Story by Bill Oram
Somewhere between mainstream media coverage of University of Montana sports and pure commentary lies Grizzoulian.com.
UM sophomore Colin O’Keefe launched the Grizzoulian, an online blog, last spring in an effort to represent the voice of a typical Grizzlies fan.
“I’m a huge fan of Griz sports,” said O’Keefe, a pre-journalism major from Seattle.
The Web site serves as a portal to other information, said O’Keefe. On the blog, O’Keefe links to Grizzlies news from news sites such as the Missoulian and the Montana Kaimin and then offers his opinion on the information provided.
Chris Lynn, a UM graduate who operates the Griz fan Web site eGriz.com, called the Grizzoulian “pretty valuable.”
“It’s nice to see a different perspective than what you see in the newspapers and stuff,” Lynn said.
O’Keefe attempts to cover all Griz sports, but he doesn’t hide the fact he’s a basketball guy first and foremost.
“Football probably doesn’t even get as much recognition as basketball on my blog,” he said. “Because basketball’s always been probably my favorite sport here.”
O’Keefe watches all Griz men’s home games from the same spot – in the front row, just under the basket in the student section – cheering on the team and shouting jeers with the rest of the rambunctious students.
“I think that’s the way students are; we’re a bunch of rowdy college kids,” he said. “At football games we’re a bunch of drunk rowdy college kids.”
Unlike mainstream sports media, O’Keefe doesn’t worry about a conflict of interest.
“I think blogs in general are supposed to be really passionate. I mean, if you go to a blogger’s site they’re going to be slanted,” he said. “It’s people. It’s a fan’s perspective. You’re supposed to be slanted – not really slanted – I think passionate is a better word.”
Despite these views, O’Keefe still considers his blog a form of journalism.
“I think blogging in general is moving closer toward the public conscience,” he said. “I think it has almost become the new sports radio. You get more information quickly, and that’s where a lot of critiques of athletes and things like that come from.”
During hoops season, O’Keefe updates his blog on a near-daily basis. His posts range from thoughtful and passionate to sometimes scathing.
After the Grizzlies lost a close game at home to Portland State on Feb. 1, the headline for O’Keefe’s recap of the game read: “We got fucked!”
He was referring to a questionable foul call in the game’s waning seconds on Griz forward Jordan Hasquet. The foul put PSU on the free throw line with a chance to break a tie and, ultimately, win the game.
“I got a call from my parents, saying that’s not very professional,” said O’Keefe, who has since changed the header to a PG-13-esgue “We got f***ed”. “I thought it was the way most fans felt; I was just irate. I couldn’t believe that was the way it was decided.”
Ian Ruder, a fellow blogger, who follows his alma mater Portland State on OregonLive.com, found O’Keefe’s post amusing.
“I think that really encapsulated what a big game it was. It sounded like it wasn’t a very good call,” he said.
Ruder says he checks Grizzoulian multiple times a day.
“It’s one of the few really updated Big Sky Conference blogs out there,” he said. “I find his stuff really enjoyable.”
O’Keefe compared his style to that of ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons: satirical and sarcastic.
“He tries to take a fan’s approach,” O’Keefe said. “You stay out of the locker room and stuff like that.”
Readership of Grizzoulian.com is modest, as O’Keefe said the Web site receives approximately 100 page views per day – a number that can fluctuate on game days or during the playoffs.
So who is reading the posts?
“You try to grab the diehards off eGriz and stuff like that,” he said. “People all over the country, just trying to find out more about where they went to school.”
Lynn, who said he doesn’t view Grizzoulian as competition, said the response he’s seen to the blog has been very positive.
“From what I’ve read on my site, everybody loves it,” he said. “Any exposure for the University of Montana is a good thing in my book.”