This week, a question which has been asked since we launched our adult recreational league in 2006, passed across my desk again.
"How can you write such negative things on your website about players who pay to play in your league?"
When asked the question in person, my response is usually to ask what they would define as "negative" to provide some context. But often I'll skip it and just provide my short answer:
"Because that's what they are paying for."
The editorial direction of our league website since our first article appeared on March 28th, 2006, was simple: Always Be Fair. Always Be Honest. Always Be Entertaining. It's what we owe our customers who pay for and expect a "professional" experience.
Our "professional" experience is not exclusive to our deep statistical online capabilities, full box-scores, and player profiles. It extends to our articles and videos as well.
If a player or a team has a bad night, it's allowed to be covered. But always with fairness, honesty and in an entertaining way.
It's nothing personal. It's what you're paying for.
If a player screams obscenities and gets tossed out of a game, costing their team a victory, it should be covered fairly and honestly.
I've taken heat over the years for publishing stories and providing commentary on player suspensions, league bans, and unsportsmanlike behavior. People accuse me of doing strictly for page views. While "negative" articles have a dramatically higher click-through rate, it's not the reason. It's simply to provide an honest experience.
In our weekly editorial meetings, we review the previous week's content on the site. The articles which draw the biggest yawns from our editorial team are game recap articles.
Who wants to read a recap of a recreational basketball game? Snoozefest.
We want to get to the story inside the game. Inside the team. Inside the player. Who cares which team won or lost?
Do we always get it right? No way. Over the years, we've had instances (albeit, very few) when our writers have published articles which read like personal attacks against players with no basis which we voluntarily removed. We've suspended and parted ways with writers who blasted players or teams with no relevance or context. That's not fair, honest or entertaining writing.
Is it a fine line? Absolutely. Reid probably feels like he's on a high-wire act every week when they tape our most popular show in history This Week In Rec with co-host Izzy Elkaffas. Viewers never know what Izzy will positively or negatively say about a team or player? You can actually see Reid squirm and become pained on camera at some of Izzy's "negative" comments.
So why is the show such a success? I believe it's because Reid and Izzy provide the perfect counter-balance to one another. Izzy is the polarizing wildcard who you never know what will come out his mouth. Reid grounds the show with honesty and fairness. Mix those elements together and you have the most entertaining 20-minute show in recreational basketball.
Our players are paying for more than just a recreational basketball league. With Ultimate Hoops, they are paying for a basketball experience.
An experience which should always be fair, honest and entertaining. And most of all, never personal.