This past Sunday night, behind Fenway Park, a subtle yet symbolic changing of the Boston sports-media guard occurred, giving unprecedented power to the people. At the Baseball Tavern, while the Red Sox battled for their pride in Baltimore, the New England Sports Network (NESN) sponsored the first-ever Boston Sports Blogapalooza.
You read that correctly: instead of cheap-shotting its competition into oblivion, New England’s Goliath sports channel thanked and saluted roughly 100 of its David grassroots challengers with chicken wings and sausage subs. (Beer was not complimentary, but flowed freely nonetheless.)
It’s not unusual for traditional outlets to embrace their Web rivals. Since at least 2004, both network and cable news programs have regularly featured bloggers, including Andrew Sullivan and Ana Marie Cox, as guests on political matters. In arts and entertainment, such sites as Pitchfork Media (music) and Hollywood Elsewhere (movies) have, for many, surpassed traditional publications Spin and Rolling Stone. But props have come slower in the sports blogosphere, where access to players and coaches remains limited to a credentialed few.
“I couldn’t be happier that NESN decided to do this with us,” says organizer Joe Gill, who covers the full athletic gamut for Boston Sports Then and Now. “[WEEI and NESN] are smart, because no one is picking up the Globe or Herald anymore. It took a long time, but you finally see guys like Ken Fang [of Boston Sports Media Watch] getting acknowledged by the big guys.”
Gill began writing seriously about nine months ago, when he was laid off from his full-time job in public relations. Having grown increasingly familiar with the several hundred active Boston sports blogs, he felt the need to facilitate communication. “It’s a lot different from the old days,” says Gill. “Some of those reporters might have drank together, but they didn’t help each other out the way that we do.”
For a gang of big drinkers whose Sox were about to get swept by the worst team in the league, the Blogapalooza bunch seemed surprisingly mild-mannered. With a few possible exceptions — hello, Barstool Sports, which was not in attendance — these outlets seem more interested in positive and thoughtful coverage than in trash-talking.
“I love Barstool,” says Jared Carrabis, the democratically elected governor of Red Sox Nation who blogs at soxspacenews.com. “In my stuff, though, I’m known as more of an optimist — I’m always defending [David] Ortiz — and people appreciate that, too.”
“Personally, I’m a fan first and an analyst second,” adds Tim Daloisio of Firebrand of the American League. “I don’t do what I do because I feel a need to criticize.”
While some of these players stand out for their attitude, others have found unique corners of the marketplace. To separate himself from the herd of Sox bloggers with whom he was formerly corralled, Adam Vaccaro recently started Six States, One Blog to cover all things New England Revolution (the title riffs on the soccer club’s motto: “Six States, One Team”). Likewise, Katherine Hasenauer has taken on the Boston Blazers beat.
“Look around,” says Hasenauer, who covers lacrosse for examiner.com and her own site, On Being a Sports Girl. “There are more Red Sox bloggers than you can count — I’m just trying to find my own niche. Eventually, I would love to do this full-time.”