The story around the New York Islanders has taken a serious turn for the worse during the month of November. Forget about the fact that the team is yet to register a win this month. First the team fired its coach, then the organization stripped away the credentials from the man who is by far the best journalist covering Islanders hockey and announcer Howie Rose lamentfully asked “is it Spring Training yet?” while unknowingly still on air.
Unfortunately I was born into New York sports hell. I inherited rooting interests in the Islanders, Mets and Jets, possibly the most pathetic trio of complete and utter ineptitude that any American sports fan could grow up with. I’ve come to expect the worst and on several occasions have been pleasantly surprised, but these Islanders are in the process of recalibrating my expectations altogether.
For the last few years, Chris Botta’s blog–Islanders Point Blank–has been my go to source for any and all Islander information. Before there was Botta, Newsday was the only local news publication to assign a beat writer to cover the Islanders. Newsday wasn’t great, but they were the only publication to cover team in the New York area. At about the same time that Newsday put its online content behind a paywall, Botta stepped up as a one-stop-shop for any and all Islander information and I was hooked.
Here we had a guy who worked in the team’s media relations, knows the sport of hockey inside and out, and loves the Islanders covering Islanders news on a daily basis. Point Blank reaped benefits for everyone involved: the team, the fans and Botta. Through the blog us fans learned that we weren’t alone in our fanhood and it provided a forum through which Islander fans could tap into their latent passion and enthusiasm about the franchise without having to venture to the sad venue that is the Nassau Coliseum.
The problems afflicting the organization are too many to name, several of which the team is as much a victim as the fans; however when they stripped Chris Botta of his media credentials that put things over the time (and some might say I have a pretty extreme pain threshold considering my longstanding unquestioned loyalty). And considering I am part of a blog myself, this issue is somewhat personal. At heart of the debate is at what point one transitions from merely a “blogger” to a journalist and moreover, whether that’s even a relevant distinction today.
If Botta were accepted as a journalist by the team, regardless of any underlying issues, they would have little choice but to maintain his credentials; however, since Botta’s address is located in the “blogosphere” the team came to the conclusion that they could treat him differently. This is troubling for many reasons, most obvious of which is the fact that Botta’s blog averages 1.5 million fan views per month and is sponsored by both AOL Fanhouse (AOL) and SNY, two respected media venues.
In building Point Blank, Botta has become a trailblazer in sports team journalism. He permanently changed the nature of the way that teams are covered by blogs and the relationship that the coverage establishes with the fanbase. Over the weekend, Botta was generous enough to speak with me about what it’s been like to build up his online presence and to make the transition from PR to blog to respected journalist. That interview will be posted online in the days following Thanksgiving weekend so come back over to check it out.
In the meantime, let us Islander fans all be Thankful that Travis Hamonic, an up-and-coming young defenseman (watch him destroy last year’s 1st overall pick at the Memorial Cup), will make his debut today and that at least we don’t have those awful fish-sticks jerseys anymore.