Friday, March 2, 2007

Bloggolalia: Blogging Sans Hat

I decided to put up a late Friday post for weekend discussion, and see what the response is. The term "Bloggolalia" is a word mash that literally means "talking about blogs." (Lalia is a Latin/Greek word that means talk, more or less). I think it looks cool, so there you go.

Usually, MC Bias writes as if other sports blogging sites don't exist. (He also spends a lot of time listing the pros of cons of "I", "we", or "MC Bias" as terms to refer to oneself while blogging, and is giving serious consideration to the fourth-person "you" or "one"). However, a recent controversy on drew his attention. (FYI: The comments and/or post may offend you if you are sensitive to foul language or the abortion issue. Proceed.) The author made this comment: "Let this be the 1000th reminder that nothing -- nothing -- on this site is serious unless I make it an explicit point to "take off my With Leather hat."

I thought the throwaway reference to hats was an excellent metaphor for a dilemma that occasionally annoys me in sports blogging. Many of the best sites employ "hats"; that is, the author is talking in a very distinct style. That style often isn't how the person actually lives/talks in everyday life. The styles can be intriguing and entertaining, or irritating and biased, depending on your preferences. A short listing of "styles" would be Leave the Man Alone's or The Big Lead's sports media surveillance and analysis, Deadspin's self-depreciating, whimiscal humor, KSK or With Leather's testosterone rush, This Suit is Not Black's cross-out self-exultation/depreciation, and Nation of Islam Sports Blog's over-the-top and yet internally consistent exultation of the black race. I think that's enough mischaracterization of one's blogging elders for now, so I cease and desist.

However, what bothers me about a blogging hat is that a style, by definition, is often imitable. So if you wear the same blogging hat all the time, it gets very easy for someone to borrow that hat. Additionally, if we were to hold a contest, long-time readers of each site listed above could dredge up a passable imitation of that site's writing style. Plus, as the sites grow in popularity due to their hats, they attract detractors who have caught on to what hat the blogger is wearing. After all, isn't this the knock on Simmons? That he became popular because of his hat, but isn't changing the hat anymore? Perhaps the only difference between today's new sports bloggers and Simmons is longevity.

In the end, I think the right way is to begin by blogging with a hat, but to discard the hat once the site reaches a certain age or level of notoriety. I think Yaysports and Slamonline do this well. You may argue that Yaysports has the blogging hat of Photoshopping sports pictures, and that Slamonline has the blogging hat of supporting hip-hop ball. They may have started that way in the eyes of some, but there's been a lot of evolution since then. Explore the text, and you'll find variety in writing style and posts from each.

Of course, I blatantly disregard my own conclusion, and enjoy blogging hatless myself when no one is reading. :-) Let's hear it for blogging ADD!!! So, for your discussion this weekend while I attempt to school kids a decade younger than me in my high school's annual alumni game; hats, or no hats? And if you feel I have unfairly characterized your hat, by all means, comment.


  1. A blogger's hat can also serve as a safety net of sort, making any criticism of or disagreement with your own writing a little easier to swallow. Discuss...

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  3. Wow, thank you for saying what I only politely hinted at. I thought that it's more than a little disingenuous* for bloggers to blame the "voices in their heads" as if they are an independent entity. That's compartmentalization* to a fault.

    *For some reason I'm a vocab snob today, forgive me.

  4. Sir,

    If I may interject. Sometimes, it is incumbant upon the reader to not only recognize the hat(and yes, some are hard to miss; and I'm looking at our but to look beneath it as well.

    Some blogs use the hat to draw in a readership, and hope (or pray) that most will be able to lift it a bit and take a peak beneath it.

  5. NOIS is so good precisely because most readers don't look past the hat, ha. Every 5th or 10th post or so (yes, I know you might argue for a higher percentage, ha), you all are so right it's scary. But I would hope that as NOIS continues to grow in audience, it would let people see a little more than the hat. Perhaps a quick peek at the bowtie on occasion, too? :-)

  6. It's funny. You mention about every 5th or 10th post or so being so right it's scary. We received an email from the "target" of one of our posts saying that he was impressed that we were right on target with the post about him. So, it was nice that this person could see what the post (which on the surface was unflattering towards him)was all about. And that is really what motivates us. When people can see what we are REALLY saying.

    As for growing in's tough, because we don't really have time to do much to get out there...but we have grown week to week. And the occassional links to us on thebiglead, withleather and deadspin help ENORMOUSLY.

  7. I don't believe in the "hat" mostly for the reason that the first commenter already said.

    A blog is a great way to refine a writer's "voice", but saying you use a different personality when you post is a cop-out.

    (I wish I had not missed all the posts on "With Leather". It looks like CC edited out those who were upset at his take on the divorce.)

  8. NOIS, glad to hear of the growth. You exaggerate your points, but it leads readers to the milder points where the truth lies. Those points are often overlooked. I particularly thought your showing of the picture of the white swimsuit model lifted by the black band members was on point. What was the photographer thinking?! Very poor symbolism.

    TSW, I too regret arriving late to that WL post. It was hard to tell in retrospect if anyone had or had not crossed over any lines, so I instead used the example as a springboard into generalities. Sportsblogger wars are pathetic to begin with, let alone if they're based on incomplete evidence.