Yesterday I was sitting in the Book Loft in German Village, flipping through a copy of These Guys Have All The Fun, which is basically a collection of recollections by ESPN personalities about the various goings on at The Network throughout the years. It's more or less a navel-gazing romp through some of the dumber moments in ESPN history (Sean Salisbury trying to explain away taking a picture of his junk and then showing it to other ESPN employees is particularly funny/sad/irritating, as is Dana Jacobson explaining exactly why she decided to get so incredibly drunk and make fun of Notre Dame and/or Jesus at a roast), and while the actual story of ESPN and how it came to be is a good one, it's not really an expose of any sort.
Not that you would expect to find one! ESPN loves narratives, and the one that they've constructed for themselves is how a plucky, daring cable network was able to work it's way up to being the most powerful and influential sports entity on the planet. Through it's on air aw-shucks demeanor and off air cutthroat marketing strategy, they've been mostly successful at preventing anyone else from challenging it's Nero-like reign over sports media. Hooray.
Of course, Ohio State fan who hates ESPN anyway, I do not have to tell you that ESPN is bad for sports in general. It's pretty self-evident that a monopolistic entity controlling the narrative of sports in any manner that it sees fit is pretty bad for athletics, especially when that entity has a financial stake in the success of certain aspects of a particular sport, like ESPN does with the SEC in college football.
Anyway, this post isn't about ESPN, which mostly sucks. It's about Eleven Warriors, why we're asking for your donations through our Respect the Basement fundraiser, and okay yes, I guess it is a little bit about why ESPN sucks.
One of the central conceits of 11W is that the free model of online news information can be both profitable and informative. This is not to slam any of the pay sites; everyone here knows a lot of the people who work for and on those sites, and they have some excellent writers who produce quality content. That's not what this is about; we here at Eleven Warriors simply want to show that you need neither a payed subscription nor a national cable news network to provide quality information and analysis.
This is important, because bloggers and other types of online media are still, somehow, given the short end of the stick when it comes to how seriously their content is taken by members of the established media. Nevermind that Ben Jones of Black Shoe Diaries was better connected and provided more solid information than nearly everyone who was reporting on the scandal there, nevermind that Yahoo's online reporters broke two of the biggest stories college football has seen in the past decade or more, nevermind that Eleven Warriors has grown over 500% in the last year or so: the common thought is still that bloggers are ineffectual jerks who snipe fruitlessly at sporting icons and make snide jokes like so many kids sitting in the back of history class.
Fire Jerry Kill is a pretty good example of this. It's a blog that is run by a moderator on the Something Awful forums who goes by the handle of Gendo, and surprise! It is extremely critical of Jerry Kill and all Minnesota sports teams in general. It's written with the kind of rage and vitriol that one would expect from someone who is way, way too invested in Minnesota sports for their own health, and it should be pointed out that Gendo has produced an inordinate amount of tasteless and offensive content that is less funny and more "Exhibit A for the prosecution." It should ALSO be pointed out that Fire Jerry Kill is generally very well written and includes extensive statistical analysis and sound reasoning for the opinions presented.
So of course, when Chris Fowler decided to mention the blog during College Gameday in October, he decided to focus on the former rather than the latter and decry the website as tasteless and unaccountable, indicative of how horrible people on the internet really are. Herbie nodded sagely in agreement and Lee Corso sputtered in rage, at least partly because he was enraged but also likely because he is an old man who suffered through a stroke and should not be on television but he's part of the brand now so by God he's gonna put on that goofy mascot head every Saturday no matter what.
If anyone needs this pointed out to them, the irony of anyone at ESPN attempting to take someone else to task for being uncouth or disingenuous is pathetic at best given that it's the organization that: for 8 years stashed away audiotape potentially implicating a pedophile, gave Craig James a platform to distort a major news story, suspended Bruce Feldman because of his involvement on the opposite side of said story, employed Chrstine Brennan (who implied that Erin Andrews brought her scandal upon herself by not discouraging the attention she gets), employed Harold Reynolds (who straight up groped a PA), and continues to employ Lou Holtz and Jemele Hill, who have both made glib comparisons to sports and Hitler on a national stage.
But this is the prevailing opinion in traditional media. Google "basement bloggers" and you'll find story after story written by print journalists who are both afraid and angry at the prospect of losing their readership due to the attraction of bloggers and other types of media. They want to keep us in the basement so that they can be the sole distributors of information, all the while claiming that we are the great unwashed masses and they are the untouched keepers of the flame.
Well screw that.
That's why we're asking you to donate to our Respect the Basement fundraiser. We would like to hire a beat writer so that we can better serve our readership, gain better and more insightful access to the Ohio State Athletic Department, and prove that free information provided by blog can be just as valuable and informative as any of the random BS that you see out of writers and commentators like King, Reilly, Finebaum, Bayless, or whichever mystical wizard they're trotting out to increase viewership by saying ridiculous opinions they don't quite believe in. We feel that we take Ohio State sports as seriously as anyone, hold ourselves to a journalistic standard equivalent to almost any major media outlet, and produce quality, original content that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.
In 2009 Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times had this to say about bloggers, who in his opinion can hide anonymously behind their opinions with little to no consequence:
But when you go all-in, you've got to go all in. He didn't do that. When you write about topics like killers, or Hell's Angels, or major leaguers and steroids, you can't pussy foot around. You've got to go at it hard, directly, with no b.s. and be able to defend yourself afterwards.
I agree! When reporting on such hard-hitting topics like the lasting legacy of the Armenian Genocide, the environmental impacts of the Three Gorges Dam, or who the Mariners' backup first base coach is going to be, you've got to have enough passion and guts to take risks, ask the hard questions, and let your reporting speak for itself. Click on that handy toolbar on the right to help Eleven Warriors fulfill it's promise to our readers to provide exactly that, and in doing so, show the rest of the sports world that our medium is as valid and important as any other.