Rallying the Base

Full Disclosure: Three years ago, I had no idea what a blog was or why you would write one. Then, one day at the office (and I really wish I knew how) I stumbled across The Battle of Alberta and had my eyes opened to an entirely new way of following the NHL. I am not an Oilers fan by any stretch of the imagination but I lived and died with the members of the Oilogosphere during the run to Game Seven fo the Final. CiO, MC79, Lowetide, and the rest provided humour, analysis, and passion and Pension Plan Puppets was born. Since then they've remained a window into the Oilers, the organization, and the city of Edmonton. They've challenged the former group of owners and the current owners when the traditional media has spewed the company line a. out of fear of the club's reprisals and b. because they were part freaking owners! Take the time to read Andy's posts on the attempted railroading of a publically financed arena to get a sense of the work that is being done by the Oilogosphere. Also, I see frequent visits originating from EdmontonOilers.com computer so they do appear to keep on top of blogs.

There is a scene in the first Spiderman movie (released just after September 11th) in which the Green Goblin apparently has Peter Parker at his mercy. Lo and behold, he's struck by a flying object and then another and then one more. The camera pans up and there are the citizens of the city, united and defending their hero. One typecast New Yorker utters the ultimate cheese line to the effect of "if you attack one of us, you attack all of us." In reality, I have to admit that the first time through you are kind of cheering when they come to the rescue. Now, an Oilers blogger is under attack today and it has elicited a legitimately amazing response.

Here's the short form of the issue: Dave Berry, also known as DFMB from the hilarious Covered In Oil, actually has a media job. He was hired to collect quotes after the game. Instead of sitting in the press box stuffing his face full of food and ignoring anything that was happening on the ice (I'm looking at you Simmons) he decided to crank up his trusty machine and steal the Oilers' broadcast rights by posting a live-blog. Or at least that's what the overreacting Oilers' employee was thinking. There is nothing but some good humour in the post but rather than just letting Dave know that there is a double standard that does not allow him to "live-blog" (which the NCAA also seems to think is some sort of capital crime) they decided to take the heavy handed approach that has worked so well for them in handling the media and its message in the past not to mention other groups in the city. Dave is rightfully disillusioned with the club and is unfortunately done because this incident was the straw that broke the camel's back for him.

But as with anything, the actual incident is only part of the story. I am way late to the party (damn commitments) but the response from bloggers has been amazing. As a group we are attacked by Luddites that don't understand technology, "professionals" that don't quite get the passion, clubs that are uncomfortable with their inability to control what we write, and that's before we add our personal battles mor fans that just don't understand blogging (ie are you trying to be a journalist? Nope. Just love my team). While some, like Eric McErlain, are lucky to have a Ted Leonsis as owner most (and certainly all in Canada) operate in an environment where their presence in unwanted. I've never tried to get a press pass to the Leafs mostly but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that I'd get rejected once they stopped laughing. Canadian NHL clubs are happy to stick to print media so that they can dangle the carrot of access while wielding the stick of a ban if anyone were to actually do their job. For all of the criticism that the Leafs take there is still a long way to go to accurate and investigative journalism.

Teams might like to believe that bloggers are just cranks posting their rants into the ether but, while some certainly fill that category, increasingly the "mainstream" media is becoming simply the "traditional" media. SB Nation's range of sites currently averages about 175,000 visits a days and they only have one site per team. Deadspin gets more than 10 million page views per month. DailyKos, a progressive website, gets 2.75 million visits a day. Read that again. 2.75 million visitors every day get their political news from a blog. In 99% of the cases (and in my mind DailyKos is an exception because the "traditional" media has become entertainment and scandal first, information second, and truth third if they bother getting to it) blogs are not a replacement for the "traditional" media. As Neate Sager puts it:

Guess what, geniuses? A liveblog is not competition. It's a companion piece. It's the liner notes. Not everyone is going to read it, but those who do appreciate it when it's obvious some care and thought is behind it.

Out of 100 fans who want to follow an Oilers game, 95 to 98 will turn to TV, radio and streaming video. The ones who are checking a liveblog, to hazard a guess, probably have the TV on. They want to see someone else's impressions of the match, to see how it squares with their own. It's another way of enhancing our shared experience as sports nuts, and tough titty that the NHL cannot find a way to charge people $9.95 for that (if they could, they would).

The game threads here are not meant to, and never could, replace watching the game. They are an electronic version of your local pub where we gather to watch the game, chit-chat, exchange thoughts on the game, and drink (well, at least Jared). It cannot exist without watching the game.

What should worry teams that are so used to controlling the way that their team is presented is that those sites and hundreds and thousands of them form a community and events like this do a lot to emphasize that fact. Here is a list of other sites that have addressed the story. That's a lot of bad press. If you come across any others post them in the comments.

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