Sports Bloggers Can Be Hypocritical, and Lazy

You don’t have to be a veteran of the blogosphere to know that one of sports bloggers favorite pastimes is ripping on ESPN. Sure, I’ve taken a few shots at the Worldwide Leader over time — their prevalence in the lives of sports enthusiasts makes it hard not to. And I do believe that us blogs serve an excellent role in keeping ESPN accountable considering their relative lack of competition. But here’s one problem I have. Many of the same bloggers and blogs that criticize ESPN are not only lazy, but they’re also hypocritical. Check out the chart below that I made based on some data the creator of Ballhype, Jason, was kind enough to send me:

If you check the count of most linked to sites in the last 90 days, ESPN dwarfs everyone else. It’s not even funny. But you know what that means? It means that despite all the bashing, complaining, and criticism, the site still remains a favorite amongst bloggers.

I first started to notice this trend the more I used Ballhype, which is a must-use site for all sports bloggers. It amazes me how AP stories can hit the wire making them available on almost every single sports site on the web, yet bloggers will choose to link to the ESPN version. It amazes me how AP game recaps can be produced for all the major sports sites, yet bloggers will choose to link to the ESPN version.

For the most part, I will link to ESPN’s website under two circumstances. One, when they have an exclusive story or broke news first. The second is when I’m looking up an old story, because ESPN has incredible online archives and googles really well. The rest of the time, I’ll just go find the local version of the news story or game recap, because they almost always have more information, more details, and more quotes from people involved in the story. Sometimes I admit, I’ll just use the AP version of a story, but then I’ll mix up which major site I’ll pull it from. Sometimes I’ll use ESPN’s version, sometimes SI’s, sometimes Foxsports.com’s, sometimes Sportslines, and sometimes AOL Sports’ version.

So here’s my question to bloggers: if you dislike ESPN so much, then why do you constantly link to their website? Why do you make it your first stop for generic stories? If they have an exclusive, then by all means, link to them. But if it’s the exact same story you can find on any sports site, then why don’t you grab it from a different site for a change?

Well, if your answer is because it’s just easy and you prefer ESPN.com, then don’t complain about their omnipresence. But if you don’t have a good answer, then why don’t you take a cue and start linking out to other sites? Who knows, you might wind up finding a new site you’ve never been to before and enjoy it. This is a free internet for the most part, why limit yourself to one place for sports info on the web? It just makes no sense.

Thanks once again to Jason from Ballhype for providing the data.

UPDATE: Per Jamie in the comments, this is the top 10 most linked to Mainstream sites (True Hoop and Hashmarks are not included in espn.com’s rankings), which leads me to believe that anything from FanHouse was not included in these stats either.

Around The Web

  • http://www.bugsandcranks.com/author/adam-godson Adam G

    Awesome points, Larry. I’ve been annoyed by the same thing at ballhype. I try to link to blogs if I can, even if they didn’t break the story. I’ll generally only link to ESPN if it’s an archive or something really unique that I can’t find anywhere else. I don’t hate the WWL, but I don’t watch it or read it either. You’re spot on with this hypocracy.

  • http://www.dotdsports.com Kyle

    Great point. Which is why most of the best blogs you see don’t rip ESPN. It’s far too easy.

  • http://thefeed.blogs.com TheFeed

    Really good piece, Larry. I try to do what you do and mix it up, especially if I’m linking to AP stuff, but more often try to find something in a local paper if I’m not linking to a blog. Unless, as you say, the archives because they are good for the salient details of older stories. I don’t spend a ton of time bashing ESPN, it’s kinda like complaining about taxes, but those that do should heed your advice about finding links.

  • http://with-malice.com WithMalice

    So… Death, Taxes & ESPN? :p

  • http://www.misterirrelevant.com Jamie Mottram

    LB, do you know if FanHouse and AOL Sports were included here as two separate entities or one in the same? I ask b/c it seems strange that they’re not represented in the results.

  • http://www.milehighramblings.blogspot.com/ the butler

    nice work, LB.

  • http://ballhype.com/ Jason

    Re: Jamie’s question & the update –

    Correct–FanHouse was excluded from the sports.aol.com numbers; otherwise, it would have easily cracked the top 10.

    Following Larry’s lead, I’m planning to do a more general link analysis study next month.

  • http://thehaternation.com NFL Adam

    This is one of my biggest gripes in general. The thing that disturbs me about Ballhype is that too many bloggers simply list to stories that are on ESPN, AOL’s Fan House , or other main stream sites. Great, like I couldn’t find that. Meanwhile a lot of original content gets buried by dudes passing links that everybody has already seen.

    There should be a rule, if it’s on ESPN, Deadspin, et al, then everybody has seen it. Bloggers should concentrate more on creating original content and commentary instead of passing off an ESPN with a, “Hey look at something that somebody else wrote.” There are a couple of major sports blogs that are becoming unreadable because they are nothing more than (what my man D calls) a headline clearing house.

  • http://s2nblog.wordpress.com Signal to Noise

    If it starts on wire copy, I generally grab it from Yahoo because I think the site’s cleaner and less cluttered than the Four Letter’s. Otherwise, I try to find the original newspaper piece.

    Taking swipes at ESPN has become almost too easy now, and as much as most bloggers love to hate it, many wouldn’t know what to do without it, and I may include myself in that statement — I watch too much for my own good.

  • http://thesportshernia.typepad.com/blog The Sports Hernia

    We try to mix it up with who we link too, and like you said, the local links usually have more quotes, etc.

    As far as ESPN bashing is concerned, we post about them when we see something ridiculous like John Kruk’s hair heading for the border or when Ric Bucher looks like an overly tanned wax figure. But we still appreciate it for the good things like Gammons, Kirkjian, etc.

  • http://www.wearethepostmen.com PostmanE

    Brilliant, Larry. It’s far too easy, with the accessibility of hundreds of major newspaper web sites, to ignore ESPN. If you hate it, do so. If not, stop complaining, and build your own community.

    Or say thank you, and be on your way. Either way, I don’t give a DAMN, what YOU THINK you ARE ENTITLED TO!

  • http://www.wearethepostmen.com PostmanE

    /Colonel Jessup

  • http://www.hogshaven.com Skin Patrol

    How do you know the people who hate ESPN are the same ones linking to them? I don’t recall bashing the WWL on my blog, but I also don’t recall linking to them more than other sites. Most of their original content for NFL is behind insider subscription walls anyways, which is the only thing about ESPN that I really hate.

    While it might be true that the blogosphere in general links to ESPN a lot — and the data confirms that — it doesn’t mean any individual blogger is a hypocrite. People bashing ESPN might rarely link to ESPN afterall.

  • http://psamp.blogspot.com tecmo_bowl_bo_jackson

    Yeah, in all fairness, some sportsblogs don’t bash ESPN, but are merely pointing to stories that you should read.

    An example is Nonstop Pittsburgh Steelers (http://nonstopsteelers.blogspot.com). They link to ESPN, SI, Sportsline, etc because the site is dedicated to all Stelers news. There’s no way that casual Steelers fans have the chance to read every single article about their team, and the woman who runs the site does a good job of accumulating the info.

    Myself, on the other hand…I don’t link to ESPN, primarily because they don’t need the views. If they can get 150,000 people to vote for every round on Who’s Now, then they don’t need me linking to them. I know I don’t have the largest readership, but if I can throw a few visits in the direction of a smaller site who has similar content, then I’ll be all for it.

  • http://extrapolater.wordpress.com extrapolater

    I’m going to tell you a truth right now. If the WWL asked me to write a column for them tomorrow, I’d jump at the chance. If they asked me to change my style drastically, I’d probably decline, but otherwise, why would I blow off the widest possible viewership for my writing? There are still a lot of good writers working there – they just get buried by the big names (or Insider, which sucks).

  • http://extrapolater.wordpress.com extrapolater

    Also, you should be glad I’m lazy, because I followed The Feed’s link here. I could surf the net all day just following all of my friends linking to one another, and probably get the best content out there.

  • http://awfulannouncing.blogspot.com Awful Announcing

    Sorry I missed this post yesterday. Coming from the person who probably bashes them the most, I think the whole point is not linking them. It’s rare that I do.

    I think NFL Adam said it the best so far…

    “Great, like I couldn’t find that. Meanwhile a lot of original content gets buried by dudes passing links that everybody has already seen.”

    I’m not trying to call out Ballhype, or Yardbarker, or ArmchairGM…..but out of those three there’s only one site I still go to. I can see very easily how one of those content sites can get watered down real quick.

  • http://www.ladiesdotdotdot.com TheStarterWife

    In my little corner of Ladies, I don’t think I link to ESPN very often, (mostly other blogs, SI, AP, NYTimes), and usually I use those type of links just to cite the source from which I am about to jump of into my own thing. Does mean anything, I just want to show I am not pulling something out of thin air.

    It is one of the problem with just looking at links, you have to examine how that link is being used.

  • http://zachls.blogspot.com/ The Big Picture

    great post, Larry.

    I’m usually an SI guy for major stuff — mainly b/c the site is easier to navigate and doesn’t have the fucking video to slow my computer down.

    but good points all around. and big ups to NFL Adam for bringing up a gripe of his which is likely many of our gripes.

  • SpinMax

    I tend to avoid espn for stories because so many times in the past you end up running into a video or ‘insider’ garbage.

    yahoo, si or cbssportsline are my first destinations

  • http://simononsportsblogspot.com simon

    I think it is just the place that people will complain about the most because it is the most “Now” as they would put it.

    Personally, I don’t have any problem with the majority of what ESPN does and am probably one of the main culprits in pumping up the ESPN ballhype stats. My guess is that there vast more bloggers who feel similar to me.

    In addition I’m assuming that everytime someone bitches about espn that the link to the site to point out exactly what they didn’t like.

  • http://www.leavethemanalone.com leavethemanalone

    Good observation. A tremendous amount of ESPN news comes off the wire. And too much content is behind the insider wall. There’s no reason to link to them. I try to link to the local sources that have the most information or links I hope don’t expire like yahoo.

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  • http://www.partmule.com PartMule

    …I’m as guilty as anyone linking to ESPN. Although, I’m still not sure what the hell I am – Sports, Entertainment, A Jack-Ass.

    Seriously. Nice post. Ballhype is a great resource.

  • http://www.conquestchronicles.com Paragon SC

    Great post.

    I’m not one to rip them but I link to ESPN and other MSM outlets all the time. I will call ESPN out when they do something stupid like calling USC’s 2005 team the greatest of all time without having won that years championship. That whole campaign was absurd. Seeing that I live 3000 miles from the team I cover (USC) its tough to get to the campus for practices in order to get some information first hand.

    It’s a little off-topic but relevant but, I understand about being considered lazy but it is a vicious circle. Most teams won’t give bloggers access to root out good stories in order to write up good posts, they don’t think we are credible enough to warrant the access or that our bias as fans may swing too far in one direction or another.

    In order to really be original we need that access so we can formulate opinions based on what we see with our own eyes, instead we are left to sift through the different media outlets to extract the stories that we can add some insight or originality to while also making it interesting for our readers. The problem with that is that by the time a story hits ESPN, Fox or even the AP, its been filtered down to just the basics while probably leaving out some good pieces of information.

    You can write game previews, team reviews or extrapolate stats for only so long. But in the end blogging is about commentary. Writers who can take previously released information and make it interesting with humor or more detailed facts and opinion are the ones who really set the standard in this medium. The MSM knows that and begrudgingly accepts it. The rest of us are out there doing it because we are passionate about our team and if we are a little over the top in our analysis then so be it. I don’t get paid for it so I’m not worried about others opinions. I do the best job I can and if I don’t do a good enough job readership will drop. It is as simple as that.

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  • http://www.truehoop.com Henry Abbott

    Here’s the idea that I think will win in the end: do what’s best for your readers and link to the best story. Period.

    And let me take a moment aside to hype my employer, ESPN. Some of that traffic we get is probably laziness. But I’m telling you that guys like Marc Stein, Chris Sheridan, Chad Ford, John Hollinger, David Thorpe, Eric Neel, and the like generate a lot of inbound links because they very often are doing the best NBA work on the internet, and you can’t find it on other sites.

    On my own blog, if there is a story that many different outlets have covered, I search around and read several different versions. If there’s one that’s more thorough, better written, etc., that’s the one I’m linking to every time. To pick one for its brand, or to stick it to the man etc. is to deny your readers the best stuff out there, which in the long run makes your blog a little less relevant.

    Also, as I just wrote in the comments of the BallHype post about this same thing, aggregation is important. Pointing out the top stories of the day not only makes your readers aware of them, but also tells sites like google and ballhype what’s important.

  • http://www.cosellout.com/?p=56 MODI

    Larry, good post, good question, and I understand your overall point. Although new to the blog game, I am both an ESPN basher (see link for ESPN’s RAP SHEET: Pacman as Black Man”) and an ESPN linker. I guess that i will take your hit on being a hypocrite. The reason I will continue to criticize ESPN, Sports Illustrated and other big names is not just because it is easy, but because of wanting to contribute, perhaps naively, to changing their future content. Isn’t that one of the goals for all of us?

    A reason to link to ESPN is to make a point on a bad article OR sometimes to praise a good article to show readers what ESPN can become.

    Having stated that, I will give your argument some more thought. The problem is that I have just as many problems with the AP as I do ESPN.

  • http://www.cosellout.com/?p=56 MODI

    I just read Henry Abbott’s post and he makes some good points. Abbott is an example, IMO, of one of ESPN’s GOOD reporters. Perhaps we should weigh the merits of articles themselves no matter where the source of the post.