College sports blogs are mostly blah

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The Daily Pennsylvanian does a pretty good job with its sports blog, offering daily updates on both soccer and football. The sports staff at the newspaper understands the role of a blog for its print publication – offering news, analysis and entertainment. The Daily Pennsylvanian focuses more on the news and analysis parts. The beat reporters are more restrained in their posts, something many readers will appreciate. The beat reporters offer careful analysis supported by reasons and examples.

Sports reporter Sebastien Angel offers this assessment on the men’s soccer team:

“The men are difficult to pin down, especially since they’ve yet to play at home. The bad loss to Seton Hall was a surprise, but Fuller’s teams have started slow before – last year’s 2-0 defeat to Lehigh comes to mind. (In fairness, Lehigh went on to have a great year.)

I think even less can be pulled from this weekend’s performance in California. The optimist might be tempted to read a lot of good things into a competitive 1-0 loss to No. 7 Cal; it’s easy to say you were one goal away from a tie – of course, it’s much harder to actually get it.

A good barometer will appear this weekend at the Penn Soccer Classic at Rhodes Field. Penn’s two opponents, Hartwick and La Salle, gave the Quakers close games last year. A couple of wins – or even a win and a tie – would set them on the right track. The important thing will be to avoid getting swept, though. The chances for non-conference wins and momentum are running out.”

The post includes a clear statement, offers some history, and analyzes a recent win rather evenly (no ‘homer’ comments here.) He also looks ahead to some games later this week.

Two other reporters add to this sports blog that included eight items during 13 days. Most posts where fewer than 300 words. But even the longer post, a 600-plus word piece that outlined Penn’s football depth chart, was written concisely.

This is the best of the dozen sports blogs I’ve reviewed so far. This paper uses three reporters to cover three beats, offers news and updates about its sports.

Blogs, of course, can contain a wide variety of elements, such as more opinionated columns and more in-depth assessment. There’s nothing that says blogs need to be mostly notes packages.

Some papers have started to offer game blogs, which, really, ought to be named glogs (or live game logs.) Check out cbs.sportsline.com and ESPN.com for terrific examples of live game reports on the MLB, NBA, NHL and other sports. ESPN.com golf editor Jason Sobel even glogged four days of the Master’s, something that was a witty, informative and entertaining read — and exhausting to Mr. Sobel.

Younger sports reporters need to check these out before diving into this area, otherwise they will be left with bloated, cliche-ridden writing and boring play-by-play. One college publication’s live game blog called next week’s game against a conference opponent a “must-win,” a game that “will be a gut-check.” Then, the reporter added: “Yes, there is plenty of football to be played.” Blogs are not an excuse to bust out wit da slang and cliches, brother. Instead, they are a place to offer short, informative takes. Don’t mistakenly believe that slang and cliches equate to witty, interesting writing.

Make sure you have something to say in the game logs. Offer play by play, but mix in some analysis at the same time. Glogging can be difficult for this reason — the blogger is expected to be both play-by-play announcer and color commentator. (But isn’t that also the role of a sports columnist?)

The Michigan Daily did a fine job offering a running commentary during the Wolverines’ loss to Oregon:

First quarter, 5:29 Henne connects with Arrington in the back of the end zone on a short third-and-goal to put Michigan on board. Great throw by Henne to catch Arrington cutting across the back, and Arrington jumps up to grab it. Capped off a solid 10-play, 71-yard drive, highlighted by some nice runs by Hart and 17-yard Manningham reception. Michigan kicks the extra point and is up 4. Michigan 7, Oregon 3

First quarter, 4:40 Wow. That was quick. On Oregon’s second play of the drive, wide receiver Brian Paysinger beats cornerback Brandon Harrison on a fade and takes it 89 yards for the touchdown. One two-point conversion later, and Oregon has a four-point lead. Michigan 7, Oregon 11.

Do not waste space in your glog, as one school did last weekend: “Nothing new to report here as the offense remains ineffective…”

Make sure you are writing for your readers. Do not be self-indulgent, writing about yourself or offering your predictions. Who cares who you picked for the week (or even the score you cited?) Instead, analyze the week’s match-ups by comparing one team’s passing game against the other team’s secondary. Offer comments from players on both sides, from coaches who have played both teams, and include stats that support your statements. Don’t just write some general comment and offer a score. Nobody really cares.

The blog for one college publication was particularly self-absorbed. During the past week, one reporter tried to defend a column, another writer made some NFL predictions, calling the local team “our boys.” And another posting made sportswriters look like a bunch of free-loading slobs:

“If there’s one thing I enjoy about being a sports reporter, it’s all the free stuff – especially the food.

With two meal tickets redeemable for a hot dog or bratwurst, unlimited soft drinks and coffee, it’s a cheap college student’s dream. Sure, I have to “work” to earn these amenities, but it’s well worth it.

After two 24 ounce Mountain Dews and two bratwursts smothered in mustard and chopped onions, I was feeling adventurous. Considering I only slept two hours Friday night (really, morning – from 6:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m.), I decided to go for the free cappuccino.

Real nice. Credibility shattered. Stereotype strengthened. Thanks.

One final note: Don’t be a homer. Create some distance betwen you and the team, even in columns and blogs. Don’t write ‘us’ or ‘we.’ Sure, you may love your college, but that does not mean you have to be an apologist. Reporters across the United States love our country but still attempt to deliver the facts in a more objective manner. Just as there is no cheering in the press box, there is no rah-rahing or swearing allegiance to one’s school in a blog. (“I bleed green and …”)

Learning something new can be difficult. Learning something that is still evolving is even more challenging. So read and assess respectable, professional sports blogs to develop an approach to blogging. You’ll need to learn this skill sooner than later because blogs are here to stay for a while.

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  4. College blog assessment Says:

    […] Gisondi, the journalism professor and On Sports blogger, has posted up his evaluation of some college sports blogs. He identifies best and worst practices for game and sports blogging, and pulls in real-life […]

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