Column: The Story Behind BSMW

I’ve given bits and pieces before, but I don’t think I ever gone into detail as to why Boston Sports Media Watch exists today.

I’ve always been a huge consumer of anything Boston sports. I would buy all the newspapers, listen to WEEI all day, watch the Sunday night sports shows, and read USENET postings on the internet. When I discovered Bill Simmons’ Boston Sports Guy site on Digital City Boston back in 1998, I was in heaven. I had my own opinions on guys like Dan Shaughnessy, Peter May, etc, but reading Simmons tear them apart, I realized that probably a lot of people felt the same way. He also updated the site every day late morning with links to stories from newspapers across New England, and also odd stories from around the country.

I spent a lot of time in the old USENET groups, especially in those on the Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots. There were a lot of knowledgeable, intelligent posters in those groups, but even more idiots and trolls.

Some of those posters would point out errors, agendas and hypocrisy in the various media reports and stories. I found that stuff very interesting. For a short time, there was even a small website out there that was meant to point out these errors and inconsistencies in Red Sox coverage. I can’t remember the name of it, or really anything about it. When I found it, I immediately liked it, and fired off a long email about some inconsistencies and agendas on the part of Peter May. The website emailed back that while the information was very good, they only wanted to focus on the Red Sox coverage. That planted a seed in my mind.

In time a couple of thing started to steer me in the direction of creating a site. I enjoyed my day job in the IT department of New Hampshire Public Television, but at the same time, I wanted something more. Helping people change their passwords and find files they deleted by accident gets old after a while. I couldn’t see myself doing tech support stuff for the next 40 years. I wanted something on the side to challenge me. But what could I do? I had no illusions about my abilities to write, even though I enjoyed writing. I actually considered signing on with the Connecticut School of Broadcasting…I even sent away for their brochures. Before they even came, I knew that wasn’t something I really wanted to do.

For years I had enjoyed the sports media columns of Howard Manley, Bill Griffith and Jim Baker. To me, they seemed to have the ideal jobs. They wrote about what they saw on TV, heard on the radio and read in the newspapers. They also talked to people in the industry and got information on upcoming events. That seemed like a pretty good gig. How in the world did they get it? How would someone else get a position like that? I started looking around the internet for other sports media columns, and found that most cities had a couple.

I knew it would be just about impossible to get a column like that, but I figured I’d try. I wrote a few sample columns, which now when I look back on them, they’re just horrible. But I showed these to Bill Griffith at the Globe, and asked for his input. He was incredibly helpful. He offered suggestions on writing style, and what types of things that the reader is going to be looking for. I then took my samples and tried shopping them around to a few small papers in the area. The Portsmouth Herald, and Fosters Daily Democrat were the two that I targeted. I actually heard back from the Portsmouth Herald, and the publisher was very polite, yet explained that he just didn’t have the column space to dedicate to such a venture. We went back and forth a little bit, and he offered a few suggestions and ideas to try out.

Basically, I had gotten nowhere. I felt a little foolish, but still wanted to do something different. I had thought of a webpage, but even though I was in a technical job, I knew nothing about how to create or maintain a site. Then, reading a trade magazine in the first months of 2002, I learned about this new rage that was sweeping the internet: blogs. It seemed everyone was creating a blog. It made it easy to get online and have your voice out there. I found Blogger, the free service that allows you to create your own blog, and I signed up. I wasn’t really planning on the blog being something that would attract readers, or really go anywhere. What I figured was that it could give me a place to practice writing, as well as to keep some notes on what things were happening in the Boston sports media so that I could refer back to them at a later time. I thought it might also give me a chance to build up a “body of work” so that if I had a chance to try a column at a local paper, I could show them what I had been doing.

The early days of BSMW show a lot of choppy, uneven posts. I had no idea how I should go about it. Fittingly, the very first post on the old site took a shot at Dan Shaughnessy. When I started doing the daily links early in the morning, the site really took off. The weeks and months went by, and I tried to watch and listen to as much as a could without impacting the rest of my life negatively. I posted updates on sports radio shows, on TV shows, I did recaps of the Sunday Night Sports shows, which always left me burned on Monday morning. In June of that year, I got my first break as Bill Griffith mentioned the site in the Sunday Globe. I didn’t see a huge spike in traffic just yet, but it was a start, people were finding the website, and encouraging me to continue. I added a “tag board” to the site which allowed people to post running conversations in the sidebar. This grew so popular that eventually the company that provided the service (I was paying for it, but it wasn’t much per month) eventually told me that my board was using too much of their processing ability and that I would need to move it. Around the same time, an incident on the board made me realize that I needed to be able to keep a tighter lid on the things that were being said there, so the board was removed. It was replaced with a message board, which then had to be replaced with another board a few months later.

It took me some time to find my “voice” and I don’t think I’m all the way there yet. (More in a future column) I’ve tried adding things here and there to the site, and it will probably always be a work-in-progress, but the heart and soul of the site seem to be the daily links, which have their clear roots in the old Bill Simmons Boston Sports Guy website. I still interject commentary where I feel appropriate and have added a Friday column with news and items picked up from the week as well as weekend television listings. In any event, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been able to do over the last four years and what I’ve achieved from my original intent and goals. It’s actually been more than I could’ve hoped for.

Next week, I’m going to take a look at some of the things that I’ve learned since starting up BSMW.

  • mallen

    Thanks! I'd forgotten about Howard Manley & Jim Baker!