Thoughts on Sport, Football and Blogging

  • This site has been an attempt in part to discover if there is a market, or an audience, for sports blogging/writing at the same level as exists for literature, science and history. I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t (MTMG has about 100 regular readers, who visit on average once per week, although the site itself has been very fortunate in the publicity it’s received from various quarters).
  • Two kinds of football blog thrive: good team-linked blogs with plenty of interactivity, forums etc; and columist-gossip blogs like Football365 (who won’t thank me for the description). There might be an audience for an intellectual “Manchester United” blog, or an “Arsenal” one (there’s already a West Ham one more or less), but probably not much of an audience compared to the existing invitations to knuckle-drag.
  • Writing about something is the best way to learn about it, but it’s also a good way of discovering if you really like it or not. I’ve come to look at sport psychology in much the same way as I look at Graham Kendrick. (N.B. I’m not a sport psychologist: I have, on the other hand, helped sports people with their psychological hurdles. Not the same thing. I hope my “About” page clarifies this).
  • We’ve left our national game to the least intelligent, least thoughtful, least strategy-orientated, most superstitious, most hidebound, most class-obsessed, least outward-looking people in our society. At the same time, we claim that success is important to us whilst actually using the game as a holiday subject: a place to rest from thinking.
  • When we do succeed in implementing change, and achieve success (the Rugby World Cup, the Ashes, England until Rooney’s injury in summer 2004) we are prone to discarding the change. Instead we attribute success to a set of national traits and traditional values that we don’t actually possess more than anyone else and that are irrelevant to sport in any case.
  • Exaggerated machismo is a feature of many successful male sporting sides – Australia’s cricketers, for instance. But it seems to be an exclusively English trait to disassociate intelligence from that, to regard it with suspicion. Anyone using intelligence in the slightest way is likely to be partitioned off by the term “guru” and regarded thereafter as an amusing crank who can be safely ignored.
  • I dare say you can tell where this is going, or might be going.
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6 responses to “Thoughts on Sport, Football and Blogging

  1. If I’m interpreting you correctly, all I can say is no, please don’t throw in the towel! Perhaps all you need is some motivation – eg some fire and brimstone speeches from your readers about pride and passion being the key to blogging.

    I’m shocked to find that I’m only one of a 100 or so people who read this blog regularly.

    Re the incredible backwardness of English football, my own thoughts are thus: I’m American, but have lived in the UK for a good while. And because this is where I first fell in love with football, I support England over the US. (Another factor in my support for England over the US is that I don’t think America cares enough about football yet to deserve to win a World Cup, so my sense of fair play dictates that they should have to have to wait until more Americans support the sport. Not that they’re going to win one anytime soon, of course.)

    But the longer I live in the UK, the more frustrated I grow with English football, and the more I think that hell, this country doesn’t deserve it either. Not with this FA, and this American high school football coach-style belief in guts and glory over technique and intelligence.

    I presume this souring of my feelings towards English football just means I’m being properly Anglicised.

    Anyway, if you do stop posting, you’ll be sorely missed by this reader at least.

  2. Say it ain’t so, James.

  3. Do not give up James, please- you have taught me a great deal about sport like most others visiting the blog- you are definitely one of the most interesting bloggers on the net- you are one of the few who I have actually tried at times to immitate- and you are definitely one of the most interesting analytical thinkers out there. Do not give up sir without you many of us would lose a really valuable resource.

  4. I’m actually part of your target market, but I’ve only just discovered your site through a link on Gracchi’s blog.

    If you’re feeling disillusioned by blogging, I wonder if I might draw your attention to some features of the medium and ask you to consider a new way forward.

    Pretty much the biggest common feature between all sorts of successful blogs or sites containing blogs is a scary level of content production. You seem to average one or two “serious” posts a day. If we look at the “famous” blogs, we see people who pump out four or five “serious” posts a day. I use the term “serious” rather than “good” because the famous people aren’t always producing as much quality as you, but they are putting the work in to produce reasonably deep posts which provoke discussion.

    If we compare by contrast with football365 or the “team forum” sites, then they take a different approach. F365 feed the “content monster” by having lots of news reports and rumours on their site, whilst the “team forums” rely on the commenters to produce new content continually. (Of course the standard in the team forums is often low, but it has tribal connotations that help bring in readers.)

    Anyway, the upshot of all this is that if you have a life beyond your blog, it’s hard to build a blog that can get out of the “long tail” and into the limelight. And if you’re not in the limelight, chances are, lots of people (like me) will not find you in the first place.

    Why is continual content so important? I’m not sure really, but I think it creates a hard core of addicts, some of whom comment and that spurs the community feeling around a site. It’s worth noting that if RSS readers were better quality in general, or easier to use, this might be less of a problem. As it is however, ordinary people monitor sites by clicking on a bookmark and if there’s not much to read, they start to come back less often and eventually forget.

    So, my proposal for you on the way forward is to think about group blogging. Obviously, it’s not going to be easy to find people you want to be associated with, but I think you’d allow that you concentrate a lot on football so perhaps you could find some quality bloggers who focus on other sports to team up with.

    The advantage is that the content load is spread and if you pick a system with good commenting facilities (e.g. Scoop – see the European Tribune for an example) you have the chance to build a real community of interest around intelligent sport commentary. One super advantage of scoop is of course that it allows not only comments, but reader diaries that can be filtered in various ways, which can really amplify the discussions on the site.

  5. I dare say you can tell where this is going, or might be going.

    Yup! To the inclusion of a PayPal button. Pay up, or I’m outta here! 🙂

  6. I would, Tim, but my Paypal account has been hacked into and I don’t have access to it at present (a nuisance, as a fair proportion of my professional fees arrive that way).

    This is very kind indeed – but can I just say, it’s not about audience size, sour grapes thereto? The audience comment relates entirely to the nature of the subject itself and its cultural position in the UK.

    It’s actually leading to a book. Sorry to give you the wrong impression.