Friday, July 30, 2010

The Role of Packer Bloggers

I've been pondering the role of how we, as Packer bloggers, "fit" into the grand scheme of the Packer Universe.  Of course, what has prompted much of my thought is the activities of the Packer blogger who is often most willing to push the envelope, CheeseheadTV's Aaron Nagler.

It started innocuously enough on Wednesday, when Nagler wrote an article about how the Packers' top players need to "improve from within" as much as our developing young players.  However, Nagler chose to tweet a link to the article directly to Aaron Rodgers, whom he picked apart in his article.  Even more shocking, Rodgers chose to tweet back, almost immediately, to chastise Nagler's nitpickiness.

AN: For @AaronRodgers12 - because I send you the praise, I have to send you the criticism as
AR: interesting basing an entire article on one play however poor that play may have been
AN: Just an example. There are a few others, which I'm sure you are aware. Again, I know its a
nitpick. Just call it as I see it
AR: as do I. I'm my biggest critic n that play n some others def sucked. But I think ur a better
writer than that
AN: Clearly, the Packers don't share your appraisal of my writing prowess. But that means a lot
coming from QB1. Thanks.

Now, just between you and me, I'd be thrilled if Aaron Rodgers responded to me on Twitter, which is why so many of us follow celebrities in such a way...the mere thought of a brush with greatness is exciting, to think that our heroes may glance our direction and give us a passing remark.  The thought of Marcia Brady "I'll never wash that hand again" after having it kissed by Davy Jones comes to mind...

But Rodgers did more than just give a passing remark, he offered critique,  Later on, after Nagler offered to meet up with Rodgers for an "off the record" chat, in part to explain his article, Rodgers laughed it off, saying that is the same line he hears from the media.

Which, I'm sure, put both Nagler in a funny position...are Packer bloggers "the media"?  If anyone has read my blog over the last five years or so, they should know that I am quite critical of the media, so much so that I would regard being called "the media" as some sort of crack. 

Last night, with Nagler as one of our guests on Cheesehead Radio (along with the incomparable Corey Behnke), we spoke with him about it.  When Holly pointed out the number of positive articles Aaron had written about him, he bemoaned Rodgers' voice in his head, "You're a much better writer when you're praising me."  Yet, he still wished for an opportunity to be able to have access with Rodgers, in order to explain where he was coming from.  "(Jason) Wilde was saying 'Yeah, I had a...back and forth thing with [Rodgers] about the pad thing with Dez Bryant and rookie hazing,' and I said, 'Yeah, Jason, but you can go into the locker room on Saturday and talk with him about it, and explain yourself.  I've got no access.'"

So, it begs the question:  are we fans or are we now part of the media, but with a disability?  Do we want to be?  Behnke, who was down on the Shareholder meeting field with a press pass, posited last night on Cheesehead Radio, "as soon as we have access, all of the sudden we're reporters.  It was funny, because instead of being fans about the experience, we were like, 'Oh, we have a responsibility now.'"

Honestly, when I was in high school, I seriously thought about going into journalism because I loved to write.  But, I changed my intended major my senior year, justifying it in believing that I could always write on the side...doing what I would love, when I wanted to.  What turned me away was seeing what a "job" being a reporter or even a columnist could be...deadlines, schedules, assignments that don't appeal to you.

So, fast-forward to 2005, when I started writing my Packer blogs, first over at PackerChatters, and now at TundraVision.  Why?  Because I loved it.  I loved the Packers.  I loved writing.  I loved writing about the Packers.  It's a passion.  I love taking one of the many ideas floating around in my head and turning it into a five-page essay.  No deadlines, no one editing my work, and most of all, doing what I love.

In many ways, I think that is what separates the bloggers from the media (other than the obvious lack of access).  I was stunned when then-Press-Gazette beat writer Tom Pelliserro mentioned on an episode of Cheesehead Nation's blogcast that he was not a Packer fan.  How could you live in Green Bay and not be a fan?  For that matter, how can you write about the Packers everyday and have all that access and not be a fan?

But going around the horn, you see that very few of the Packer beat writers claim any allegiance to the Green and Gold.  Jason Wilde himself said he isn't a fan, and Greg Bedard was a Miami Dolphin beat writer for years before coming to Wisconsin.  And, in truth, that is probably the way it should be for the media:  staying neutral and unbiased is the right way to report the news.  Just present the facts, whether it be good news or bad news, as a third-party observer with no real emotional investment.  In fact, it is the journalists that have shown emotional biases, such as Mike Vandermause,  that end up polarizing the readers.

So, where is the fun in that?  You get to work alongside NFL players, but you remove the passion from the equation?  Win or lose, you have your story to write the next day, and you get your paycheck?  No wonder it is like a "job", and when Corey and Aaron talk about gaining more access while finding the responsibilities disconcerting, you have to wonder if those of us who want to be on the inside should be careful what we wish for.

Last year, Larry Garot of PackerChatters asked me if I would like to interview some Hall of Fame candidates as a part of their tour at the Vikings game.  Being a complete neophyte when it came to being a member of the "media", I went in with some sort of pipe dream of sitting at a table across from Jan Stenerud, my childhood hero, and having a nice one-on-one discussion about life.

What I got was completely different, as you can imagine.  Imagine slop being thrown down for farm animals, and you will get an idea of the mob of humanity and tape recorders that engulfed Stenerud when he stepped onto the stage.  Questions shouted, people taking notes, jostling each other, then after about five minutes, they moved on to swarm Paul Krause.  As Stenerud was being ushered away, I grabbed him, and asked for just a moment to speak with him.  The impatient lackey kept tapping his watch as Stenerud politely answered my question about how he left Green Bay.  But, I realized at that moment, I wasn't looking for a quote or an article or a story.  I spoke with Jan Stenerud.  It was a dream come true.

Most of the sweaty masses shouting questions at Krause weren't caught up in the moment of speaking with a childhood hero, but I was.  As a blogger, I don't collect a paycheck, I don't get paid per line, and I am still waiting for my first $20 check to arrive from Google Ads, which I estimate should arrive around 2026.

The role of Packer bloggers should be that, first and foremost:  we are the writers of passion.  We are fans who write out of love, not out of duty.  Sure, we all look to make a buck here and there, pay some of our server bills and maybe get a McDonald's lunch once a year from a sponsor or two.

Like any job that you love, you shouldn't feel like you're working when you do it.  The role of the Packer blogger, utilizing social media and everything else that will be tweeting up in the future, is going to evolve and develop over the years (and I have no doubt that the boys at CheeseheadTV will be the ones leading the charge).  But, do Packer bloggers have a duty to point out the flaws as well as the positive, or do we have the duty of being the positive leaders of the internet?

Hey, if you want fair-and-balanced, read the paper.  If you want all-positive news, go to  But as bloggers, we have the ability to shape our writing however we wish.  If we choose to be rah-rahs, green-and-gold glasses die-hards, then that is what we will be...because we can.  If we want to be fair and balanced, we can do that, too.  Heck, if we want to be overly critical and Debbie Downers, that's an option.  What is important is that we continue to write to follow our passions about the team.

Bob McGinn has little love for internet bloggers, according to several reports.  And, you can guess why...people are turning to free internet sites for their news instead of buying their local paper.  The more that bloggers try to emulate journalists, the more that feeling will exist.  And some, such as Brian Carriveau, are actually excellent journalists in their own right (I've said that while I can write a lot about very little, Brian can write a little and actually say a lot).

The role of Packer Bloggers will indeed change as technology changes, which is very quickly.  Five years ago, when I started writing, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no BlogTalkRadio.  Five years from now, there will be other technologies available to fans to get their message out to the masses.

But what will allow the fan blogs/tweets/podcasts to distinguish itself from mainstream media is the fact that we're allowed to be fans.  The second we stop being fans and it becomes a job is the second we need to reevaluate our priorities.  If you are a true Packer fan, your blog should only enhance your passion, not diminish it.


aussiepacker said...

Great article C.d. I can not show how much respect i have for all you guys that bring me my daily reads on the sites. I barely have enough time to keep up with all the articles and broadcasts let alone produce them. But the thing i respect the most is how much you guys put in for no pay and still hold yourselfs to such a high standard. You all deserve any praise or benefits that you get. I love the game of NFL even though not many people in Australia do, But i am not sure if my love would be as strong if it wasn't for all you guys bringing me my daily fix.

Jersey Al said...

Nice work! And I think Aussie's comment sums up why we do it and the quasi-importance of what we do -we're building a community of rabid Packers fans...

PackersRS said...

Great article, C.D., and I make aussiepacker's words mine. If there were no bloggers, I absolutely wouldn't be the fan I am now, no question about it.

IPB said...

Hey C.D. -
This has to be one of your best Articles in quite..some...time. Or, maybe it just happens to strike a chord with me, as head of IPB. For several years now, we've tried to have our own IPB SportzDesk. And, while they were always opinionated, they were, after all, blogging. Much like you or anyone else without a press Pass, we have to wing it, unless our networking skills give us what even Aaron Nagle would wish for.

I've had my brushes with the greats ... Dave Robinson, Carroll Dale, Willie Davis, among others.. sitting in at a HOPE Foundation speech with Bart Starr. Carroll Dale was actually quite cranky and Dave Robinson was the sweet spot. Everyone else (about 14 in all) were all in-between somewhere.

As for the newer, more recent players? Well, I'll let ya know. Too bad they all act like Rock Stars these days. Just the same, all we can do is go with our gut and what we see.

One of these days, I'll have to buy ya that beer!