GiftFilter: subscription for sports fan?
December 15, 2020 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Seeking recommendations for sports-oriented subscription websites with good articles and good discussion.

The recipient:

- Liked reading Deadspin, but rarely commented.
- Has had unpleasant reddit subgroup experiences, and now pretends the site is read-only during occasional visits.
- Reads and posts on a computer, and would not use a phone app.
- Let a Sports Illustrated print subscription lapse 10-15 years ago.
- Follows US team sports all year and pays the most attention to baseball (MLB.TV subscriber, "MLB Radio" listener).
- Is a Mets fan, but did not like SB Nation's dedicated Mets forum.

Budget maximum is $150. Thus far,'s annual "Pal" level subscription (unlimited articles, commenting privileges, staff Q&As, newsletter) for $120 is in the lead, but is there a better option given the personal history? Are there discussion boards at The Athletic? (That yearly subscription usually runs $120, too, but lately a discounted rate pops up.) The pandemic shut down sports this year and next year's schedule is uncertain -- is a general-interest magazine website with a strong sports section and forum the way to go?

Thanks in advance.
posted by Iris Gambol to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There are comments on The Athletic that - like everything internet - can vary quite a bit in quality even with the paid format, but it's my go-to for sports reporting (they do a fantastic job of recruiting local writers) and the only one I subscribe to. I can't say I pay much attention to NY sports, much less the Mets, but this MeFite is pretty happy with it for his teams (which are very easily customizable) and general sports stuff.

Quick edit to add: I don't use The Athletic comment section as a community at all, so if that's important, it may not be the best solution.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:50 AM on December 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I don’t know if it has a message board and I’m not actually a subscriber, but The Athletic is considered to be the gold standard for online sports coverage these days. They are hiring local beat writers who have been laid off as the local papers fail.

I’ve often been tempted to subscribe. Actually thanks for asking the question - now I know what I want for Christmas!
posted by lumpy at 11:57 AM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

To clarify further: There are no general chat-boards on The Athletic like you would see on reddit/r/Mets or whatever, just comments on the articles. I can see how some people would find a community within those, it's just not my thing (I have other places to fill that need). I still find it worth my subscription.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:12 PM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

+1 fpr the Athletic. I got a free subscription with my T-Mobile account. I read many of their columnists regularly. Worth every penny as if I had paid the going rate.
posted by AugustWest at 12:28 PM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm very happy with my Athletic subscription. The quality of the writing is better than Deadspin or the Ringer. The utility of the comments section seems to vary widely depending on the team in question. For instance, the comments on Arsenal are pretty interesting and I've even replied once or twice. The comments on my NFL team are somewhere between dumb and toxic. Despite its shortcomings as a community platform (that really isn't what it is trying to do), I think it is without question the best source for sports writing anywhere.
posted by Lame_username at 12:31 PM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I will mention Baseball Prospectus because I like what I've seen of it so far, but I have no idea if there's any sort of community element. It is subscription-based.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:03 PM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Athletic is going to be the closest to the classic Sports Illustrated voice of authority than anything else. If they liked the old SI, or their old newspaper sports pages, they should enjoy the Athletic.

Sports message boards are, in general, extremely hit or miss. In general (and I'm saying this as someone who frequents a lot of sports message boards), the people who post on them tend to be neither particularly intelligent nor particularly kind. Even when moderation is done to Metafilteresque standards, there are still so many factual errors and bad takes that I'm not sure it's worth it.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:10 PM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would get him a subscription to the Athletic and curate a Twitter feed for him of the Athletic writers who cover the teams he follows.

It varies from town to town, but in Boston the sports writers from the Globe, the Athletic, the Herald, and others have a great, hilarious Twitter community. It's a blast following them before, during, and after games. They all respond to each other, and there's plenty of room for other people to chime in. The % of bozos is very low.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:33 PM on December 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'll be honest I'm very much the same way, though my team is the A's not the Mets. I was really unhappy when Deadspin shuttered, and have really loved the rebooted blog over at the defector. It hits the same beats and has really been a boon for me since it relaunched. The comments on the Defector are better than most other places on the internet, and I will even occasionally read them, more so than most other places. They're very much not trying to to be an Athletic, SB Nation, or Reddit style experience where it's dedicated to that team.

Given what you described my bet on best bang for your buck would be Defector. Particularly with Covid I've let my Athletic subscription laspse, and don't go on reddit near as much as I would during a normal season, but actively cherish the Defector model. If they still find themselves typing in dea before deleting like I used to, it would be money well spent.
posted by Carillon at 10:38 PM on December 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Athletic and the Defector are both great, but they serve different niches.

The Defector has fewer articles and much less breaking news, but their articles have a much stronger editorial voice (and much more puerile humor). They are also in some ways closer to a general interest website that has a lot of sports content.

There are far more articles on The Athletic, but they largely tend to skip presenting value judgements (while they may note the number of cases of COVID on a football team, they don't state that contact sports should not be played during a pandemic). That said, they do have strong coverage of the back and forths happening between owners and players' associations in both MLB and the NFL. If that type of reporting is what's preferred it would be hard to beat the Athletic at what they do.

Both sites currently have articles on Cleveland changing the name of their baseball team. The article on the Defector excoriates the owner for not having done so earlier, for having to be told that changing it to "The Tribe" would be unacceptable, and for saying they'll continue to sell merchandise featuring the old mascot, Chief Wahoo. The article on the Athletic mention Chief Wahoo, and includes a picture in case anyone forgot what he looked like.

The comments on the Defector almost entirely agree that the owner in Cleveland is a jackass. The comments on the Athletic have a significant portion who don't understand why they wouldn't change the name to the Tribe, and a loud minority saying they'll continue wearing their Chief Wahoo merch.

If the comment section is a significant part of what the person is hoping for I'd strongly recommend against the Athletic. If it is meant to be a large volume of high quality reporting on a lot of sports, engaged with more as one would the sports section of a newspaper, with significant depth for any specific team the Athletic can't be beat.
posted by I paid money to offer this... insight? at 7:02 AM on December 16, 2020 [2 favorites]

Where you note that they liked reading Deadspin, it's worth pointing out that Defector is in fact Deadspin, really; there's a lurid backstory where new owners robbed Deadspin of its editorial freedom and so all the writers quit en masse. Many if not most of those writers started Defector together a few months ago, and own it themselves. So if your recipient liked reading Deadspin, Defector is where they'll find Drew Magary, David Roth, Albert Burneko, Tom Ley, and most of the other full-time writers there who didn't take other jobs in the nine months in between Deadspin's gutting and Defector's launch.
posted by troywestfield at 10:49 AM on December 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry, troywestfield -- yes, I'm aware of Defector's origin story, and apologies for not being clearer in the question. The catch is that I was hoping to find a site with articles and some sort of discussion opportunity, and the giftee rarely posted in the comment section (which offered limited interaction with other readers) at Deadspin.

These answers are letting me know that a sports-themed destination with high-quality content and community is a bit of a grail, and I'm grateful for the insights and recommendations.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:28 AM on December 18, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone, for taking the time to explain the strengths and limits of the two main contenders. In hopes of covering multiple bases, I went with gift subscriptions to both The Athletic and I thought Winnie the Proust's Twitter curation suggestion might answer the 'community' part of my question, but it did not interest this particular recipient, unfortunately. CheesesOfBrazil's rec, Baseball Prospectus, did not offer gift subscriptions, so I passed the info along; the site's "stats/tools" widget & Mets-focused podcast were hits.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:49 PM on January 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

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