And then there were four: Joe Posnanski’s Sports on Earth joins the fray

Yesterday marked the first day for a new online sports site, Sports on Earth. Helmed by Joe Posnanski, who left Sports Illustrated this spring after just three years there, the site’s “senior columnist” has assembled a supporting cast of twelve other writers, only two of whom, Deadspin founding editor Will Leitch and Patrick Hruby (who wrote the Dock Ellis feature I highlighted last week), are immediately recognizable to me. That appears to be farm more an indictment of me than Posnanski, though, as a review of the bio pages of the other ten writers discloses a diverse group of talented writers with online and offline experience in national and noted regional newspapers, blogs, and book-writing, representing a range of ages, geographic localities, sporting interests, and, thankfully if barely, genders. On first blush, this appears to be an accomplished and professional staff that, at least based on two days of operation, is up to the call to post regularly and on current topics.    

As is the sensible way to do things, Posnanski had primed the pump, launching with about a dozen articles* and an apparently major advertising deal with DirecTV ready to go on day one. Other features, like a live news ticker, a merged twitter feed from his writers, and a TV viewing guide, were active from the start. A login feature also was enabled, which allows readers to subscribe to a newsletter (and other advertising promotions, naturally) and create a profile, presumably for commenting on the site.

Any other background information about the site appears to be shrouded in an impenetrable mist that has, if anything, a slightly corporate tinge, evidenced only by official graphical indicia of Major League Baseball and USA Today:

There’s no statement of purpose or other “about” section on the site right now, and Posnanski’s introductory, which was visible yesterday (captured in the top picture, click to expand) and gone today, didn’t offer much insight:

Today, we start up here at Sports on Earth, and we hope the site will be piercing and surprising and thoughtful and ecstatic and a hundred other adjectives. But there’s no point in telling you what you will see. Check it out. • By Joe Posnanski.

You don’t need a ridiculous “manifesto,” but I don’t necessarily agree that “there’s no point in telling you what you will see.” 2011 was a big year for online sports writing, and you didn’t need to be watching too terribly closely to have advanced notice of the launch of the major players last year, all of which I profiled early on here, here, and here. SoE’s launch feels like more of a sneak attack, compelling us to take a wait-and-see approach, which seems to be what Posnanski wants.

It’s difficult to ignore the feeling that Posnanski is looking for a clean break here in order to avoid crossing the PR streams of SoE and Paterno, the book he’s about to publish. No need for me to pile on here– the thing has all the appearances of a colossal disaster— so it’s easy to understand why he’d try to create a fresh start. By most accounts, Posnanski is a very talented writer, so here’s hoping Sports on Earth can serve as an escape vehicle for him.

* Oddly, some of the articles already seem to have disappeared. I was going to comment that, while SoE lived up to the apparent requirement that all sports writing sites have a boxing article, it was another article, about Australian track champion and 1968 Olympic silver medalist Peter Norman, that really piqued my interest from the opening slate of offerings. Through some minor sleuthing, links to both articles still exist (boxing; track), but they no longer appear in the site’s rundown of offerings. I get that new articles will bump older ones off the main page, but at the very least, it appears that Posnanski has failed to account for any sort of archival of older postings, indicating either an accidental oversight or a preference for impermanence striking in the Internet Age, where preservation is the (quite logical) rule of the day. (Possibly related, SoE may have a timestamp problem, as all posts continue to show an August 26, 2012, 8:00 PM ET posting date.)

4 thoughts on “And then there were four: Joe Posnanski’s Sports on Earth joins the fray

  1. Leitch, for his part, has offered a statement of purpose, or at least a purposeful statement:

    “My column here at Sports on Earth is essentially going to be a consumerist one. I’m going to be writing about how people consume sports, how media — all media, from Chris Berman to anonymous Twitter handles, because today they’re essentially all part of the same experience — functions, what fans love about the sports media experience, and what they hate about it. I consider this something of a public advocate position, albeit less altruistic and more sophomoric.

    “They’ve told me that I can write about whatever I want, and I’m going to take their word on that: Nothing should be off-limits, including the place(s) that pay me for this column — in Allagash White and foot massages — and even some of my colleagues. (If this turns out not to be the case, trust me, you’ll hear about it.) But I’m a friendly, affable guy. I’m not out to get anybody, because sports is too much fun to approach as some sort of hatchet man.

    “I love sports as much as anyone, and am as avid a consumer of media as you’ll find. I’m writing for fans because I’m one of them, and the things that bother you, I suspect, are the same things that bother me. I’m hesitant to call this a “media” column, because I don’t think most people care about media the way it’s covered in media columns — who’s moving up the ladder, who got hired by whom. I just want to talk about what it’s like to experience sports in the year 2012, as a consumer, as a fan: everything there is to love about it, and everything that drives us nuts.

    “I imagine this column as a valve, a release, for what you’re yelling at your television during games, or why, after reading a particular column, you’re pounding your fists into your computer. Obviously, I’ll need your help to do that. . . . I am at your beck and call.”

  2. Pingback: The second chapter of Sports on Earth | ALDLAND

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