Prepare yourself for some mind-caving navel-gazing, because Jamie Mottram and I have created a Bizarro version of Sports Business Journal's 20 most influential online sports media execs.
Since jumping from mainstream media into the sports-blog universe (six months ago today!), I have spent an unhealthy amount of time immersed in it. A few months ago, I was inspired to create a ranking of the most influential sports bloggers – totally subjective, but certainly based on what I was seeing, reading and hearing.
Then I discovered that Jamie was putting together a ranking of his own, and we decided that rather than compete with each other, we would collaborate on a Top 20 of the Most Influential Sports Bloggers, simultaneously posting the list on both of our blogs.
Our criteria? A combination of visibility, traffic, Technorati, our individual experiences as consumers -- and the same mysterious b.s. that holds every Top 20 list together.
1. Will Leitch, Deadspin: Simply put, he has more influence on mainstream sports coverage than anyone in mainstream sports media.
2. Tyler Bleszinski, SB Nation and A's Nation: President of the top sports blogging network, which should be bought for millions any day now.
3. Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Acquired and hired by ESPN, providing inspiration for bloggers everywhere.
5. MJD*, The Mighty MJD and Deadspin: Pound-for-pound the most talented writer among sports bloggers. The next Bill Simmons?
6. Matt Ufford, With Leather and Kissing Suzy Kolber: From Deadspin commenter to KSK founding father to With Leather editor in just six months, being foul-mouthed and funny sure goes a long way.
7. Brother L, The Big Lead: Carves out an influential niche with sports-media gossip and must-read journo interviews that make (or break) careers.
8. Mark Cuban, Blog Maverick: Direct-to-fans communication model changed sports-media dynamics, and you never know what the hell he's going to say.
9. Orson Swindle, Every Day Should Be Saturday: National influence transcends college football's hyper-local focus.
10. Eric McErlain, Off Wing Opinion and NBC Sports: Long-time NHL blogger's efforts are getting his people in the press box.
11. Brooks, Sports by Brooks: T&A strategy and tireless snark yields massive traffic from the West Coast.
12. J.E. Skeets*, The Basketball Jones: Anchors the finest sports podcast going and uncovers endless amounts of top-grade YouTube video.
13. David Pinto, Baseball Musings: Leveraged "Baseball Tonight Online" gig into current status as a full-time, A-list MLB blogger.
14. Jason Gurney, Low Post, Strike Two and Fair Catch: Has created the Technorati of basketball, baseball and football.
15. Gilbert Arenas, NBA.com Blog: Setting a new standard for athlete accessibility.
16. Bethlehem Shoals* et al, Free Darko: Primary purveyor of either the NPR or the Pitchfork of the NBA, depending on who you're talking to.
17. "Darvin Ham" et al, Wizznutzz: Raises the bar on otherworldly creativity while also dabbling in fabulous fashion.
18. Brian Cook*, M Go Blog: His college football BlogPoll brings dozens of top bloggers together and should be part of the BCS formula.
19. Ken Tremendous, Junior and Dak, Fire Joe Morgan: Pioneered essential format of scathing sports media criticism.
20. Bob Kellett, WorldCupBlog and The Offside: Amazing traffic every four years (11 million page views in June '06) and now a popular daily presence.
* - Full disclosure: Also writes for AOL Fanhouse, which is the group blog Jamie oversees.
It's worth pointing out: The depth of quality in sports blogging is phenomenal. The leap that has been made even in the last 18 months – or even the last year – has effectively allowed sports blogs, as a whole, to become as much of a fundamental part of fan consumption as ESPN or their local newspaper coverage. (And of all sports-media outlets, blogs have, by far, the most exciting growth prospects. Consider how many names on this list didn't even EXIST 6-to-18 months ago.)
Have there been omissions here? Are we blinded by our biases? Most definitely -- and we apologize if you or your favorite blog(s) aren't listed here. It's just two guys' opinion. One thing you'll notice is that most of the names below cover sports "nationally," rather than at the team-specific level. There are some wildly talented team-specific bloggers out there. And there are certainly other extremely good "national" bloggers out there. But, like any overreaching "list" ranking, it's a stake in the ground and a START to the discussion, more than anything else.
The only definitive analysis is that there is so much talent pushing up through the pipeline that a year from now, we both expect that there will be dramatic shifts on this list. What really separates sports blogs from traditional sports media is that it's far closer to a meritocracy: The best stuff – the fastest take, the freshest angle, the most prolific posts – tends to create its own influence.
-- D.S. and Jamie Mottram
UPDATE: Glaring Omissions.
OK, so as readers (and bloggers) have responded as we expected, with the natural reaction being, "How could you not list X?!" So we're going to maintain a running list of "Glaring Omissions." We're not admitting that we screwed up, but we acknowledge that this isn't an exact science and that the blogosphere is a big effing place. Watch this space for updates.