This post is a response to a challenge issued by the author of Moderately Cerebral Bias, who fulfills his blog’s title by thinking a little more deeply about how & why we do this thing called blogging. MC identified several gaps in the mainstream media/big-boy bloggers paradigm that he thinks smaller bloggers can exploit. It’s a way to keep our content fresh and relevant, which is crucial when you realize that there are millions of blogs out there, and many of them are about sports.
Read his first post on the subject, regarding the use of internet technology in blogging.
I, for one, know that there are many bigger blogs than mine, many more popular, and many funnier writers than I. If I try to cover the same stories they cover, I get squashed. Or worse yet, ignored. As a result, I like to exploit the gap in what MC calls “The Way Up” stories. This means that we have a chance to write about the hot story before anyone else knows it’s hot, sometimes we even break news that the bigger outlets would have never found, because they’re too busy looking at the big picture to see what lies beneath.
This is essentially a natural hierarchy. I don’t blame the big boys for writing about big subjects. But those of us who struggle to find our niche and audience can occasionally write about the little guy, and end up learning a lot and sharing that knowledge with people who didn’t even know they cared until they read it. If you’re any kind of writer, you can make a small story interesting.
I have no doubt that this happens in other areas of the blogosphere, but we’re primarily sports bloggers, so that’s what I’m going to look at. Listed below are some of my favorite blogs that have found their niche, writing about something they love, and in many cases, have been able to turn that love into national notoriety:
Small College Basketball: Believe it or not, there was a time when nobody gave a damn about the mid-majors. But hundreds of thousands of readers across this nation went to schools you’ve never heard of. Kyle Whelliston recognized that audience was not being served, so he created midmajority.com, which has evolved into an amazing database of stats, profiles, and feature articles about the non-power conferences. From humble beginnings, Mr. Whelliston has risen to be ESPN.com’s go-to writer about mid-major basketball. Pretty sweet.
In a similar vein, Michael Leitos turned his love of the Colonial Athletic Association into a wonderful blog that covers every aspect of the up-and-coming basketball power. He knows the coaches and players, and he’s traveled to every venue in the CAA. That insider knowledge paid off when George Mason made a miracle run to the Final Four just over a year ago. Mr. Leitos had been there every step of the way, and turned his notes into a fantastic book: Cinderella-Inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball. Again, here’s a person who was just doing what he loved, and an opportunity fell in his lap. He was uniquely qualified to tell that story.
Minor League Baseball: Unless you live in North Carolina, you probably only have one or two minor league baseball teams within traveling distance. But with the rise of fantasy baseball, we all want to know “who’s next?” Matthew Whipps wanted to know, so he dug in and got the answers. First, with his blog The Diamond Cutter, where he regularly kept a list of top-ten prospects. His work got him noticed by other sites, and he became somewhat of an expert on developmental baseball. He was rewarded with a gig at MVN, writing the Minor Details column, wherein he can scout to his heart’s desire, and we can get the scoop on the up-and-comers.
Obviously, these are examples of blogs wholly devoted to niche readership. Not everyone wants to do that every day. But several bloggers work in, say, a post a week devoted to uncovering the hidden stories. Jack Cobra looked at Lehigh University athletics on 3manlift.com recently. Texas Gal and Lady Andrea are pushing college baseball over at Ladies…, as much for the hottness as for the level of play. MC Bias and Digital Headbutt spend a lot of time covering women’s college basketball and other sports that are seldom seen in the limelight.
In politics, Skeptical Brotha finds fantastic video of behind-the-scenes players like Barack Obama’s wife, who he likes more than the man himself.
And yes, I am going to blow my own horn. I write a half-serious, half-satire post every week during college basketball season called “Who the hell Are…”, and I’ve devoted some time to following rookie MLB players with “Smells Like Pujols”. The project I’m most excited about, however, is College Rule Notebook, where I invite readers to tell me all about their college – no matter how large or small – in their own words. Nobody knows a school like a student or alum, and we all like to brag on our famous classmates.
This is a dichotomy of sports, and storytelling in general. We love to read about the heroes and the larger than life. But we need some way to connect that enormity to our everyday lives. It’s a crucial part of the fantasy that allows us to live vicariously through a great player.
Instead of being the guy who has to go look it up, why not be the guy who wrote it in the first place?