Newspapers are dying and professional sports leagues are taking it upon themselves to break news rather than talking to the pesky press. In light of that, what’s to become of Johnny Sportswriter? Why, covering individual athletes! From a recent story in the Wall Street Journal about the Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams:
By all appearances, Deron Williams has enjoyed the trappings of life as an NBA superstar … For most human beings, this would be enough. Not Williams, whose wide-ranging list of accomplishments and assets includes something extraordinary, unique even among pro athletes: He employs his own team of beat writers. Their mission? Spread the gospel of D-Will on his website, DeronWilliams.com.
Seriously: Williams employs his own beat writer to provide daily news updates on his website. Granted, its run by Williams and his agents/managers, so it’s not like this is “news” as we know it, but it is different than, say, an athlete updating social media sites or a publicist offering press releases. These are bylined stories that read like newspaper reports.
We live in a world where the message is being increasingly sculpted, crafted and controlled, even when the news goes out through independent media. In light of that, it’s not necessarily shocking that such a thing is happening, even if it is somewhat depressing. I would not be at all surprised if we see several other athletes following suit soon and, eventually, this becoming the new normal.
When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.
May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.
The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.
Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.