Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently posted on his blog that he doesn’t think there is a place for bloggers in the Mavs locker room. He did have some fine points and there is no question that as a billionaire owner of the Mavericks, he can do and say whatever he wants. My feeling automatically is “Nope, wrong,” when I first heard the premise. Then I read it and I think he’s even more wrong than I’d at first suspected.
His argument is, he gives access to newspaper and TV because there are people who “consume” his product who don’t get online, but, why give access to the online world if the Mavs already have their own presence? His feeling is that bloggers from ESPN or Yahoo are out to get hits, to generate buzz and that usually means negativity in the TMZ-esque sports “reporting” marketplace. He throws a bone to we sad and lonely few who do this out of the goodness of our own hearts, who are unpaid and simply have an opinion and do some research and usually also pay to consume his product anyway. That part was nice and a sentiment I wish the Bobcats would adopt.
Where I differ is, lumping “bloggers” from around the web in with the Ken Bergers of the world is just ridiculous. Ken has been basically silent since the trade deadline, at least on my Twitter feed, and his stories lately have focused on Carmelo Anthony, still….after he’s been traded, and his judgement on that trade and Anthony as a whole. He’s a rumor monger, someone who waits for the assistant, the loose-lipped GM, the “league source” to throw him a bone. He does good work at it and he certainly drives a lot of what the rest of us talk about but he’s the best example of what I believe Cuban is railing against.
There are others, Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears of Yahoo!, all the boys at Ball Don’t Lie, the jokers at Bleacher Report and some of those at ESPN who just try to get a rise out of players and coaches. They want to know everything first, report it, emotionalize it, analyze it, comment on it, and blare their opinions from the rooftops. There’s nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong, from a grand scheme point of view, in the “journalism” community with someone trying to get word of a trade in its early stages or getting a sense of what star player is unhappy where and where they’d like to land. The basketball public craves it. No one wants Lebron James to hold everyone on a thread so we can all hear “I’m takin’ m’talents to South Beach.” So these guys head it off. Wojnarowski has been all over Lebron all year, and I’ve eaten it up. I can see where it’d piss off an owner and one of the guys with a vested interest in keeping things under wraps, I truly do.
Baseball writers have run the sport for years, like a hundred years. No one could keep up with a schedule like that and travel and everything back in the day, so they controlled the information and in many ways, the game itself. The whole Maris 61* thing was decided on by writers. The access and openness to fans is much greater now and reporters have scaled back their control. Basketball might have been going that way and in many ways, with late games and the constant schedule and how much one player means to an organization, you can say that fans tend to zone in on the periphery but the reporting is not out of hand. I can imagine getting pissed off when a writer thinks he’s got it over on a player, team or organization. Cubes mentions “As one writer told me, his opinion counts for more because he is informed And he considers himself informed because he has access to the organization. I can fix that.” That’s a scary thought.
I wrote at some point, it could have been a comment in a forum thread at BobcatsPlanet.com, I’m not sure, but I’m sure I said it “The team belongs more to the fans than to the owners who write the checks.” That’s who bloggers and writers serve. The issue with Cuban’s comments are, he wants to control the information. That does 2 things: It makes me think it will be sanitized and watered down and it makes me think he has an agenda. TV and Print are so scrutinized and so on edge all the time and overly edited and self-possessed that they don’t have the ability to move very quickly on a story or get in-depth with an opinion. Newspapers are limited by space, TV limited by time and ratings. If there are 100,000 viewers or readers and 50% are women and 75% of them don’t care about the Mavs or Bobcats, you know what? That’s 5 minutes of the evening news and 4 pages of your newspaper ignored by 37,500 of your sample audience right away, you can’t sell ad time around that. So the talent has gone online, the people who were allocated to 5 minutes of TV or 4 pages of a newspaper and then had it pared down, have gone out and hung their own shingle. Cuban doesn’t like that.
If you’re in business at all, you know the intense need to keep the message focused and important to your cause that will bring you more revenue or even, in the case of a major public endeavor like an NBA team, just good vibes. I understand that and I can appreciate not wanting negativity or objectification of your team and organization at the hands of some twerp with a keyboard. But if you’re going to damn the entire blogging community (save the unpaid guys who do a good job), name names.
Maybe this is all a rouse by Cuban, his way of saying “Watch yourself. You might get your ass kicked out of the locker room and your credentials torn up.” Maybe he is guaging his public’s response. Who knows other than him. It’s interesting to analyze it though, and I’m sure that’s what he wants. Anyway, moving on:
My other issue is relying on the Mavericks website folks and whoever decides to tweet or post to facebook, within the organization is preposterous. It’d just ridiculous to think that you’re going to get the straight answers, or any answer at all, in the hands of your fans direct from an employee. There are teams and organizations that do social networking very well, including our own Bobcats to an extent but no one looks first to the organization for anything except the schedule. The Bobcats post videos of post game press conferences and locker room availability. Who is asking the questions? Reporters from other entities, not from within the Bobcats. All the Fox Sports Net folks and all the local network people are employees of the Bobcats, you get a sanitized, scrubbed version when things happen. You get told things when they want you to hear them, which might be way after they had happened. This doesn’t work for fans.
Mark Cuban is a very wealthy man, very powerful within sports and entertainment. As I said in the opening paragraph, he can do whatever he wants but he will immediately alienate some fans and the rumors will pop up anyway, and the dumb questions that annoy everyone will be asked over and over anyway. I’d be pissed if I were Carmelo Anthony, the Nets, the Knicks or the Nuggets. That whole circus was ridiculous. But how did it get started in the first place? Melo or someone in his posse of cronies or agents or managers or somebody, told somebody else that he wanted out of Denver, the rest devolved from there. You cannot blame a reporter, wherever his work might come up be it online, print, radio or TV, you cannot blame someone for running with that information and asking questions.
All I’m saying, if he has a problem with what some guys have written and he doesn’t know where to take the fight to because these guys often have 25 year old kids as bosses, name names. Because a lot of times “online” guys are judged simply by hits and have no real bosses or editors, call out the guys who have pissed you off, who have made a mockery of sports journalism and they will be handled in the court of public opinion. Simple as that. Saying “I’m not sure I have a need for beat writers from ESPN.com, Yahoo, or any website for that matter to ever be in our locker room before or after a game.” (directly quoting him) is counterproductive to the goal of all parties involved. The goal for everyone is to grow the sport, grow the sphere of influence and grow that money making pie for everyone involved. Mark Cuban may find it beneith him to call a guy out. I would if I were in his place. It’d make him look like a bully. But kicking all bloggers and internet reporters except the little unpaid guys (which I assume he thinks he can control) out of his locker room? Get your head straight Cubes and think about your message before you go pissing off the people who follow you, stick to referees.