Thursday, February 04, 2021

Revisiting The Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament

In February 2009, I created the first of four annual Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournaments. This was a time when the blog scene exploded, and the goal of the tournament was to highlight the outstanding writing and work by so many people. I also hoped that there would be more exposure to the blogs and to encourage collaboration among the bloggers. 

Twelve years later, I wondered how many of the 32 blogs in the original tournament are still active today. The answer is not many. And by not many, my count is seven-ish:

Behind the Steel Curtain
The Pensblog
Steelers Gab
Bucs Dugout
PensBurgh (The Confluence was in the tournament, and Tony of this blog joined PensBurgh in 2014)
Nice Pick Cowher (which turned into Still Curtain at some point)
Sean's Ramblings

Taking my blog out of this, all of these blogs are under larger conglomerates or organizations now. Behind the Steel Curtain, PensBurgh, and Bucs Dugout are all blogs on SB Nation. The Pensblog is under The Sports Daily. There is a separate "Gab" blog for every NFL team. Still Curtain is a Fansided blog. Except for possibly Hooks Orpik on PensBurgh, I don't believe that any of the writers who wrote these blogs back in 2009 are still writing on these sites. Plus, all of these active blogs have multiple writers today.

Maintaining a blog can be difficult, especially over many years. Writing a team-specific blog for years is impossible. In non-pandemic times, you're looking at 162 baseball games, 16 football games, 82 hockey games and that doesn't include any preseason or postseason games. Plus, if you are a team-specific blog, the games are only part of your site. You have to write about drafts, trades, transactions, coaching hirings/firings, and more. It's easy to burn out quickly if you're trying to cover a team by yourself. For better or worse, I still have this blog because I write about a wide variety of topics (including Pittsburgh sports on occasion though less than I did a decade ago) and enjoy doing it. I joked about the idea of writing a blog only about Sheffield Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and my cat last year, and that only lasted one day.

What happened to the other blogs listed in the bracket above? Seth of Empty Netters still writes about the Penguins for Tribune-Review Sports and makes a living doing this. Dan of Blog 'n' Gold also gets paid to write though that particular blog is gone. Of course, both of these blogs had the backing of the Post-Gazette, so it was a bit of a different animal even then. Most of the writers shifted from their blogs to Twitter. The blogging and social media landscape have obviously changed over the years. Twitter really wasn't that big when the first tournament started. Writing (or reading) a quick take on Twitter is much easier. You can engage with fellow fans in real time. It's the perfect format to yell TOUCHDOWN!! in a tweet and get instant responses. 

I should also mention that I try to contact Don of Mondesi's House every few years. Mondesi's House was arguably the biggest Pittsburgh blog during this time and just disappeared. Don has never replied to any of my inquiries. 

Personally, I miss the independent blogger days. It was a fun community. So please excuse me as I reminisce.

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