In Praise of SBNation (With Much Love for Japers’ Rink)

There is no better place to start my weekly discussion of things in the blogosphere than the place where I spend much of my time online.

I’m not doing SBNation (www.sbnation.com) justice when I describe it, as it does itself, as “Sports News and Fan Opinion Powered by 249 Blogs.”  The 249 sports blogs include one for every NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB team; one for almost all the Big 12, Big 10, ACC, Pac 10, Big East and SEC schools, one for some of the MLS and Premier League teams, and blogs covering fantasy, statistics, martial arts, boxing, golf and others.  Recently, they’ve added regional sites for 12 cities (with another eight going on-line by July 1) that pull together all the teams there and also sponsor local meet-ups where posters can see each other in the flesh.

I discovered SBNation through Japers’ Rink, the SBNation blog that focuses on the Washington Capitals, which is the team I live and die with.  Since early March this year, I have visited Japers Rink (as STLSpidey) every day that I’ve had internet access.

Japers’ Rink and the other 248 blogs use the same site template, which allows users to easily transition from team blog to team blog.  A core local group runs each blog and posts articles about the team nearly 365 days a year, inviting comment from the readers.  In addition to these articles, each blog allows “Fan Posts,” which are articles of depth and substance posted by readers like me, and “Fan Shots,” which are shorter topics for discussion that we fans suggest.  For example, my first Fan Post on Japers’ Rink was a discussion of the punishment imposed to Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals and Marian Hossa of the Blackhawks  for their similar checks from behind in different games.  A Fan Shot could be something as simple as posting a trade rumor and inviting discussion.

When a team has a game, blog participants watch the game while participating in a discussion on the site.   At first, it’s like “watching” in a large bar, but after a few games, it’s a bit like family.

Each blog has its own rules and etiquette that a reader agrees to upon joining.  What I really like is the respectful way fans are treated, especially when a fan crosses over to a rival team’s blog.  If a Red Sox fan from Over the Monster joins a discussion on Pinstripe Alley, the Yankees’ site, they are listened to and debated, unless they start their post with “Yankees Suck.”  Then they are booted out.   Name calling is generally not tolerated, although each blog sets its own rules about obscenities in the context of discussion.  At Japers’ Rink, I can tell you that we hold nothing back!

I haven’t visited every one of the 249 blogs on SBNation, but I doubt any other is like Japers’ Rink.  I just have to give some love to the Rink and my friends there.

We are bound by our passionate support for the Caps, and the participants’ depth of knowledge about the Caps is incredible.  But for me, Japers’ Rink is less about the Caps, than it is about community.  Entering the discussion boards at the Rink is, for many of the 30 or so regulars, like multiple “Norms” entering Cheers.  And this is not just a DC group either.  It is truly a Caps Diaspora.  From DC to Nashville and St. Louis in the Midwest to Seattle and Los Angeles on the West Coast and all the way to Tblisi Georgia, we enter from across the globe.  When I started participating in March, I was made to feel extremely welcome.  I remember well the first time that someone asked me a question about something I had written about two days earlier.  That was cool.

What really sets Japers’ Rink apart from other SBNation blogs, however, are the daily “Off-Topic” threads.  These are daily boards opened up for discussion of anything at all, as long as it doesn’t involve the Capitals.  Participants visit the OT threads to interact with their fellow Caps fans and do so every day of the year.  Today, for example, on a normal off-season day, the OT thread had nearly 600 comments, covering items such as good concerts to see, the World Cup, last night’s Top Chef DC, and a search for a Karaoke KJ (whatever that is).  For me, this makes the Rink what it is.  I just don’t know whether the hockey discussions make the OT discussions better or of the OT discussions make the hockey discussions better.

So — bottom line — visit SBNation and find the blog that supports the team you live and die with.  You’ll find the depth of the information outstanding and you’ll “meet” others who share the same passion you do and want to “talk” about it as much as you do.

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