*Friday evening: We arrived at the official pre-party, which coinicided with Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. It was a mix of conference attendees and panelists -- everyone from established bloggers/media folks to people just starting out to others who really just thought the event would be fun to attend. Also, there were some PR and start-up company folks working the room. Eventually, we struck up a conversation with Dave Nemetz, the founder and VP for Business Development of Bleacher Report. Also, at the same time, there was a contest going on to see which person at the party could pour a pint of Guinness most effectively. These two pieces of information would turn out to be intertwined. Nemetz, you see, had a friend with him who turned out to be a finalist in the pouring contest. And in the head-to-head (pun intended?) final pour-off, we might have influenced the judges when they asked audience members which pour was best. Long story short, Nemetz's friend ends up winning, the Guinness people start handing out hats, we wind up with a hat, and those with hats are part of the official crew that gets the prize: the use of a limo for the rest of the night. So at the second intermission of the game, we pile into the limo with Abe Froeman, the new Sausage King of Chicago (pictured with beads). We rode around to a few more establishments, caught the end of the game (Chicago was sad for a couple of days, until Sunday night), and then reached a critical decision-making point. It was about 11:30 p.m. Friday. The conference was going to start at 10 a.m. Saturday. We had a reasonably long trip back to our hotel (we were staying in Skokie. Some sort of OTHER convention, oncologists we heard, had eaten up a ton of hotel space so we booked in the burbs. It turned out to be a very good decision, even if the first thing out of Spencer Hall's mouth was "Rand! So I hear you're staying in Skokie."). In any event, the limo thing was fun, but this was not a time to get crazy. This was a time to get sleep. These are the rational thoughts you have when you are 33 instead of 23. And it is kind of nice.
*Saturday daytime: The actual conference. We'll give you the synopsis version lest this thing spiral toward many thousands of words. Lots of great people there. Smoothly run despite the pouring rain outside -- in fact, major recognition to Don Povia and his crew for the weekend. Everything was top-notch. The panels were interesting, though they could use some tweaking. We'd probably suggest some format changes and other things to liven things up throughout. That said, it was plenty interesting at times -- and plenty lively at one specific moment.
During the panel on ethics and legality in sports blogging, the difference between bloggers and traditionally trained members of the mainstream media (or even the blogosphere) was never more evident. The casual approach to facts when putting together a blog post was stunning, laziness was offered as an excuse (or even a business model), comparisons were made between running a completely untrue, made-up story with no attempt at verification and a well-sourced story that turns out to be wrong (sorry, y'all, but there is a major difference between getting a story wrong because you get bad information or something changes, and getting something wrong out of sheer recklessness). In any event, we understand blogging is not the same as journalism. But the standard has to be higher. And the aforementioned Spencer Hall had the stones to fire away at the panel from the audience with the very same thoughts we were having (OK, nobody has the exact same thoughts as Spencer). Some of the stuff is a little "inside baseball." But if you want to roll the video of the good stuff, it is archived right here. The whole thing is worth watching, but the defining moment showdown starts around the 24:50 mark. Just because you can get away with something doesn't make it ethical or that you should do it.
Our panel on video and podcasting was worthwhile, but the ethics panel was the defining moment of the conference. We'd tell you what Spencer added later at the open bar, but that wouldn't be ethical.
We'll leave you with a mental image: by about midnight, everyone had cleared out for various other locations except us and the guys from the Basketball Jones (those guys travel in a wolfpack -- picture above). There was a little half-room between the private party area (which had since been shut down) and the main area at the Mystic Celt, site of the event. And it was there that a dance party featuring a native North Dakotan and a bunch of Canadians happened. There is no known video or pictures.