Perusing the Blogosphere, I came across some cool posts by the good guys at TheBigLead and Deadspin, regarding new ESPN Super Awesome Football Blog, Hashmarks. Matt Mosley, a former writer for the Dallas Morning News, joined the .com in January, and unleashed Hashmarks yesterday. The more I think about Hashmarks, the easier its becoming to label it a flog, or "fake blog."
I don't claim to be an expert in sports blogging. Its not something I've done for a very long period of time, but its something I love to do. Most bloggers aren't fortunate to blog for a living, and many of my own posts are written in extreme haste, in a sort of "stream of consciousness sports blogging." Truth is, local sports blogging is a heavier burden than unbiased, full-circle sports blogging. Our visitor counters look paltry compared to the unbiased guys. I've only topped triple digits in a day on a handful of occasions, and only because the unbiased guys were kind enough to provide a cool link. My writing is done out of love for the topics (Pittsburgh sports, miniature equine), and the appreciation of every read/comment/email/link/mention.
Sports blogs are the anti-ESPN. Compiled by (mostly) amateurs, blogs provide sports attention minus the Disney puff pieces/forced pop culture references passed off as humor that has plagued the big E in recent years (Note: Trey Wingo just asked Sean Salisbury on NFL Live, "Who is the Ryan Seacrest of the NFL?" Sean's response, "Daniel Snyder"). But the question remains, can ESPN just "start" a blog? ESPN has been buying up sports blogs (i.e. Curtis Granderson), and even allowing (making) their writers and "personalities" have official ESPN blogs of their own.
But back to Hashmarks. Mosley won awards as a writer in Dallas. ESPN is still trying to regain the trust of the audience that was completely miffed by the whole Colin Cowherd/TheBigLead story. ESPN seems to be using Hashmarks as a vehicle to bridge the gap between the World Wide Leader and the blogosphere. This is the remark that turned me off:
In other news, several prominent blogs across the nation waved the white flag yesterday and have promised to join forces with Hashmarks. For the 375 folks who asked me to link to your blog yesterday, just give me time. Don't read anything into who's on the Blog Roll right now - unless you're actually on the Blog Roll.
Waved the white flag? So ESPN wins, now? If ESPN compiles the biggest blogroll,
do they now assert dominance over the blogosphere? And great mention of the hordes of people wanting to surrender to ESPN. Its not about getting the biggest "numbers," Mosley. Its about putting out a quality product that reflects the passion of the writer.
TBL also added a stunning point:
Although we like what True Hoop (NBA blog) has done at ESPN, the one beef we have is that it’s incredibly incestuous to ESPN. It feels like a commercial for the .com. It seems like every other post is about the latest from Mark Stein, Chad Ford, John Hollinger, or Bill Simmons. We get it – ESPN plucked a blogger from obscurity, and since his blog was one of many with cult/underground status, True Hoop is now trying to pry open the eyes of non-mainstream readers to ESPN. If Hashmarks starts to reference Len P and Merrill Hoge and Clayton and Salisbury, it will get old, quick …
Mosley is reaching out to the blogosphere, and is linking to some smaller blogspot-type addresses. However, a lot of his posts are directly referencing ESPN's newest stories and "hottest reads." He has started a majority of his posts for today with references to ESPN stories by David Fleming, Len Pasquarelli and Gene Wojciechowski.
Also, here's his take on a Pittsburgh story:
I've heard from several Steelers fans who were concerned about drafting a punter in the fourth round. Listen, you have nothing to worry about.
End of analysis. Thanks, Matt, I will definitely not worry, now. It feels good to be assured by your stellar breakdown.
I understand that Mosley needs to reference ESPN on a regular basis because they're cutting his check. But the shameless links and position at the tops of posts really doesn't help matters. ESPN is hoping that the blogging community will accept Hashmarks, and in turn, reaccept the .com. I read the .com, but only to get different perspectives on stories. I don't need Hashmarks to tell me about a story about McCovey Cove on espn.com, and inform me that its a story:
that you may not stumble across during the normal course of your day.
Its on espn.com. If someone is that into the site, they are gonna find it. ESPN goes overboard with promoting its product, so its articles on the website are hardly un-stumble-able.
And the posts. Here are the timestamps of recent posts.
Holy shit! And the posts are about 2-3 sentences apiece! And I can't thank Mosley enough for providing the vital story that Pittsburgh would have a new mascot. I can't believe I've never heard that before...
If it looks like a blog and smells like a blog, it doesn't necessarily mean its a blog. In Hashmarks' case, Mosley started a flog.