Greetings, all! You may have noticed my absence from site bylines over the last few days. Other folks have been covering game recaps and such. That's because I've been in Southern California, among other things meeting with one of the head honchos at SBNation, our parent company. More on that in a second. But first, a couple observations:
1. When we transitioned into a new staff a few months ago, everyone was finding their way. We've found our way enough to be able to provide fine coverage over the last few days. In 10 years of writing and editing Blazer's Edge I have never taken this many days off writing for the site in-season. I didn't even blink at doing so this week. Thanks to all the folks working to keep the site going.
2. What's up with the Blazers since I've been down here? 3 straight losses (including Milwaukee) and dropped to 4th in the West? Really? I think this proves that the team has 3 MVP's: LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, and a certain writer they apparently can't do without. And only 1 of us got invited to the All-Star team. That's a real shame.
3. This happens all the time, but I love sharing the stories anyway. Since I was here in SoCal, I decided to include a visit to Disneyland in the trip, because...Disneyland! The kids aren't complaining. So Sunday night they had one of those big parades after it got dark, After the festivities are done it's a madhouse because thousands of people are moving and they block off the streets to control traffic. It becomes kind of like a maze where you're a rat and Pirates of the Caribbean is the cheese, except you can't see anything and your secondary challenge goal is to keep your young children alive and in contact with your body as much as humanly possible.
Anyway, Baby Point Guard (now 7) and I are walking through through the chaos when a voice rings out, "How did we lose to Milwaukee???" The question only barely registered because I was thinking about other things, but then it hit me...this was a Blazers-related query. I can handle those. I do Blazer's Edge Mailbags. This was a live version. In the dark, In a crowd of strangers. At Disneyland.
So I backtracked a couple steps. It turned out the voice came from a Disneyland staffer named Adam. The hubbub was too great for an extended conversation so I half-jokingly said, "Go to Blazersedge.com. We'll tell you."
Then Adam replied, "That's my homepage! I read all the time!"
Small world, eh?
So yes, Blazer's Edge has adherents even in the Magic Kingdom. And hello officially to Adam from Disneyland. You guys are the real superstars, making thousands of kids happy every day (and thousands more grown-ups). It was an honor to meet you. Drop me a line sometime and we can talk more properly about how the Blazers lost to Milwaukee. (Although frankly I might just delete that game from my DVR unwatched. 88 points? Yuck.) And thank you to all who read far and wide and have nice things to say as I travel around. It really does make my day to meet you. Makes me feel lucky to be doing this.
Back to our original story...when in SoCal I met with Tyler Bleszinski, one of the founders of SBNation and the guy who embodies its heart as much as anyone alive. For those who don't know, Blazer's Edge is connected to a network of over 300 sports blogs, which in turn is connected to a company-wide network that covers all kinds of topics. Sports started the ball rolling and Tyler started the sports talk. In doing so, he helped revolutionize the way we look at online sports coverage. Tyler graciously took a few minutes to answer some questions for us, including the role of Blazer's Edge in SBNation's history and public perception of the Blazers.
Blazer's Edge: Tell us a little bit about SBNation. How big is the company? What core principles distinguish it in a world crowded with online sports sources?
Tyler Bleszinski: SB Nation is the sports segment of Vox Media. SB Nation was the foundation of what allowed us to eventually build Vox Media. The sports component of Vox Media consists of 300+ team sites plus the nationally-driven site SBNation.com. Blazer's Edge is a crucial component and has consistently been one of the leading basketball sites of all of our team blogs. It was also one of the first. To me the biggest distinguishing factor are the combination of fandom and professionalism. We strive to create the best online communities where fans can come and discuss, celebrate and yes, sometimes mourn, their biggest sports passions. We were created on a foundation of unmistakable passion that other sports companies just can't replicate because we've found the best content creators who also happen to be fans.
BE: Take us back to the beginning. How did SBNation start?
TB: SB Nation started with the creation of Athletics Nation back in November of 2003. I was a former reporter who was living in Sacramento at the time and was immensely frustrated with the lack of attention given to my Oakland Athletics in that area. It was all about the San Francisco Giants. Local radio was dominated by Giants talk. National sports television was dominated by coverage of East Coast rivalries, scandal and superstars (not much has changed since then). My best friend was running a blog and suggested that I start a blog about the A's and combine a professional approach infused with my intense passion for the green and gold. He let me use his platform to build the site and I prioritized community, professionalism and fan empowerment from the very beginning. I think those three things remain big pillars of our success to this day, more than 11 years later.
BE: What's the next step in online sports coverage and how is SBNation evolving to take that step?
TB: We are always trying to evolve to give our readership the best possible coverage and community. The key for us to make sure we stay true to our initial mission and that's to empower our writers and readers. That being said, the more we focus on our product (whether that's referencing the platform or the quality of the written product) the more successful we will be. We also need to do our job as a company and make sure we're pushing areas of growth because most of our writers get into this to have as many people read their work as possible. We owe it to our writers and our readers to bring new eyeballs to their work.
BE: What memories do you have of Blazer's Edge? How has the audience at this site helped shape/inform the direction of the company over the years?
TB: The first word that comes to mind whenever I think of Blazer's Edge is community. Your team is a perfect example of professional coverage with passion. I always reference the fundraiser BE does to send the underprivileged children to a game when I talk about the differences between what an SB Nation community is compared to other sports media companies. I can't even imagine what that means to those kids. At Athletics Nation, we've had at least two couples meet and get married through AN events. When people ask me what I'm most proud of when it comes to the success of Vox Media and SB Nation, I always reference these life-changing events. To me, BE has become like family with a shared common passion and it's an ideal, shining example of what we look for in an SB Nation community. It's part of the reason we have you giving the rest of our bloggers community tips. You're quite frankly, one of our very best.
TB: Let me get this out of the way right now, I'm NOT a Lakers fan. And I actually have a bit of a Blazers connection. My wife did an internship at the Oregonian back before we were married and I traveled up to see her quite a few times. I loved Portland. The atmosphere was awesome and the city itself reminded me very much of Sacramento because the people there were obsessed with their Blazers the same way the Sacto folks were about the Kings. This was prior to the Timbers' MLS time so the Blazers were the only professional team in town. I remember going to Saturday Market and enjoying the elephant ears. I also have an intense passion for craft beers so Portland and everything around that city just makes me smile. I love the vibe. That being said, I probably don't have a dedicated basketball team. The Kings would probably be the closest thing to it for me since I was there during the Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Jason "White Chocolate" Williams days. And Kings' games are the only professional basketball games I've ever been to so I'm glad that team remained in Sacramento.
Well, NOT being a Lakers fan is a good thing. But mentioning professional basketball and the Sacramento Kings in the same sentence? We might have to take points off for that.
I'll be back on Thursday, so get your Mailbag questions to email@example.com if you haven't already.
And speaking of the life-changing event Tyler referenced, we invite you to help underprivileged youth see Portland's March 30th game against the Phoenix Suns by contributing tickets to Blazer's Edge Night. The cost of a ticket is low and the joy it brings into the life of a child who otherwise wouldn't get to see a game is immeasurable. You can find all the details here.