The Bay Area blogosphere seems like it has been around forever, but it is actually a fairly recent phenomenon. If the blogs had been around during the Terry Donahue era, we would probably already have experienced a cyberspace meltdown.
Before the blogging era, fans who wanted to voice their opinions had to resort to actually writing a letter to the sports editor. These letters usually appeared in Saturday morning’s newspaper and you had to mail them on Monday, or Tuesday at the latest, to have a chance for your letter to be selected. These letters also had to be manually licked to seal them, with a manually licked stamp affixed thereon. Yecchh.
This particular scriptoristocrat had two such letters published in the Chronicle, but the champion of those times was a fellow named Lanny Middings. Lanny was the FlyingV of the letters era (though Lanny could spell and punctuate) and his vituperative screeds were published with great regularity. I’m sure that somewhere among our current anonymous crowd of bloggers, barring a meeting with the Grim Reaper, dear old Lanny is pounding away still. Hey, Lanny, step out from behind your screen name and doff your cap.
Somewhere around 2003, email correspondence between columnists and readers entered the communicative arena. This was not particularly satisfying, however, since it was private between the columnist and the reader. Not much fun in that, and the columnist might only write back once or twice, then ignore any further exchange, making it feel like throwing bottles into the ocean. I communicated this way with Glen Dickey and Bruce Jenkins and Ira Miller. Dickey and Jenkins acknowledged the first two or three missives, but Miller never said boo.
I quickly lost interest in this medium and focused on other areas of my life until running across the Niner Insider somewhere in early 2008, around the time it apparently begat itself from some earlier incarnation. Perhaps Unca_Chuck can shed more light on the earlier edition of Insider, for it seems to be there that he and V began their fateful attraction to each other. I presume the Press Democrat with Matt Maiocco, and the Sac Bee with Matt Barrows, all originated their blogs somewhere in this time period of late 2007 — early 2008. Readers can feel free to correct my recollections here.
At any rate, these blogs have not been around that long and they have sprung into existence solely within the 49ers current regime — the Mike Nolan/Scot McCloughan/John York era, now branching off into the Mike Singletary/Trent Baalke/Jed York era. Two emotions have distinguished this time: hope and disappointment. Which is an improvement by one from the previous Donahue era which offered only disappointment. More like disgust.
This era also has been notably lacking in success. Each season has ended with the team an also ran in the NFL world. This means our blog populace (and the Giants, A’s, Raiders, and Warriors) has always had to deal with degrees of failure, rather than degrees of triumph. The glass half-full or half-empty has always been the fence between the warring factions, and the state of the franchise and the competence of those running it has always had prominent attention.
Would the atmosphere of the blogs be different if the 49ers became winners? Would the conversations turn to individual players who effed up, rather than we need a new owner? Would a brand new crowd of bloggers move into the arena? Would a large chunk of the current crowd drift away?
If things go well this season, we should get some answers to these questions and perhaps the blogs will re-shape their identities and the bloggers their alliances. One thing the blogs won’t do, no matter what happens, is provide a place of serenity and peace.