Here you can find clips of Evan’s written work, as well as coverage of his exploits.
Currently undergoing revision. Clips are out-of-date.
- If I Ruled on United States v. Progressive
- Injuries to Pitchers
- The Podcast Revolution
- The Power of Baseball Blogging
- A Homage to Johnny Pesky
- How to create and monetize an effective blog
- A rhetorical analysis of Captain Aubrey Daniels’ closing in the My Lai Court Martial
- Alumni Spotlight: Evan Brunell, AS ’09: Northeastern Alumni, 10/09
In October 2003, as Aaron Boone’s 11th-inning home run off Tim Wakefield landed in the left-field stands at Yankee Stadium and provided a gut-wrenching end to another chapter in the long-playing Red Sox-Yankees drama, Evan Brunell was not unlike the majority of Boston fans. The initial feeling of shock yielded to dismay and anger: a reserve third baseman who had hit just six home runs in the regular season became the latest Yankee to drive a stake through the heart of Red Sox Nation.
Brunell, a high school student at the time, took the loss hard. A diehard Red Sox fan, he couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the loss and the continued inability of Boston to exorcise the Yankee demons. While Sox fans flooded the airwaves of sports radio and consoled each other as best they could, Brunell discovered another coping tool: blogging.
What started as a way to deal with the heartbreaking end to a promising baseball season would evolve into MVN.com, a blogging Web site with a current stable of 200-300 fans who write about virtually every topic in sports. With MVN.com, Brunell, AS’09, who earned his degree in journalism, provides an outlet for fans to discuss the travails of their teams with an audience that shares their interests.
Brunell acknowledges there is a marked difference between sports bloggers and professional writers, but he attributes that to just one major difference: accessibility.
“The access journalists have in terms of locker rooms and the ear of ‘insiders’ gives them information they can use, and information bloggers need to do their work,” Brunell said. “As for those accomplished bloggers, not much differentiates them in terms of talent – or even an understanding of how journalism works – from a professional.
“Take myself, for example. I have a journalism degree. What is necessarily better about accepting a job at a low- to mid-level size newspaper to cover high school sports as opposed to creating a successful market for your blog in a high-profile subject?
“Newspapers are switching from having information and being the requisite influential voices to being gatekeepers of content.”
Brunell is sensitive to the opinions of those who feel blogging is simply an outlet for sports fans that can’t draw the line between team loyalty and objective reporting. But he also feels there is some credence in the remarks made by life-long fans.
“Readers gravitate to writers who live and die with each play along with them,” Brunell said. “It gives bloggers credibility, and readers are apt to consider their suggestions far more seriously than a journalist who grew up 500 miles away with no vested interest in the team.”
Because of the success of MVN.com and the hours required to manage its content – he is one of three full-time employees – Brunell has little time to do his own blogging. However, he has managed to continue to indulge his passion for the Red Sox with firebrandal.com, a Red Sox-themed blog that recently formed a partnership with ESPN. He describes himself as a “guardedly optimistic” Red Sox fan whose birthday (August 16) shares a date with two important events in Sox history: the anniversary of the death of Babe Ruth and the firing of manager Jimy Williams.
Brunell feels Northeastern was the perfect place to hone an interest and talent that existed before his arrival on campus.
“I’ve always been a good writer and I came to enjoy it in my class work,” said Brunell, who is deaf and credited NU’s Disability Resource Center for easing his transition on campus. “When I was trying to determine a future for myself, I thought about how I could fuse my two passions together: writing/reading and sports. Thus, sports journalism was born.
“My experience at Northeastern was amazing. I thought NU offered a great atmosphere, both academically and [in other opportunities]. I met a broad range of professors who all informed and improved my outlook on the world.
“There were four general areas that I pursued in higher learning: journalism, business [in which he has a minor], writing, and leadership. I can certainly say that I am rather advanced in knowledge in these areas thanks to Northeastern.”
“There is no magic number; it’s all about consistency and quality,” said Evan Brunell, president of the Most Valuable Network, or MVN, a conglomeration of hundreds of sports blogs at http://www.mvn.com. “If you write three times a week but are consistent with that number, and the quality commands going back, then it’s worth it.
“There is no magic number, but the magic word is consistency.”
Brunell goes a step farther and integrates his personal blog entries on Facebook, a social networking site. On Facebook he already has an audience of friends that could potentially be interested in his entries. However, Brunell said integrating your blog with your social networks can help a little “but not much.”
“Social networks, in my experience, are good to build awareness, but the hits don’t come until (an) event commands it,” he said.
Brunell is also a huge proponent of adding multimedia – pictures, videos, polls – to a blog to make it more interactive with the readership. He said these items are “woefully underused” in the blogosphere.
” ‘War and Peace’ is a great book, but you make a conscious choice to read that heavy text. Online, readers want it to be fast and intuitive,” he said.
Brunell, on the other hand, doesn’t even check (his readership tracker).
“As a blogger I have never had much use for a hits tracker. I will know if people read it. As a blogger, the best way to succeed is to start the blog for yourself. The readers will come,” he said. “If you start it for others, the passion will never be there, and readers will never come. … I know a lot of bloggers might disagree with me on the relevancy of a hit tracker, but I personally have no use for it.”
- Sturbridge student takes on ESPN: Sturbridge Villager, 8/24/07
- Worcester Telegram and Gazette (8/23/07) by Bill Doyle:
Blogs come into play
MVN thrives under Brunell
Hearing may be a problem for Evan Brunell, but vision isn’t.
The deaf Northeastern University student believes he can see the future of sports media, and he expects his Web site that has volunteer bloggers cover their favorite teams will be a major part of it.
Using his computer at his parents’ home in Sturbridge and renting server space, Brunell started what he believes was the first sports blog network, the Most Valuable Network, in December 2003 during his senior year at Tantasqua Regional High School.
“A friend and I,” Brunell said via e-mail, “decided instead of venting to each other about our favorite teams (Red Sox for me, Pirates for him), we would start venting to the world.”
Bloggers were sought for every baseball team, and the network began to take off after Dave Cohen, a software programmer with IBM, created the MVN.com Web site the following spring. With advertising revenue from ticket agencies, MVN bought out All-Baseball.com in March 2005 and 360ThePitch.com, a podcast network, the following July. Cohen wanted out last year after ESPN and AOL lured away some of MVN’s bloggers, so Brunell’s father, Dave, bought out his one-third share. Brandon Rosage, the webmaster at 360ThePitch.com, was hired to run the Web site, and Dan Benton came on board to provide some much needed marketing savvy.
MVN now has 20,000 readers a day, and Evan Brunell believes it has become the best source for independent sports blogging. Believe it or not, MVN.com is the No. 1 New York Giants site on the Internet, visited more than the team’s own Web site. MVN.com also covers 25 colleges, and Dave Brunell thinks providing an alternative to the colleges’ own Web sites holds great promise.
“On the college Web sites, there’s not going to be anyone saying they should fire the coach,” Dave Brunell said. “We are a fan-based driven site. We have commentators. We don’t really report the news.”
MVN now has 300 bloggers, ranging in age from 16 to 80. Many are college students building their résumés, but others are doctors, factory workers, travel agents and established journalists. Twenty-two are women. They all offer their opinions about baseball, football, golf, wrestling, boxing and other sports. Some bloggers attend games, some don’t. Some, as Evan Brunell pointed out, live abroad and follow their teams vicariously through the Internet. Locker room access is limited for bloggers because obtaining media credentials for major league sporting events and earning acceptance from most traditional sports media haven’t been easy.
On the other hand, MVN’s interactive capability provides readers an easy means to respond to bloggers, and MVN has become such an Internet staple, it has been written about by Sports Illustrated’s Web site, the Edmonton Sun and the popular sports blog, deadspin.com.
MVN’s bloggers receive a percentage of advertising revenue, but Evan Brunell hopes MVN grows enough to allow them to be paid regular salaries soon.
“Once we can turn MVN into a blogger’s job and not their hobby, that’s when it will really take off,” Evan Brunell wrote.
Evan Brunell said while MVN isn’t losing money, it isn’t making any, either. All revenues are poured back into the company, and the 20 or more hours a week he works at MVN don’t earn him a salary yet.
“I’m still living at the whim of my parents,” he wrote.
A recent partnership with Fantasy Sports Ventures provided MVN.com a much needed financial boost, and national advertisements began running on the site this month. By the time Brunell graduates from Northeastern, his father expects him to have a good full-time job waiting for him at MVN.
Deaf since birth, Brunell carries a 3.73 GPA in journalism at Northeastern with the help of an interpreter and is on schedule to graduate in 2009.
“I haven’t had to overcome anything in regards to being deaf,” Brunell insisted. “I simply am deaf. Always have been, always will be. Sure, I am limited in some aspects. You won’t see me as an anchor on our flagship show, and I probably won’t be involved in the day-to-day activities, but I certainly will be involved in starting up a TV network when — not if — it happens.”
Brunell sees a day when MVN adds a television network that competes with ESPN, but with one important difference. While ESPN provides national stories with national exposure, through its Web site and TV network MVN would cover local stories nationally.
“To make the jump from a Web site to a television network,” Brunell wrote, “will require many hours of sleepless nights, sweat, tears, but we can do it. It’s my goal, and I’m going to do everything I can to get there.”
“If we had a marketer at the beginning,” Dave Brunell said, “we’d already be the new ESPN.”
Evan Brunell’s intention to form a TV network may cause others to snicker, but he’s one determined young man. His relentlessness helped convince NESN to offer all of its Red Sox studio shows in closed caption two years ago.
“If people think I’m reaching too high, no one has told me,” Brunell wrote. “Really, can anyone ever reach too high? I live by a personal motto that I created: Reach for the universe, not the sky. If you don’t reach the universe, at least you’re higher than the sky.”
- The Northeastern Voice (8/12/07) by Jason Kornwitz:
If Evan Brunell hopes to build the next ESPN, he’s certainly on his way.
Brunell, a 21-year-old journalism major at Northeastern University, is the president of Most Valuable Network, a burgeoning, independent sports media company that relies on volunteer bloggers to cover their favorites teams.
What quietly began as an idea between a small circle of friends in high school just three years ago, has quickly become a phenomenon, a full-blown business venture that’s received coverage on Sports Illustrated’s web site, the Edmonton Sun and deadspin.com, one of the most popular sports blogs.
“It wasn’t intended to be a company,” Brunell says. “It wasn’t intended to be big. But I took charge of the whole thing and it kind of took off on me.”
And take off it did. Most Valuable Network (MVN.com), is currently made up of nearly 300 writers from all walks of life and from all age groups (bloggers range from 16 to 80 years old) bent on providing comprehensive sporting news, game stories, statistical analysis and editorial coverage of a range of sports from baseball and football to golf, wrestling and boxing.
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, St. Louis Cardinals ace Mark Mulder and tennis superstar Roger Federer are a few among a host of athletes interviewed on MVN. And while MVN doesn’t have a major backer like CBS or CNN, it has credentials to attend every minor league baseball game and has, for example, been invited to Spring Training for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Golden State Warriors’ practices.
“I want MVN to become the next ESPN,” Brunell says. “I want to get a TV channel, I want to pay our writers a full time salary. Once we can turn MVN into [a blogger’s] job and not their hobby, that’s when it will really take off.”
Brandon Rosage, MVN’s web designer and producer, has helped incorporate a podcast and live radio station into the network’s repertoire. Rosage, himself, hosts a two-hour general sports radio show every week day called “Outsider Radio” and “The Pitch,” which focuses on Major League Baseball.
Rosage, who began working full-time on MVN last October when Brunell bought-out his independent sports podcast network “360ThePitch,” trusted Brunell’s leadership qualities and management skills so much that he was willing to put his financial stability on the line.
“I’m not just here to do web design. This is something that for me was a major financial risk,” Rosage says.
“He’s built such an enormous network. Everything is really calculated and organized,” Rosage says. “I was surprised and hesitant at first but he finds a way to keep on top of things and keep MVN moving.”
Brunell’s intensity and passion for such a large undertaking is impressive when you realize he’s still a college student. But when coupled with the fact that he was diagnosed as deaf when he was 1 year old, it’s even more inspiring.
Still, Brunell doesn’t view his inability to hear as a challenge, but rather as a way of life.
“This was the hand I was dealt,” Brunell says, “and I just deal with it.”
At Northeastern, Brunell is active in the university’s Deaf Club (NUDC), where he designs the group’s website. And his involvement in the American Sign Language Program (ASL) allows him to interact and become friends with other students who look out for his best interests.
“When I was looking at colleges to go to, I kept hearing ‘you’re going to have problems with support services, you’re going to have to fight for everything you want.’ I’ve never had to fight for anything here. The support system is fantastic.”
A Sturbridge, Mass., native, Brunell attended The Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Mass., until he was 10 years old and received a cochlear implant at 16. Equipped today with a note-taker or an interpreter for class, Brunell carries a 3.73 GPA and plans to graduate in 2009.
David Del Pizzo, Assistant Director of Deaf Students and Interpreting Services at Northeastern, has known Brunell since he was a freshman and continues to work with him in an advisory role. What’s more important, however, is their friendship.
Del Pizzo, who himself is deaf, recognizes Evan as a dedicated, hard-working individual with an insatiable thirst for sports.
“Evan is a very motivated person,” Del Pizzo says. “He knows so much about sports and he’s got great people skills and is very friendly.
“He’s a good debater on sports, and I’m a sports person too so I love to get into it with Evan. We can really have some hot discussions.”
Del Pizzo, who admits he favors MVN over ESPN, says he’s taught Brunell to meet challenges, assert himself and explore all avenues available to solve problems. But Brunell has taught Del Pizzo important lessons as well.
“One thing that I’ve learned from Evan is that you have to approach things with an open mind. You can’t make a decision based on small things; you have to have a broad perspective.”
Brunell’s talent for continually thinking ahead and his ability to transform his imagination into reality with MVN’s new radio and podcast channels has been helped along by his participation in Northeastern’s co-op program.
As an assistant for the Red Sox foundation, the official charity arm of the baseball club, Brunell created programs for various events such as the ever-popular Picnic in the Park and for the celebration of the opening of The Teddy Ebersol’s Red Sox Fields.
“The main reason I came to Northeastern was for the co-op. You come across all these different problems and difficult scenarios and you learn what to do on co-op so when you graduate you will know what to do.”
For his second co-op, Brunell worked for Northeastern Marketing and Communications web services. The opportunity to observe, first-hand, the inner-workings of an operation from a marketing and public relations perspective, has influenced Brunell’s approach to MVN.
“I got to see a better way of how an organization is run,” Brunell says. “I saw plans and outlines and that have helped me make MVN more professional.
“I’m starting to shift the way we do business to a more professional way. Now, I’m asking for business plans, setting up different guidelines, trying to make sure things run seamlessly. Co-op gave me a better idea of how a business should be run as a whole.”
Brunell’s current internship with ESPN Radio in Boston has given him the opportunity to write commercials for various organizations in the area, but if he has it his way, he’ll be able to work full-time on MVN by the time he graduates.
But it won’t be easy.
By incorporating a slew of advertisements into MVN, Brunell hopes to eventually gain the financial backing to pay the writers, but as of right now, it’s still a work in progress.
“I’m running a business,” Brunell says. “It takes a lot of work. More work than anybody thinks. My father runs an oil business. When I was little I used to think ‘that’s pretty easy, you just tell people what to do.’ But it’s so much more complicated than that.
“I’ve learned how to be a business man, I’ve learned how to approach people in a business-like way, I’ve learned what to do, what not to do. I still can’t really believe it but it is something that you’re not going to know what it entails until you actually do it.”
Bijan Bayne, however, strongly believes in Brunell, and says he’s a model for young students or sports fans with media aspirations.
Bayne covers the NFL in editorial style for his blog “No Huddle Offense” on MVN, and has written a book about the earliest Black professional basketball players called Sky Kings: Black Pioneers of Professional Basketball.
“[Brunell] is ambitious, business-like and the man has vision,” Bayne says. “I would believe in anything Evan sets his mind to doing. As the reputation [of MVN] grows, and the marketing and partnership skills of MVN bloggers and the front office grow, it will set a standard for grassroots sports communications—fan driven and aimed at fans.”
Accordingly, the enormous amount of effort Brunell puts into MVN (no fewer than 20 hours per week) and the responsibility attached to such a venture, enables Brunell to maintain an air of humility unfamiliar to many others his age.
“This isn’t something I did by grand design,” Brunell says. “I came up with a good idea one day and I ran with it. But at the end of the day, I’m still the college kid trying to graduate and trying to have fun while I still can. But I will say that there’s no better college I could have picked for it. I made the right choice, no doubt about that.”
- The Tantasqua Town Common (8/16/07) by Tim Peterson:
Sturbridge native Evan Brunell has been a diehard Boston Red Sox fan all of his life. He has always wrote and read everything he could about his favorite team. “I’ve always liked the Red Sox and I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing about them,” said Brunell. “My favorite subject in school has always been English, and I just wanted to become a baseball writer.”
Brunell graduated from Tantasqua in 2004 and is currently a student at Northeastern University in Boston.
A couple of years ago, Brunell and one of his friends, who’s a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, created the first sports blog network in the United States called MVN (Most Valuable Network). “The blog started when I wanted to write about the Red Sox and my friend wanted to write about the Pirates,” said Brunell, who played on the varsity baseball team at Tantasqua. “We just came up with the idea to get different people to write about their favorite team.”
Brunell is the MVN President and the Red Sox columnist for his site. He writes two or three columns a week. He also handles all of the customer and employee relations. “I usually work about 20 hours a week on my network. I take care of the day-to-day business of running the company,” he said.”We’re always trying to improve it.”
MVN has quickly become a very popular blog site with sports through- out the United States.
“It took off, and it has just kept growing and growing,” Brunell said. “We were able to find good writers and people were coming to read it. We also hired a professional, who put our Web site together, so we kind of got on the map because of that.”
MVN currently has over 250 sports- writers.
“MVN is accredited by MLB (Note by Evan: this particular quote is not exactly true — we probably couldn’t get into Kansas City or Cleveland), but it’s nearly impossible to get a press pass at Fenway Park,” said Dave Brunell, who’s the MVN treasurer, a Cleveland Indians fan, and Evan’s father. ” If we lived in Kansas City or Cleveland, Evan would be able to get into the press box with a press pass.”
According to Evan, the only thing a MVN sportswriter needs is a real passion for his or her team. “We have had people who worked for us who didn’t have the passion for it and they quickly flamed out,”Evan said.
Anyone who reads Evan’s stories or any other story written by a MVN sports- writer can give his or her opinion about it.
“It’s an interactive site and that’s why it’s such a popular site,”Dave Brunell said.
Despite not being able to sit in the press box with the other Red Sox beat writers from the Boston Globe or the Herald, it hasn’t stopped Evan from giving his opinion about his favorite team.
“I just blog from a fan prospective,” he said.”I watch the games on television or if I can a ticket, I’ll go to a game. I also read all of the Boston newspapers. I’m just like a normal fan except that I write
about it and give my opinion on the team.”
So far this season, Evan has attended about 10 Red Sox games at Fenway Park. One of his favorite games this season was the day he saw Daisuke Matsuzaka make his first start at home against the Seattle Mariners.
“That was probably the most exciting game I’ve seen them play this year,” he said.”Dice-K struck out Ichiro in his first at-bat of the game. I was sitting in the grandstand behind the plate and I’ve never seen that many flashbulbs go off at once. Not even in the playoffs or when Roger Clemens came back. It was amazing.”
He also had the opportunity to attend the 2005 home opener. “I’m never going to forget that day because I was there in person when the players received their World Series rings,” Brunell said. “It was very emotional for
everybody because all of the heartache that had built up over the years was gone.”
Brunell also has had the opportunity to interview Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, and Manny Delcarmen when they played for the Red Sox AAA affiliate, Pawtucket.
Baseball isn’t the only sport that MVN covers.
Evan’s favorite NFL team is the New England Patriots, who he thinks will win the Super Bowl this season. “If they don’t win the Super Bowl this year, I’ll be shocked,” Brunell said. “I’ve only been a Patriots fan for about seven or eight years, but I’ve been a Red Sox fan since I was born.”
A couple of months ago, Evan created MVN Radio on the Internet. (Note by Evan: not true, I was misquoted. I did not come up with the idea, the Pirates fan mentioned in this article did. I brought the idea to the radio guy at MVN, but we decided not to pursue it at the time. Some months later, the decision was made to pursue it. I was involved in starting it up, but I do not deserve credit for this.) “I have someone else running MVN Radio, but I was the one who got it approved and got it started,”he said.
Someday, Evan hopes MVN can become bigger than ESPN. “I certainly would like to get to the point where ESPN is afraid of me. I would like to get a television channel and a radio station,” Brunell said.”ESPN just cov-
ers general sports. If something happens with the Patriots, you’ll read an objective straight story about it at ESPN, but if you go to my site, you get an opinion of whatever the news is from a Patriots fan point of view, not just a national beat writer point of view. That’s the biggest difference between the two sites.”
When Evan was a young kid, his dream was to be a baseball sportswriter, but now his main goal is to make MVN the best sports blog network in the country. “ESPN dominates the sports world. They just need someone to challenge them,”Brunell said.”I just hope we can do it someday.”