UW News

November 4, 2010

Blog profile: Patrick Dobel muses about sports in ‘Point of the Game’

UW News

Members of the UW community are increasingly expressing themselves in blogs about their interests or professional matters. University Week will occasionally feature brief profiles of these blogs and their authors. This week we take a look at Point of the Game, a blog written by J. Patrick Dobel, professor of public affairs in the Evans School and adjunct professor of political science.

Q: How long have you been writing this blog, and how did it get its start?

I have been writing it for a year and a half. I started it as a way to think about some of the tensions in my responsibility as the Faculty Athletic Representative. I report to the President and oversee the academic and compliance integrity of the athletic program.

I reflected upon how many fans relate to athletics not just for appreciation of the sport and its excellences but as an extension of memory and identity. So I started thinking out loud about how sport, culture and ethics entwine for many of us. I began by thinking about my own relationship to athletics, which is mediated by memories of family and place.

Q: Who is your intended audience?

I wanted to write for an educated audience in a classic essay style. There are a lot of crazy blogs on sports, and I just wanted to write thoughtful, hopefully literate, commentary from a unique point of view. Sports writer Frank Deford is my role model.

Q: Have you had any interesting interactions with readers, through comments or e-mails?

I have enjoyed hearing from lots of different folks. I knew people cared but did not realize how much. The blog has migrated to some strange places and I will get feedback, emendations, corrections and sometimes just anger. Most of the comments come through e-mail, which is my own normal way of responding to blogs. The most interesting responses have come when I write about NCAA, Title Nine or sports and injuries.

I never write directly about UW or the PAC10, given my official position and confidentiality issues.

Q: What are your best — or worst — experiences in having a blog?

I think the biggest surprise has been that people actually were interested in what I wrote. I wrote it pretty much for myself and really only expected my daughter to read it! I was thrilled when the blog got reprinted several times on another major site, and a small national news and opinion website regularly picks it up for its sports section.

I have enjoyed and learned from most of the comments; people make great fact checkers. Sometimes I will get e-mails from students who are using a post for a paper and want to follow up on an idea , and that is fun. I have been taken aback a number of times by how personal or mean some of the responses have been.

Q: Do you have any plans for where you’ll take the blog in the future?

I am not sure. I discovered as the blog got more visibility that it tempted me to change my approach to writing. I wrote as a reflective essay, and the visibility tended to demand more immediate and more aggressive stances. So I sometimes face a choice about finding my own voice or changing it to gain access to the larger audience.

Sometimes I consider expanding the range in terms of both creating a tweet and pursuing other outlets, but am not sure that approach is compatible with the reflective essay format. So I honestly don’t know.

Do you know of a blog written by a member of the UW community that would be of interest to UWeek’s faculty and staff readers? Drop us a line at uweek@u.washington.edu.