In two previous columns on this site, I've lamented the loss of ESPN Passport, a terrific website/app that allowed you to chronicle every sporting event you've attended. As I wrote then, this is one of the fundamental benefits of the Web: "an absolutely invaluable service, the Internet equivalent of a bottomless shoebox with every ticket stub I've ever had." ESPN being ESPN, ESPN Passport wasn't immediately profitable -- though with enough promotion, you can see it being a sports FourSquare without much sweat -- so they shut it down. You can still get to ESPN Passport, but it doesn't update new games (it doesn't bother to add postseason games), the app no longer exists in the iTunes Store and errors aren't corrected by developers. The site has been abandoned. It's a Web ghost town, like the Space Jam website.
Back when I wrote about ESPN dropping Passport, I essentially begged someone out there reading to develop some sort of replacement. It seems too valuable a fan service not to have something like this; collecting, scrapbooking and recording are three essential traits of both the Internet and sports fans. MLB.com's At The Ballpark app was the only real service remaining, and it's a good one, but it only goes back to 2005, and it's only for baseball. (Cory Schwartz of MLB.com says you'll be able to add games before 2005 soon. ) It's great, but it wasn't quite enough. A man cannot quite live on baseball alone.
I'm happy to say, though: A replacement might be here. The site is called Basketball Passport, and it's pretty much the platonic ideal of what a site chronicling a sports fan's history might look like. It's not perfect yet, but it's going to get there. This is how this is supposed to be done.
Co-founded by Peter Robert Casey and Kyle Whelliston (whom you might remember as the purveyor of the great Mid-Majority website), Basketball Passport attempts to document every aspect of the sports fan experience. Basically, any basketball game you go to or have been to, you can click that you went to the game. You can search by team, by venue, by year, however you need to find it. That's just the start: After that, you can do all kinds of stuff. I basically have my entire history as a basketball fan online. Every game since the Bird-Magic Final Four game in 1979 is on here. (Full disclosure: Casey and Whelliston, aware of my desire for such a service, asked for my input before launch. They didn't give me any money or anything for it, I swear.)
Here, I'll be your guinea pig. Here's my page. Basically, I went back through my history and clicked every game I went to, starting with the Illinois-Ball State NCAA tournament game in 1989 through last year's Knicks 85-75 win over the Pacers in the NBA playoffs. I found all the old Illini games I covered in college, all the Northeast Conference games I covered for New York Magazine and even the one time I got to see Michael Jordan play in person. When I've put in all the games, I can go to my Stats page, which tells me:
- How many games I've been to (152), broken down by NBA (58) and NCAA (94);
- The record of every team I've ever seen play (my Illini are 39-20 when I've seen them, and my Knicks are 24-18);
- The best individual performances from every game I've seen (NBA: Kobe Bryant's 50 points against Portland in March 2006; NCAA: Charlotte's Pierra Henry dropping 28 and 12 against Richmond in the A-10 tournament last year);
- The number of times I've been to every arena. My top five: Madison Square Garden (47), State Farm Center (formerly Assembly Hall in Champaign; 37), Barclays Center (21), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (7) and Wells Fargo Center (4).
That's just my page. I can also go to an individual arena's page and see every game played there since 1979. Here's the State Farm Center in Champaign, which includes arena info, complete schedules and the number of people on the site who have been there most often. (I'm in first place.) This year's games are already in there, too: I have season tickets to Georgia basketball, and the minute I come back from each game, I'll be documenting it. You can also issue yourself challenges (go to every venue in Idaho!), plan a road trip or compile an arena bucket list.
It is exhaustively put together: Whelliston's mid-majority background makes sure even the small schools get their due. (Good ole Lantz Gym near my hometown has its own page, too. ) It's still has a few bugs to overcome -- right now there's a weird recurring score of 126-115 that might be fixed by the time you read this -- which is normal for a site that's not even a week old. But this is almost exactly what any fan could be looking for in a post-ESPN Passport world. I think it's better than ESPN Passport, which was always sort of half-hearted, like ESPN didn't know what to do with it. This is put together lovingly, by people who want this service.
I talked to Casey about the site's ambitions, most notably: a) Whether it plans to expand into sports other than basketball, and b) Whether they're planning an app. "Baseball is on deck for the spring and we're planning to launch the football and hockey sequels next fall," Casey said. "As for the app, a native mobile app is the be-all end-all. It's how we'll integrate it all together, creating one complete and seamless user experience. It'll be a natural progression for us. But, yes, definitely."
In the months after I wrote my columns about the end of ESPN Passport, I've received countless emails asking if anyone was putting together a replacement like this. Now they have. But it only works when tons of people use it. So here it is: bbpassport.com. Get to adding games. You'll end up remembering games you haven't thought about in years. This is for recalling memories and making new ones. It has my highest recommendation. This is what we were waiting for.