Dick Jerardi (@DickJerardi)
When Josh Verlin told me about his vision for City of Basketball Love as it relaunches, I was excited for him and for the area’s basketball fans.
The reality is that the media in this area (and just about everywhere) has condensed, so coverage of some sports has diminished or evaporated. Choices have to be made. With fewer reporters and leaner budgets, everything can’t be covered.
Fewer and fewer outlets around to cover stories like Archbishop Wood's run to the 2021 state championship game. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
In this area, basketball coverage — college and especially high schools — has really suffered in recent years. While Archbishop Wood was making an historic run through an unbeaten 2021 season which ended one game shy of perfection in a state championship loss to Reading High, you would have hardly known it by checking many of the local papers/websites. The coverage just did not exist.
It’s nobody’s fault. It is just the business in 2021. Reporters and editors are leaving and not being replaced. Therefore, what was once covered is no longer covered.
The good news is that is about to change and change in a very big way, with the relaunch of CoBL. Josh has assembled a Board of Directors, with a wide variety of experience in basketball, ready to help in any way. When he asked me to join the board, I was happy to say yes.
CoBL is going to blanket cover the sport from high schools to colleges, men and women. Up until now, CoBL has been strictly covering the men’s game. That is going to change on July 1, when the site will launch girls' and women's coverage for the first time. Kate Harman, who wrote for The Inquirer and is now a Rowan University professor, will oversee the area girls’ and women’s coverage at a time when the WNBA is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
(Ed. Note: If you're a local high school or college student with an interest in helping us cover girls' high school and women's collegiate basketball, shoot us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a resume and writing samples if you have them).
Josh is assembling a staff that will not only cover games during the season and events all year long, but, more importantly, be able to tell stories about players and coaches that will explain who they are, their motivations, their pasts, their futures. CoBL will be a one-stop for everything basketball in Philly and the suburbs. There will be New Jersey and Delaware coverage before long.
If there is a story or a game that needs to be covered, the aim is to cover it.
Beyond the coverage, CoBL will be a great training ground for the sportswriters of the future. Nobody gets anywhere without a start and, if you like basketball and writing, CoBL is your spot.
When CoBL began in 2012, it was Josh and his friend Andy Edwards, two guys who loved college basketball and wanted to cover it. The vision was all things Philly hoops _ from high schools to the pros. That quickly became just high schools and colleges. They had a staff of more than a dozen college students and recent college graduates.
I didn’t know much about the staff or Josh or Andy, but I kept noticing somebody new, somebody very young at college games I was covering for the Daily News. And I really kept noticing Josh. He was just always there. He was eager, thoughtful and clearly determined. It was like seeing a mirror into my life in the late 1980s when I started covering college hoops in the city.
CoBL evolved over the years, running college exposure camps in the spring and fall in addition to covering college (at every level) and high school hoops. The site grew exponentially, but was unable to find a business model that worked and was shut down temporarily in October 2018.
CoBL re-started in August 2019, but not at the level it had reached before while trying to create a sustainable business model that will work over the long term.
And that is exactly where CoBL is now - in this for the long term with a model that has every chance of success. And this is the right time.
We have finally crossed the pandemic bridge. Youth sports continue to explode. The Sixers are poised for a deep playoff run. Interest in the game is high. Basketball in and around Philly is part of our culture.
And CoBL, bigger, better, more experienced and more sustainable, is here ready to tell the stories of the sport we all love.
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