Phil Caldwell

Sports Blogging With a Grin

Is Bleacher Report Losing It’s Cutting-Edge Freshness and Going Corporate?

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I may end up getting myself cast off Bleacher Report for good with this rant, but what the heck.  Taking risks are what makes life exciting!

As a writer for Bleacher/Report,

Bleacher Report is one of the great stories of the “new journalism” era.   It is a place where young writers trying to get started, can advance up the writer chain with a “points system.”   It’s great.

It’s also a place where some of us older guys finally have the freedom to cut loose and write what we really feel.  There’s none of the business politics holding us back that is so rampant and routine at every single newspaper in the country. B/R is a young company started by young guys, most of whom don’t even know about the battles common, where writers have daily punching bouts with their editors.

Sadly things are changing at Bleacher Report, but it was bound to happen.  It cannot be avoided.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a totally sarcastic and absolutely hilarious (<–note witty sarcasm) article about the Texas Longhorns.  Now I’m not a Longhorn-hater particularly, but I found it interesting how Texas just may find themselves on the outside looking in when all these new NCAA football leagues are finalized.  Nobody wants Texas in their conference, because of the reputation they enjoy as being fiscal bullies with special rules.  I wrote a nice long, sorta fast-moving piece about that very subject.

Well after about 2500 reads in a couple days, an Oklahoma fan got all offended.  He said it was because I was hostile to women in the piece because of a quip (I said something like Sooner women have leather skin and tend to lose the razor in places where we’d prefer they keep using it).  Something like that.  Totally me horsing around like I do when I write.

Well the article got pulled.  And although the reason given was that the B/R staff (who will remain nameless) felt the content was “trollish,”  because I was flipping too much crap at Texas and Oklahoma fans. I felt it was because this guy didn’t like me making wise cracks about his favorite team.   In other words, I was giving them too hard a time with my article, and we can’t have that. We can’t offend these very important people of higher-ups at institutions.   We can’t have guys taking shots at other football programs just for fun.  Especially when it’s at the Oklahoma Sooners (all stand up and salute please).  You can’t take cheap shots at the Oklahoma Sooners you idiot.  Do you know how many big bucks are there are down in the flat-lands of Oklahoma?!?  Ever hear of oil wells?!?

Which is interesting, because what attracted all of us veteran writers to Bleacher Report in the first place, was the fact that here was a new website that was sorta “Wild-Wild-West.” Unlike crusty old newspaper editors, here you could write anything, and you didn’t really have to worry about your editor pulling the piece, because you took cheap shots at a sacred football institution that just happens to have a whole bunch of wealthy alumni, some of whom provided start-up funds for your site.

That’s precisely what was so attractive about Bleacher Report!  Fans could be fans.  Fans could bait the other team’s fans, raging debates would break out, insults would fly, and it was one big tailgating party in print.  A hootenanny of epic proportions.  But we’re all having harmless fun here so what’s the big deal??  College football teams.  We don’t know these guys other than their names.  Why NOT take cheap shots?!  This is where cheap shots live and breathe.  College football forums by college football fans.

See that was what was so cool about Bleacher Report, and the concept of the site.  That’s what got B/R the hits in the first place.  B/R was doing this sports thing from a new young angle, that hadn’t been seen in the more traditional media.  And guys like me, who have long-since gotten over the notoriety of seeing our names in print, could sorta air it out here, like we can’t everywhere else.  But that’s what made Bleacher Report so unique.

Now it appears, Bleacher Report is maturing (unlike me), and we’re now seeing a bit more hesitance to allow classless boobs to write wise cracks.  They’d like to see this more traditional.  Lose the T-shirts, let’s go back to the white shirts and ties and sell life insurance.  This isn’t the Boston Red Sox, this is the NY Yankees.  Corporate-style media, so now it’s time to stifle these undisciplined punks, and let’s get this group of renegades house-broken and back to the confines of semi-boring reading material without jokes.

Now I totally understand why Bleacher Report feels the need to tighten up the writing standards (ie: more profits from more exposure, which you can’t do if you’re taking cheap shots at the Texas Longhorns).

But I would argue you’re also killing the freshness and the attraction that led many of your readers to the site in the first place.  Fans like to argue and pop off about their teams.  But now suddenly we can’t write certain things about certain teams?  Really?!

Let’s go back to my Texas example again.  Do I hate Texas?  Well no, I didn’t.  But now that my article got pulled because some of my funnies got Texas alumni sideways ….. well let’s just say cheap shots may have to find their way back to the between-the-lines method, like we’ve done for years in the traditional print media.  You can still get your shots in, but it’s not like the NY Media anymore.  Nope, now it’s like the Duluth, Minnesota media, where everything is polite and politically correct and unoffensive.

Me quipping to the B/R staff during this exchange “Well it looks like the Big12 isn’t the only place where Texas gets special rules.” probably didn’t earn me an invite to the B/R Christmas Party at the end of the year, either.

“Hey you punk!  You can’t say Texas is like an uninvited guest showing up with a plastic blond on his arm while everybody else rolls their eyes!!  This is Texas!!  The Texas Longhorns!!  Everybody LOVES the Texas Longhorns!!  And if they don’t, we’ll have them censored so fast it will make the critic’s keyboard melt!”

My point is that yes, I admit it, some of my stuff can be crass and tends to tease certain groups of fans.  But that’s why we read Bleacher Report.  It was different than all the other boring CBS.comand FOX.com stuff.  That’s precisely what made it so attractive to your readers, and yet now it appears the goal is to kill that freedom and go back to stuffy frowning editors refusing to let us write witty and cheap-shot rhetoric.

Now what fun is that??!

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