Editorializing: Thank you, Eric Smith!

The upside of FAN 590 basketball commentator Eric Smith zinging the very blog network this site belongs to is that it's an opportunity to say thank you. Thank you to those -- readers, commenters, broadcasters, sportswriters, fans, sports information directors, athletic directors -- who take us seriously.

It is always best to turn the other cheek and focus on those who are keeping up to the lead pack. Smith's dreck about "Joe Fan Bloggers" need not even be rebutted. Is it too late to tell to Bucholtz? No? Dammit!

Instead, let me say "thank you." Thank you. This was a great year for the growth of cisblog.ca, and hopefully it will continue in 2010-11. Not to sound like a job applicant reciting her/his résumé to someone who's already read it, but we put ourselves out there this year.

Off-hand, travelling on a shoestring, we covered five CIS championships (both basketball, men's hockey, football and men's volleyball) and live-blogged the final of each one, which speaks to the dedication and abilities of our staff. People have come to respect our contribution, as an aggregator, as a place which provides analysis and commentary (and once in a blue moon, breaks news) and as somewhere where CIS diehards can have a conversation on their terms.

None of that would be possible without the support of readers, first and foremost. It also speaks to how our writers, based in five provinces, have invested themselves in this project, and Andrew B.'s and Rob Pettapiece's leadership style. It is reassuring to think this site has had, and will continue to have, some impact.

It has not been anything earth-shattering or revolutionary. One would not expect us to necessarily be on the radar screen of a guy who covers the NBA's Toronto Raptors full-time. I apologize that it took Smith's potshot straight out of 2006 to say thanks.

For those wondering, here is what Smith said.
" ... this The Score.com's 'Sports Federation' is walking a fine line. On one hand, The Score is trying to stay ahead of the game (the industry) by using new media and social media to expand their coverage of certain sports. On the other hand, they're giving their NAME - and what "The Score" stands for as one of the top all-sports networks in Canada - to a group of Joe Fan bloggers. Again, some of those bloggers are better and more 'professional' than others, but is their new-found credibility legit, and should it put them on the same level as those that are writing or broadcasting for TSN, Sportsnet, The FAN 590, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, National Post, or Toronto Star?"
It doesn't put them on the same level, per se, but it puts them on some level.

Some would say Smith is a little late to the game. The Sports Fed. was created almost 18 months ago and was already tweaked by a better class of blogging journalist.

Some would also say that Smith should have done a little homework before making his gross generalization about "a group of Joe Fan bloggers." Perhaps there is some crossover between his boogieman "Joe Fan Blogger" and those "(who) are writing or broadcasting" for outlets such as the Toronto Sun.

Presumably, that would include the Ottawa Sun; check out its feature on Guelph Gryphons cross-country star Allan Brett, a Hillcrest High School graduate.

Speaking as a sinner saved by grace, yes, there was a little personal anger upon finding Smith's off-base rant. There's a little irony given that one of his colleagues, Paul Jones, played and coached in CIS basketball at York. There is a little more irony given Smith's forum for slamming "Joe Fan bloggers" was the official website of a team he purports to cover independently.

Let's not put the focus there. Instead, consider this an appreciation for how this site has evolved since (name drop ahead) James Mirtle of The Globe & Mail put it together in August 2007. Thanks again, everybody.
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  1. Just wanted to continue the sentiment of this piece and give you guys a tip of the cap for all of the work you've done this year. I've thoroughly enjoyed all of the work this blog has done this year and I've enjoyed the capacity to which I have engaged with this blog even more. Neate, Rob, and Andrew do a phenomenal job putting this site together and the writing team might be the best I have come across on the interwebs. This site is the one which I consider to be the benchmark I try to attain with my own endeavours and it's definitely a lofty bar to jump at - especially when you guys raise it on a weekly basis. That being said, keep up the good work and let it be known that there are people out there who thoroughly enjoy what you guys do.


  2. Nice rebuttal, Neate. I agree that Smith is too dismissive of the medium and the content that non-journalist bloggers post.

    Access isn't everything. As I've found in the past couple years after moving from my "Joe Fan" blog to the Huskies' team blog, I censor my posts and keep a lot of insider information to myself. For example, I used to post names of potential recruits that I received from second-hand sources. Now, after meeting with Coach Towriss, I know who all the recruits are, but I won't post them as I don't want to interfere with the Dogs' Breakfast and the announcement of the recruits at the end of the month (to balance the lack of scoops, we will provide in-depth profiles of recruits during spring camp).

    Fan blogs can be more interesting than news style blogs, with more raw editorials and visceral opinions as opposed to reciting facts and post-game cliches (don't get me wrong, cliches make my world go around). There is plenty of room for both styles of blogs, and the presence of non-professional fan blogs shouldn't lead to one questioning the legitimacy of well-done blogs like this one or the entire medium itself (Bucholtz put it well when he said, "a poor piece in The National Enquirer shouldn’t impugn the credibility of The New York Times").

    I don't think Smith gives blog readers enough credit. Most of us are literate enough to distinguish between a fan blog and that of a journalist, between a blog of someone with access and someone without. He misses the mark on this point, as well as his belief that blogs can't be credible because they lack the resources and built-in checks and balances of mainstream media (I think, in the case of the CISBlog, the editors, contributors and readers would be as critical of a piece and provide the same level of accuracy as any newspaper).

    One thing Smith fails to realize is that there is a limited amount of time or words that a journalist can devote to a story on TV, radio or in a newspaper. This is where blogs pick up the slack, offering access and details that mainstream media can't. While the average fan may be satisfied with a 500 word recap of a game in their newspaper, a real fanatic wants more and has come to expect more thanks to blogs and social media.

    To end a rather long comment: thanks to you and your fellow contributors for your thorough and professional coverage of the CIS. You cover sports and athletes that, in most cases, deserve much better coverage than they receive in the mainstream media. Keep up the good work!


  3. Thanks, guys, we were honestly not compliment-fishing.

    I should point out I feel a site such as Dallas' Huskies Football Outsider or Allez Les Bleus! is a prototype for what many CIS schools will need to do to get good media coverage. I can even see some school making the assistant SID their "blogger."

    Take someone who has passion and a demonstrated writing skill and take her/him into confidence. Use it to give people something that is neither detached (like a lot of traditional media coverage) or promotional (like a press release). It beats waiting around for traditional media.

    There are probably a dozen football teams, easily, who have enough of a following to make such a move worthwhile. There's at least as many in basketball and hockey.

    Granted, we're having enough trouble getting proper support for coaches, so ...

  4. Just because one is an accredited member of the media, that accrediatation does not automatically bestow knowledge on the holder. In the case of Eric Smith and his knowledge of basketball, his competency level, available for judgement by anyone who cares to listen to his "insights" on Raptor radio games with the very knowledgeable Paul Jones, it is apparent he lacks an understanding of even the simplist nuanses of the game, providing listeners with very little insight over and above what anyone can read on a stat sheet. Has he ever coached a game or worked on becoming more technical in his insights so he can become a better analyst? It is very likely he is fortunate enough to do what he does (i) because of his nationality and/or (ii) because of budgetary reasons. For someone who knows so little about the game of basketball and is being paid to break the game down for listeners to such poor results (stats regurgitation mainly), he should re-read his own words and apply them to himself the "analyst" - and then consider himself fortunate to have won the career lottery.

    Neate et. al. tremendous job keeping this site going; stay with it and it will grow and flourish.

  5. Thnaks ... I was hoping this would not turn into into a critique of Mr. Smith, although the journo friend I talked to before I went with this suggested doing so. He wasn't very complimentary.

    Living outside Toronto, I get my Raptors fix from blogs, the newspapers and watching Matt and Jack on TV. I don't know Smith's work well enough to comment.

  6. You're all doing a great job at cisblog.ca and are a real motivation for amateur bloggers like us...

    I think the problem with the Fagstein's and the Smith's of this world is that they don't understand how can we have an audience of people coming on our blogs and enjoying the posts and the comments...

    We started from scratch with no endorsement from CyberPresse or RDS and we gradually became the reference for CIS football in Qc, like you did for CIS sports in Canada, only by the qualities and perseverance of our respective blogs and not because someone gave us a prize estate place in one of the old medias website...

    I always grin when I ask for the media passes (when we can get one) with the different teams and they say "ok, but not in the press box" - where some of the "forced" journalists there have limited knowledge in football or/in players involved... Coaches knows them, they're the one asking the stupidest questions after the games...

  7. To be fair, Fagstein actually said he'd "maybe" heard of us, and said university sports was something where a blog made sense.

  8. Anytime Eric or anyone else in the media wants to talk blogs, I'll defend them until I'm blue in the face.

    Keep up the great work here Neate. So nice to see CIS get the coverage it deserves.

  9. I added your site to my favourites list almost a year ago -- and passed the word on. Keep up the good work.

  10. This is an incredible site, and as far as I'm concerned, the most comprehensive CIS outlet available. So many sports get covered in detail and everyone offers a little something different.
    The linking/networking offered on this site only continues to help the CIS community grow and it's great to see this initiative being taken on the web, while the Canadian mainstream media continues to do such a poor job of promoting university sports. Every person who comments/writes/reads about these topics is making a difference.
    Congrats all around!

  11. Thanks ... was more offended by Smith's divisive "Joe Fan bloggers" and "those
    those (who) are writing or broadcasting for TSN, Sportsnet, The FAN 590, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, National Post, or Toronto Star?" It's a non-existent distinction, plus talk about blinkered and snobbish.

    As for the "Joe Fan Bloggers," this site was started by a Globe & Mail sportswriter. Rob, who has a parent who was a journalist and understands the media a lot better than 90% of the people who work in it, is the only one who does work in another media capacity.

    -- Andrew and Greg Layson work for newspapers.

    -- Brian, Justin, Luke, Jared, Andrew and Evan have past or present involvement with campus newspapers.

    -- Mike A. has been a sports information director.

    -- Evan, Dave, Sean and Greg Layson commentate CIS games, either on radio, community television or SSN Canada.

    Point being, everyone has experience elsewhere that makes them a little more than "Joe Fan."

  12. Mr. Smith is a member of a shrinking fraternity of mainstream sports journalists, whose attention is largely focused on the NHL, NBA, MLB, CFL, and other pro sports, leaving amateur leagues, such as the CIS, high and dry in many markets.

    The 'Joe Fan Blogger' is usually a well-informed, dedicated, insightful, and constant writer who gives CIS Sport the richness of coverage and analysis it deserves. CIS schools are all aware how difficult it has become to get consistent coverage from print and electronic media, and every SID spends significant time in chasing a hook to gain more attention for their athletes and teams.

    Our alumni, fans, athletes, parents, and all other CIS supporters benefit greatly from team and school based blogs. The CIS BLOG, so well done by Neate Sager et al, does a wonderful job of coverage and commentary on so many fronts. One only has to think of how much we still miss Marek Wacyk's CISHOOPS.CA to realize the impact of a well done blog.

    Thanks to the writers of CIS blogs across the country ... we need more writing from teams and schools, not less. I wouldn't want to hold my breath waiting for Mr. Smith and his exalted colleagues to carry the ball.

  13. A Raven Maniac4/14/2010 5:02 pm

    Speaking of Mark Wacyk...
    Neate, could you possibly give us an update on how Mark is doing?
    It's been nearly four months since Mark entered his last post on his blog.
    I'm sure I speak for many readers when I say his work has been sorely missed
    for the last half of last season, and I am wondering how his
    recovery is progressing.

  14. Traded e-mails with Mark just today ... he says he's making good progress in his recovery and appreciates the thoughts.