became nationally-known commentators. One or two even went on television.
Which brings us to the present day, the culmination of a three-decade journey. What, you thought this was the history of sports blogging? Wrong class, wrong room. This is the story of Los Angeles resident Ed "Superfan" Beiler, who took to the KABC airwaves in 1973 and spectacularly flamed out as the nation's first populist sports-talk radio host (the whole story is found in this delightful book
But the similarities between the evolution of sports talk radio and sports blogging are too similar to ignore. Both serve to entertain bored white men (18-49) with limited disposable income, by pandering to their insecurities, their lecherous desires and their perceived downtrodden nature. Some choose to ignore the similarities, believing blindly that sports blogging represents the next evolution of sports journalism, or even its eventual replacement.
Sports blogging is the next generation of sports talk radio, and nothing more.
Sports talk radio has had nearly 35 years to transform the sports world, and now its failing hands pass the torch, be it for bloggers to hold on high. But it's a dysfunctional relationship between the radio jocks and the keyboard jockeys, full of petty misunderstandings. Show hosts like Colin Cowherd, Tony Kornheiser and Jim Rome are easy objects of ridicule for bloggers, and occasionally it comes to blows. A blogger denying their debt to their forebears, however, is like when kids swear they'll never end up like Dad despite an obvious shared destiny. ("Leitch... I am your father..."
And things are a little different this time around. There's no need to go to broadcasting school or schmooze producers, everyone can have their own show. Anyone can sign up for a blogging service, hide behind a clever pseudonym, and offer just a slight percentage of themselves (a voice there, typed words here) in exchange for potential stardom.
All the main ingredients are similar. Both forms of media offer overwhelming frathouse maleness, with just enough fast-talking dames to keep it from being a total sausage festival. The hosts might have access to the sports world's personalities, or they might just have a lot of opinions. Both engines run on the same fuel: unfounded rumors, speculation, dick jokes, raised voices and the occasional ponderable insight.
But the decentralization of the broadcasting signal -- that great egalitarian, wall-breaking evolution of the 21st Century -- could very well be the very thing that renders the movement toothless and obsolete, clearing the way for sports talk's third phase, whatever form that takes. Now that the sports blogosphere has, in two quick years, organized itself into the basic human classes (elite, B-group and irrelevant), it's ready to implode. The same way that Rome did (the empire, not the dude).
You don't have to go very far in that world to find the A-group becoming fat, bloated and drunk on its own revolutionary self-importance. At their worst, its members become mutually congratulatory, praising each other for making Big Differences and subverting the ancient and ingrained power paradigm. They touch each other with their long hyperlinks, over and over, culminating in a wet, messy orgy of mutual appreciation.
So I think it's all over, on account of lost perspective. It's over because sports bloggers seem to forget that even the most popular among them have audiences that would earn quick cancellation from the WB (after one episode, no doubt), and most have the circulation of a company newsletter. When I read a 500-word compliment on a blog about another blog, 1,000-word blogged nomination for another blogger to get a prominent magazine position, or see a "Hot Blogger Bracket," I know the movement is stuck in its own way, choking on its own vomit.
Let me make this clear. The Mid-Majority is a blog only in format only: written posts presented in cascading order, most recent first. It utilizes blog software, an easy-to-install package called Movable Type. It's organized by daily and category and author archives, it has tags, there's a linkroll, and each entry has a permalink. It's the same as with the term "mid-major"... too catch-all and non-descriptive, but it's the term everybody knows, and trying to invent a different name for it confuses matters exponentially.
But I am not a "sports blogger," and I have said repeatedly that I have no desire to be considered as one. I have no interest in blog cred, in revolution, in Ballhype rankings or popularity contests, or discussions trailing along with my posts. The comments are off, and they're not being turned on. This is not a community, and I'm not obligated to provide you one.
I am a writer. Before ESPN, I was a starving writer. The way the site works is this: I write, and you read (or not). Later, when I'm done writing, I'll come read your site (or not). You have all the information you need to get in touch with me. There's no need to bring avatars or cyphers or public asynchronous chatting into this, and you have all the opportunities for that elsewhere.
You and I, we have an open relationship. I don't care what you do or who you see while you're out with your girlfriends. Honest, I don't.
None of this is jealousy -- plenty of people read what I write, so I don't need to pander to you, speak to your baser instincts or try to communicate in the common language of forced irony, snark and Will Ferrell quotes. Which is probably why you're here anyway, and I thank you for that. But like they did with Superfan all those years ago, you can switch me off whenever you feel the need to.