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Wednesday, July 30, 2008
REPORTING FROM THE JOCK-OSPHERE:
WHEN IS A BLOG A BLOG?



"I read your blog, Jeter." ... "Do I know you?"

Did you hear Derek Jeter has a blog? Seriously, check it out.

In one post, Jeter writes: "So big day today! I'm not just talking about the start of our four-game stint with the Red Sox (which is huge), but it's also a big day here on Weplay too. I just heard that the official contest where the winner gets to meet me is now up and running. Are you kidding? The winner of the contest gets to come to New York and hang out with me? At a Yankees game? With his or her family? It's more like being STUCK with me! I guess they couldn't find someone better. No in all honesty, knowing that fans and Weplay members are going to be entering for a chance to meet me, that's flattering."

Hmm.

Even if you weren't at all familiar with the typical prose stylings of the Yankees shortstop—and we weren't—it still reads somewhat, well, fishy. In fact, it reads like commercial text. Would it cause you to wonder if Jeter is really typing that? Well, it should. The bottom line with all the hundreds of athlete blogs that have popped up in the last couple years is this: some are genuine, some are close and some are a stretch.

Not all athletes writing a blog are actually writing their blog. It's shocking, but true.

Gilbert Arenas, perhaps the most well known athlete blogger going, doesn't really blog. He gets interviewed by NBA.com's Dave McMenamin who then writes the post. (That is, if Arenas is still in the blogging game. One can never tell.)

Rafael Nadal dictates his posts to his PR manger.

Now, is there something inherently wrong with Gil's or Nadal's practice? Not if they're honest about it. Pro athletes are busy people, and largely, they aren't wordsworths. (Marshawn Lynch, anyone?) So having your sentiments typed up by a close confidant isn't a huge concern to the people who host the sites. It's still them … mostly.

Yardbarker, a site that maintains the largest collective of athlete bloggers on the net, holds true to this realization.

"Sometimes they'll type it up on their phone, e-mail it and ask me to fix up any typos," e-mails Diana Iakoubova, Yardbarker's marketing and PR coordinator. "Often, though, they'll log into the site themselves, write up the post, comment back to fans, and comment on other posts.

"I don't want to separate the athletes into categories, since I'm pretty sure that each one of them has blogged by at least two out of those three methods at some point. Basically, the YB employees do what we can to make it as easy as possible for athletes to post (publishing posts they e-mail to us, editing video for them, etc.), but what we encourage most is that they use the site themselves, just as fans do."

Again, an understandable, respectable process utilized here. But what about the athlete blogs that don't have confirmation on their validity? The ones that aren't written or dictated by the actual athlete? The very appearance of a blog is rooted in the idea that an athlete took the time to post something. Even Yardbarker doesn't specify who writes what, or doesn't.

If Peyton Manning is sneaking in the words "Pop Warner" into his posts so that it gets a link to another section of Weplay, is this really a blog? Or is it just some thinly-veiled PR campaign with an athlete's name attached to it? Does that athlete know how attached he or she really is? Does it even matter?

After we asked them several times on the matter, Weplay's CEO remained unavailable for comment.

Ultimately, it simply begs the question: what is a blog? And when it comes to athletes or any celebs, if it's not the the real deal, do we care? After all, even if an athlete is dictating a post it's still his/her own thoughts. Plus, there are players like Curt Schilling who take pride in their written work, and break down games in a manner only he could. And then there is "Jeter," and some others, who leave us only to wonder.

Rod Benson, the blogtopia yearns for thee.