I fired this off this morning, in response to Kravitz's "I wish these kids would get off my lawn" column on blogging. It was sent before I'd had a chance for my morning shower and breakfast, so be kind.
Hi Bob. My name is Matt. You don't know me, you've never met me, so that piece of information is totally irrelevant. In fact, you have no way of knowing if I've given you my real name or not. (Oh sure, that name is stamped on this Hotmail account that I used to e-mail you, but I trust you're as aware as I am how easy it is to sign up for one of these.) On the other hand, because I've never met you, and don't know you on a personal level, I have no way of knowing what your real name is. I have no idea whether "Bob Kravitz" is a pseudonym just like "shake n bake".
I assume that "Bob Kravitz" is indeed your real name, only because I trust that the Star would have verified such information before hiring you to work for them. But make no mistake about it, my trust in this situation comes from the faith I have in the Star, not from any faith I have in you yourself. The fact is, separated from your affiliation with the Star you become just another voice on the internet. Whether you choose to use your real name or not is irrelevant, because really what's the purpose of a name? It's just a label used to identify, nothing more.
Now some labels do tell me something. When a real name can be attached to a resume, then i have more information that I would if the author remained anonymous. For example "John Oesher" doesn't mean much to me, but "John Oesher, former writer for the official Colts.com site" tells me that this guy has an experience and perspective that I can't get anywhere else, and may be worth checking out. However, a label alone is not going to guarantee that I agree with you, or even like what I read from you. The experience gleaned from writing for the Colts is only a tool that Oesher may use in his writing, but in and of itself does not guarantee that Oesher's articles will be quality work. (Fortunately, I've been reading Oesher since he started and he does indeed write excellent stuff)
Similarly, it's not the label "Bob Kravitz" but rather the label "Bob Kravitz, columnist for the Indianapolis Star" that suggests your articles might be worth reading. However, as I pointed out earlier I am relying on the Indianapolis Star for this recommendation. I am trusting that that organzination hired the right guy for the job. I know nothing of who you are, and likely will never meet you in person. Just like Oesher. All that I have to know you by are the articles you write. It is on the merit of those articles that I will decide what I think of you as a sports authority, and even what I think of you as a person. The same is true for Oesher. The same is true for Paul Kuharsky at ESPN, Pete Prisco at CBS Sportsline, and for Bill Simmons.
In fact, your support of Bill Simmons is interesting. In your case, working for the Star provides you with access to the team that I can't get. It's still up to you to use that access to produce quality articles, but I can concede how that access is an argument in your favor. But Bill Simmons doesn't have that access. Bill Simmons is just a guy writing opinion pieces that are half humor, half Boston homerism. In fact, Bill is the original anonymous sports blogger, working under the name "The Sports Guy" when he first started writing. Now let me ask, does it make any difference to you whether Bill Simmons works under the name "The Sports Guy" or whether he uses his real name? This is a guy whose only qualification is that he's a lifetime fan, does it really matter what name he chooses to use on the national stage? Will I ever meet him, or know for sure that his real name is in fact Bill Simmons? Unlikely. So since I don't know Bill personally, I rely on the article he writes to form my opinion of him. In other words, I judge him on his own merit, just like how I judge you, or John Oesher, or Paul Kuharsky, or even Aaron Schatz over at Football Outsiders.
Now, having established all that, I can say that I treat sites like 18to88.com and Stampede Blue the same way. I read what guys like Deshawn Zombie and KingRichard have to say, and I judge those words on their own merit. I suggest that you do the same. Does it truly matter what DZ chooses to call himself? Let's assume for a second the Deshawn Zombie is in fact his real name. Would that truly cause you to think differently about the articles you read on 18to88.com? If you say "no", then you're like me. Youo've formed an opinion of that person based on what you've read of his work. I always like what I read there, but if you don't then that's your call. What I would suggest, though, is that you drop this silly attack that the problem with blogging is it's anonymity. The truth is that we are all anonymous on the internet, but that doesn't prevent quality sites from existing. Even amazing sites like Baseball Prospectus and Football Outsiders were created by fans with no connections and real names that meant nothing at all to their readers.
I know this has been a long letter, but I truly hope you read it. You even have my permission to reproduce it. By summarily dismissing sites like 18to88.com you are denying readers a chance to hear another voice on sports issues that are important to them. I don't always agree with everything I read online, including articles I read from you, but I find I am more informed by considering multiple sources. You may not agree with everything posted on 18to88.com or Stampede Blue, but by and large those sites are populated with passionate fans with intelligent and reasoned opinions. I would think that in the world of sports such a thing would be welcomed. I also think that your readers would be best served by being made aware of these sites and being asked to judge for themselves. If they are as bad as they say you are, then most will be turned off and no harm will be done. If, however, someone reads those sites and keeps coming back, then you've helped them to become a bigger fan at no cost to yourself. I don't see any reason for the animosity between mainstream media such as yourself and the "blogosphere". If anything, the two work as excellent checks and balances.