The Cricket Blogger’s Challenge

Last night I put a jokey little post up about how much it would cost to travel to London and take in all five days of an Ashes match. It was meant to be silly but I thought it came across as asking for money – and that was not my intention in the slightest – so I took it down.

(If you subscribe to my blog in a RSS reader, you can still read it if you want, as deleted blog posts are not purged from RSS feeds which I think is just ridiculous but that’s a post for another day.)

The gist of what I was trying to get across is that we have unbelievable and unheard of access to the sport of cricket these days, thanks primarily to the Internet. This access has in a lot of ways created a very large and active cricketing diaspora. Ex-pats and Americans and others all over the world are now fans of the game and follow it just as relentlessly and fanatically as those that live in Test playing nations.

Because of this, however, you have a whole generation, if not two generations, of cricket fans who do not have access to one very key part of following the game: watching top flight matches in person.

That might seem unimportant to many because, in a lot of ways, cricket is more enjoyable to watch on TV or on the Internet: you have access to stats and instant replays and “expert” commentary. Plus you can watch it in your pants and the beer is cheaper. But let’s of course remember for a minute that cricket existed long before the Internet and television and even radio. Cricket is not globally popular because of how it appears on television, it is globally popular because it is enjoyable to watch live. Being able to take in top flight matches is a fundamental part of enjoying cricket – and the fact that generations of fans are unable to participate in such a fundamental facet of fandom is, in a lot of ways, really terrible for the future of cricket.

Of course, cricket is not the only sport with an active diaspora. There are legions of Manchester United and Arsenal and Chelsea fans for instance that will never even step foot in England. However, the big difference between cricket’s diaspora and football’s diaspora is that top flight soccer is everywhere. I can drive to Chicago and watch the Fire play the Galaxy if I wanted. But if I wanted to watch top flight cricket, I would have to, as I detailed in yesterday’s phantom post, spend thousand and thousands of dollars.

All of that said, cricket is quite possibly extinct right now if the Internet never happened. It’s a blessing and a curse, surely, but I think in the long run, it might very well prove to be a detriment to the overall quality of the game.

I mean, really, when you think about it, those who don’t think that television ruined sports are few and far between. So just think what the Internet is going to do to these games we love.

*Shudder*

*
At the end of the phantom post, I half jokingly suggested there should be a kickstarter for cricket bloggers to help alleviate the problem detailed above.

And this is something I have thought about before. Could I do a kickstarter where my friends and family pony up $25-$50 each to send me to England or India to “cover” a cricket match? The answer of course is a resounding no – mostly because none of us have any idea how to monetize our blogs, and therefore we have nothing to offer as spiffs to supporters. (You can ask family members to “pre-order” your CD, but asking family members to “pre-order” your blog post is of course ridiculous.)

But there is precedent for this sort of thing. The news website I work for, MinnPost.com, started its first crowd-funded beat this past fall. The goal of the program is to get people to pay for a journalist to write on a regular basis on an under-covered topic.

Unfortunately for cricket bloggers, of course, cricket is not the slightest bit under-covered, and there are plenty of experts doing a great job writing about cricket the world over – and yes that includes beats such as the Associates and other non-Test nations.

What bloggers do have to offer are unique perspectives, unique voices, and unique styles that I think all cricket fans the world over would enjoy reading, if the writer was given proper access to matches, coaches, boards, and/or athletes. (Note the fantastic work The Cricket Couch is doing with his podcast, and that’s just through sheer hustle, without any “proper” access – I mean, just imagine what he could do if he had access to press credentials).

(Cricinfo of course understands the above, which is why they started up The Cordon. It’s a definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to giving all cricket fans access to more unique voices in cricket, but it’s a very small step. And it is also a step toward monetizing blogs (with Disney the only organization seeing any of the ad dollars unfortunately) AND a step toward the homogenization of the blogosphere…but again those are posts for another day. For now: Cricinfo understand the value of the average cricket blogger, and that value is evidenced in their creation of The Cordon.)

And so my thought was to create something similar to the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge. Cricket bloggers and writers and authors and journalists unite to form a foundation: paying membership dues based on a sliding scale. Then cricket bloggers the world over, on an annual basis, submit proposals: which matches they want to cover, how they want to cover them, and why their voice will be unique. Then several of those proposals are funded via several rounds of voting and discussion, and the final pieces are distributed via the Associated Press to media worldwide to cricket fans the world over. (Edit: The commenter below nailed it: bloggers lose their soul when they are forced into the world of the AP style guide. Method of distribution is now TBD.)

At the end of the day, I think it would produce phenomenally entertaining content.

It’s a pipe dream, of course, but I think a workable pipedream, and I would love to hear people’s thoughts.

*

This weekend I will start writing about actual cricket again, I promise.

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4 Responses to The Cricket Blogger’s Challenge

  1. awbraae says:

    Hmmm, what I like most about blogging is that it is unofficial, can be spectacular or go spectacularly wrong, and is largely unfiltered. I’m not sure I like the way in that the successful posts would be forced to conform to standard and style guides of the various official publications they would be put out in if distributed through AP.

  2. Really like the idea but I wonder if this would irk professional journalists to have a blogger come on to their territory? Rather like the Test Match Special vs Test Match Sofa debate (I’m not sure where I stand on that).

    Also would the lucky blogger chosen be given the right accreditation by the relevant organizers of a match or event in order to cover it in the first place?

  3. Chris Smith says:

    Matt, how many cricket bloggers would need to contribute $25 to, for example, fly you to the Ashes in England (bed and board can be safely assumed to be free)? Are there enough of us?

    Your foundation model has the funding coming from the writers, not the readers. Although, I have suspected for some time that most of us bloggers are writing to an audience of other bloggers, so the consumer/producer distinction is blurred much of the time.

    But your larger point about access to the live game is important. Tracer Bullet wrote an interesting article recently about attending his first cricket match. It’s a privilege that, you can’t have failed to notice, the populations of the main cricket playing nations, are taking for granted. The Auckland Test, dominated by the home nation, echoed to cheers and trumpeting from the travelling England fans. India’s triumph over Australia couldn’t command full grounds. The greatest pleasure of the India v England ODIs was seeing full grounds, many in cities outside of the usual circuit.

    Maybe cricket bloggers of the world could raise some money, get some sponsorship, and organise a match that at which we would be the only, exclusive crowd.

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