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Blogging the Name of the Game in Sports Coverage

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Blogging the Name of the Game in Sports Coverage

Sports

Blogging the Name of the Game in Sports Coverage

Blogging the Name of the Game in Sports Coverage

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The art of covering sports has changed as much as, if not more than, the sports themselves. Today, writers don't need a press pass to sound off on their favorite teams. Stefan Fatsis, who covers sports and the business of sports for The Wall Street Journal, talks with Noah Adams about sports blogs.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR news. I'm Noah Adams.

As anybody with a high-speed Internet connection and a bit of time knows, the Web is reshaping the sports medium. Fans can watch live games online, read athletes' diaries online, talk back to writers online. The transformation, though, is not without its battles.

In recent weeks, the National Basketball Association team owner banned bloggers from his locker room, and our prominent sports broadcaster labeled bloggers, get a life, losers.

Stefan Fatsis of The Wall Street Journal joins us, as he does most Fridays.

Let's start with this guy, Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He banned bloggers. It's surprising because he, of course, was a dot-com billionaire, thanks to the Internet. What's going on in Dallas?

Mr. STEFAN FATSIS (Sports Reporter, The Wall Street Journal): Well, Cuban denies it, but this ban seems to have been prompted by a post that was written by a reporter for the Dallas Morning News who blogs. The blog is a widely read source of news about that team. Cuban has now gone on to write two rambling posts on his own blog. He claims that the locker room was too small to accommodate everyone. And then he launched this broadside against newspapers saying that blogs are bad marketing, bad branding, because anyone can start one. Hard to know what his real reasons are here.

ADAMS: Now, Mark Cuban wouldn't be the first person to try to draw a line between reporting and blogging as a practical matter. Why not put the line some place? Blogging, it seems to me, is like you're having a talk at the bar after the game and writing is what you do when you go back home, right?

Mr. FATSIS: Sometimes that's what it is, but the line is shifting, and more and more bloggers are experienced reporters who are just applying their skills in a different medium. More and more sports blogs are thoughtful. They're smart. They're sophisticated. They can be adjuncts to the mainstream media, but their very, very worthwhile and useful.

And some of them are getting bought by the mainstream media. This week, three bloggers in Dallas were barred from the Mavericks' locker room. They work full time for the Dallas Morning News, the Los Angeles Times and ESPN, but they use a different kind of software to write in this newish medium. It seems to me like an absurd rationale for banning them from one particular place in an arena.

ADAMS: Now, as all of this was going on, sportscaster Bob Costas made some intemperate remarks of his own in a story in the Miami Herald. He called blogs a hi-tech place for idiots to do what they used to do on bar stools - there is the bar reference again…

Mr. FATSIS: Yeah.

ADAMS: …or in schoolyards if they were schoolyard bullies, or on men's room walls in gas stations. He's serious about this. Have they been saying he's short in their blogs?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FATSIS: No. They have. And Costas, like every other announcer, gets hit on Web sites. So it is a common, common practice. And full disclosure, I'm friendly with Costas. He blurbed in my last book, and I did call him to talk about this.

But what he is talking about is that this is not about the new media and hating the new media. He is directing his comments at the sort of snarkiness and invective that is indeed common particularly in the comments section of many blogs. He actually called up a blogger, Will Leitch, who writes the blog Deadspin, to clarify his points. And frankly, I think, there some good points here. He says that rather than opening up discourse, these comments and this invective can close off discourse.

ADAMS: Now, Costas, in his comments to Will Leitch, made another good point. There are reasons why we give more credibility to a veteran sports columnist at a newspaper than just anybody with a keyboard.

Mr. FATSIS: Right. And the way he put it was - forgive me for not placing the exact same value on a comment on a political blog than I would to something said by Ted Koppel. When you step back, you see that respect and value will be determined not by the medium but by the message, what people are writing. The best writers and reporters in this new medium will draw the biggest audiences and the most attention, and eventually paychecks.

ADAMS: Now, one final thing, Stefan. Some of these blogs have been written by just Mr. Anonymous or Ms. Anonymous.

Mr. FATSIS: Right. And that's going to change, and it's starting to change. These bloggers, who like their anonymity, they're realizing that they need to be held accountable, too, if they want to be taken seriously. We saw the writers of the terrific blog, Fire Joe Morgan. They revealed themselves as three successful Hollywood TV writers. One of them, who goes by the name Ken Tremendous on the blog, turns out to be a writer named Michael Schur. He's a producer and writer for "The Office." He also plays the character Mose Schrute, who is Dwight's table tennis playing, Amish-beard wearing, beet-farming cousin.

ADAMS: Stefan Fatsis writes about sports in the business of sports for The Wall Street Journal, and joins us here on Fridays.

Thank You, Stef.

Mr. FATSIS: Thank you, Noah. Great to talk to you again.

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