Woo boy, where to start.
Well, a big congrats to the crew at HHR Media Group for putting together a great set of panels for the “Blogs With Balls 2.0” in Las Vegas this past weekend. No, I’m not entirely comfortable with the name and refer to it as BwB, just so it can be more inclusive, like “Blogs with Boobs” or something. Considering the amount of cheesecake photos that appear on sports sites to help drive traffic, it is not an unreasonable name. (More on this later.)
(If you find this all a bit too navel-gazily for your tastes, feel free to skip down to the bottom for the food review. No judgment.)
I have to admit, I was impressed with the majority of the discussions both in and around the conference, not only about sports writing, (I hate the term “blogging” since I’m in the camp that believes blogging is just another platform for delivering content and not a style of writing), about where media was going to go. Some quick thoughts:
- It took until the late in last panel, Incorporating the Web Across Multi-platforms in Sports Media, for ESPN.com‘s Editor-in-Chief Rob King to talk about how people are going to consume sports on their mobile phones, which obviously has been a huge conversation in the music world for quiet some time. According to King, ESPN.com sees more mobile traffic on the weekends during football. Not surprising considering overall web trends, but interesting to hear how they handle the weekend loads.
- ESPN.com’s strong presence at the event and meeting some of their online team made press releases like these a little less intimidating, at least for me. Their attendance reminded everyone that while they are the biggest player around, they are going to be looking at what the smaller guys are doing around the edges of fandom.
- (Especially when they hold screenings of the 30 for 30 documentaries at the ESPNZone for everyone to build buzz for their series. It was lovely gesture that most of my entertainment writer friends take for granted. Here’s the thing, I believe most of us have written about 30 for 30 anyway, just for the quality of the work.)
- In contrast, I thought the Sports Illustrated marketing team came off in the panel, Business Development: Building Your Brand & Growing Your Bottom Line, as a little bullying. An off-handed comment about never having a women’s shoe ad on their site as never to offend their readers and their non-answer to Valli Hilaire’s (from a woman’s NASCAR site, The Fast and the Fabulous) about how she can better approach female brands that advertise in the racing community were more than enough for me to get my claws out. When Phil from Gunaxin — a FHM style sports and guy site — asked about where the line is for “too racy” for the swimsuit issue and their advertisers, he too was given a no-answer answer. They centered their panel around the big pitch that would get the attention of Nike, ignoring the idea that Nike might look for smaller tastemakers. Looking for the big ad buy shouldn’t be what bloggers are looking for, they should be looking for niche marketers who want to get the most value for their ad dollars.
- While I like basketball and keep an eye on the Pistons for reasons that don’t even make sense now that it is twenty years later, I don’t really write about it often. Hearing J.E. Skeets, Shoals, RedsArmy and Mitch Germann of the Sacramento Kings talk about how open David Stern is to online media made me more than a little jealous. Not for the access, but knowing their voices are being respected by the league they love.
- One of the most touched on topics was social media policy. If it wouldn’t be breaking a confidentiality agreement, I would post the one I wrote over the summer for my previous employer. Funny enough, I believe most social media policies would be moot if companies just enforced the confidentiality agreements and non-disclosure clauses they probably already have. And if people just used a little of bit of common sense on both sides.
- Outside of the panels, Matt Ufford said something along the lines that the problem with many online writers these days is that they want to be “discovered” very quickly and get frustrated when it does not happen right away. He is right. This also could be said about any writer working in any medium. Mark Twain said the same thing more than a hundred years ago when he stated, “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.”
- Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy is one of the coolest and smartest cats out there. He also wisely called Dan Shanoff the ombudsman of the sports blogosphere.
- There was a missed opportunity during the State of Union panel. Alana (Yard Barker, Former Miss Gossip) asked in a panel of all blog-affiliated writers what was the next step, how as a group could we all get together since everyone is friends and gets along fine, (accurate up to a point I suppose), to move together to get blogs on the same plane as mainstream media. It sounded like she was looking for a manifesto or plan to come out of the room, since it was the one panel where it seemed the “grown-ups” were all away. Jaime Mottram (Yahoo, Mr Irrelevant, kingmaker) remarked the answer was getting on TV, (which makes sense considering his Blog Show history), but I am not so sure television is going to move sports blogs forward. No one else seemed to want to tackle the issue. (Edit – Alana is talking about this on her own site too.)
- (Personally, I believe the answer to Alana’s question is to stop the sports blogging talent diaspora, but my answer is that of someone who reads far more than they write. Trying to keep up with so many talented writers on topics I want to know about on twenty different large collaborative sites is exhaustive. Now think about the casual reader. Are they following writers from site to site? What about the good writers who have been brought in to booster talent rosters of weaker sites? Are they going to wither and die? What about writers who are known for their racier material? Will they burnout sooner rather than later having to work within more politically correct guidelines?)
- Dan Levy from On The DL podcast worked his ass off making the Ante Up for Africa poker event a success. He should be proud to announce that the night raised over $10,000 for relief efforts in Darfur. Also, big thanks to Carbon Poker for helping out with the party at the Hard Rock.
- You haven’t lived until you see the Captain Morgan captain party all night. Twice.
- Josh Zerkle of (Kissing Suzy Kolber, With Leather, WaPo Blog) could not be a nicer guy. His buddy Brandon Moskal had me in tears I was laughing so hard at times. Enrico Campitelli (The700Level) was a monster poker player and as intelligent of a fan as I have ever met. (Almost wanted to cheer for the Phillies on his behalf. Almost.) The guy behind Cleveland Frowns was not only an amazing sports better, but a funny guy in general. (Both “ha ha” and “I will eat Shanoff’s brain for knowledge” types of funny.)
- I was glad to finally meet Janie. Since Holly left LA, I’ll take seeing her when and where I can. Wish they could have spent more time in Vegas with everyone.
- Seriously, I could go on and on like a teenager promising to write on the last day of camp. (Cue the theme to Meatballs here.) I wish there was a list of all the writers who attended BWB, just so I could link to that and give my thoughts on each one, because I don’t think I would have a bad thing to say about any of them.
The real question really is what did it all mean for me? It felt – and still does – silly when I have to introduce myself as “The Starter Wife” to people when I meet them for the first time, especially since the moniker has been in use for four or five years now. I winced more than a few times when I said it. Fortunately a few people said they liked my work, asked if I was still doing the recipes, and yes, said they liked the name. The weekend reinforced a lot of what I already knew about my work in the sports world. My personal blog has a limited audience appeal. That’s okay with me. There is still room for the web comic that I hope to be launching soon. Do I still want to work for a larger site? Absolutely. But is there still value in what I do here in my little corner of the internet? Abso-fucking-lutely.
(Did you sit through all 1500 words up there? Impressive! Did you skip to the bottom for the food porn? I love you for your honesty.)
The food at Emeril Lagasse’s Stadium at the Palazzo sports book was all I thought it would be after reading Jack and Sarah’s review of it a few weeks ago on With Leather. The Fish and Chips were crisp and made with excellent quality fish, unlike some places who try to over-batter lesser selections of seafood hoping you won’t notice you are eating more batter than meat. I wished the arancini would have been larger, but again, great ingredients help sate even the biggest of appetites. Holly and I stole all of Janie’s fried pickles (mostly because our love of them is one of the bedrocks of our friendship), but were a little disappointed that they were just thin pickles trying to be chips.
Hello, Stromboli! I saw about four of these bad boys inhaled in about ten minutes. Best of both of our trips though was easily the pulled pork nachos. Just thinking of the juicy, marinated, spicy, pork over chips, beans, and cheese is enough to pull me back into Stadium next time we’re in Vegas.
A few criticisms though. Even for the non-stadium seating there is a $25 food and drink minimum per person, per event. Yikes. That is a tough one when you’re with a large group and not everyone wants to eat. (Stadium area was $50.) When we reserved the table, we were told we where getting at least two TVs that were ours to control. Unfortunately, their setup has two TVs per circuit, so when guests at other tables turned the channels on their televisions, they also turned the channels on ours. That is a huge issue and one that almost sent us to leave before we got our slow to arrive cocktails when we were there for college football on Saturday. So if you are going to watch for a large event, you are probably safe, but if you want to watch something smaller like University of Miami football, or the Stanley Cup winning Penguins, you are going to have a rough time of it on a busy Saturday.
Then again, when you such good food and good company you might not even pay attention to what is on the TV. Even if you are a sports writer.
(Edited several times: Added Alana link, fixed spelling and grammatical errors. Sure I missed some.)