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2006 College Football Blogger Awards: Best Mainstream Media Blog

At long last, the time is upon us to announce the winners of the 2006 College Football Blogger Awards (affectionately known as the "Orsons," because of the uncanny resemblance between the award statue and Every Day Should Be Saturday proprietor Orson Swindle), which are being unveiled systematically at Burnt Orange Nation, the aforementioned E.D.S.B.S., MGoBlog, Rocky Top Talk, and Dawg Sports.

It is my turn, and my pleasure, to introduce the next College Football Blogger Award. In addition to honoring those webloggers from other walks of life who write about their favorite sports and teams purely for the love of the game, the C.F.B.A.s also pay tribute to members of the mainstream news media who cover sports for a living. This brings us to the presentation of the award for Best M.S.M. Blog.

The Orson goes to . . . Dan Steinberg's D.C. Sports Bog (yes, Bog, not Blog; bear with me for a minute).

Steinberg, a Washington Post reporter, offers a quick introduction in the form of his answer to the question, "What the Heck Is This?" In 2005, Steinberg covered Maryland football. When he announced that he would be leaving that beat for his current assignment, Ralph Friedgen reportedly retorted: "I don't even know what a bog is."

The moniker stuck, both because of the long-held belief that the District of Columbia was constructed atop a swamp and because Steinberg's ruminations represent (in his words) "another step in The Washington Post's continuing efforts to wade into the murky quagmire of the Internet sports world, which will eventually cost all of us our jobs."

While I think Steinberg is overselling that point just a bit, he certainly is friendly to his fellow webloggers outside of the ranks of professional journalism, to the point of openly soliciting links from team-specific sites. While making good points with wry wit, Steinberg even credits the blogosphere with being better than reporters in some respects:

If there's one thing I've learned from reading all these blogsters, it's that they know as much if not more about the big picture than Big Media, and that they probably have more time to watch their favorite sport on TV than Big Media, because Big Media is always taking plane rides and driving around in rental cars and going to press conferences and raising young Johnny and Susie Media, and often, if Big Media does have some spare time, Big Media really doesn't feel like watching yet another sporting event on television. So fine, the AP poll should be merged, or maybe taken over, by the BlogPoll. I'm cool with that.

Steinberg is about more than just portraying webloggers in a more favorable light than, say, Bob Ryan, though; he also provides his readers with Your Artisanal Cheese and Craft Beer Tailgating Picks of the Week each Friday. Steinberg suggests an American artisanal cheese and "Hoppy" Jeff Wells suggests an American craft beer, which the D.C. Sports Bogger then connects to a local game. The following Monday, "we'll all compare tasting notes from our tailgates."

Sometimes, the responsibilities of Steinberg's position cause him to steer clear of sports in all but the most tangential fashion, as when he skipped last fall's Florida State-Miami game because he "figured blogging duties required me to take a look at Terry Bradshaw in the ABC Family original movie 'Relative Chaos.'" Truly, this is a man devoted to his craft.

No nugget is too small to escape Steinberg's watchful eye. When the Terps threaten to make history by winning 'em all by one, Steinberg is there. When life imitates weblogging, Steinberg is there. When professional golfers prove to be as bad on the links as Steinberg, Steinberg is there. Someday, when the next generation's Tom Wolfe (I'm guessing it will be Warren St. John) writes the book that looks at weblogging the way From Bauhaus to Our House looked at architecture, Dan Steinberg will be praised like a onetime compound architect who rejected the tenets of the academics so he could go out and actually build buildings people liked.

The picture of Steinberg appearing at his blog . . . er, bog . . . depicts a bespectacled man in a rumpled shirt and a fedora with a three-day growth of beard; if he covered politics instead of sports, the impression one would get is of a reporter who has spent a few too many late nights riding in the back of a doomed presidential contender's campaign bus seated next to an insomniac and talkative Jack Germond.

Nevertheless, despite the cynical world-weariness meant to be conveyed by Steinberg's mug shot, the subject of the photograph is smiling. It is almost, but not quite, a knowing smile; it could be, but might not be, a conspiratorial smile; it gives hint of being, but will neither confirm nor deny being, a happy smile. Dan Steinberg's is the Mona Lisa smile of weblogging mug shots, suggesting without saying that there is an artist at work, a D.C. DaVinci whose writing will provide a few laughs and a few insights even for those who have not yet cracked the code that will reveal the difference between a bog and a blog.

Credit also goes to runner-up John P. Lopez, whose Lopez at Large neither pulls any punches nor dodges any truths. Lopez concisely made the case for Boise State (which I admire, because it took me two postings to cover the same ground . . . and I still couldn't convince myself) and he unflinchingly confronts financial issues in sports, earning him a respectable second-place finish among the contenders for the Best M.S.M. Blog.

Our congratulations go out to Dan Steinberg and John P. Lopez on their strong showing in the inaugural College Football Blogger Awards.

The next award will be presented at Every Day Should Be Saturday at noon.

Go 'Dawgs!