What is the Purpose of a Basketball Blog?Information is easy to find but thoughtful analysis is very rare. As I suggested in one of my recent Kevin Garnett posts, the purpose of 20 Second Timeout is not to "break" stories but to break them down and explain their implications.
A comment about my initial post concerning the Tim Donaghy situation brings to mind some larger questions about the nature and purpose of the blogosphere. On Friday July 20, I saw a headline on ESPN.com that mentioned that Donaghy was under investigation. I quickly realized that it was in fact the New York Post that actually broke the story, not ESPN.com, so I went to the Post's site to read Murray Weiss' article. Weiss gave a broad outline of some of the allegations but did not mention Donaghy by name. Clearly, this was a big story and something that any NBA fan would want to know about, so I knew that I should post something on the subject but at that point the story consisted largely of speculation and it was not definitively known that Donaghy was in fact the referee in question. I hate speculation and have no interest in publishing a "breaking" story if I don't have a solid factual basis to say something. So I decided to simply post what I knew and let my readers evaluate the information for themselves. Clearly, if a referee fixed games this would be the darkest day in NBA history--a sentiment that Commissioner Stern himself essentially reaffirmed several days later during his press conference--so I began my post with that thought. Weiss is the person who actually investigated the story, so I cited his Post article first, noting that Weiss did not mention the referee by name but that ESPN.com reported that it was Tim Donaghy. Honestly, I am still not sure that I did the right thing and at the time I wondered if I should wait to post anything until Donaghy's name was confirmed or else leave his name out of the post. By making it clear that ESPN.com had "outed" Donaghy, I felt that I placed the responsibility on their shoulders if that information turned out to be incorrect.
In the remainder of that brief post, I tried to put the story into some historical context by referencing some previous gambling scandals and reminding readers how adamant Commissioner Stern has been about not placing a team in Las Vegas as long as that city's casinos post betting lines for NBA games. On Saturday morning, I followed up that post by listing five questions that I would like to see answered about this case (none of which have been answered to this point). I understand why everyone is going back and looking at film to try to find something suspicious that Donaghy may have done but, frankly, until the questions that I asked in my second post are answered that whole process may just be a waste of time (for the general public, not for the FBI or NBA of course); we don't know what exactly Donaghy is accused of doing or how he evaded detection while he did it, so we don't know which games to look at or what to look for in those games.
Anyway, when my initial Donaghy post went up on Yardbarker, the first (and only) comment it received was "A little late here bud. But it does not shock me. Officials are corrupt. From the airline scan a few years ago to this." The latter reference is to the scandal when some NBA referees exchanged first class tickets for coach tickets, pocketed the money and did not report this on their income taxes. The thing that struck me was the "A little late" remark. My post was up within hours of the story breaking, included links to the original New York Post article and ESPN.com's subsequent report containing Donaghy's name and provided some historical context for the situation. What value is there to posting something earlier that would possibly be incomplete or, much worse, inaccurate? That is why I never waste space here with gossip or trade rumors. When Kevin Garnett was actually traded, then I made a post explaining exactly what the deal means for Boston, Minnesota and KG himself, followed by another post putting the seven for one swap in historical context.
The funny thing to me is that on Yardbarker and Ballhype, some people do nothing more than make brief posts with links to news stories on ESPN.com or other big mainstream sites. They provide no original analysis and often they don't even add one or two sentences expressing their own opinion--but these posts receive many "thumbs ups." Is it really that hard to find a story on ESPN.com and post a link to it? Does this provide some essential service to readers that they could not do for themselves? Generally, the only reason that I cite a story from ESPN.com (or anywhere else) is to post some analysis about it. I don't see the point of just mentioning that there is an article at ESPN.com. Does the "Worldwide Leader" really need the advertising? Do sports fans not know that the site exists and frequently posts articles, each of which is conveniently categorized by author and sport?
Even funnier to me is that ESPN's in house basketball blog spends a substantial amount of time linking to ESPN stories. Hey, maybe that is part of the job description, but I don't think that it is particularly hard to find the basketball articles at ESPN.com; by all means, cite an article once in a while if you have something unique to say about it or if it is really, really interesting but otherwise it seems like needless duplication to have staff writers producing original work and a blogger who is essentially advertising the writers' work.
What about when I place links in a post to earlier 20 Second Timeout posts or when I place links to a new article that I wrote for a different site? Isn't that the same thing? The difference is that 20 Second Timeout is newer than ESPN.com and not nearly as big. A new reader here might have no idea that a certain player or team has been extensively discussed in a previous post, so sometimes it is relevant to indicate that. Similarly, if I don't mention that I have written an article for another site, readers may not be aware of it--but anyone visiting ESPN's basketball blog presumably can very easily find the articles written by the site's various staff writers.
So why did I wait until nearly two weeks after my initial Donaghy post to make this post? My initial thought was that people who are posting nothing but links to ESPN.com and other big websites are not harming anyone, so why antagonize them. Also, sometimes I wonder if it would improve 20 Second Timeout's traffic even more to do the same thing; hey, posting nothing but a few links is a lot easier and faster than actually coming up with original commentary. I finally concluded that while doing nothing but posting such links does no harm I really, honestly do not understand what good it does, so maybe in response to this post someone will write a comment that will help me to understand why such posts are so popular. As for making such posts myself, I don't see that ever happening. I enjoy analyzing players, teams and events and would not be interested in just putting up some links to redirect people to stuff that they can easily find on their own.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:50 PM