It’s 2008: the blogging revolution has been absorbed by the establishment press and propped up as a new ‘form’ of journalism. Just read Andrew Sullivan’s recent apologist screed on blogs in the Atlantic. Apparently, the do-it-yourself amateur element is no longer intrinsic to the blog as literary form. Professionals can do it too. Blogging has gone mainstream.
Be that as it may, professional sportswriting, particularly on the one ineffable sport we all adore — football — resembled blogging long before some old lady in Arkansas decided to write daily missives on the bowel movements of her new kittens.
That’s because even with all the stats, injury lists and betting odds, when it comes to football, mainstream journalists are still just a bunch of apes groping a big shiny monolith, hammering out intuitive reactions on Diarra leaving Pompey or Allardyce taking over at Blackburn with no better grasp of the truth than their unwashed readers. It’s just once upon a time they could fool us into thinking they were ‘experts’ because they were in the newspaper and we weren’t.
Then came the Internet, and along with it the amateur sport-blogger. As when Blackburn Olympic ushered in an age of Northern working-class football dominance by winning the FA Cup in 1883, the line between amateur and professional started to blur. Now in order to keep up, once-proud feature columnists have stooped to blogging on-line, writing more frequently for less money. That’s the bad news.
The good news is these writers are pretty damn good. Sean Ingle’s guardian.co.uk/football still leads the pack, providing a plethora of seasoned writers writing on rotation, from Jonathan Wilson to Paul Wilson to Paul Doyle, reminding everyone that amid all the Interweb dross, a good writer is still hard to find.
Other sites are catching up though, providing more blogs and improved reader interaction. Just how long the mainstream football media can lord it over the rest of us remains to be seen, but for now mainstream bloggers are still among the best on the Internet, an encouraging sign for professional hacks everywhere. Here are five mainstream bloggers who stood out in 2008.
I’d like to thank Soccerlens award-winners Run of Play’s Brian Philips and Sport is a TV Show’s Fredorrarci for their help in compiling this list. As with all ‘best-of’ lists this one is entirely subjective, so rather than hurl invective just write in with some of your own.
J-Dub has had a banner year, publishing the surprisingly-entertaining Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics (Amazon). His blog for guardian.co.uk, poking around developments in Eastern European and Russian football, was especially relevant in a year when Zenit St. Petersburg won the UEFA Cup and Russia entertained so mercilessly at the Euros.
Martin Samuel may win all the awards, but Marcotti is timesonline.co.uk’s people’s blogger. Loved and hated in equal measure, he certainly never bores, and brings a much-needed continental perspective to the behemoth that is the Times, He also sports a thorough tactical knowledge that never bleeds into the pretentious. Well, usually never.
3) Stephen Goff
Yes, the token North American. Goff gets a nod by virtue of being a voice in the wilderness, providing one of the few cogent mainstream voices on North American soccer. Although hardly an exemplar of style, Goff does resemble a real blogger, writing dense aphorisms on the sometimes-ridiculous developments in soccer over here in the New World. More of these needed.
4) Sid Lowe
Sid is one of those writers we all want to be, gallivanting around Spain with his doctorate under his arm, translating for La Liga megastars at various press conferences, voicing off brilliantly on the Football Weekly podcast, all while writing one of the best blogs on football anywhere in the world. Needless to say, I hate his guts. If you want to get involved in Spanish football and don’t speak Spanish, all you need is Sid.
I’m cheating a bit here and splitting number five down the middle. Tim gets it because he makes the rest of the BBC look amateurish beyond belief, and Marcela gets it because she is one of the few writers on South American football who avoids the usual clichés about chaos, bad administration and individual flair. Plus you gotta love her public school accent.
Honourable mentions include Simon Kuper (as always), Barry Glendenning (the Fiver’s not really a blog), Tim Stannard and Simon Talbot over at FourFourTwo, Canada’s former Globe and Mail soccer blogger Ben Knight, and about a thousand others I’m sure I’ve left out.
Richard Whittall writes the amateur and sometimes amateurish blog A More Splendid Life.