Last weekend was the Blogs with Balls convention in New York, the first sports blogging trade show that I am aware of. Any vocation worth its weight in salt has an associated trade show, so it was good to see sports blogging getting its own weekend. Congrats to HHR for setting it up and pulling it off.
I wanted to go if for no other reason than the novelty of it and to be around people who understand what sports blogging is actually about, but I had much more important matters to attend to (namely, moving my freshly graduated-with-a-master's fiancee down to Charlotte with me from Ohio). Brian Cook at MGoBlog has a nice and refreshingly honest look at what happened, and yes Alabama fans, you can read it without getting upset.
It sounds as though it went about as I expected, with some uneven panel discussions along with the good ones and some first-year rookie mistakes that will get ironed out at future iterations. But, as we all know, you don't get experience from sitting on the bench.
One thing that didn't surprise me was that the talks with the corporate types didn't go over so well. The suits who show up at trade shows, regardless of type, are there to do one thing: promote their product. Networks like SB Nation have a compelling story to tell, specifically that quality seeks quality and if you get a good association going, a positive feedback loop begins. That, unfortunately, is a story that takes about 10 minutes to tell and anything beyond that ends up being stumping for your own network above the others.
The main reason I began reading sports blogs was for the personalities. In print just like on TV, the characters are the most important thing and why formulas don't work. On Discovery, MythBusters succeeds while a dozen other smash-'em-up, explosion-filled shows fail. It's not the booms that bring people back, but the classic comedy duo of funny man Adam Savage and straight man Jamie Hyneman.
Among the many, many sports blogs I read, I appreciate Orson's humor, Matt's precision, and Kyle's droll thoroughness. I also like the combination of insight and sass from Saurian Sagacity, the unique perspective at FreeDarko, the breakdown of football's inner workings by Chris, and the ability for the crews at Roll Bama Roll and A Sea of Blue to maintain relative calm through the wild ups and downs of the fanbases that they cater to. What I like about the the sports blogosphere is that rather than compete against each other for subscriptions, like all of these fine folks would have had to in other eras, everyone can link to everyone else without fear of losing something personally. The rising tide of links lifts all boats.
I would expect any future conventions will focus more on individual bloggers. People like Cook need to be speaking since, like him or hate him, he managed to build his blogging up to a full-time job without the assist of a network or the existing media framework (his moonlighting for Fanhouse aside). If they are going to do more on the networks, I'd like to see folks like Peter Bean contribute since he helped to build one while still doing his excellent blogging (on top of law school, no less) instead of the executive level folks (no offense, Mr. Bankoff).
I have no doubt that ideas for improvement will come out over the next year as (I'm assuming) the next one gets planned. Since I didn't go, I'm going to refrain from suggesting too much more based on only second-hand accounts. All I can offer is this: change the name. I get the pun and all, but it needs something less fratty. There's a difference between irreverence and juvenility, and sports blogs (and their conferences) should only be on the former side of the line.