Titans Fans, Paul Kuharsky and Andrew Luck

Dilip Vishwanat

What is it that fans expect from a teams beat writer, blogger or reporter?

Paul Kuharsky is the ESPN blogger designated to the Tennessee Titans. Before the company expanded its blog network, Kuharsky used to be in charge of the entire AFC South and wrote about all four teams in the division.

As a reporter for the entire division, Paul was constantly under attack by Texans, Colts, and Jaguars fans about focusing too much on the Titans since he lived here and has a daily radio show here in town.  I would often see in the comments left on ESPN or on Twitter how annoyed the other teams in the division fans were, and how biased he was towards the Titans.   Curiously enough, now that his main focus is the Tennessee Titans, he's coming under attack for showing too much love to the division rival Indianapolis Colts, in particular Andrew Luck,  and taking too many shots at the home town team.

Here's a couple exchanges on Twitter lately:

So what is it exactly do fans want out of their designated ESPN blogger?

The technical definition of a blogger is one that writes for a blog.  So here is the definition of a blog according to Merriam Webster:

blog

noun \ˈblg, ˈbläg\

: a Web site on which someone writes about personal opinions, activities, and experiences

In Paul Kuharsky's case, he is a blogger for a particular team.  Not normally writing about his life experiences, but rather relying on his heavily opinionated and no nonsense views of the issues at hand.  He's also made a bit of stardom on local Nashville radio by being his own brash and abrasive self.  He raises Cain about the day to day idiosyncrasies in life around town from slow drivers to cops not doing their job.  He's a cynic by nature, and most of it is tongue in cheek, but that same personality that may rub some the wrong way is also what makes him good at his job.

Is there a difference now between a blogger and a reporter?  What about a beat writer?  Modern technologies have blurred the lines for sure, but may play into the expectations fans have of what or who they are reading.

What's the readers/listeners expectations of the team's blogger from ESPN?  Should it be factual information only?  Or do you want genuine opinion with a slight bias towards the team?  Or just genuine opinion, no bias needed?

I'm also a blogger (that apparently has a knack for stating the obvious).  Is there a difference between the two of us? Absolutely.  Financial compensation and level of professionalism aside, there are other differences.  While I try and walk the line of not having my fan glasses on constantly, that's also part of what makes sites like MCM function.  That's why most of you are reading this right now.  Writing about the Titans from a fans perspective is what makes sites like this unique.

So here's the disclaimer if need be.  I am huge Titans fan.  I'm also a huge Jake Locker fan.

I would also argue that fans that care enough to take the time to formulate opinions in this format have a much more intimate knowledge about the team, and probably more basis for their opinions than some of the national media that covers the league in general.  I firmly believe that sites like MCM is the reason ESPN moved to a one blogger per team format.  Fans are so informed these days, and crave a constant stream of info and opinions, that covering four teams at once just isn't going to satisfy them.

The blow back against national writers that don't watch every snap of every game, but rather scan the stat sheets to formulate opinions has definitely increased over the years.  Basically the common fan has become more educated when it comes to their own team and doesn't put up with contradictory statements made by an "analyst" that had an inkling of an idea combined with a deadline.

Back to Kuharsky.

There's no need or benefit to Paul being all sunshine and roses when it comes to the Titans.  Is that what most fans want out of their in town ESPN coverage?  Not to mention it doesn't fit his personality on or off the air.  I think he has a good analytic mind and a knack for seeing a different side of a story.  Something that's harder and harder to do, the longer you write abut the same team and the same game repeatedly.  The weekly "What I think the Titans are thinking" series is one of my favorites and an idea I wish I had had myself.

That said, I'm not sure what Paul Kuharsky doesn't get about home town fans not wanting to hear their beat writer gush about their division rivals quarterback.   Then again, maybe he does get it, but just doesn't care.  Could the articles leave that part out?  Sure.  Is he obligated to leave that part out to protect the feelings of the team's fans?  Not at all.

It's not that he shouldn't be allowed to think that, or even voice it here and there.  But the constant comparison to the current division leader becomes grating after a time.  Other than the Texans recent brief stand at the top, the Colts have basically dominated the division since its inception.  We are all aware of that.  Yes, Andrew Luck is good.  He may even become great.  Whether or not he's overrated or deserves the limelight he's given will work itself out over time.

I could say that his professional distance he keeps from the team and his subject may go a bit too far.  Something that was required when covering many teams could now loosen up a bit.  His audience has changed and perhaps the expectations with it.

It's totally up to him the "voice" he chooses to use during his pieces.  That's what makes every writer unique in their coverage of the same topics.  That small cloud of pessimism that hovers in the background is part of that, like it or not.

The real problem here is that the Titans have their own young quarterback that many are very excited about.  His progression and strides this year before his injury was nothing short of tremendous.  Kuharsky in particular has admitted this in a recent article.

For all of the big questions that linger around a team with a 3-4 record, Locker has done a good deal in my eyes to squash the question of whether they have a good enough quarterback to win.

The rub may be that in the past he also tends to condemn Locker as well as the team with the faintest of praise.  Every good article or trending upward observation seems to end with a down note or a question of whether or not it will continue.

He's still in the wait and see camp about both Jake Locker and the Tennessee Titans, which is fine.  It's incumbent upon the team to win and play good in order to prove to fans and reporters alike that they are worthy of the praise.  Not be given the benefit of the doubt regardless of perpetual mediocrity.

It's been a long time since I've been as happy as I was in the first quarter of this season as a fan.  Not just because of the team winning, but largely due to Jake Locker's play at the quarterback position.  He vindicated himself and his defenders that have kept the faith all along.  My opinion had been validated as I wore a wonderful "I told you so" grin during each game and when looking at the league wide stat sheets after each.

I'm ready to feel that again.  The best way to end the argument is to quote the great Jimmy Morris on Twitter:

"Locker and Luck meet twice in the next month.  Settle it on the field."

I have made my best attempt in this rambling to not pander to the regular visitors of this site nor to the ESPN writer that happens to be the subject at hand.  This isn't meant as a defense of ESPN or Paul Kuharsky, nor a condemnation of fans and other writers that feel  the way they do.  I often feel the same.  It would have been easy to suck up to either in this, but instead I have told it how it is in my own view, because as a blogger, that's what we do.

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