One of the first lessons learned by a journalist is to never bury the lead. In his latest SweetSpot blog post about Bo Jackson, longtime ESPN.com analyst and godfather to a generation of baseball bloggers did just that (and so have I).
The real news in Neyer’s post was the announcement that he is leaving the worldwide leader. Although no details were given, the circumstances seem to suggest that it was ESPN who decided to sever the relationship. Then again, maybe Neyer’s departure, which coincides with the final day of Rob Iracane’s www.walkoffwalk, foreshadows a future collaboration between the two? Regardless of the reason for the split, Neyer’s voice isn’t likely to remain silent for long.
Once upon a time, Neyer’s writing was like a voice in the wilderness. At a time when the internet was viewed as a second class medium, he brought forth a fresh perspective and carved out a niche that would evolve into the myriad of blogs that exist all over the web today. Sports journalism had long been home to features, game stories, editorials and rumor mills, but Neyer became the first person to regularly engage in analytics. Long before OPS became a household word and sabermetrics began to make a foothold in the mainstream, Neyer was writing about these emerging concepts (often while thinking aloud). Although not a statistician, his open mindedness allowed him to uncover not only a whole new way of thinking, but a whole new group of talented thinkers. All around the internet today are successful bloggers who essentially got their start because Neyer was willing to have an online dialogue about their new ideas and fresh perspective. He probably never thought of himself as a trailblazer, nor endeavored to be one, but his writing did lead the way for many.
As mentioned, Neyer is likely to resurface quickly. Therefore, there really is no need to eulogize his career. So, while we wait for Neyer’s future work, why not take a look back? Fortunately, besides blogs, one of the wonders of the internet is its ability to crack the code of time travel. Thanks to the wayback machine, vintage Neyer (here and here) is still accessible, so sit back and enjoy the past, and then marvel at how far sports on the internet has come.