If you happen to be one of the millions of American sports fans with a Bleacher Report app on your cell phone, you already know Eric Drobny.
What? The name Drobny doesn’t ring a bell? He’s a 2004 graduate of Davis High. A lifelong sports fan. A pretty good athlete himself. And now a prolific tweeter and supplier of all things sports.
You see, when your B/R message comes in — “Mets Sign David Wright Long-Term” — the alert could have come from former local kid Drobny. He’s been one of that site’s key online editors since August 2010.
“We have a popular app … (it’s) my job to send out push notifications (text alerts),” Drobny told The Enterprise over lunch this week across the street from Bleacher Report’s Kearney Street digs in San Francisco.
“Say you’re a Giants’ fan. You subscribe to what’s called Team Stream. We take stuff from all over the web, television, radio and our own writers … it’s a mix that our clients get: Here’s what our guys think … here’s what everybody else thinks.”
Bleacher Report — the 2007 brainchild of four Atherton sports-freak friends — is a performance-enhanced ESPN.
Drobny’s home office employs 50 onsite editors among its 100 paid staffers. Another bazillon contributors surface from around the country.
Drobny’s work is to follow literally hundreds of sports stories and glean the top information to post on B/R’s website or channel for a phalanx of subscribers.
Bleacher Report’s headquarters consume two floors of a 130-year-old building in the heart of The City. Three giant rooms house more than 35 flat-screen TVs, more than 100 computer-occupied work stations and meeting rooms named after sports figures ranging from Charles Barkley to Tim Lincecum to soccer icon Pele. (This year, someone pasted Vogelsong over the Lincecum Room nameplate.)
Bleacher Report was purchased last summer — for a reported $200 million — by Turner Broadcasting System. The marriage hooked B/R up with access to HBO and Time Warner for outreach and revenue streams.
“It’s given us a lot of new opportunities,” Drobny explains of the takeover. “We didn’t have that kind of ability to market before … it was all kind of word of mouth.”
When Bleacher Report started, the Atherton quartet scrambled for content and accepted blogs and articles from almost anyone.
While Drobny says Bleacher Report remains a terrific starting point for many writers, contributors are now “rated and stacked” according to individual ability and importance of subject matter. Drobny says there is a commitment to solid editing and paying top contributors to remain in the fold.
Bleacher Report has evolved into one-stop shopping for sports fans.
Drobny’s journey from Davis to his train-station-busy desk was circuitous.
The son of Paul and Catherine Drobny of Davis, Eric was a member of the Blue Devil 2004 Sac-Joaquin Section baseball championship squad and also played club soccer and some basketball.
After graduation, he moved to Hungary.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I could go off and do it,” he explains, adding that his dad’s side of the family has Czech lineage, but there were no jobs teaching English in the Czech Republic, so he wound up in Hungary.
“If I could survive in a random country where I didn’t know the language, or anybody, I’d have no problem here.”
Apparently, he was right.
Returning to the United States, he wound up attending college in San Francisco, volunteered for AmericaCorps and began working at Leadership High School in The City.
Despite charting a study course in history, Drobny says he remained a huge sports fan. Writing was second nature to him and “I’ve already read a lot.” He stayed connected to sports by coaching baseball and basketball at Leadership and playing softball and soccer in local leagues. He also played pickup basketball and worked in the Junior Giants program.
Did he always know his career would be in sports?
“I think so, but it wasn’t conscious,” Drobny explains. “Sports have been the only constant in my life; the only thing that I’ve always enjoyed and always been into.”
Drobny is delighted that he hooked up with Bleacher Report.
“Writing, coaching, reading, journalism … I was trying to figure out how to put it all together in sports,” he adds. “I knew I wasn’t going to take a traditional journalist’s route with the emerging electronic world of communication.”
He knows Bleacher Report is that perfect fit. The omen is just feet away from the man’s work station — a portrait of Big Red.
“That’s a giant mural of Bill Walton who sits right next to me every day. His game is exactly the way I always wanted to be,” Drobny says. “He was always a ‘pass-first’ guy, which … was rare for a center at that time. It’s a complete coincidence that we have this in our office, but I’ve always liked the guy.”
In his own way, Drobny has become a center of attention with “pass-first” mentality. At least when it comes to sports information.
Notes: Drobny’s married sister Emily lives in San Francisco and teaches grade school in Marin County. … Bleacher Report has a New York City office of 50 and, if B/R ever opens a London office to follow European soccer, Drobny says “I’d move there in two seconds … two seconds!” … Drobny is about to finish his master’s degree in sports management at the University of San Francisco.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.