Healthy competition: Meet Austin's top sports bloggers
It's no secret that Texas is sports-crazy country, and Austin is no exception. From the beloved Longhorns to a multitude of other team and individual sports, we love our athletic competitions. In a continuing series this year on Austin's top bloggers, this month I round up some of our city's best sports bloggers.
From the biggies such as football to our more home-grown sports, like Roller Derby, the Chronicle's sports blog is the work of several writers. Michael Corcoran was a pop music critic and features writer for the Austin American-Statesman for 16 years, including the "Game On" blog from 2004- 2006. "After the Longhorns football team won the national championship in 2006, I figured my work was done," Corcoran says. "Plus I didn't get paid extra."
Corcoran is pretty much about football, counting the Longhorns and Dallas Cowboys as his favorite teams. However, there have been periods in his life when he was so into other things, he virtually ignored sports. "Someone told me Clemson won the national championship in football [in 1981] and I thought they were high. Then I looked it up. Turns out I was high that entire season."
When not blogging about sports, Corcoran writes about old black gospel music and has just released a book/CD combo about the unknown gospel pioneer Arizona Dranes. Some of his favorite things about Austin are Continental Club, Broken Spoke, Izzoz Taco's, the Pflueger Pedestrian Bridge during SXSW and checking out what he calls the "Trophy Wives HEB" on Bee Caves Road.
The sports anchor/reporter for KEYE TV, Adam Winkler says that he inherited his talent for word-smithing from his father. "Blogging about sports not only allows me to write, it also gives me the chance to be subjective — something I don't get to do on the air. Through my blog, I'm able to share my opinion about various topics in the sports world, while also let the viewers/readers know that I'm a fan at heart — even though I'm not supposed to express that through my reporting and anchoring."
His favorite blogging activity is making predictions. "I've been making my Pigskin Picks, preseason college/pro football prognostications, since the 2008 season. My claim to fame, without a doubt, came during the 2009 season. Along with a couple of other accurate prognostications, I correctly picked the New Orleans Saints to win Super Bowl XLIV in the preseason, despite the franchise entering that year with one playoff win all-time and zero Super Bowl appearances."
As a lifelong sports junkie, Winkler says he's found his perfect career. While he enjoys all sports, baseball is his first love. "It was the first sport I played as a kid, has always been my favorite to watch, and is now my favorite to cover — no matter the level. The Houston Astros are far and away my favorite professional team, although the Texans are gaining ground with every win."
His favorite player, former Astro Craig Biggio, is eligible for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013 — and Winkler and his family already have their Cooperstown hotel rooms booked.
Winkler was born in New Orleans and raised in Houston, moving to the Austin area to attend Southwestern University in Georgetown (class of 2004). He's grateful for the guidance he received early on, from Rick Bradfield and Virgil Teter at KWTX in Waco where Winkler first started blogging about sports.
"We were trailblazers in a way, definitely in the Waco market. That early introduction to web-driven content put me ahead of the game and I know I wouldn't be where I am today (working in Austin) if I hadn't bought-in to a 'web first' mentality early on. Over the years, I've blogged about everything from "National Sports Cliche Week" to my parents' wedding anniversary to my all-time favorite sports movies."
When not reporting or blogging on sports news, Winkler can be found about town with his "wingman" — his dog, Oscar — at the Flying Saucer, or playing golf and dodgeball.
When it comes to blogging, Kirk Bohls' favorite thing is to blog breaking news. He admits that he doesn't blog nearly enough, but loves the inside scoop on the big stories.
Bohls started off in Taylor, Texas as the son of a cotton farmer. In Taylor, he played every sport there was. "I was a monster man (strong safety) in football and broke my neck at our homecoming game but still played the entire second half," he recalls, adding that some would say that explains a lot.
He came to UT on a journalism scholarship, doing a double major in political science, and went to work at the Statesman right out of college. In 1994, Bohls became a regular columnist.
"I grew up as a die-hard Yankees fan," he says. "My favorite sports are college football, major-league baseball, NFL and college baseball. Favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning." Bohls says that he loves the immediacy of blogs and twitter. "They help me to connect with readers."
When not working, Bohls is mostly a homebody but goes out with the guys every Thursday night. He has also worked with the homeless on a volunteer basis since 1990, and mentors two eight-graders.
The father of three sons himself, Bohls also loves books and movies, particularly suspense thrillers; fine wines, travel abroad and taking walks around Town Lake.
Since he grew up loving (and studying) the Cowboys and the Rangers, Mike Barnes has always been very passionate about sports. "I loved their history as much as their present," he says. "And I try to convey that type of mentality in the blogs I write." By that, he means that he tries to avoid the simple "Mike as a fan" reaction to games, writing as an armchair quarterback.
"I like to use personal experiences and/or history in my blogs. My most recent (as of this writing) was about the Rangers losing three straight to Oakland and becoming the Wild Card team. I gave a little expert opinion and some historical comparison in it, and am proud to say (although disappointed in a different way) that I was right about them having trouble in the playoffs."
Barnes, who has been at KVUE for 23 years, started blogging about sports when the KVUE website folks asked for one. The native Texan was raised in the Dallas area and came to Austin to attend The University of Texas. There he met his wife, and the couple have two children.
Outside of sports, Barnes says that his main interest is his family. "Whether it’s helping my kids with math homework or driving them to school every morning or watching them participate in sports/choir/dance/etc. I get great pleasure in seeing them happy and successful."
Burnt Orange Nation is the sports blog for all things Longhorn. Peter Bean has been a diehard University of Texas sports fan for as long as he can remember, growing up with parents who were both UT professors and going to games since he was two years old.
Wescott Eberts, on the other hand, is a native Hoosier but got here as quickly as he could. "I consider myself a native Texan at this point, as my blood has gotten thinner and I now find Midwestern accents a bit annoying," he says. "My last step in the naturalization process may be buying a pair of cowboy boots."
Bean graduated from UT after "five glorious years as a Longhorn student" and then moved to Washington, D.C. for a job. But he missed Austin, and UT sports. Since he loved writing, he launched the blog Burnt Orange Nation with a friend still in Austin, in 2004. Bean points out that from the moment BON was born, Texas won 23 consecutive football games. "You're welcome, Longhorn fans," he says.
Eberts started reading BON in 2007, commenting infrequently until he began doing his own imitation of Bean's Morning Coffee posts. "Other readers liked them, and Peter was kind enough to bring me onto the front page." It grew from there; Eberts was made an editor some time that fall and was brought on to the network full time in August 2008. "What I like best about blogging is having a community to interact with — some commenters can augment my own knowledge and all of them keep me honest. Writing in and of itself is rewarding in terms of self-actualization, but it wouldn't be nearly as rewarding with the fantastic group of people who read BON."
Bean admits to being over-invested emotionally in sports, though he's grown to accept losses a lot better over the years. "One of the best parts about blogging is the manner in which it connects you with your tribe. We all gather around the virtual water cooler, discuss, analyze, emote — it's a remarkably personal endeavor, and I've made dozens and dozens of wonderful, lasting friends over the years."