Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Was Behind

Had a well-known college football writer email me overnight to ask about the blog: What was the inspiration, where it started, what coverage will be like, etc.

This was my response to him. Thought it might make a good summary for folks who want to know more about what I'm doing here and why.

His initial framing of the site was as a "tribute" page, which I wanted to correct right off the bat:

Although I am a self-admitted Tebow fan, I wouldn't describe it as a "tribute" page -- I am covering Tebow like a "beat," through the same analytical filter and news judgment that I have used writing columns for or or even just What I am layering in is the advantages of the blog platform, like immediacy and community and link-based distribution. I don't see much distinction between what I'm doing an a blogger covering a specific team, conference or sport; it just happens to be that I am picking an individual player. Of anyone in sports, he probably qualifies as worth the treatment. Here's why:

Even if I wasn't a Florida fan, I think that any college football fan understands that Tebow is THE story of the college football season, mainly because we have never experienced anything like his circumstances before: QB of the defending champs (doubling as the consensus pick to win a repeat title), with the potential to be one of the greatest teams ever... One-time Heisman winner who could earn his 2nd -- or at the very least have his 3rd straight Top 3 finish... Finally, there's the substantial mythology that has been created around and about him, probably more intense than any player in college football history. And he's got one more year to go, which feels a bit absurd, given what he has already accomplished.

All that has led to a discussion has already started: Under what conditions would Tebow finish his career as the greatest college football QB of all time? Or, perhaps, the greatest college football player of all time? That's a hell of a discussion to be having in real-time. That storyline, combined with Florida's run at a back-to-back title, makes Tebow the most intriguing athlete of the fall, in any sport. (And don't discount what will happen between January and May, when his draft status is THE story leading up to the NFL Draft.)

Unlike most individual athletes, Tebow offers plenty of daily material, plenty of substantial stakes on the line -- and plenty of interest from fans. There are a lot of great blogs out there dedicated to individual teams or conferences. My investment in this project is, in part, to see if there is an audience for a blog dedicated to an individual athlete -- albeit one who is a much larger story than most individual athletes. I think given Tebow's individual potential, Florida's team potential and the general mania around him, it's a deep subject with more than enough to sustain a blog on a daily basis.

The goal, in fact, is to update the blog multiple times a day. The source material for posts will come from my own original analysis, links to the best of what's being written about Tebow on the Web, guest-posts and Q&As with folks who may have an interesting perspective, even what is being tweeted about Tebow on Twitter.

I first started thinking about doing this a year ago. Tebow was coming off his Heisman year and had already emerged as the most compelling player in college football. Florida looked like a national title contender. There was uncertainty whether it would be his final year in college. But by the time I thought it through, the season had started and I felt like I missed the window. I did some test-blogging throughout the season, which is why you'll see 50 or so posts already published when I "launched" yesterday. When he announced he was coming back, I recognized this as an incredibly unique opportunity to cover the Tebow phenomenon that will dominate sports this fall.

Think of it like a reporter following a team or player for a season, only I am following a player -- and, obviously, doing it from an outsider's perspective, a hybrid of a fan's enthusiasm; a columnist's approach to analysis and narrative; and a blogger's use of the platform to connect to the larger sports-media ecology.

Will my predisposition to root for Tebow get in the way? Actually, I'd say it is the opposite: First, I am entirely transparent about my fandom, which puts me -- at least with the reader -- ahead of plenty of other folks out there writing about Tebow who drool over him but still try to claim "objectivity." Second, if you're going to do a blog about any specific topic -- whether it's a sport or a conference or a team or a player -- you better really really really like what you're covering.

The site's success in serving its audience -- whether that is Florida fans, college football fans or just folks curious about Tebow -- rests on a couple of things: Expert credibility; trenchant analysis; comprehensive coverage; and, not a small thing, some sense of fun.

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