Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Video: Terrell Owens Talks to ESPN

Hi all. Sorry, but I'm not yet ready to publish Part 2 of my Blogging for Dollars series. I got a lot of good responses, and I'm trying to figure out how best to present the material for your reading pleasure. So for now, watch the video of Terrell talking to ESPN (thanks to blog friend Modi from Sports on My Mind for finding it, make sure to read the Cowboys coverage there) and I hope to have Part 2 up tomorrow morning.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blogging for Dollars in a Recession: Challenges and Opportunities

One story I haven't seen yet is how the economic downturn is affecting sports bloggers. There are conflicting reports on how the recession is affecting blog revenue so far. On the one hand, Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media (parent of Deadspin) is on record as saying "We were up 39% in the year to November -- but even we are planning on a 40% decline in the ad market over the course of the cycle," and ""We're not starting any new blogs--better to err on the side of pessimism." B5media and Gawker are both changing the way they pay bloggers to be less dependent on page views, and thus in many cases paying bloggers less.

However, studies show that spending on Internet advertising (and thus, blog revenue) will increase during this downturn. For example, Zenith claims that "online’s share of the overall market globally will go from 8.6% in 2007 to 13.8% in 2010, up from a previous prediction of 13.6%." So what will the actual economic effect be on blogs in regards to revenue, stories covered, resources, and traffic? I asked a few blog entrepreneurs and contract bloggers for their opinions on how this economic downturn will affect their business. Surprisingly, the overall mood was optimistic, but with a few caveats.

Part 1: Cautious Optimism from Blog Entrepreneurs
One of the biggest concerns for me is how this recession will affect the reader. For example, Jason from TheBigLead said the following:
"Outside of the obviously polarizing topics - hatred of the BCS, Kobe or LeBron, the Cowboys - I'm finding some of the most popular links to be the the economy-related ones I add to the roundup each morning. I've been trying to closely follow the economy for the last couple years, and when I began posting obscure doom and gloom links in January, the emails started to pour in from the casual sports fans who tune into the site for the humor more than the nuts and bolts." (emphasis mine)

The question is, do more concerned readers mean less page views? Overall, big blog sites appear to be meeting their growth targets. Brian from AwfulAnnouncing believes that because the Internet is so important to most readers, they'll cut the Internet (and their connection to blogs) last when looking to save money.
"I personally don't think that the recession will ultimately affect Sports Blogs on a whole...I do think that most readers check blogs at work to kill time, and in turn, a lot less when they're at home. If workforces are being trimmed across the Country, that could lead to less hits, but I don't see that as something that would hurt the more widely read sites out there.

Another side of things is with people losing their jobs, one of the necessary tools needed to find a new one is the Internet. So those who are looking to trim excess spending probably won't be getting rid of their connection. In the end, I think there might be a small downturn across the board, but Internet entities will be some of the least hurt by the economy." (emphasis mine)
Part 2: Contract Bloggers Anticipate Minor Challenges
Many bloggers who get paid do so as part of a larger site umbrella, whether that's Rick Chandler at Deadspin or one of the many contributors at AOL Fanhouse. I asked some of those bloggers for their thoughts on how the economic downturn would affect them.

Dan from Red Sox Monster , which is affiliated with Western Massachusetts news, seemed reasonably optimistic about the future of sports blogs, even though he also alerted me to Nick Denton's pessimism on the future of blogs in this market and the Zenith study I quoted above:
"Media of all kinds have taken a hit with the sour economy, and it stands to reason that blogs would be no different. However, there are plenty of reports out there that suggest Web revenue is still growing...If we can take those sort of reports seriously, it'd seem to me that blogs -- especially established blogs -- will still be OK."
Stephanie Stradley, who blogs both for AOL Fanhouse and the Houston Chronicle, told me it becomes even more important to write stories that bring in revenue and traffic--even if the blogger isn't particularly interested in a given topic. For example, I'm sure some sports bloggers may be bored of writing about Erin Andrews or the Burress story by now, but as long as the hits are there, the stories will get written. She said the following:
"All companies are looking to cut costs, so as a writer you have to be someone who is adding value. Value in blog terms means being a worthwhile destination and page hits. Different writers get page hits in different ways, but certainly some sorts of stories beg for page views, even if you don't really feel like writing about it." (emphasis mine)
Jon Pyle of has done contract work for sites such as Sports Illustrated and the National Lampoon. He was probably the most optimistic blogger I spoke to, as he felt that bloggers are already used to overcoming adversity and limited resources.
"But being accustomed to doing more with less, bloggers are poised to flourish in uncertain economic times while journalists struggle to adapt. Perhaps a case of Darwinism at its best (or worse, depending on your perspective). It's not that bloggers are better writers by any stretch of the imagination but they are uniquely equipped to survive in the impending "new" media environment."
Part 3: A Rise in New Blogs and Contract Blog Work?
The fact that intrigued me the most in my limited interviews is that all the contract bloggers I spoke to thought that there might either be more work for contract bloggers, or more blogs starting during the recession.

For example, Stephanie told me that
"One way the economic downturn can help blogging is that as a group, sports bloggers are much cheaper to employ than traditional sportswriters. AOL Sports, for example, has shifted in featuring its sports bloggers more and less on its contract sportswriters. Sports bloggers can provide tons of web-friendly content for relatively less money." (emphasis mine)
Dan mused if some of the readers who make jokes from their office chairs may finally take the plunge and become bloggers:
"One piece I am curious about is how many new bloggers will pop up due to layoffs. Journalists have made the jump for a couple of years, due to the weak newspaper job market, but what about all those other fields where frustrated writers are now being laid off.

The comment sections of blogs like The Big Lead and Deadspin and filled with lawyers and businessmen stuck at a desk all day wishing they could provide dime-store sports analysis and fart jokes and get paid for it. What better time to give it a try than when you have nothing better to do than look for a new job that could take months to find? " (emphasis mine)
Finally, Jon Pyle was the most enthusiastic of all the people I spoke to. He believes that the economic downturn will accelerate the trend toward using the web for news and information
"The impact of the economic downturn on blogs will be almost completely positive. Blogs should start to get more hits as people spend less money going out and more time at home in front of their computer. Not to mention all the unemployed folks sitting at home searching for jobs. People my age (26) probably value their internet service more than cable... especially now that your computer can essentially serve as your TV/DVD Player/Phone/Checkbook.

Since people are likely to spend more time on Al Gore's information super highway, the increased hits translate to advertising money for blogs. That means profitable blogs while newspapers and magazines are laying off staff wholesale, which will probably translate into better mainstream opportunities for bloggers. Bloggers are prolific writers, marketing/advertising savvy and cheaper than a "real journalist" which will give mainstream corporations a good return on their minimal financial investment without cutting content. To paraphrase the Simpsons, if you can't get a real writer get their "cheap [blogger] equivalent". By the way, if any big companies are looking for a blogger... I might be available." (emphasis mine)
Overall, then, it looks like paid bloggers are suprisingly optimistic about their future in the midst of this downturn. But what about bloggers who just blog for fun, and the many readers who make it possible for bloggers to get paid? On Wednesday, I'll publish Part 2 of this series. I'll focus on reactions from bloggers who blog as a hobby (i.e. for free) and from readers whose blog-reading habits may be affected by the economy, so feel free to e-mail me if you fall in either category and have an opinion to share.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is Steve Nash a System QB?

I wrote out an expanded version of my video take on the Phoenix Football Suns over at Sports on My Mind. Comment there on the story--I'm just re-pasting it here because I like to keep a record of my writings in one place.


I’ve enthusiastically followed the Suns this year, because they have a fascinating cast of characters. They have four players who have been major stars at one point or another (Grant Hill, Steve Nash, Shaq, and Amare Stoudamire), and they just added the athletic Jason Richardson to their squad. The Suns finally have lowered expectations, as most prognosticators only picked them to finish 6th or 7th in the West. At one point they had the second-best record in the West. And yet this team has been surrounded by turmoil from the beginning. Why is that?

Quite honestly, I think that Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire are the problem here. Remember, Amare wooed Steve to Phoenix by telling him that they could win championships together. The two have become the NBA’s version of Manning to Harrison. Steve Nash is the perfect QB for the D’Antoni system. But is Steve Nash really a glorified system QB? His numbers this year are not that far off from his numbers of the last five years. But we have Grant Hill comparing Steve to a hummingbird trapped in a plastic bag. We have Steve moping around that Raja Bell was traded and complaining that the team is in a “dark place.” With all these budding poets on the Phoenix Suns roster vying for new metaphors to describe how bad things are, you’d think the team had started 2-7 or so like the Mavs. But instead, they’ve been north of .500 for most of the season. What gives?

And let’s not forget Amare Stoudamire’s sulking. Before the season began, I picked the Suns as my dark horse, because I thought Amare was due for a break-out year. He finally has his legs most of the way back from microfracture surgery, and he has Shaq to take off most of the pressure. But did anyone else read his column in the back of Slam magazine? He spent most of it remembering Mike D’Antoni like some college kid pining for his ex-girlfriend who went to study in Europe. Not one good word for Coach Porter in the whole thing–just a lot of “well, I’ll have to adjust to his system.” Come on, Terry Porter’s one of the NBA good guys–why is Amare moping like a wide receiver who isn’t getting enough touches?

And finally, we have Shaq. Terry Porter was wisely pushing the Suns to establish Shaq early on in games. This makes a lot of sense; establish Shaq in the low post early in the game, when he’s fresh. After he wears out teams in the half-court, spend the second-half pushing the ball. It’s just like NFL teams that run early to set up play-action later in the game. I love this strategy! It should work! But oddly, the Suns were turning the ball early at a huge rate while trying to do so (something like 9.7 turnovers in the first half, 6.8 in the second half, according to Henry Abbott of What’s the use of getting the ball to your “big back” if there’s just going to be fumbles and turnovers?

Ok, I’m getting carried away with my football analogy, ha. But it fits, don’t you think? Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire as the system QB and his talented but lazy wide receiver? (Defense? what’s that?). Shaq as the bruising Jerome Bettis-type back? Anyway, the question is, is Jason Richardson part of the solution or problem? Here’s another guy who wants the ball a lot; can he make this work in Phoenix? I say yes, it should work; Jason is hungry to win and he probably welcomes a move back to the Western Conference. But I thought Porter’s strategy for the Suns should work…and so far it seems like his stars are themselves sabotaging the strategy before it has a chance. It’s only been one-fourth of the season, and yet Steve and Amare appear determined to mourn the demise of the 7-seconds-or-less offense for 7 months or more!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Your Phoenix "Football" Suns

I love my analogies, and I think I finally figured out what the trouble is in Phoenix. Click the video to see just how badly I mix my basketball and football analogies.

I'm just starting out with video*, so I appreciate your feedback.

*Of course, I don't count my various starring roles in childhood home videos in the role of "Annoying kid with overbite", "Baby who won't shut up", and "Obnoxious sullen teenager", ha.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lebron James Dunk Collection vs. the Toronto Raptors

Credit for these tasty Youtube treats goes to Hoop Heads North, which provides great NBA coverage from a Canadian perspective. If you like Toronto, you should subscribe to their Raptor-centric Youtube channel, from which these videos are embedded. Good work, guys.

Lebron's ability to steal the ball and get out quickly on the break has always been great, but in these videos from last night's Cavaliers-Raptors game, he takes things to another level.
Two back-to-back LBJ dunks to START the game. Yes, that preceding sentence is correct. Notice how Big Z smartly throws the pass ahead of Lebron to let him catch up to it.

Lebron cuts off the passing lane to Bosh and makes the guards attempting to get the ball look like junior high players. He finishes with a Karl Malone tribute move:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sports Blog Remixes

In the past year a lot of my sports blog friends and enemies have switched blog addresses, or retired for some time only to suddenly begin posting again. There have also been a few interesting new blogs--or at least they are new to me. Here's a partial list:

Fellow Cleveland fan Scott combined with some other Cleveland fans to create a Cleveland sports blog powerhouse at ; read this if you like any Cleveland teams. I'm still waiting for the WFNY tailgating event, though.

Previous interview subject This Suit is Not Black is back at the AOL Fanhouse making videos again. Her fellow Fanhouse Minute alumnus Alana G is also posting at her own site. I, of course, am busily trying to steal video-making secrets from both--they make it look so easy! is once again open for business, as Bruce brings the Pain(e) (groan, I know, I know) on a semi-weekly basis with Colts football analysis. He knows his football very well, and I, never having played the sport, learn a lot by reading his columns.

The mad scientist/genius behind has finally found his true passion: baked potatoes. When not madly shilling for the powerful Idaho spud lobby, he takes some time to talk about airplanes, Jennifer Spano, and Blackberry. Check it out.

Claude Johnson is still giving thoughtful, clever analysis over at The Black Fives Blog. Check out some of the merchandise he has for sale; there's a discount during the holiday season! He's also started a spin-off site dedicated to Obama's love of basketball at . I think the cleverness of this idea is off the charts. Once there's a big story on Obama playing basketball, or Obama is seen shooting hoops at the White House, Google searches will lead people to the page.

By the way, one of the big secrets of blogging is writing an article about a hot topic before it becomes hot. This site's hits are often fueled by an old article I wrote about Amy K Nelson of No one else has written much about her, so each time she appears on ESPN, my site views spike. So think about it; what topic is still out there, unclaimed, that you could take and own?

Oh, before I forget, Delinda also has an interesting blog where she follows the charity efforts of athletes. If you like hot male athletes and sizzling acts of generosity, ha, make this a stop on your Internet superhighway travels.

I'm still working on a big Phoenix Suns piece, but I can't quite find the time to do it justice. Hopefully I can run it on Friday, or run another story I'm working on. By the way, if you haven't commented in a while, drop me a line if you're still reading. I always like to stay in touch with my readers and make sure my writing is entertaining or educating someone out there.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Testing the Facebook Invasion of Deadspin, Part 2

Part 1 is here. Deadspin commenters believed the Ali Caps character to be a real person, so they had failed my first test. Rest in peace, MR CAPS. With Ali Caps gone, only John Anderson was left.

Comment 4: John Anderson, on Afternoon Blogdome. I left a rather ordinary comment about David Gerrard's headwear.

Reaction from Commenters:
None. I hesitate to call it a win for the commenters, as it was rather far down the page, and not many commenters visit Afternoon Blogdome. But I'll be sporting and count it as a point.

Comment 5: John Anderson, on Afternoon Blogdome. GhostsoftheSCupcountry left a comment mocking the new Facebook users, so I played the part of a grieved Facebook commenter with a nice passive-aggressive comment:

Reaction from Commenters: Look at those comments after mine. Looks like the Facebook newbie is getting pushed around on his first day on the Deadspin schoolyard.


Comment 6/7: John Anderson on Afternoon Blogdome. I continued the conversation in the thread by jokingly replying "Don't tase me, bro!" in response to the idea of tagging Facebook commenters. I then made a quick correction below that I meant "tag", not "taze", and that I was still trying to learn how to comment. Would the Deadspin commenters try to now drive my inept Facebook self out?

Reaction from Commenters:

It appears that old-school Deadspin and Facebook newbies can make peace after all! Some of the same people who were most irritated by Ali Caps were willing to help out a slightly confused Facebook user. I concede.


Thus ends my little test of Deadspin. I think the new Facebook infiltration will actually work just fine as long as everyone just takes a deep breath and avoids obvious trolls like MR CAPS. Thanks to all the Deadspin commenters who were unwittingly a part of the prank. Seriously, the Deadspin commenter base has some very funny, smart people in it, and I hope it remains that way for years to come.

Testing the Facebook Invasion of Deadspin

After the announcement that Facebook users would be allowed to comment on Deadspin, many Deadspin users reacted in horror. How dare the hoi polloi mix with Deadspin commenters! After all, won't every single person on the Internet rush to be a part of Deadspin if given the opportunity?! I hate to break it to them, but the answer is "no". After about two weeks of fun, Deadspin will return to normal, and it will actually help get some new talent into the comment section after some weeding-out. I'm in favor of the move. Still, when confronted with so much free paranoia, I had to investigate further.

As you could guess, I couldn't resist such a golden opportunity to see just how angrily Deadspinners would react to the unwashed Facebook masses in their midst. So I created two Facebook accounts. The first was "John Anderson", a relatively normal Facebook user who would make relatively funny comments. I wondered if the Deadspin commenters would put up with even a halfway decent commenter from Facebook such as John Anderson. For the record, here's the profile pic I used (not sure if this could be seen on Deadspin or not). Ah, college kids.

The second was "Ali Caps", a, um, not so normal Facebook user. As regular readers of this blog know (wait, do I have those?), MR CAPS is a returning character on this blog (see past posts here) that types smack in ALL CAPS and refers to himself in the third person ala Rickey Henderson. As you can guess, hardly any commenter on the Internet is both that megalomaniac and dumb (to use all caps) at the same time. And you can also tell it's a joke because of the name itself (Ali Caps = ALL CAPS). Would the Deadspin commenters be subtle enough to detect the obvious bait from Ali Caps, or would they take his writings seriously? Here's his photo:

Comment #1, John Anderson, on the High School Football story about cheerleaders passing along cellphone pics. It's a relatively funny, slightly lewd comment--perfect for Deadspin.

Reaction from commenters: Confusion. Hockey Mountain makes a good Deadspin in-joke about Fred Hickman, but if I just got to Deadspin from Facebook, the humor is wasted, right? Others thought I was trying to make a Miss South Carolina joke. Still, overall the reaction was fair. It's hard to react to someone if you don't know their joke style.


Comment 2: John Anderson, on the Tennessee Titans story. Comment on Kid Canada's comment about there being too much Tennessee content.

Reaction from commenters:

Ah, the sweet smell of commenter paranoia...smells like victory!


Comment #3: ALI CAPS, on the post about Bill Stewart's press conference. I left an intentionally sarcastic comment that Bill Stewart made me want to move to West Virginia, like so:

Reaction from commenters: Ten frustrated and irritated replies. Highlights:
"I think I'm beginning to understand why Iracane quit."
"WV has more crackers than a NABISCO factory."
"Mr Hafner is not amazed that Mr Caps' commenting ability has been disabled."


Reaction from Pete, Deadspin Combudsman:
My commenting was disabled in about 10 minutes. However, my ability to update my status was not disabled. So I posted this gem:
I followed up with the following e-mail to Pete (an approximation):

Sadly, Pete has yet to fall for this by returning my e-mail. I sent the following follow-up e-mail to him:


Sincerely, MR All CAPS"

The bait is well-placed; surely Pete can't resist crushing MR CAPS' ambitions of blog commenting nirvana via e-mail, right? I'll be happy to publish it if he does fall for it, but for now, I admit defeat.

UPDATE: But wait! Later on in the same post, Combudsman Pete couldn't help himself, and dropped an F-Bomb on MR CAPS. Yes! I have salvaged a tie after all.


Part 2 is here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bloggolalia: Who are the Top 3 Sports Blog Commenters?

I've always hammered away at how comments make such a big difference for blogs. They increase the amount of time people spend at your site, and also can rescue a poor post. How many of you have ever skipped/skimmed a post on a sports blog and just went straight to the comments because that was more interesting? I have.

With that in mind, it seems like many previous commenting stars comment a lot less, because they eventually went on to start their own blogs. Given the loss in talent, who are the top commenters in sports blogland today? You can nominate someone who comments mainly at one or two sites, or you can nominate someone for all-around excellence. Nominate them for humor, nominate them for great analysis, or nominate them for general all-around craziness. Who's on your list? Is it Spencer096? Hef? Gourmet Spud? Big Man? Unsilent Majority? Sports-Pun? Camp Tiger Claw? Cobra? Suss? WWTSM? Big Daddy Drew? Sportsgal116? Temple 3? All right, enough of the question marks, but let me know.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Terry Porter's Attempt to Rescue the Sinking Suns

Before I start talking about the Suns, a little news about my favorite NBA team, the Cavaliers. One of the benefits of Thanksgiving break was some free time to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers, especially the Cavs-Warriors game. Mo Williams and Delonte West are making a huge difference to the Cavs. Having extra ball-handlers and shooters frees up Lebron in ways that Eric Snow and Larry Hughes never could. I was also impressed by their unselfishness. When reputed gunners like Wally and Mo are willing to give up nearly open 3's just to pass to Lebron and Danny, respectively, for completely open 3's, something different is going on!

Your random photo accompaniment for today: Shaq figurines/cut-outs and the people who pose with them. Yes, there's a joke about Shaq looking a little stiff nowadays in there somewhere...and yes, even Shaq's cut-out gets more ladies than sports bloggers do, ha.
soooo me and matt went into the nba store in nyc and there was a lifesize bobble head of shaq

But I doubt you came here to be drenched with my Cavs-centric drool. In the last five games, the Warriors have scored 100, 111, 97, 125, and 129 points. Those numbers resemble the glory days of the Phoenix Suns, and sound great...except that the Warriors have gone 0-5 during that time span. It was a little sad to see the Warriors players against the Cavs. It was one dribble and shoot, one dribble and shoot, over and over again. Their running game was completely shut down, and so they were unable to execute in the half-court.


Watching the game convinced me that Terry Porter is doing the right thing to go away from the running game in Phoenix. Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire have been complaining and sighing in the press about the demise of the 7 seconds or less offense. But they are wrong, and Terry Porter is right.

me and shaq

The Suns lack the athletes to run the 7-second-or-less offense anymore. They used to have clear athletic advantages at most positions (Amare Stoudamire, Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson, even Steve Nash is more athletic than you think) over the average NBA team. Those players could run and play major minutes without getting tired. But now, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, and Shaq are old, and the bench is young. The running game isn't a good fit for what this team does best. The team instead has to rely on its new advantage: the big-man pairing of Shaq and Amare.

me givin shaq some love

Shaq has had a disturbing tendency to drift early in the season. But with Terry Porter making him more of a focus offensively, Shaq has been forced to get in shape quickly. He's even doing yoga, of all things. An unhappy Shaq can be a destructive force on any team--just ask the Lakers and Heat. By getting Shaq on board early, Terry Porter is giving himself a better chance at success.

Shaq aint got nothin on me

Plus, the Suns will need Shaq's post-up game in the playoffs. The running game is less successful in the playoffs, when no team is coming to Phoenix on the second night of a back-to-back, and teams can focus their preparation on Phoenix. Oh, the Suns should still run when they can. But as I said above, their athletes no longer have the advantage over other teams as they once did.

Me, Shaq, Amanda, and Meredith

I believe that Coach Porter will return to the running game more in the coming months. This will satisfy Steve and Amare and make it seem like he's an open-minded coach. But by forcing the Suns to include Shaq in the offense early, he's also made sure that he'll have a motivated, alert Shaq for the whole season. And come play-off time, when the Suns need to get baskets in the half-court, they can go to Shaq in the post. Or, if the Suns are really lucky, Robin Lopez will rapidly improve, leading to the Suns being able to run when Robin is in the game and then going more to a half-court offense when Shaq is in the game. That would be a difficult team to stop. Although I have no idea if Robin will become a decent NBA player, the pairing of Amare and Robin, with Robin playing the hard-working Robin to Amare's high-scoring Batman (sorry, couldn't resist), has a lot of potential.

yao shaq me

However, I have to wonder if Terry Porter will have enough time to work his excellent plan of getting the young guys decent playing time and establishing Shaq. Come play-off time, those moves will pay off. But right now, Phoenix is coming off home losses to Miami and New Jersey. The perimeter players and Amare will complain. Shaq's passing will continue to need improvement, and Amare will struggle in the high post. I'm concerned that Terry Porter will be fired before he gets a chance to make his plan work. Is Steve Kerr willing to stand behind his choice? We'll see in the next two months.

me and shaq

By the way, the Suns are merely my team of choice to follow in the 2008-2009 season. For regular Suns content, see the following:
Bright Side of the Sun
Ben's Suns Blog

The Shaq figure pictures that didn't quite make the post.
Me and Shaq

Me and shaq

me and naim in front of shaq

michelle shaq and me

me with shaq


me and shaq