I'm sure there's a lot of people that like this title. You'll like it more when you read on. It's not just me that could be fired, it's all the sportswriters. Whether it's your local fishwrap guy, ESPN's finest, or the bloggers that litter the sports landscape, we're all at risk.
The proper word is disintermediation, a word popularized in the tech world by Clayton Christenson. Christenson is perhaps the guru for the new economy, though his own theories would suggest that he's been passed by. Christenson's work on disruptive technologies led to, or at least explained, how blogs could steal readers from newspapers. More importantly, blogs and other online technologies shifted money from newspapers and newspaper conglomerates in ways they never saw coming. While watching to see how news would move across the web, Monster and eBay took the revenue streams. While they reacted to protect their streams, Gawker and Digg dropped a new paradigm on the news.
Any disintermediation is in itself a middle step. Every ad you've seen that says "we cut out the middleman" is a lie. Most transactions don't take place between buyer and seller; most disintermediations merely change the identity of the middleman and in most cases, change the efficiency of transactions. EBay doesn't introduce you to the guy in Paducah selling collectible Starbucks mugs, it just gives you the introduction, the opportunity, and takes a small cut.
So how does this have anything to do with sportswriting? Easy. We're an intermediary and by definition, at risk of some disruptive technology. At heart, sportswriters are delivery vehicles. Beat writers give scores, quotes, and notes. Columnists give opinion and insight. Bloggers do some combination of those. The medium may be different and the passion and feedback certainly different, but the risk is the same.
Just as bloggers threaten the position of established media writers, the athletes and teams themselves hold the key to knocking both of these out of the picture. Do I want to read a quote in the local paper from Joe Athlete or head to JoeAthlete.com and get his take on the game. Sure, there's a risk of the ham-handed handling we've seen in situations like BarryBonds.com (no information) or with the KC Royals recent damage control blog (pure spin). Done right, it's much more interesting to read Mark Cuban's blog or check the MySpace page of Kyle Orton than it is to hope you get the meaningful quotes in context from news or TV.
It's going to take a smart athlete - or coach, owner, doctor, trainer, agent, whatever - to handle this. It will take a commitment to add in updating the page in addition to the rest of an athlete's schedule. Worse, we'll be confronted with hype, spin, and downright lies. That's where the opportunity lies. If Joe Athlete lies, there needs to be someone watching. Maybe there will be a network of watchmen, not unlike the current networks of bloggers - call it Credibility Nation. There will be aggregators that find the best information. There will be need for writers and bloggers that add value rather than merely occupying a place in an antiquated hierarchy.
That's a disruption I'm willing to lose a job over.