On Saturday, September 24, the 4th incarnation of Blogs with Balls was held at the ultramodern, ultragreen and überchic Bloomberg Tower in New York City. This was the first BWB I was able to attend since the inaugural event in 2009. Having been unable to attend Blogs with Balls 2 in Las Vegas, Blogs with Balls 3 in Chicago and the Blogs with Balls panel at SXSW over the last two years, it’s amazing to see how the whole thing has grown. After being in the basement of a New York sports bar for the first event, to see Blogs with Balls held in the headquarters of a huge media empire made me quite proud.
And the turnout had over 250 men and women including bloggers and mainstream media. This is not just an event of blogs seeking acceptance and access, it’s more than that. The first BWB had bloggers asking why they weren’t being accepted by the mainstream media and why sports leagues weren’t acknowledging them. This year, the attendees were told that ESPN’s morning SportsCenters were an admission that not only the sports blogosphere exists, but that blogs can break stories.
As with the first edition, there were panel discussions to look at the progress of blogs and how far they’ve grown. My favorites included Women Talk Sports which was rather self-explanatory, Beyond the Big 3 which looked at sports outside of baseball, football and basketball and finding stories that will gain interest with readers; Brands with Balls which had panelists discussing the best brands that went to social media to reach an audience; and the Rising Stars panel where some of the brightest and youngest social media stars discussed their rise to the top.
Some of the rock stars of the panels included Amanda Rykoff of espnW, Tina Cervasio of MSG Network, Maggie Hendricks of Yahoo!, Jane McManus of ESPN New York, Josh Elliot of ABC’s Good Morning America, Bomani Jones of BomaniJones.com, Jonah Keri of Grantland, Kathleen Hessert from Sports Media Challenge, and Phil Van der Vossen of Gunaxin Media.
Deadspin had its own panel featuring A.J. Daulerio, Tommy Craggs, Barry Petchesky and Emma Carmichael among others. This was quite the funny panel which somehow got focused on male genitalia, but as we know, Deadspin has published photos of athletes texting their schlongs so it was only natural that the issue was raised, but it was surprising how long the discussion lasted. It definitely had some staying power. Some news was broken during this discussion. Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch who was part of the Women Talk Sports panel asked Daulerio if there was a big hire in Deadspin’s future and he admitted that Jay “The Rat” Mariotti was being considered for all things, to pen a sports media column.
And at the Rising Stars panel, former ESPN’er Josh Elliot was rather candid about his time at ESPN saying that he understood why people criticize the sports behemoth and it has a responsibility to its viewers. Also, Bomani Jones talking about why people don’t make money off blogging and the attitude bloggers need to bring to writing were words we needed to hear. When I grow up, I want to be Bomani Jones.
Also interspersed throughout the day were the handing out of the Untitled Sports Media Awards Project or USMAP Awards. A pet project of Bleacher Report’s Dan Levy and HHR Media Group’s Don Povia, this honored all facets of sports media including online, TV and traditional sportswriting. Dan explains the whole concept behind the USMAP Awards.
One of the main impressions I carried out of Blogs with Balls 4 was the room was seeing the increase in female bloggers, writers and reporters from the 1st event. These are not “pink hats”, the women are just as hardcore fans as men, are just as knowledgeable or in some cases, more and they’re very much into fantasy sports. It’s great to see so many women at BWB and I was happy to talk to many of them.
Another impression albeit negative, I was disappointed not seeing representation from the sports leagues. They’re located in New York, it would have been perfect for one or all of the major leagues to send someone to see what the bloggers are saying. It’s also a way to show that the leagues are approachable to fans. Bloggers are fans first. Many started their sites to show their love for a team, a sport, an industry or a league. They missed an opportunity to show that they get it. The fans are what help to drive their popularity. Social networking is a big part of that, but alas, no representatives came.
I was very happy to meet some of the people I’ve followed on Twitter such as CNBC’s Darren Rovell, ESPN’s Amy K. Nelson, Julie DiCaro of Aery’s Sports, Phil Van der Vossen of Gunaxin, Jane McManus from ESPN New York, Tina Cervasio of MSG Network, Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, Keith Stewart of The Cycle, Andrew Bucholtz of Yahoo! Canada, Heather Zeller of A Glam Slam, King Kaufman from Bleacher Report, and one of the BWB organizers, Kyle Bunch.
It was wonderful renewing acquaintances with my Twitter Trophy Wife, Amanda Rykoff, Keith Thibault of Sports Media Journal, James Quintong of ESPN, Dan Levy of Bleacher Report, Jimmy Traina of Sports lllustrated, Don Povia and Chris Lucas from HHR Media Group, and Kat Hasenauer of Sports Girl Kat.
One highlight was seeing Kobayashi drinking a milk jug right before lunch. The man has an iron stomach.
And lastly, ESPN Front Row has a video showing the ESPN representation at Blogs with Balls. At 2:26, you can see my back and at 3:12, there’s a fleeting shot of me as Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch tries to avoid being seen.
Overall, a great event and one which I encourage all spots bloggers, young and old alike to attend. I can’t wait for the next one.