Stumptown and Down

Last Friday “Vox Media”, the outgrowth and owner of SB Nation, the media umbrella that puts out Stumptown Footy – among other “fan site” sports blogs – pulled the plug on Stumptown.

The Portland site was just one of hundreds of “SB Nation” hockey and soccer blogs that got the axe. The Laura Wagner piece at the Defector link above gives you the details, but the nut graf is here:

The team-site layoffs are especially hard for workers to stomach given how little money they cost Vox Media. The cost of the…sites combined was pennies compared to the company’s billion-dollar valuation

~ Laura Wagner, Defector, 1/20/23

(Transparency demands I admit to having a deeply twisted relationship with STF. In late 2017 the then-editor offered me a shot writing for STF what I was then doing for Kevin Alexander’s site Slide Rule Pass. Kevin was then in the process of moving away from soccer blogging and the opportunity for the bigger megaphone was hard to resist. I warned the editor that I cared nothing for access journalism, was likely to say things that irked – or worse, bored – both fans and the club, and he took me on those terms, only to decide after a year or so that I “wasn’t a good fit” at Stumptown, so I got canned from an unpaid hobby gig, which is kinda of weirdly awesome…)

Even with that in the background I have a deep appreciation for what Stumptown has done; bring verve and engagement to a set of teams whose Front Office is notoriously bad at communication and engagement (cue the Merritt Paulson “morons” tweet here…).

Frankly, Stumptown has been the best and most consistent soccer journalism in Portland since the Oregonian canned Jamie Goldberg from the soccer beat in 2019, and even including Jamie, has been a source of the biggest fan energy in town.

And that’s even without considering that it was all within the sleazy SB Nation model, which monetized the shit out of the sites to build fat business bank while paying jack to the people who actually generated the clicks. Wagner’s 2017 Deadspin piece breaks it all down, as well as being the impetus for the lawsuit that Vox settled three years ago

What this actually means to Stumptown is hard to say. In an Update to the Defector article Wagner notes that a Vox suit said: “Though we have some contracts ending on February 28, there are still MLS sites and podcasts that will continue to be supported by SB Nation beyond that date.”

Whether Stumptown is one of those sites, and what that will mean, we don’t know.

Here’s what we do know:

  1. This joint will be open as long as I can keep it open, and will always be a place to talk Thorns. You wanna talk Timbers, too? Okay; I won’t pretend to know MLS and the club as well as I do the NWSL and the Thorns, tho, so hopefully Stumptown will still be a thing for Timbers fans to meet.
  2. The league has allowed clubs to open camps on Monday and requires them to hold training no later than two weeks from Monday – February 6 – and plans to open the season with the start of the regular season on March 25.

This year we’re treating the Cup like it was an actual Open Cup, with Cup ties sprinkled through the year with the final in September…

(and I note here with a groan; why, NWSL, why?? This is beyond idiotic. Your rosters are tiny, you’re in a World Cup year, and yet you want to lard up your clubs’ schedules playing Regular Season 2: WTF Boogaloo? If you HAD made this an actual Cup run, added the W-League and USL clubs? Then let the NWSL clubs play-in sometime in June, say? Fine! But this is just a ridiculous cash-grab build on the tired legs of your players. Fuck that. I hope Coach Norris fields a team of scrubs and walk-ons and gets out of this joke ASAP…)

We’ll see if the Thorns open next week (and where; it’s fffffucking cold outside in Portland right now…) and if so will be back to discuss it.

Meanwhile? I’d like to take a look at the other clubs in the league and see what they’ve been up to whilst we haven’t been looking.

Update 1/21: The folks at Stumptown have a post up about this here.

And in case I wasn’t clear enough up top; I’m pretty pissed about this.

Not because of Vox or SBN or Stumptown but because it’s one more goddamn step down the “let’s take the “people’s game” and use it to screw more jack out of the people’s pockets!” stairway to Hell.

It’s not that they’re “making bank” off Stumptown in the absolute sense…it’s that THE ROI IS IMMENSE. They spend NOthing on these sites and every nickle they make in ad revenue and investment – and it’s a good few nickles – is made off that fact. They get an insane return on almost no expense whatsoever. And yet the Vox suits can’t be arsed to let that tiny expense get in the way of sliding another sawbuck into their pants pocket. Fuck the fanbase and the community and the writers, fucking pay me!

Want to watch the USWNT friendlies? Hi, I’m HBO, fucking pay me!

Want to talk about women’s soccer? Hi, I’m the Athletic (and I’m the Equalizer), fucking pay us!

We as fans are the blood that keeps this game alive. We buy the tickets, we buy the merch, we buy the broadcasts and the podcasts and the websites.

And every moment it seems like there’s another sonofabitch standing there with their hand out looking for another fucking buck.

I love this game, and I love our Portland teams.

But that shit’s getting real, real old.

John Lawes
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2 thoughts on “Stumptown and Down

  1. I see Henderson has a Venmo account that I know I’ve given to in the past because it’s a hobby for him and he doesn’t hold back content / answers to people he knows given him some cash in the past. We all know you well enough to know this is a labor of love for you.

    1. I have no problem kicking loose some cash to support people doing good work, whether it’s Henderson or the gang at Stumptown or whatever. That’s not what chafes.

      I’m not a “sports journalist”. I’ve never pretended to be anything else BUT a fan, and it’s as a fan that I do get a teensy little bit sick of the apparently-limitless expectation from what’s starting to feel like everyone involved in the game that I (and every other fan) can and will bankroll every swinging richard that hopes to make a buck off the sport and the teams we love and support.

      I hope that the current Stumptown gang figure out a way to keep the lights on, somewhere and somehow.

      But this is just one more reminder – as if I needed one! – that “the people’s game” is, more and more, the game of rich people and connected people and people on the make. Vox and it’s progenitor, SB Nation, was just one more hand out looking for a way to finesse some cash out of players and other fans’ love and hard work.


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