There has always been an “old media” element of the Cublogoverse: the Tribune, the Sun-Times, the Daily Herald, etc. Without them – and more importantly, their access – the “new media” of the Cublogoverse wouldn’t work.
So please understand, I appreciate the place of those entities – and of this one – in the structure of the Chicago Cubs news and commentary world.
But I am also fiercely protective of the “new media” (read: blogs) bubble in which we, and other excellent Chicago Cubs blogs exist. So when it appears that the monoliths of the sports news world are treading dangerously close to the formerly exclusive province of the Cublogoverse, understandably, I get a little nervous.
Yesterday, ESPN launched its new Chicago-focused site – creatively named – ESPN Chicago. The plan is to become “the best” local site for Chicago sports news, employing current ESPN contributors and others in a video and blog format.
Given the ESPN platform, the site could become a profound success, and serve hardcore Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Bears, and Blackhawks fans in a way not yet seen. It is certainly a place that I will visit from time to time with the hope that it will offer me an experience I can’t find anywhere else.
But I have concerns.
A primary concern is that it will be not but a poor facsimile of the Cubs blogging world – albeit a much more highly trafficked one. Bloggers, for all the disdain and untrust constantly lobbed our way, serve an incredibly important purpose for hardcore fans: we are beholden to no one. We have no access to protect, no face to save. Invariably, most ideas/criticisms/theories that have developed in the electronic age were crafted and honed in the groundswell that emanates from sports message boards and blogs.
We are the third party candidates of the internet news world: knowing that we will never be elected president, but still advancing our causes in the hopes that they will be adopted by the mainstream. The lack of real authority is our curse, but the freedom is our blessing.
Take away that freedom, and you can have the best cadre of writers in Chicago (or the world, for that matter), and the content will suffer. The discussion will be dulled down. The analysis will be only skin deep. This is my fear for ESPN Chicago. And the fear that it will all happen at the expense of blogs like this one.
Perhaps I overestimate ESPN’s interest in capturing hardcore fans, though. Maybe the idea is to have the same surface appeal – with corresponding three inch depth – that an episode of Sportscenter does. And to be certain: I love Sportscenter, because that’s all I’m looking for when it comes to most sports. If ESPN Chicago intends only to be the 7/11 of Chicago sports news – i.e., written for those interested in Chicago sports, and who might affectionately refer to themselves as “Cubs fans,” but who pronounce Theriot “there-ee-ott” – then my criticism is ill-launched, and ESPN Chicago and all Cubs blogs can peacefully co-exist.
But for baseball, I require much more depth (and hopefully provide much more to Cubs fans), and I know I’m not alone.
So I ask only that ESPN Chicago not squeeze passionate bloggers out. Cubs bloggers will never have the access or the resources of ESPN, but we serve a readership that you probably won’t. That isn’t in itself a criticism – it is simply a reflection of the breadth of the internet and the passion of Cubs bloggers.
And to the extent that you do target informed, hardcore baseball – or God forbid Cubs – fans, good luck. Treat us well.