When it comes to sports media, this I know — fans cannot get enough AND everyone thinks they can do a better job than ESPN. SB Nation (that’s Sports Blog Nation) has morphed from a loosely-federated group of homegrown sports blogs to a collection of 310 individual websites, maintained by a network of part-time contract writers. And, in the understatement of the year, the quality varies wildly. But, then again, fans can’t seem to get enough sports content.
In 2012, YouTube sought out more “original “content and teamed up with SB Nation, as part of D.C.-based Vox Media (owners of The Verge and Polygon), creating a channel dedicated to this ultra fan-friendly sports outlet. As someone with a background in sports media, and a hypercritical eye for authenticity and originality in sports video, my take is that SB Nation’s video efforts are wildly inconsistent and a far cry from their competitors (which are growing in number).
At the top end of the scale, I like Amy K. Nelson’s “Full Nelson,” a long-form (long for web video that is) interview show with sports newsmakers; one insightful production examines Wade Davis, former Redskins and Titans DB, who came out as gay, effectively putting an end to his career. While my sense is Nelson has average-to-below-average sports knowledge, she has an engaging manner and a strong, direct interviewing style. At the bottom end of the scale — well, there’s a lot to choose from — but I choose to take dead aim at “The Daily Win” — which I think may or may not be a spin-off or recasting of “Three Reasons Why.”
What makes sports video/TV bad? My pet peeves are hoodie-wearing pundits that place their personality over the quality of their information, writing that is smug and overly laden with strange and offbeat pop-culture references (“Three Reasons Why” is guilty of that sin), and improper use of on-screen graphics to highlight what the wise-guy commentator is saying. Yes, sports fans, most of us can read. Suffering through as many of “The Daily Wins” and “Three Reasons Why” I could find (Chromecast to the rescue), I found the hosts annoying: Dan Rubenstein came off as wooden with far too much teleprompter staring and Matt Ufford gave off a snarky coolness (which is neither snarky nor cool). You’d think a legion of sports nuts (and I resemble that remark), growing up on SportsCenter, watching great programming such as “Pardon the Interruption,” would have a better feel for how to engage with, and entertain, fans always hungry for great, controversial (well-thought out, that is) commentary.
Yes, I am harsh in my stance with the lower rungs of SB Nation’s YouTube work, but not nearly as brutal as the countless devotees who live and die with their teams and favorite players. Getting it right is not easy but the reward is worth the effort.