#BWB6: Ask Spencer Anything


At our first BWB, Spencer Hall (then “Orson Swindle”) stormed into the Big Apple in a fine white suit. At BWB2 he doubled down in Vegas. Last time in Chicago at BWB3, the bro got iced. We put him on a panel with a motley crew of Rovell, Daulerio, Shanoff and Jamele at SXSW. Now SXSW has a whole sports track. Coincidence? We don’t think so either.

Over the course of our existence, Spencer went from one of the best and entertaining college football writers in the country to the Editorial Director at SB Nation – whose own growth over the years is in many ways unparalleled in the space.

Spencer is as respected by his peers and aspiring online sports writers as anyone. That’s why we want to allow those admirers to pick his brain on everything from the BCS to story structure to running one of the most prominent sports blog networks out there.

At BWB6, you’ll be able to ASA – Ask Spencer Anything in a Q&A format.

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BWB makes its return to the Windy City on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 – conveniently immediately preceding the 2015 NFL Draft. This year will be a combination of panels, Q&A’s, presentations and networking opportunities.

We’ll Do It Live

At our last major event, the incomparable group formerly known as “The Basketball Jones” did a live podcast from the TIFF building in Toronto. We loved the format so much, we hope to replicate its success this year with Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner Podcast featuring two of our old friends, Jay Busbee and Chicago’s Kevin Kaduk, and new BWBer Frank Schwab. The trio will be joined by special guests as they show you how they work their broadcast magic.

• Jay Busbee, Yahoo
• Kevin Kaduk, Yahoo
• Frank Schwab, Yahoo

bwb56 header

BWB makes its return to the Windy City on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 – conveniently immediately preceding the 2015 NFL Draft. This year will be a combination of panels, Q&A’s, presentations and networking opportunities.

Announcing Our First Panel for #BWB6

Justice, Society and the Rise of Online and Athlete Activists

2014 saw an unprecedented intersection between sports and social issues.  Social media fueled the conversation – and controversy – as athletes and journalists alike took to platforms like Twitter to both cover and opine on everything from Michael Sam’s journey to “I Can’t Breathe” in the NBA to Ray Rice’s actions.  In the eyes of the public, often athletes became polarizing and media became agenda-driven as a result.  In an age where everyone has a platform, what roles could and should athletes and sports-oriented influencers take on social issues?  What is their responsibility for engaging or leading the conversation of off-field issues?  What backlash have they received and is it warranted?  Our diverse panel take a look at these topics and more.

•  Moderator:  Kevin Blackistone, ESPN
•  Julie DiCaro, A League of Her Own
•  Aaron Harison, Co-Founder & President, Washington Free Beacon
•  Greg Howard, Deadspin
•  Chris Kluwe, NFL
•  Cyd Zeigler, Outsports

bwb56 header

BWB makes its return to the Windy City on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 – conveniently immediately preceding the 2015 NFL Draft. This year will be a combination of panels, Q&A’s, presentations and networking opportunities.

Reaction Roundtable: League of Denial

This week, BWB’s Don Povia was joined by Yahoo Sports’ Jay Busbee, Bleacher Report’s Will Carroll, SB Nation’s David Roth, The Outside Corner and ONE World Sports’ Amanda Rykoff and Deadspin’s Kyle Wagnerto discuss the aftermath of Frontline’s eye-opening piece on NFL concussions and overall health and safety, “League of Denial.”

De Smith’s BWB Talk on “Moral Philosophy, Duties from Employers to Employees…and Medical Ethics”

This past April, a few hours before the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith gave a talk and Q&A with a handful of NFL bloggers and football media that foreshadowed a lot of the health and safety issues that the football-loving public was exposed to last night on Frontline’s “League of Denial.”

Congrats to BWBers on the SITwitter100 List

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Congrats to past BWB speakers on the list: Ives Galarcep (BWB4), Jemele Hill (BWBSXSW, BWB4, BWB5) and Greg Wyshynski (BWB1, BWB2, BWB5).

Jemele Hill (with mic) at by BWBSxSW's Pepsi Max Blogs with Balls Digital Tailgate.

Jemele Hill (with mic) at by BWBSxSW’s Pepsi Max Blogs with Balls Digital Tailgate.

Outlets that have been a part of the BWB family include:

Outsports: Founder Cyd Zeigler (BWB5, BWBLA)
Deadspin: Editors-in-chief Will Leitch (BWB Fan Freedom), AJ Daulerio (BWB1, BWB2, BWB4, BWBSXSW, BWBDraft2013), Tommy Craggs (BWB4)
SB Nation Gifs: (BWB1, BWB3, BWB4, BWBDC sponsor)

Daulerio (left) and Craggs (second from right) on the BWB4 Deadspin panel.

Daulerio (left) and Craggs (second from right) on the BWB4 Deadspin panel.

Not sure how to categorize, but two on the list (Deadspin and Buzzfeed Sports) employed BWBLA speaker Erik Malinowski.

Blackberry, Blueberry?

Mike Francesa explains social media, compares self to POTUS; people to racehorses.

(via Jimmy Traina)

#Draft2013 Videos

Pre-Draft Media Combine

Moderator: Devin Gordon, GQ Magazine
Eric Winston — NFL Free Agent
Anita Marks – NBC Sports Radio
Greg Cosell – NFL Films / ESPN NFL Matchup
Keith Bulluck – Titans (Ret)
Matt Ufford – SB Nation

Unnecessary Roughness: Online Coverage of the League and NFL Players

Moderator: Don Povia, BWB
Justin Tuck – Giants
Richard Deitsch – Sports Illustrated
AJ Daulerio – Gawker / Deadspin
Tim Ryan – Big Lead Sports
JR Jackson – JR Sport Brief
Dan Rubenstein – SB Nation

Q&A with DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA Executive Director

NFLPA #Draft2013 Forum Luncheon

Visanthe Shiancoe
Mike Tanier, Sports on Earth
Mike Cole, reddit
and Guests including Brian Billick

Justin Durant is a Better Early 90′s Dancer than You Are

Justin is going to kick in an overview and some images of his experience as an intern shortly, but in the meantime, he wanted to take it back to the old school, ’cause he’s an old fool who’s so cool.

NBA to Launch; BWB5 Panelists Rejoice

Late last night, Mashable posted a piece titled “NBA Gives Basketball Nerds the Gift of Big Data,” through which will launch Friday night during All-Star Weekend, proclaiming that “Christmas just came six weeks late for basketball nerds.”

Users will be able to access an incredible total of 4.5 quadrillion statistical combinations, according to Ken De Gennaro, the NBA’s vice president of information technology.


Powered by the enterprise and analytics software company SAP, appears to be an unprecedented step by a sports league into officially opening the gates of big data for fans.


We collected a group of stat nerd last October to talk about stats-driven media and whether outlets could find, build and sustain an audience based on number crunching in sports. I think our panel is evidence that it can, in fact, do so.

Among those panelists were NBA ESPN Insider and Heat Index editor Tom Haberstroh who offered a great perspective when it came to hoops.

“There’s a lot of use for analytics in storytelling and to win on the field,” Haberstroh said. “The NBA is just getting started. If LeBron’s using advanced stats, that tells us how far we’ve come.”

You can watch the full panel here and see the always great and thorough recap from Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz below.

A lot of credit goes to the NBA for being out-front digitally. I mentioned at #BWBLA that I find teams’ uses of Instagram fantastic. Mitch Germann, then VP of Communications of the Sarcramento Kings, mentioned way back in 2009 around BWB2 in Vegas that the league gives franchises the autonomy to use digital assets to go out and build their brands: what’s good for the teams is good for the league. In 2010 we praised the launch of NBA Turnstyle.

Here, again, the league itself is doing something not earth-shattering, but different and non-traditional. More importantly as the groundswell of stat-heads are popping up and making cottage industries out of numbers, the NBA is taking ownership of its data.

Awful Announcing Recap

Moneyballs: Measurement and Analytics in Sports Media


Amanda Rykoff, espnW (moderator)

Michael Smith, ESPN/Numbers Never Lie

Tom Haberstroh, ESPN/Heat Index

Aaron Schatz, Football Outsiders

Rob Shaw, Bloomberg Sports

Joe Fortenbaugh, National Football Post

Andrew Garda, Bleacher Report


The panel appropriately started with a discussion of “Moneyball” (book and film), and Schatz said the book made it possible for stats-focused writers to build an audience. “I don’t know if I’d have a career if not for Moneyball,” he said. He launched Football Outsiders in 2003 around the time the book was released, and got a ton of hits from people searching for “The Moneyball of football”. As he pointed out though, Moneyball’s been misinterpreted by many; the book isn’t really about specific statistics like on-base percentage or the divide between statheads and scouts, but rather about finding economic inefficiencies and exploiting them.

Shaw said that’s a key point: these inefficiencies aren’t static. “The inefficiency’s going to change,” he said. “It’s not always going to be walks.” Shaw said Moneyball encouraged many from numbers backgrounds to get into using those backgrounds on the sports front. “It opened up the door professionally to a lot of people in the number-crunching industries.”

Haberstroh said from a team’s or athlete’s perspective, stats aren’t just there to explain what happened, but to give insights they can use going forward. “Moneyball to me means using data as a weapon,” he said. “It’s finding a competitive edge that other people aren’t exploiting.” He said in the NBA, players like LeBron James have started doing this, citing an example where Shane Battier told James the data supports letting Carmelo Anthony shoot long two-pointers and James started doing so as a result. “There’s a lot of use for analytics in storytelling and to win on the field,” Haberstroh said. “The NBA is just getting started. If LeBron’s using advanced stats, that tells us how far we’ve come.”

Fortenbaugh said a crucial part of using statistics is ensuring that you’re telling the whole story, not cherry-picking to support a preconceived argument. “Anyone can build an argument and find a stat to support it,” he said. “The key is to find the right stat.” Garda said he thinks Football Outsiders does an excellent job of presenting statistics in context. “They’ve got the numbers, but then they explain why the numbers exist.”

Schatz said it’s important to recognize that just pointing out a problem from a statistical side (for example, the Bears’ poor blocking) doesn’t necessarily fix it. “The stats help you identify what’s going on,” he said. “You still need scouting and coaching to figure out how to change it.”

Haberstroh said Jason Brough’s comment on the hockey panel about the arrogance of statistics people was interesting, though, as he sees something similar from old-school writers who like bashing stats. “There’s also an arrogance on the other side.”

Smith had an interesting perspective, as he’s a co-host on ESPN’s Numbers Never Lie, which started as a numbers show and has largely changed into something else. (Smith didn’t reference this specifically, but it’s interesting that Numbers Never Lie personality Rob Parker was recently trolling statistics people on Twitter. That would seem to say a lot about where the show’s gone to.)

“Numbers Never Lie was initially conceived and dubbed as the fantasy show,” Smith said. “It now is a debate show, like most other shows on ESPN. … I hate to say it’s not about analytics, but it’s not about analytics.” Smith admitted the title’s a little deceiving given the show’s current format. “The show Numbers Never Lie does give kind of a false impression,” he said. “Numbers are the flavour of the show, but not the focus of the show.” He said he’s personally very much into the statistics movement, but it’s hard to sell it to the masses. “We’re in the information age with so many people who don’t want to embrace information,” Smith said. “I’m about analytics. … If you’re not embracing analytics, you’re a fool.”

Smith said there’s definitely an audience for a hardcore stats show based around intellectual debate instead of loud arguments. “There’s a segment of the population that wants to turn on the TV and not just see people yelling,” he said. However, he said ESPN’s research determined most of their viewers didn’t want to watch a show that frequently used statistics that had to be explained to them. “For that reason, Numbers Never Lie got away from the hard analytics.”

Smith said one problem is that sports analysis still carries some of the high school cliques, including jocks (former players), cool kids (outspoken analysts/personalities) and nerds (statistics types). Schatz said that’s starting to change on the team side, as many ex-players currently serving as general managers have embraced analytics, and he’s optimistic it will happen on the TV side as well. “It would be awesome to have some ex-player analysts embrace stats the way some ex-player general managers have.”

Fortenbaugh said one big way to sell statistics is using them to predict what will happen rather than just explain the past, but Schatz said a problem there is that even the best numbers still carry substantial uncertainty. He said even Football Outsiders’ top projections can still fail about 33 percent of the time, which is why he doesn’t usually make bold predictions. Haberstroh agreed with that approach, but said it represents one of the reasons advanced stats haven’t sold well on TV. “There’s the rub, because what sells on TV is bold proclamations,” he said.

Haberstroh said he dislikes the traditionalism many anti-analytics types espouse, and he said many of the statistics favoured by old-school writers (batting average, points per game, etc) are only used because they’ve always been used. “What if everyone was put to the Men In Black mind eraser?” he asked, arguing that people might choose more advanced, widely-reflective stats if given the chance to look at all numbers without the historical context of how they’ve been used. Haberstroh said the best stats in the world don’t mean you can just ignore watching the games, though. “The big misnomer about stats guys or people who use analytics is they don’t watch the game,” he said. “You have to.”

Thoughts: Those on the panel here had pretty solid Value Over Replacement Panelist numbers, as everyone added something to the discussion. Rykoff in particular did a nice job of stimulating discussion, spanning the participants’ broadly-ranging backgrounds and interests and getting everyone involved at appropriate times, while Schatz and Haberstroh delivered key insights on how statistics affect their sports. This had the potential to be a pretty monotone panel, but it wasn’t; it wasn’t a group of statheads just ragging on scouts and traditionalists, but rather people actively and realistically discussing where stats are at, how they can improve and how they can best be utilized. That’s a much more productive discussion than the endless stats-versus-traditionalists fights.

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