One comment from a year or two ago sticks in my mind as why game threads are so wonderful. A Red Sox fan was stuck in Milwaukee on business. He was able to get the game on TV and came into the thread to cheer and vent with a small group of Sox fans rather than watching alone in his hotel room. This is one of myriad ways the internet has fostered a larger sense of community.
Twelve to 15 people are here for at least three or four games every week. They are also the blog's main commenters. There are maybe another 10-15 occasional threaders. Ages range from late teens to early sixties. The geographic range is also wide. Many of the regulars are in New England, of course, but I'm near Toronto, a few people are on the west coast, one guy checks in semi-regularly from London, etc.
I love the community that has developed -- with its unique routines and rituals, and non-baseball conversations -- around this blog. In late July, nine or ten of us got together for a game at Fenway Park. With one exception, none of us had ever met in person before. However, because of weeks and months of chatting, cheering and cursing together online, we were far from strangers.
Several other Red Sox blogs have popular game threads and I emailed some questions to the writers of four of them -- Paul SF (YanksFan/SoxFan), Randy Booth (Over The Monster), Red (Surviving Grady) and Texas Gal (Center Field). I answered a few of my own questions, also.
When did your game threads start? Did you consciously start them or did they evolve over time?
Paul SF: YFSF started in 2003, and game threads evolved out of the 2005 playoffs, when the site's interactivity really began to take off in the wake of the third straight season in which the Sox and Yanks were essentially equally matched. SF and YF agreed during that offseason to institute regular-season game threads in 2006, and they were standarized (with our Roman numeral "gamer" format) a couple weeks after Opening Day.
Randy: The game threads began as soon as the blog began in 2005. It's one of those things we "have to do".
Red: We started the blog in April 2004, and the game threads began during the playoffs, simply because I think there was so much angst and nervousness that people needed an outlet. It was really something that the commenters themselves started up, and since we were all so superstitious, we kept them going until the Sox won the World Series.
Texas Gal: My very first game thread was the first exhibition game of spring training -- versus Boston College -- in February 2008. It was a conscious decision to start game threads. I looked around, and didn't see game-specific open discussion threads for me to join in on in the Soxosphere. There were game threads that were only available to select people, and day-long open conversation threads, but I didn't see any active game-specific threads. I knew that when I was stuck at work late, or at home and not able to watch with friends, that I wanted someplace to celebrate when good things happened - and scream when bad things happened. So I decided to try them out during spring training - and they were a big hit right away.
How many regulars do you have commenting on every game?
Paul SF: There are probably a half-dozen core regulars for each team, with another dozen or so who drop in and out depending on the state of the rivalry and the success of the individual teams. Game threads can vary from only a handful of comments (Friday night West Coast games) to 1,000 (the longest Red Sox-Yankees games).
Randy: We have a core of 5-10 that are around for every single game. Then there are 5-10 others that may be there every other game or so. Then there are the random ones that are there once in awhile.
Red: We've had some games with close to 100 and some with as few as three. Most of the time, there's a core of about 25 to 30 commenters each game.
Texas Gal: I think there's a core group of about 20-25 folks, and then others join in to make anywhere up to 30 or 35 (or more) people for big games.
Each blog and its community has its own rituals, rules, nicknames
and inside jokes. What can you share about yours?
Paul SF: Each year, it seems a particular commenter will latch hold of a particular player and single him out for an inordinate amount of love or hate. For most of Coco Crisp's career, one commenter would praise every positive play with a "GOD BLESS COCO!!!!" This year, the mantra from myself and other Soxfans is begging Theo to "Pay the man!" -- the man of course being Jason Bay. LFRS has become shorthand for "Least Favorite Red Sox," usually applied to Julio Lugo. The most important rule, given that this is a site accommodating fans of the Sox and Yankees, is trying to avoid Goodwin's Law, a baseball version of Godwin's Law (the longer a discussion takes place, the greater the probability that someone will make a comparison involving the Nazis or Hitler). Goodwin's Law states: "As an online discussion on any subject involving either the Red Sox or Yankees grows longer, the probability of an inverse supposition approaches one." In other words, the other team gets dragged into the discussion to question the motives of that team's fans.
Randy: We have A LOT of inside jokes that sometimes will completely lose newcomers. It seems like we have a new nickname a day for Jason Varitek (Carcass, The Dude and [Empty] are a few. To be honest, I can't keep them all straight :) ) The community is really tight-knit though and it's an amazing group of readers.
Red: The commenters started a ritual of kicking off each game thread by posting the lyrics to "Tessie" and ending each victory by posting the lyrics to "Dirty Water." Beyond that, there are so many rituals and rules and nicknames that the commenters started an official SG glossary so that newbies wouldn't be scared off. You can check that here. [also here and here]
Texas Gal: We have an entire lexicon of nicknames for the players - some of which make sense, some of which don't (but we all swear made sense at one time). We have no official rules - cussing is allowed (especially the way this season is going), all teams' fans are welcome, and newbies up to baseball savants join in.
redsock: After getting tired of explaining what various nicknames meant, I created a Glossary. Some of the early nicknames were ones I brought over from SoSH (the Napkin and Flo, and various Yankees: Fruitbat, CI, Dumbo, WOTS), but we now have dozens of nicknames/phrases of our own: Dr. Doubles, LBJ, On Fire, SASAHE, Rx, Doung, etc. A kid on NESN's Junior Announcer Day pronounced Rocco Baldelli as "Rico Baldy" -- that one got used immediately! (I know Texas Gal uses it too!) You can't force a nickname, though. We still don't have one for Josh Beckett.
Do you get regular comments from fans of the opposing team? Any issues with Yankee trolls?
Paul SF: We have invited a guest AngelsFan to participate in game threads from time to time, particularly in the postseason, and a RaysFan has appeared every so often, but generally discussion has been limited solely to Sox and Yanks fans. Each set of fans usually sticks to their own game threads, but on days when only one team is playing or the teams' games do not overlap, many times fans from both teams will comment on the game. That's perfectly fine, provided fans remain good-natured while in their rivals' game thread. They obviously can openly root against the team, but being a jerk is never OK, even in a rivalry as heated as this one.
Randy: We actually have a resident Yankee fan that prefers our blog over the Yankees SBN blog. While it's awfully weird, it's a nice thing to see. I wouldn't classify him as a troll, though. But we do have trolls, but they usually bop around after games, not as much during them.
Red: There's one particular Yankee troll who shows up so often and with such bizarre commentary that I'm convinced his screen name has become a pen name for anyone wanting to dump some anti-Sox sentiment. For the most part, though, visitors from opposing teams show up well behaved and with engaging commentary.
Texas Gal: Not regularly - but on occasion. We have fans of the Yanks, Orioles and Blue Jays that stop in when we play those teams, and have also had an occasional fan of other teams stop by.
Tell me why game threads are positive things.
Paul SF: Even with six co-moderators, it seems it's a struggle to constantly provide new material for the site, so the game threads often provide convenient ways for our community to interact even when we can't jump in to join them. Likewise, SF and YF have "promoted" the other four of us from the ranks of the regular commenters, and much of the ability to determine whether we want to add a regular to the crew comes from their input into the gamers. In terms of traffic, it's probably not a coincidence that -- along with the closeness of the teams on the field -- YFSF's traffic has exploded since the establishment of the game threads in 2006.
Randy: They're positive because it brings real-time interaction between readers. It's a good way for fans to just get together and interact. It's the virtual version of Yawkey Way.
Red: I think the game threads, and blogs in general, are just another great way to bring like-minded Sox fans together. I'm happy to say that thanks to the Surviving Grady game threads, dozens of life-long friendships have been made and at least six people that I know of have gotten laid. If that makes Denton and I pimps on some level, we're fine with that.
Texas Gal: If you're not at a bar, or don't have a friend to watch the game with, game threads are a stand-in for sitting in a crowded sports bar with fellow fans. Plus, I've found the conversation is an excellent way to distract yourself during tense moments of close games - and to help stave off boredom in blowouts. As a blog owner, they've also really helped me to get to know my commenters, which is always fun.
On July 28, there was a JoS get-together at Fenway Park. We had a block of 20 tickets. We met up for dinner beforehand and almost all of the 20 people had never met before. It was a huge success. Have you ever done (or thought of doing) something like that?
Randy: I would love to do that type of thing, and have thought about it, but haven't been able to make anything out of it...
Paul: No, it's never really come up. For that matter, most of the mods have never met each other either...
Red: The SG commenters have been having get-togethers for a couple years now, bringing people together from across the country. The most recent one was in May. And, yes, these are people who only know each other from game threads and the comments section, so it's pretty amazing.
This also reminds me to finally get a post together with pictures from the JoS game and share the goodies that were handed out that evening.