Twitter, and the internet as a whole, is a strange place. We don’t exchange with faces, but rather avatars, and in limited amounts of characters. Basketball Twitter, specifically, connects writers/bloggers/opinionated NBA enthusiasts together on a daily basis — that’s probably why you’re reading this right now.
So, who are these people?
Last December, Sam Fredable described someone who writes about basketball as someone whose work lives solely online and challenges the journalistic norms of yesterday. I call this type of person a basketblogger, and consider myself as such.
In his column, NBA Blogging: A Culture, Fredable illuminates Basketball Twitter as ‘a community so unique is that it exists in a sphere of influence that is hidden in plain site’ and that ‘many people enter the blogging world with the hopes and dreams of achieving a full-time position in sports. At its very nature, it’s an entrepreneurial, low-risk way to get noticed for salaried positions.’
Geographically, how widespread is the basketblogging community?
Searching for answers, back in May, I took to Twitter and promoted a survey to an unspecified group of writers. Thanks to Matt D’anna, we were able to visualize the survey, and the results reflect basketbloggers 13 countries and 40 U.S. states. It is populated by bloggers as young as 15, and as old as 52.
Bloggers by Country
Bloggers by Birth State
Bloggers by Residing State
Bloggers by Age
The survey was made on a whim, and unfortunately I don’t believe I thought it out very well. Google’s survey only collected unique ages, which is why we were unable to determine the average age of a basketblogger– this is something I assume people would have found interesting. Moreover, this survey did not ask why these individuals blog about basketball. This is definitely something I would do if I had another shot at this.
For me, blogging began as a healthy, alternative hobby I could perform at work. Slaving away for hours, publishing content and elaborating my opinions on the latest NBA happenings, slowly aided in helping me to become a better writer. It also expanded my audience, which is nice because knowing people will read my writing is incredibly rewarding. However, not everyone has the same intentions.
So, I took to Twitter, again, and crowdsourced for some answers.
Tell me why you write about basketball on the internet. [email protected]
— Zachary Bennett (@ZacharyBD) July 23, 2014
Here are some responses from people who saw the above-tweet. I’ve elected to keep their names anonymous.
Guess just ’cause I love writing and sports. Love telling stories. Love basketball. Being able to write stories about my favorite sport and have people be able to read them is pretty rad.
I had barely been exposed to the world and for someone who had as sheltered a childhood as I had, everything was a major shock. I needed an escape but I couldn’t participate in athletics as I had in high school due to time constrictions. So I turned to what was the next best thing for me which was writing about sports. It ended up being a release in that I could leave all my worries and responsibilities behind for just a few short hours while expressing myself through writing. I still don’t want to make a career out of it as I have other interests, but to this day writing remains an enjoyable activity that is therapeutic for me even after my dad’s health recovery, thus I continue to basketblog.
Basically, I love basketball. Like, it’s probably unhealthy just how much something related to basketball is on my mind. Living in Australia means that I don’t know anybody who follows the game to the degree I do, so having a whole group of people on the internet to share my thoughts with is really cool. There’s also what I said earlier: at least this way, I’m turning my endless hours of watching basketball into something productive which can also help me improve academically.
That’s pretty much it, really. There’s also the other stuff about how it helps me deal with whatever is going on in real life, but isn’t that the case for everyone? There isn’t too much that separates me from the norm in this regard, but that doesn’t really matter, I’m just glad I do it.
I write about basketball on the internet because I like basketball a lot and I also like writing.
As I work to become a “serious professional journalist,” blogging about basketball allows me a place to daily (during the season at least) write about something that I enjoy with the freedom to explore different (often weird and often pretty dumb) ways to write, which is both fun and helps me to become a better and more creative writer.
It all goes back to a love of the game of basketball. I enjoy football, and I’ve covered other sports ranging from volleyball to tennis to women’s soccer. But nothing will ever come close to basketball for me (despite the fact that I was awful when I played in grade school and am now a fairly mediocre pick-up player). My love and knowledge of the game surpasses all other subjects, and it’s the chance to discuss the game that I love that truly drives me to write.
Blogging isn’t just a hobby for me. Writing about basketball – both for the newspaper and online – is a chance for me to get better with every keystroke, so that one day I can hopefully achieve my goal of making a career out of this.
Writing about basketball, a subject on which I feel knowledgeable, was what I saw as the natural first step in chasing down a job in sports media. I’ve made some great (internet) friends and tons of connections just by doing something I love, and that drives me to keep going just as much as my aspirations.
Blogging is just the start. I know it can be tough to really make a big move in it, but over the course of a year I went from a writer at a place no one had heard of, to becoming an editor at a site in a respected community. It takes time. It takes blood, sweat and tears, but if it can get me that spot that I’ve yearned for for so long? Then it’s all worth it.
Conquering Frustrations through Motivation
As you can see, there’s a considerable belief that blogging could one day lead to a career working as a media professional. For anyone who’s pursued a career in any field, not just journalism, things aren’t always easy and thus one must pay their dues prior to arriving at their proverbial destination. That’s what Tom Scheier once thought he was doing working for one of the larger sports-media outlets in this industry, although things didn’t exactly pan out for him the way how he expected them to.
Weeks ago, Scheier wrote a column titled, The Top 200 Ways Bleacher Report Screwed Me Over, that was published at Deadspin, where he describes his experience working as a contributing author at Bleacher Report– a polarizing media outlet with a reputation that varies depending on who you talk to. When Scheier started at B/R, he assumed there would be opportunities for advancement within the company. It was (and likely still is) his desire to make a living writing about sports. Just by reading the title of the article, you can tell Scheier didn’t have the greatest, most rewarding experience, but still, there’s a number of people who have written many words on the internet and never received a dime for it.
The subsequent reaction to Deadspin’s column provoked others into sharing their personal experiences as bloggists. Over at Vice.com, Robert Silverman published An Open Letter to a Young Sports Writer Looking to Get Paid. He acknowledges that a career in sports writing is difficult; much like a career as an actor. Silverman’s central thesis is essentially this: Doing what you love for a living requires strenuous time and effort, no matter what the goal is you’ll need to pay some dues before arriving at the desired destination:
“The thing is, I’ve been down this road before in a totally different field. You may not know this, but I spent a good 15 years as a downtown New York City actor, playwright, and producer. Oddly enough, the difficulties and the obstacles to succeeding in that cutthroat game are not dissimilar to this brave new world of sportswriting we’re in.”
“Most people don’t form a company or start a blog for the money. You do it because you feel you can create something that’s original, maybe even important, and will enrich the lives of the audience or readers in a way that hasn’t been done before.”
Also in his open letter, Silverman asks Matt Moore, Editor Emeritus of Hardwood Paroxysm and NBA Writer for CBS Sports’ Eye on Basketball, how bloggers can get around having to give away their work for free.
“Writing for free is going to be part of the modern career arc. It simply is, with how the internet is structured. Want to get around that? You had better be able to sweet talk your way into the best gigs right off the bat, or you had better start your own site, and monetize off of SEO and the lowest common denominator content from the get-go. Otherwise, you’re stuck down here in the great maw with the rest of us.”
Hard Work Pays Off
Schreier obtained invaluable journalistic experience contributing at Bleacher Report. He now writes for 105theticket.com and can be heard weekdays on The Michael Knight Show from 2-3 p.m, and appears to have carved himself a niche in the sports-media industry.
As for me, the copious hours of researching and writing have provided me with immense opportunities I had never thought were possible. As for compensation, I’ve never felt entitled to any amount of money in exchange for my written words. Although, the thought has crossed my mind a number of times.
In July, I covered the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I shook hands with some of the bigger names in sports journalism. Many of which have spent years covering the NBA in exquisite detail. I met tons of bloggers, too, who, like me, were there simply curating content as we watched basketball. At one point or another, the media professionals with ten-plus years of experience were at one point living in the great maw just like us.
Bloggers write for many of the same reasons, but not always in the same way. And that’s OK.
And, although some of us aren’t compensated in currency, there can be other rewards and benefits available in exchange for the work we put forth. It just all varies depending on your perspective.