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Blogs with Balls Conference: Part II

So after the better part of a week since Part I (and a self-imposed deadline that I completely violated), here comes Part II of RCR’s coverage of the conference, this time with a focus on the conference’s content, the development of sports entertainment media, and the implications thereof. Some of these ideas had already occurred to me, and were affirmed by the panelists, and some were new to me, and changed the way I thought about certain issues. Essentially, this is my way of giving credit where credit is due to the sources of these thoughts. If I could put together all the names with all the ideas, I certainly would. Enough with the intro: here’s Part II.

•    The sudden and pervasive influence of Twitter was discussed early and often. I’ve never used the site, and this fascination with what are essentially mass text messages escapes me. I can understand how this service might be more useful to people with full-time jobs who work near computers and get their entertainment in bite-sized blips.  Having a part-time job away from a computer, I tend to sit in front of the screen primarily for entertainment, so I can’t really relate. The biggest reason stated by the panelists for Twitter’s newfound popularity is its ability to bypass the middleman (traditional media) in the communication lines an athlete creates with his/her fans. Being granted this freedom, athletes who wish to create and promote a "brand" for themselves are able to let parts of their personality show that might not come across during a post-game interview. Some athletes will thrive under this environment, others will quietly focus on, you know, being good at sports.

•    There is a large philosophical void that exists between professional and collegiate sports bloggers. The biggest issues responsible for this void are hinted at in the Twitter section above: pro athletes are followed much in the same way celebrities are, and are attracting a new group of sports fans with sometimes flexible allegiances, short attention spans, and a thirst for off-the-field entertainment. College sports are all about allegiances, and fans are connected to a tradition, a spirit or personality of a place, rather than of individual athletes, coming and going in four year cycles. Spencer Hall drunkenly articulated a point that was on the tip of my tongue regarding these differences: the heart of college sports is experiential. As a Florida fan, Hall recounted the dismay he felt while covering a UF game in Knoxville, where he met seasoned sports reporters who had never ventured onto one of the Volunteer Navy’s vessels. Even as a grudge-bearing rival, Hall realized that this tradition was vital to the UT experience, and that one can’t appreciate what a team, a University, and a fan base stands for by focusing on a 120x53-yard turf rectangle. As college sports bloggers, we would be selling our readers short by ignoring these experiences. Pro sports guys: continue to update us on the latest Tweets from Kobe Bryant. I’ll let everyone know exactly how hard Vandy girls like to party (answer: quite hard), how Athens rocks my face off (at least until the frat boys start barking), how nasty that couch in Baton Rouge was, and how Fayetteville looks and feels like the inhabitants of Iowa were dumped, concentration-camp style, into the West Virginia backwoods. Wow, that was a pretty long bullet point…

•    As the world gets increasingly accustomed to having news shoved in its face from every angle, unbiased journalism is quickly going the way of the dinosaurs. And while it pisses me off that Fox News would call itself unbiased (the other networks are only a little more fair), and that ESPN would call itself a credible news source while paying antagonistic blowhards to express terrible opinions on camera, bloggers can get away with (and indeed, set themselves apart with) opinions and biases.  As a consumer of this information, you know what you’re getting into when you start reading. Bloggers don’t promise or usually even feign credibility, but rather earn the attention they get from being smart, topical, polarizing, and concise. I can understand why mainstream media types hate this new "rogue journalism," but they have only themselves to blame. The primary reason I started writing for RCR was my deep dissatisfaction with the lack of quality, integrity, and depth of sports coverage from the school newspaper, local and state papers, and Ole Miss specific websites. I think that our healthy readership after only a year of operation attests that I was not the only one dissatisfied.

•    As a result of people turning increasingly to small, amateur news sources, their potential legitimacy is on the rise. One of the advantages of content networks such as SBNation is an automatic increase in legitimacy by nature of association with a larger, more legitimate body of writers. SBNation has already been extremely beneficial to our blog in terms of credibility. Obtaining a single media pass to a single football game was a huge struggle and a huge victory for our blog before joining. Now, we feel like we have someone on our side, and stand a much better chance at being on the sideline for every Ole Miss game. This increased legitimacy and access will be a pitfall for some bloggers, who will eventually view these new privileges as entitlements, and new opportunities as responsibilities. In short, what was once a hobby will become a job.

I’m hoping that Ghost will come in and add some of his additional impressions about what we learned last weekend. With all that was going on around us (OMGFREEBEER!!!2), surely he picked up some of the things I might have missed, and vice versa. Also, please let us know what you, as readers and guest contributors, make of this experience. Let us know what you want from us, and what you don’t. If you’ve made it through this, I applaud your tolerance from my bullshit. Have a great Sunday.