A different brand of sports blog
“There’s no reason to have the pretense of objectivity when it comes to sports teams,” says Tyler Bleszinski, president of SportsBlogs Nation, a collective of baseball, football and other sporting Web sites. His blogs receive over six million page views a month and have been written about in Sports Illustrated, ESPN magazine and the New York Times. Bleszinski, a Natomas resident, doesn’t hide the fact that he’s a die-hard Oakland Athletics’ fan—in fact, his heart-on-sleeve enthusiasm is one of the reasons his A’s site, Athletics Nation (www.athleticsnation.com), received over 40,000 hits per day in October when the A’s were duking it out in the postseason. Bleszinski, a former writer for the Orange County Register, worked tirelessly and aggressively to make AN a successful site. He contacted Moneyball author Michael Lewis and Bay Area sports writers like Mychael Urban and Josh Suchon for their insight and opinions, and he’s considered the first sports blogger to be recognized as a “legitimate” news source—e.g., Oakland General Manager Billy Beane regularly accepts interviews with Bleszinski. Check out SportsBlogs Nations’ 100-plus sites, including an NFL blog for women called thefootballmonologues.com, at www.sbnation.com.
What do you blog about in the off-season?
It’s a lot less frantic. I’ve been doing this for three years, and the past two Decembers our traffic has actually spiked more than it was during the regular season. I think that’s because people are thirsty for off-season news. Baseball has sort of become a true 24-seven, 365 sport.
Which River Cats might have a chance at the big leagues in 2007?
I’m not so sure about Daric Barton. The A’s signed Erubiel Durazo to a minor-league deal today. … One player that you could see battling for a spot in the rotation could be Jason Windsor. My amateur observation is that he needs to develop more than just a fastball and a change-up. He’s got a great Bugs Bunny-like change-up, but he needs a curve or a slider or something else to fool the hitters. [Shane] Komine’s gonna get a shot, too. I think the fifth spot in the rotation is going to come down to Komine, [Kirk] Saarloos, [Joe] Kennedy and Windsor. The River Cats don’t really have anything else right now. It’ll be interesting to see if Javier Herrera winds up back with the River Cats this year.
How do you perceive the differences between print and online media?
I get to have an opinion. I get to be biased and wear my colors without any fear of repercussions. Whenever I talk to Billy [Beane], he always draws the analogy that we’re creating something like Fox News channel (pause, laughs). I just mean that there’s no pretense to what we are. Everybody knows what we are. We don’t make any bones about it. I’m a huge Billy Beane fan. I say that right up front to everybody. …
And let’s face it: Is there ever any such a thing as objectivity in sports anyway? If Barry Bonds is a jackass to you, are you going to cover him as fairly as you would, say, Joe Montana?
But you’re probably more critical of the A’s than most print journalists.
Well, yeah, because I don’t have to face the guys in the locker room. … It’d be a different situation if I had to go talk to Huston Street the next day after saying he can’t close a game to save his life. … Susan Slusser wrote that story about Nick Swisher going out partying, and I think to this day Nick Swisher won’t talk to her. She’s a damn fine reporter and she does a really good job, but she’s handicapped herself by writing that one story.
Will online media affect how dailies cover sports?
I think it already has. If you look at the Chronicle’s coverage, now they have a blog called the Drumbeat that’s all about the Oakland A’s and Susan does a podcast. So they’re seeking outlets so that they can get more ready because I think mainstream media needs to realize people want opinion. Most of us watch the game, listen to the game or know what happened in the game if you’re a hard-core fan. We want more than just a blow-by-blow, so that we can see it for ourselves. We want opinion. We want people to come out strong about what happened.
The biggest compliment I received about Athletics Nation was the last time I sat down with Michael Lewis. He told me, “You know what, I don’t even read the daily papers anymore about the A’s. After the game, I log on to athleticsnation.com and read your recaps.”
But it’s not just the immediacy of the information?
Yeah, exactly. There’s more depth to it.
Is it journalism?
I don’t view myself as being a journalist. Maybe I am and that’s denial speaking, but I don’t want to be a journalist. I want to be something different than what a journalist is because once you lose the passion, the blog isn’t there any more. Because the blog’s built on passion. Blogs are built on passion.