Wednesday, January 05, 2005
RantBlog: Why do the Red Sox seem to have about 300 times more high and mid-quality blogs than any other major league team, and possibly any other sports team?
Dear lord. I got the idea for this many, many weeks ago, in a fit of internet surfing. There are a lot of sports blogs out there (a ridiculous lot, really, and if you don't believe me maybe you'll believe the Brushback), but most of the quality ones I was coming across were Red Sox blogs, and I found myself wondering why this should be so. Naturally I'm of the opinion that Red Sox fans are the best, funniest, most intelligent and literate people in all of baseball, possibly in all of sports, and perhaps in the entire world. But that's the admittedly biased opinion of a Red Sox fan herself. Why should the blogosphere (seemingly) support it?
Now, before you all go and get your panties or comparable undergarments into a twist, I am not suggesting that the only quality sports blogs out there are Red Sox blogs. Perish the thought. There are other great writers out there, writing for other teams (although, really, lord knows why they'd want to). What gets me are the sheer number of Red Sox blogs that are witty, well-written, insightful, or some felicitous combination of all three attributes. There are other fan bases with other well-written blogs, but the Sox seem to have more of them. That's the hypothesis I started out with. I wanted to find out whether or not this was true, and if it was, why.
I meant this to be a shortish, ranty blog, filled with sophomoric bashes at poor webdesign (you're still going to get those, so sit tight kids) and a few choice links.
Then, because I approach everything- up to and including art projects- like a research assignment, I started doing some actual, erm, research.
Let's put it this way. It might not be short anymore. I think I'll do at least two installments (possibly three, if it gets extra unwieldy), and each installment is likely to be quite sizable. I promise that if you read through it all you'll actually learn a bit, though, so I implore you to give it a try before writing it off as utterly unreadable. If you read it and find it still to be utterly unreadable, well, there's always the irate email reaction.
Installment the First
Location, Location, Location.
I should probably preface this with a note that I realize full well that I am probably missing a lot of the blogs out there in the vast sporting blogosphere. Despite increasing belief to the contrary, Google does not have the ability to answer everything perfectly. A search for 'Detroit Tiger blog' will turn up certain things, but probably will not hit a number of the Tiger blogs that exist. This very site, for example, would probably not turn up under a search for 'Red Sox blogs', 'Lions blogs', 'Patriots blogs', 'Dolphins blogs', or 'Michigan Wolverine blogs'.
If you google "the Joey Harrington face" in quotes, though, this is the only site that turns up [edit, at least, it did a week ago. Not doing so now. Hmm]. I feel that I can be proud of this small accomplishment. "ManningMarkII" yields both this site and Cursed to First and OK I'm going to stop googling myself now. The point is made. Google is precise if you're asking it precise questions, but when you ask for something as general as Detroit Tigers blogs it is not going to be able to give you all the answers you want.
For lack of a better source, I've taken a look at the listings on Sports Blogs, among other things. I realize full well that this is a very incomplete crosssection of the sports blogosphere, but it should still be a relatively valid way to look at some general numbers without going through 8 billion pages of search engine results. When it comes to individual blogs I've found it's better to look at a few ones you like and check out their personal blogrolls to get a feel for that particular blogging community, but in this case all I want are the rough numbers.
Sports Blogs has the Chicago Cubs as the most blogged baseball team, with 70 links. The Boston Red Sox are close behind with 68, followed by the Mets with 47, the Yanks with 34, and the Mariners with 30 (although in practice I've seen more Mariner links than Yankee links... again, let me emphasize that I realize the SB blogroll is imperfect). Again, these are just numbers, and have nothing to do with content or quality. I'll get to those shortly.
We have represented here the top of the quantified sports blogging heap. With the New York and Chicago teams lumped together respectively (oh, they'll hate me for that), the top 5 baseball blogging cities rank as follows:
2. New York
Are these teams more heavily represented in the blogosphere because their fans are more dedicated (or insane), or is this somehow related to the cities themselves?
This is a thought that's been ratcheting around the back of my mind ever since reading the interesting reports that Goodspeed Update posted a while back, in which he related city population, city 'coolness' factors, and the city's blogging population. According to the city 'coolness' ratings compiled by Professor Richard Florida, the top five 'cool' cities in the US are as follows:
1. New York
Once you get rid of the vomit in your mouth that was brought on by seeing Austin listed above Boston, take a good look at that list. Now look at the one above it.
If you think that's a brain-knocker, check out the top 10 baseball blogging cities:
2. New York
6. San Francisco
7-8 (tie). Baltimore and Detroit
9-10 (tie). Atlanta and Kansas City
Now take a look at the top 10 cities with the highest number of bloggers overall:
1. New York
2. San Francisco
3. Los Angeles
9. San Diego
Hello overlap. There's little direct correlation, but plenty of the numbers are close enough to make one sit up and take notice. It's also probably worthwhile to note that New York and Chicago have two baseball teams each, which might up their sports blogging numbers somewhat (I somehow find it amusing that Cubs fans far outblog the ChiSox, but Mets fans outblog their Bronx counterparts).
Go stick your nose in the Goodspeed Update article for more on this, but the basic idea is this: the 'cooler' a city is, the more bloggers it will have. The more bloggers a city has, the more sports bloggers it will have (assuming that city actually has sports teams). Since we're mostly looking at baseball here, those are baseball teams. New York, Chicago, Boston, and Seattle all have baseball teams. All four are in the top 10 cities when it comes to both coolness and number of overall bloggers.
So are Mets, Yanks, Cubs, ChiSox, BoSox, and Mariners fans blogging more because of some intrinsic factor of their own respective fandoms, or simply because they are in cities where the locals are more inclined to blog anyways?
This doesn't even get into the bloggers who write about teams from distant locales (everyone wave hello to the Singapore Sox Fan), but that's a whole other set of issues, and I'm not sure I can get enough information to even pretend to be moderately informed about it.
You Have to Suffer for Your Art.
Let's take a look at the teams of the 6 most baseball-populated blogging cities. The Mets have been one of the most hilarious poorly-run franchises of recent years. The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908 (that's, what, 96 years now?). The White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917. The Boston Red Sox, until this past WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP season, were one of the most perplexingly hapless teams in baseball. The Mariners haven't won a World Series since... well, they actually haven't ever won one. Nor have they ever won a pennant. They've been to the postseason a few times, though.
Excepting the Yankees, 5 of your top 6 baseball blogospheres are centered around clubs of prolonged suffering.
Of course, there are suffering teams that don't seem to have high blog counts. If losses were all it took to make a blogging community, one might expect the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to have quite a following. Please note, however, that Tampa Bay is not a city with a particularly huge blogging presence to begin with. Add that to the fact that I'm pretty sure all of 5 people are actual DRays fans anyways, and their lack of blogs is adequetely explained.
More perplexing is the dearth of Detroit Tigers blogs, and no, I am not just saying this because I happen to be in Michigan. Detroit, perhaps obviously, tanks on the 'cool' city ratings (it doesn't even crack the top 20). It does however sport a happy history of horrible teams (following 1984), and it is a very surprising number 4 on the overall blogging population list, over Seattle, Boston, and Chicago. What gives?
It took me a bit to realize the reason for the disparity here. Goodspeed Update, in his desire to try and accomodate large blogging populations that are associated with so-called secondary cities, had lumped some cities together. San Francisco and Oakland seem to have merged in his numbers (Oakland has a respectably-sized blogging community, and this no doubt is a big part of what bumped SanFran up to number 2 in those rankings). More pertinently, I'm almost dead certain that he's merged the pure Detroit numbers with those of the Ann Arbor blogging community.
Detroit may have a good number of blogs on its own, especially if we're going by the 'you have to suffer for your art' rule (the excellent detroitblog immediately comes to mind). But Ann Arbor has a ridiculous number of blogs, partly due to the whole college-ness of the city, partly due to whole Ann-Arbor-ness of it (if you live here, you know exactly what I mean). Merging Detroit and A-squared numbers would boost Detroit's overall blog count significantly while keeping its baseball numbers down. Because Ann Arbor may be many things, but a baseball town it ain't.
The high numbers of bad-team (or former bad-team, hee hee) fans blogging certainly could have something to do with the fact that writing about one's agony can often be cathartic. After writing a long and ranting blog entry about a poorly played game, I usually feel a little better, a little more able to view the next game with some measure of equanimity. Ah, who am I kidding, I'm a raging mass of nerves during every big game, but that's beside the point.
It's also worth noting that suffering often makes for better writing. One of the most lyrical baseball blogs on the internet (whether this is a good or bad thing is a subject of some debate, but there it stands), Bambino's Curse, thrived on the pain of Red Sox fandom, so much so that the author actually hung up his proverbial pen when the Sox won it all. The only slightly bitter Mariners blog, Who Wants to Watch the World Series?, is often pretty funny and is always eminently readable. When the boys over at East Coast Agony get going on the BoSox or the Mets, it is generally good times for all (especially those among us who appreciate the fine art of sarcasm).
As for the Yankees... well. First off, I say we can call them a losing franchise now with a hearty and riteous chuckle, but I freely admit that they're not as unfortunate, historically, as the Ms, Mets, Cubs, or ChiSox. There's something to be said for the Greatest Choke in Baseball History (mmm, a moment to savor the phrase and its application to the New York Yankees, if you will) but perhaps they still don't seem to fit into the 'teams who suffer blog more' demographic. There are a couple of things to keep in mind that go a long way towards explaining their presence here.
Firstly, New York, as a whole, ranks highly in both the city 'coolness' and overall blogging population polls, making its inhabitants very likely to blog about anything, and therefore more inclined to blog about baseball than, say, those poor bastards down in Milwaukee.
Secondly, do you think Yankee fans like seeing the Mets outdo them in anything? No. Do not be foolish. I wouldn't be surprised if Steinbrenner got wind of the fact that the Mets are outblogging him and hired a special crack team of blogging masters to overtake them.
That's rather enough for one day, I think. Next installment, we address quality instead of just numbers. You get lots more links. We giggle at bad web design together. Edumacation for all. A really quite creepy conspiracy I seem to have stumbled across (I'm not even joking about that one). Coming soon.