Apologies, in advance, BON'ers, if this isn't of any interest to you. I know this topic is more of a blogger-to-blogger conversation, but if you're a prolific reader of sports blogs, this will be of interest. Texas-centric posting resumes after this. Jason, no need to roll the proverbial eyes.
Not long ago, my esteemed colleague Kyle from DawgSports offered a constructive criticism of the other big blog network in existence today: AOL's FanHouse. For those of you who aren't familiar with the AOL venture, take a minute to follow the preceding link (pops to new window). AOL's Jamie Mottram, who may or may not sleep, launched the portal as a conglomeration of some of the blogosphere's very best writers. Covering virtually every sport, the project marks the first time a "mainstream" media outlet has attempted something like this.
Because Kyle's piece was focused on what the FanHouse is not, I'm compelled to tell you what the FanHouse is. More than that, I'm compelled to put on record why Jamie's project is one of the best things on the internet today, and why it's good for sports bloggers and sports fans alike.
(Again, if this doesn't interest/concern you, stop reading here.)
The revolution in the way sports are covered these days has little to do with what you typically hear when Blogs and Mainstream Media are discussed. Blogs can't, and won't, supplant sports journalists. Nor should they. As many reporters point out, bloggers are dependent on beat reporters for much of their material. I need the AP Sports Wire as much, or more, than anything else that I use to cover the Longhorns.
What I don't need are paid columnists in my newspaper. The revolution in sports fandom centers around the fact that fans can sit around an internet water cooler and talk sports, publishing their thoughts to one another along the way. Kirk Bohls ain't the only Austin sports fan with a pulpit anymore. I've got one, and so do you. That's what we sit around and do on BON all day.
For the most part, I think you'd be hard press to find a better water cooler than the ones that propogate the SBN network. These things are designed for sports communities to build in, and they do with remarkable success.
There's another aspect to this revolution, though, that's implied in the above. The explosion in publishing tools available in today's internet age means that scores and scores of sports fans with (1) really creative and interesting takes on the sports world and (2) really developed writing abilities now have an outlet for their voice.
Let's start here on BON, which was awarded the "Best Community" award in the College Football Blog Awards. The reason the readers of this site were recognized is because of people like 54b and billyzane and patienthornsfan and EyesOfBevo, each of whom add as much, or more, to this site than Andrew and I do.
54b's got his own blog already. If EyesOfBevo started one tomorrow, I can guarantee you I'd read it. And all across the country, that's what has happened. Us BON'ers congregate here, but the new internet allows for any and everyone to publish their thoughts.
These amazingly talented writers, who equal or surpass any mainstream writer I can think of in creativity, talent, and insight, have outlets to write. And Thank God they do. The sports world is a better place for it.
Enter: the FanHouse. Jamie Mottram's vision for AOL's foray into the blogosphere revolves around putting dozens of the most talented sports fans together under one umbrella. It's a different sort of umbrella than the one which unites SBN, and though Kyle was correct about what the FanHouse decidedly is not, I think a lot of us failed to point out that what the FanHouse is ranks among one of the most important and impressive achievements in the history of sports on the internet.
Orson blogs at the FanHouse, providing readers with unmatched hilarity on all things international. Brian covers various CFB stories at the FanHouse in a way that wouldn't be of much interest to his readers at MGoBlog (or fit in with what he wants his home site to be centered around). Michael David Smith, who may be my favorite football writer period, anchors a deep pool of talent at the FanHouse's NFL domain, and does so with stories and angles that would be inappropriate for FO.
Pick a sport, and someone of immense talent is providing a take worth reading at the FanHouse.
And people are noticing. The FanHouse has developed into the largest single-site destination in the sports blogosphere. It provides legitimacy to a burgeoning market with a giant, mainstream brand. It's offering a unique vehicle for writers who tirelessly slave away at providing entertaining takes on sports.
And that, really, is at the center of why the FanHouse is special, and worthy of praise. Jamie Mottram's FanHouse blog may be different than that of the home sites which produced its writers. But it has become a central hub of sports blogging where talented writers are given a legitimized, mainstream-branded platform to write.
Practically speaking, it's good for everyone. It's good for me, as AOL can and does reach sports fans who wouldn't stumble across a sports blog even if they intended to. It's good for you, sports fan, because you're here reading BON because you like the fan-centric approach to following sports. And it's good for the sports writing industry as a whole, because Jamie Mottram has (on a shoestring budget, no doubt), loudly announced that This is how we do it nowadays.
There are wonderful writers in the mainstream sports writing industry who are well worth reading. But there are teems of fans who are equally worth my time. SBN gives me a voice, and gives you a voice. Jamie Mottram's FanHouse gives dozens more a voice. Put together, everyone has a voice. Finally.
If you've gotten this far, I'd imagine it's because you're either a blogger, or a devoted reader to a number of sports blogs. If you're anything like me, the bulk of your entertainment each day is derived from the great reading you enjoy from your favorite sites to visit. And if SBN gives readers the best water cooler on the internet for a community of fans of a given team to congregate, Jamie Mottram has provided the best destination to announce loudly to the world that the voice of the fan is the only voice that people really care about anymore.
With one visit to, and six clicks of the mouse at, the FanHouse, I can read Orson on a cycling crash, Brian on the demise of Scout.com, MDS on what Michael Vick is up to, MJD on Lebron, the Postman on Roger Clemens, and Ryan Ferguson on the NBA Draft. That ain't the same as six clicks to each of those writers' home sites, but it's a tour de force of a different sort. Different does not necessarily equal inferior.
In closing, a word on Bill Simmons. There's a reason he's the most widely-read sports columnist in America. He was among the very first to write a sports blog. Though I'm sure that he'd quibble with being categorized as such, he's a sports fan with a pulpit. It's no secret that ESPN pays him a LOT of money to keep him around, because that's what sports fans crave nowadays. The voice of the fan.
And really, when you get down to it... AOL's FanHouse is just ESPN's Page 2. That's different than BON, and DawgSports, and EDSBS, and MGoBlog. But it's a whale of an accomplishment of a different sort.
And a wickedly important one.
If Kyle's treatise was a constructive critique of what the FanHouse is not, then this is a tip of the cap to what it is. Mr. Mottram deserves every bit of praise and success that he's no doubt enjoying right now.
Keep it up, sir.