Barras and Bloggers in DC
It’s now two days after the first Pitch Invasion derby, and for most Internet-connected DC fans, it means we’ve had two days to enjoy our usual post-game media routine. A committed United news junkie knows that shortly after the game he can log onto Steven Goff’s Soccer Insider blog for a recap and some quotes, and then return shortly after for a full article on the game. The next day brings yet more coverage and team updates, maybe thoughts from around MLS or other leagues and a YouTube clip or two. We may be hurting from the weekend’s result, but rarely for information on the team.
Every team in every major sport has its fanatic blogging legions, but few traditional media outlets have joined in where soccer is concerned. The Washington Post is a sterling exception. Though DC is usually known for its team and notable supporters’ groups, its reputation as MLS’ best market owes a great deal to soccer’s inclusion in the local sports media culture.
Goff, the Washington Post beat writer for United, is usually good for multiple updates a day on DC United practices, the US national team(s), and any other soccer topics that come to mind. His blog has been both prolific and popular: of the Post’s sport blogs, only the one dedicated to the all-consuming Redskins enjoys higher traffic. Through it, United fans get enjoy a constant and now indispensable stream of the team-related details typically saved for breathless NFL minicamp reports.
Soccer Insider is expressly dedicated to all things DC United, but the team also gets significant press from the DC Sports Bog, written by Dan Steinberg, who covers DC’s fan- and player-related shenanigans with Woodwardian zeal. Where Goff’s blog is an extension of his soccer writer’s gig, Steinberg’s is more like a dorm-room sports nut’s playground somehow gone legitimate, and it’s unquestionably the more impressive of the two.
Want to hear about a Nationals dugout prank or Gilbert Arenas’ thoughts on the Sopranos finale? There’s a decent chance you’ll wade through yet another post about DC defender Bobby Boswell before you do. The Bog gladly covers United’s locker room personality quirks and Barra Brava inside jokes alongside the stories from every other sport. Soccer isn’t treated as a fringe oddity because the entire blog is essentially about fringe oddities.
The Bog is also devoid of all soccer knowledge or analysis, but it gives United and the sport a greater legitimacy: equal time for back stories, amusing moments, and all the random off-field miscellany that the average sports fan loves to hear about. United may be king of Soccer Insider, but being just one of the guys on the Bog is more meaningful in the end.
Of course, both are beloved and valuable, signs of a media integration that seems to escape most MLS teams. It’s obvious that a team taken seriously is one that more readily attracts and keeps fans. DC supporters certainly notice, appreciate, and frequently interact with Goff and Steinberg, who provide a mainstream forum (in the nation’s second newspaper, no less) for some soccer and United dialogue. The Barra Brava and the Screaming Eagles are sometimes looked at as models, but the true lesson is that the model is incomplete without the broader support the Post blogs provide.