So yesterday Jason Campbell debuts, the Redskins' freefall continues, a top 10 local hoops team is upset at home, the most important BCS rankings of the year are released and the Nats' best player signs with the Cubs. Sorta busy sports day 'round here. And what's the most-read sports story on our Web site this morning? A 390-word story on Ultimate Fighting, written off TV coverage by a freelancer, which appeared on page E3 of
Sunday's print edition.
Not only is it currently beating all the Redskins and Nats and Hoyas stories on our site; it's currently second on the entire Washington Post site. Number one: Pentagon options on improving the Iraq situation. Number two: Ultimate Fighting, covered via TV, on page E3.
The story achieved that rank because it's the top story on UFC's Web site, and the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of UFC fans who go there then jump to our site. Every time we write about these events, the UFC hooks us up with a link, and the resulting TV-based recap is the most-read sports story on our site. And I mean no disrespect to Andrew Levine, who does a fine job with these recaps; it's just not how I traditionally have thought of sports writing. It's really remarkable, and it has me wondering a few things:
1) Will sportswriters in the future watch events on TV, conduct phone interviews or listen in on press conferences and then write remote stories? It's true that you can't replicate being in a locker room. It's also true that you often get a better picture of what's happening by watching and listening to a television broadcast. And satellite TV is cheaper than plane tickets and expense-account dinners. Once you've done it with Ultimate Fighting, why couldn't you do it with any other sport, especially big events like Michigan-Ohio State, where the out-of-town writers are going with the big picture and not trying to snoop out any real news?
2) Will sports sections in the future make their coverage decisions based on Web clicks? Disgruntled local sports fans always ask us how we decide which teams to cover, and we often refer to readership surveys that are in many cases dated, and that always involve random samplings. With the Web you don't have to random sample anything; you can just look at the numbers. If clicks is what we want, the answers are clear: UFC and Redskins.
3) Should I just ditch the local sports angle and write about nothing but UFC, and then hope the fine folks over in UFC-land see fit to link to my blog posts? I'd lose Unsilent Majority and bryc3 and SEKim, but I'd gain the world.
Edit: I didn't realize this, but we're now also publishing UFC videos on our site. So you can watch some red/white hot UFC action here, and judge for yourself, I guess. Although for sheer quantities of blood and nastiness, you might just as well watch Chris Clark take a puck in the mouth.