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WSI News - Sox Interviews

George Bova Speaks!

††

†By Mark Liptak

Heís known as "Pale Hose" George. Heís the founder, publisher and CEO of White Sox Interactive.

George Bova, a mild mannered sales manager by day, turns into a devoted, passionate, sometimes raving lunatic of a Sox fan at night. Vowing to promote in a "totally biased" manner his team and his city, Bova fights for truth, justice and the White Sox way.

Totally Biased
vs.
Totally Unbiased!

Bova arm-wrestles the Tribune's Sox beat writer, Paul Sullivan.

Bova spoke from his suburban Chicago home with WSIís Mark Liptak about a number of topics including how White Sox Interactive got started, whatís going to happen in the event of a strike, the Chicago media, and a little known but shocking secret about himself.

ML: How did White Sox Interactive get started?

GB: "It started as a hobby. I wanted to learn how to work with HTML. I also had in my mind an idea or two about how a fanís site should look like. I came across a site devoted to the English soccer team Arsenal FC.† †It was different in the fact that it made no pretensions about being objective. It was "totally biased." WSI started out as a five page website during maybe the worst time in Sox history. It was in 1998, the team was bad, the "White Flag Trade" was still fresh in everyoneís memories. I had no false illusions that Iíd start this and someday wind up with press credentials. I didnít want to get into the "mainstream media" or have the readers think this was a serious, objective site."

ML: I take it then youíve been a Sox fan a long time?

GB: "Actually I have this dirty little secret. I feel like Iím going to confession now! I grew up a Cubs fan in a Cubs household. My dad was a Cubs fans and so were many of my relatives. Though I had relatives who were Sox fans, I just gravitated towards the Cubs. The first Major League game I ever saw was in September 1969 at Wrigley Field.† However, growing up in Chicago Heights, I attended lots more games at Comiskey Park.† As I got older, and my buddies and I would go to Sox games at Old Comiskey Park, I suddenly had an epiphany. Coming home from a Sox game, I suddenly realized Sox fans seemed to care more about what was happening on the field, even if their team was bad. It was a lot different from Cub fans that I saw. Right then, I guess, I knew I was really a Sox fan."

ML: So when did you know somebody was actually reading the website?

GB: "I started the site literally after eating Thanksgiving dinner, 1998. A month later I got an e-mail from a fourteen year old girl, who said she was a Sox fan and liked reading the stuff. She stumbled across the web site and said she was going to tell her friends who were Sox fans, about it. I never imagined it would grow as big as it has."

ML: Exactly how big is WSI and how many fans visit every day?

Headquarters for Totally Biased Sox Fans!†

With Sox author Dan Helpingstine at the WSI booth at SoxFest, 2002.

GB: "We have over 900 registered message board members and that doesnít count those fans who stop by to visit or read the features. We get about 200,000 hits per day."

ML: How do you get your ideas for the site?

GB: "A lot of the stuff comes out of nowhere. A lot of it came about when we were at "Sox Fest" and were just talking. With features like "Inside Jerryís Head" and "The Psychic Pre Game Report", we were looking for a different spin on the usual pre game stuff. A lot of what we do is appreciated by displaced Chicagoans who are still Sox fans and want to reconnect with their Chicago roots. Thatís why we use a lot of dated references like Bozo The Clown and Frazier Thomas."

ML: How did you feel when you opened up Ron Rapoportís column in the Chicago Sun Times and saw the reference to WSI. Then a few days later when the Minneapolis Star Tribune talked about it?

GB: "It was the highlight of the whole season at WSI. We always hoped to build the site, to connect with more fans, but "official" recognition was slow to come. I did this for love, not profit. When this started, I felt like the Internet wasnít going to be an extension of mainstream media. If you surf to sites like WSI, you know itís going to be different from "legitimate" sources.† You know what you are going to get something different for the effort. That's obvious from when those newspapers talked about us. The Cubs charged that a Sox fan destroyed a part of the ivy at Wrigley Field without any evidence to back it up. Sox fans at WSI made their feelings clear about what might have actually happened and the media picked up on it. In no other way, at no other location, could the media have gotten that impression from Sox fans. Sox fans have always had a love / hate relationship with the team and the fact is, that WSI is therapeutic for a lot of baseball fans who truly† feel, rightly or wrongly, disenfranchised in their own city because of the team they root for."

ML: What separates Cub fans from Sox fans?

GB: "Cub fans seem to have a certain love for the peripheral things connected with baseball. Thatís along the lines of being outdoors; that baseball is played in the summer and the sunshine, that they can sit with their friends and have a nice conversation. Sox fans want to know whatís happening on the field and whatís happening off the field thatís affecting the way the team is playing. For them itís more about the game itself and itís a game they feel they have to win."

ML: What is WSIís relationship with the Chicago White Sox?

GB: "Itís not a whole lot. Every year I send a letter to Scott Reifert the media relations director, requesting a press credential or help in contacting former players for interviews and itís always ignored. Christine Makowski, who works for the Sox, was very helpful during Sox Fest, when we had a booth at the convention. She told me she enjoyed the site and others in the organization did as well. Obviously individuals who work in the media like Ron Rapoport, Paul Sullivan, and the columnist from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, see the value of the siteís opinions in contrast to the Sox "official" web site and thatís OK. Iím not trying to get any special favors. I just want to get Sox fans points of view out there."

A proud moment!† Inking the deal with Bee Zee to make Brookfield Zoo the official zoological park of White Sox Interactive!

ML: Speaking of "official" web sites, the Houston Astros and MLB put the squeeze on a pair of Astros fan sites recently. Readers of WSI expressed concern that could happen here. Are you worried?

GB: "If something were to happen, if somehow we were violating any copyright laws, and the Sox and MLB brought it to our attention, naturally we would comply with the request. We would do what we could to make the necessary changes. Naturally itís something I hope we donít have to deal with. Controversy is good for discussion but Iíll tell you this, we will not be shut down. We at WSI would turn MLB's lemons into WSI's lemonade. Weíd play it right back at them.† This website will definitely be up to that challenge.† Go ahead and bring it."

ML: Do you think anybody in the upper echelon of the White Sox organization or in the mainstream media, reads WSI?

GB: "I canít say for sure. There is some circumstantial evidence that they do. On opening night 2000 in the 3rd inning, the tote board at Comiskey started with a "Sox O Gram." Now as any Sox fan knows, the "Sox O Gram" was a staple of the old exploding scoreboard at old Comiskey Park. Back in 1999, we brought back the "Sox O Gram" at the top of the main page. Is it just a happy coincidence that a few months after White Sox Interactive brought it back, the Sox started using it again, too?† As far as the media is concerned, I donít see silly stories about how Sox fans donít care anymore. That used to be a staple of most of the Chicago media. Maybe a few of them have found our web site and realize now that Sox fans truly do care a lot about their team, and have begun treating our viewpoint with a bit more respect.† Mark Giangreco isn't making jokes about empty blue seats anymore."

ML: What do you think of the Chicago mediaís coverage of the Sox?

GB: "I have no doubt the Chicago media sincerely believes in following the issues of integrity and in fairness to the Sox and Sox fans. I do not think they have a personal vendetta against the team but I do think that some of the media outlets have a real conflict of interest regarding coverage of the Cubs versus the Sox. I think a lot of unfounded perceptions are out there about Sox fans, and unfortunately perception becomes reality. Right or wrong, I think Sox fans feel they are a persecuted minority in this city and across the country. But that just creates another opportunity for WSI, doesnít it?"

ML: It looks almost dead certain that a strike is coming up that will probably derail the season. With no more daily games to talk about, should fans keep reading WSI?

GB: "Certainly. Just like in the off season when they arenít playing games, theyíll be a lot to talk about. The site will probably evolve in a different direction while the impasse is talking place. Weíll have features and columns about the negotiations, weíll speculate on how a strike will effect the team and if once again, Jerry Reinsdorf is in the vanguard of hard-line owners, weíll definitely have a lot to say about him! WSI will also spend more time looking at the Sox from a historical perspective. White Sox fans donít run from their past; thatís why we feel the way we do about the team. During the strike weíll be having more historical columns, weíll be adding a ton of historic audio cuts, everything from Jerry Reinsdorf himself commenting about issues through the years, to past Sox performances in All Star Games, to classic moments from the "Crosstown Classic" series, to highlights from those great seasons in 1977, 1990 and 1993 -94.† We'll use the strike to our own advantage.† Sox fans benefit."

ML: Whatís your opinion about the future of the Sox?

GB: "The White Sox always try the patience of Sox fans. I think the near future is going to be a real dark time for the franchise. I also think the Sox are going to be in serious trouble. Fans have been trying to support the team through numerous problems for the past 35 years though, so I guess in that respect, the near future won't be much different than the recent past.† The 2000 season is behind us and it looks like more problems are piling up in front of us.† However, I'm confident the strong, dedicated, hard-core Sox fan base will remain passionate about our team.† We'll shoulder the load like we always do."

ML: Finally how about the future of White Sox Interactive?

GB: "Itís a work in progress. What it evolves into is ultimately up to our community of readers. I want the site to grow, I want it to offer something unique to Sox fans of every type. I want it to be the preeminent sounding board for Sox fans viewpoints on the web. Our message boards are already great, so maybe the next area will be to expand further the understanding of what it means to be a Sox fan.† The national media in particular needs to go to school on that subject.† I think we can do a lot more with audio and video cuts.† They really drive home the passion we Sox fans have for our team.† We'll stretch the definition of what it means to be a fan site.† We'll have fun doing it, too."†


Editor's Note: †Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work. †He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper†organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana)†and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years. †"Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population. †

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