Past The Press Box

Dan Levy and On the DL Podcast show an unfortunate side to sports blogging

When I started my first sports blog in 2006, and really got things rolling over the coming years, I almost regretted the subject matter. See, instead of blogging on University of Montana sports and pulling in a boatload of visitors through that, I almost wished I had picked a different subject matter. I didn't realize how young the sports blogosphere was at the time and wondered how I would've done had I written on sports in general.

I looked around the mainstream sports blogosphere, thought being one of those guys would be phenomenal and believed I might've had a shot. I thought I could pull a Simmons; I'd pour all my time into writing (because I thought work ethic was all I needed) and work my way into the mainstream media. In a dream world, I'd blog my way to the my place in the Wrigley Field press box and the Cubs beat at the Trib. Ridiculous, I know.

The thing is, there really aren't many Bill Simmonses out there. And the life of the rockstar sports blogger doesn't really have as much rockstar to it as I would've thought. Today, the story of Dan Levy calling it quits on the long-running On The DL podcast stands out as something of a lesson, maybe a sports blogging parable.

I'm struggling to parse down the reasoning Dan gave so here's just about all of it:

Why now? Well, I wanted to get to 600, but I just don’t think I can. So 555 sounds like fun, and it’s far enough away that we can still talk about the NCAA Tournament and the Masters. Plus, if all works out, our last show will be the day before Max turns one.

Max. Look, this year with Max has been great. He’s the sweetest boy in the world and he sure as shit doesn’t deserve all that he’s had to deal with this year and all that he’s going to have to deal with the rest of his life. It’s not fair for me to continue to play in this internet dreamworld of “doing things the right way” which has always felt like as much a cop-out as it did some altruistic reasoning for producing quality work. I can’t play in the sandbox anymore, even if it “furthers the conversation.” I need to grow the fuck up and provide for my family.

So yeah, this is the first step towards that. And it sucks. This feeling, today, sucks. Why is this show going up at noon when we taped it at 6:30 am? Because it’s taken me that long to write this (and get the Muppets music into the show, to be honest).

I feel like I’ve given up, but at the same time I feel like maybe I gave up a while ago and this is just the right time to admit it. My brain is segmented in a way that’s unfamiliar, but the most important segment keeps getting filled with concern for my family who, frankly, deserves more of me than they’ve been getting.

Now, that all being said, this isn’t some solemn goodbye to the internet. We’ve still got over 20 shows left to go and hopefully some of our podcasting and radio friends will have us on their shows every so often (I really hope someone seizes the opportunity and gets Nick on as a regular contributor somewhere). And look, if you listen to this show all the time, or read what we did here or back at Sporting News, you know we’ve unabashedly had a For Sale sign on this show — and our writing — for a long time.

We’re not hard to find. If this guy or this guy or these folks or these guys or this guy and this guy or him or him or them or them or, shit, even this guy comes calling in the next few weeks…let’s go…we’re ready to work. We just can’t be waiting on someone’s back burner anymore. We just can’t do this every day in hopes that’s the day someone comes to their internet senses.

Or, maybe, we’ve overvalued the quality of our work and the folks we linked to above — and countless others, I’m sure — know exactly how valuable we are. Good work isn’t always worth the time (and money) it takes to produce, which is something I know all too well in this pageviews-first-ask-questions-later digital world. I think I’m actually okay with that. I’m not okay with undoing everything we’ve done by creating a half-assed product to try and stay relevant or keep my name out there.

The bottom-line: these endeavors aren't all that profitable and when people—even the most talented and hard-working individuals—do try their hardest to make them profitable or take their talents to the mainstream, it isn't easy to do. And that's the problem. That second-to-last graf is extremely telling. As far as the world of sports blogging has come, we're still not all the way there. As hard as these guys work and as great as their content is, they still don't quite get the recognition they deserve.

While the On the DL podcast serves as something of a sad tale, some may place The Basketball Jones (the phenomenal J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas, amongst others, production) as a big success story. The thing is, how great is that show? Seriously. Like a Bosh, Kobe's lost trash talk, even the Trey Kerby promo. Yes, they were acquired by The Score, a Canadian Sports Television Network, and are on Sirius radio 4 times a week along with a weekly national television show, but how is there not more? These guys are hilarious and you're telling me there isn't anyone at a major American sports cable company who will give them a shot? It's ridiculous.

I don't mean to say that The Basketball Jones is way better than On the DL but only intend to point out that even when these phenomenal shows are successful, they're not as successful and accepted as they likely should be.

The point? ESPN and other networks keep blasting us with the same talking heads and sports highlight shows. Would it be too much to give a new type of content a chance? To reward these hard-workers and bring their phenomenally well-produced shows to a more widespread audience?

It seems like that may be a little too much to ask for now, but I really hope that isn't always the case.

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Carlos - April 30, 2011 11:09 PM

This is exactly what I'm afraid of, and what I want to avoid, some time down the line.

Because I've went ahead and put myself in this category. I run a weekly NFL podcast, and we've been doing it since week six of the 2010 NFL season. Of course, I don't expect any attention for at least two years. But the work I put into it is ... well, a hell of a lot more than I'd like to put into it.

I'm a full-time college student, and for me to be editing 30 minutes of video every week is draining, physically. But I keep going, in the hopes it'll pay off.

I don't look at Dan Levy's "failure" as a failure; I see it as a rude awakening that, if you're going to do something, do it before you have the full responsibility of multiple lives on your shoulders. That's me, the 18-year-old college junior speaking, with no kids, or wife, to support.

I look at the Basketball Jones as a perfect example of success, except that I feel I'm more geared towards it than what they were when they started out; because they had to work full-time, and put out a ton of content. I don't work (although I do go to school), so I'm fortunate, in that sense.

Either way, I keep doing what I'm doing in the hopes of being able to break through at some point down the line. Hell, we don't think we're awesome, but I feel like we have room to grow, and if it doesn't work out, it's because I know I tried my damned hardest.

Wish me luck.

The American Sportswriter_