Blogging is new to me – in honesty I thought it was for those who live under the stairs or in their parents’ basement. That’s not meant to offend anyone – I live in New Zealand; we actually talk to each other here, usually over a beer at a barbeque, and solve the most perplexing of cricket questions - for a night at least. I had no idea this other world existed – I was under the misguided impression that all reasonable cricketing comment existed only via traditional media.
A little under six months ago I finally took the plunge – a mate of mine had just taken a trip to the sub-continent and I’d found her blog intriguing – not because of the countries she visited, as interesting as they were, but because it gave me an insight into her; what made her tick, what was really important in her life and what actually ran through her head (kudos, Becks). In that time I’ve penned just over 30 posts and had a shade over 10,000 hits (thanks Mum and Mrs Buddha) – it would have been just enjoyable had I only written a handful of comment pieces read by a couple of hundred people.
Everyone has varying reasons for putting their thoughts online – I imagine mine are similar to many of those I read. Donning the whites with Grace has provided a platform to discuss topics close to my heart. There is no pressure to meet a specific demographic or target audience; I have full control of the content. It’s unearthed a number of cricket tragics that I now regularly converse with - people I’d have never found any other way. I can test any number of theories with people in cricketing hot beds around the globe, and others with die-hard fans in cricket’s dark recesses – Germany and the United States among them.
My blog is cheaper than therapy and less confusing, like talk radio used to be before self-professed “social commentators” like Mark Watson took to the airwaves. I wanted an outlet for the cricketing arguments going on in my head – an advanced form of cricketing schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder – Donning the whites has given me that.
There is no formula, any rules or best practice because the desired outcome is different for all of us. The common thread? Cricket! I love our great game. It is my first love? No, I have a wife and kids to fill that void but it's something great to fill in the gaps in family life and will always be a large part of me for the rest of my days. Blogging is a part of my spare time; "me time". It's something I use to clear my head when those I love are tucked in their beds; it's my solace when mental demons invade my consciousness, but more than that it's a chance to talk cricket - past, present and future. I have a reasonable cricketing knowledge but I'm not an anorak - my life exists outside the oval and away from the books that line my walls, or they did until family arrived - they now sit in storage until time and space allows - the unbeaten century of Wisdens will be first back. Given I don't have the books, over 1000 cricket tomes amongst them, my blog allows me to grow my breadth of knowledge, of New Zealand cricketers especially, and understand more about the pioneers of the game in our country. Current knowledge without the context of a back story is much like a meat pie without cheese – inviting but strangely unfulfilling.
Regardless of the followers I’ve gained and the people I talk to, I’d have still got something valuable out of writing if the whole thing had had the success of Chris Martin with the willow. It’s about putting arguments together on paper so they don’t run through in my head – it’s better to be used for other things like my family and job. I’m not seeking fame and fortune – I’ve no wish to become to cricket what Perez Hilton is to Hollywood gossip – does anyone ever get notable fame and fortune out of a cricket blog anyway?
My old head is not filled with dreams of being an international cricketing journalist – eventually I imagine the deadlines and pressure would bring the cricketing cynic in me to the fore and the candle I hold for our great game would likely dim just a little. Would I love to travel the world watching cricket and writing the stories I wanted to? Of course! But would I want to do the back work, the tedious match reports, the research, the financial struggles, the writing for a midweek rag read by but a few just to get a chance at the top gig? Once upon a time maybe, now I live in the real world and it treats me pretty well. Would I think of going out of my way to give myself a shot at that “reality”? Not a chance! Is it ever likely to happen anyway? No, and that’s partly my point. If that was my end goal the freedom with which I write – to largely garner personal satisfaction – would be gone. I’d be too worried about impressing someone, or making it topical. Balls to that! I have a real job; this is just an outlet for me – a step outside the little box that is my every day. For those that do follow that dream, those who want that life – good luck to them; my needs and wants from my little corner of the internet are far simpler. As an aside, even if I did want that life, overcoming the huge talent roadblock would be a journey too far!
Possibly the best side effect of penning my blog has been learning more about cricket. I try to write a number of pieces that give me a reason to go back in time, often inside my own memory banks, and read about the deeds of some of my heroes, and their heroes – some you’ll know; others you won’t! Men like Roger Blunt, Dick Motz and Glenn Turner – all of whom amazed me when I researched my posts on New Zealand’s Wisden Cricketers of the Year. I’ve read screeds on our cricketing knights – the likes of Botham, Sobers and Hadlee, and others that have had an influence on me - as an impressionable cricketer or as a man – old school coaches, team mates and those I could have talked to for hours, like Wasim Raja.
To date the true highlight has been interviews with George Dobell and Iain O’Brien – thanks, lads. They gave me their time and answered my questions, all of them. I could ask the questions without having to concern myself with what the copy would look like, or if the editor would be pleased – I could ask questions to find answers I wanted, and thankfully others enjoyed it – the more the merrier.
For me, besides the difference in journalistic abilities and access to players, control and ownership are the largest gaps between scribes and bloggers. We have more freedom but less context; most bloggers look inside out – one is forced to write without much of the back story that exists only in the inner sanctum. However, a blogger is not constricted by editors or the corporate views of big money sponsors and advertisers - there is very little that is off limits for a blogger. Scope is constricted solely by one’s moral compass and ethical code. There is no deadline, no-one pushing topics – it’s solely personal choice. Bloggers provide an opportunity for a more varied view – one you can debate and question on social media, though the scribes are slowly cottoning on.
Like any slice of modern society blogging has its dark side. Writers and readers alike occasionally court vitriol, abuse and a lack of reason but every reader has a choice – fight or flight; debate or leave. While I may not read it, others will - some seek a Jerry Springer (or Jeremy Kyle) experience, others want more of A Current Affair or Saturday Night Live. The beauty of the plethora of cricketing blogs is that we all have a choice we can tailor – the selection is endless. I follow an eclectic lot, most of which you can see if you scroll down the right sidebar, but if you’re looking for rare quality Leg Side Filth is a must read – writing about blogging in Wisden is a fine endorsement.
Besides all the intrinsic benefits of Donning the whites, there is one thing to which I aspire, or covet at least. A named piece in Wisden would be nice – my name finally appeared this year, in an advert (thanks, Chris), but to have my name alongside my thoughts in cricket’s little yellow book would be great. Not for the fame, but because I’d love to be able to hand over my collection of Wisdens to my lad, or his sister, with my name amongst some of cricket’s great thinkers and show that my obsession amounted to something – however small.
For those wanting to give it a crack - my advice is don’t hold back. If you don't want to set up your own build a rapport with an established blogger and ask about writing a piece for them - I've had one guest, have another posting very soon (@lemayol) and the unparalleled Mrs Buddha has penned a piece for a quiet day - I love reading others' views. Guests are always welcome - I don’t have a mortgage on long winded, self-important novels about obscure cricket topics.
Tell me what you think – I’d love your thoughts. Post a comment below or tweet me @aotearoaxi. If you write a blog or have a couple of favourites, let me know – the more the merrier.