When the Siena men's basketball program recently held its annual media day, an opportunity for local newpaper reporters, TV types and photographers to get a preliminary preseason look at the team, the busiest guys gathering material there were Tom Benoit and Bill Hamm.
Hamm and Benoit directly interviewed every non-freshman on Siena's roster, along with head coach Mitch Buonaguro. The only reason they didn't interview the team's freshmen and assistant coaches is that they had already done that during the summer months.
The beneficiaries of that are Siena basketball fans who can read the stories, insights and observation of Benoit and Hamm at the 4guysinblazers web site (.http://4guysinblazers.com/), where it is all Siena basketball, all the time.
There fans can find not only the traditional news items related to the program, but also interviews with and profiles of current, past and future players (signed recruits), as well as game coverage and a variety of other features.
It's far more about the program than any newspaper can hope to provide. But, Benoit and Hamm aren't competing with newspapers. They don't even claim to be "journalists."
They, along with Angelo Malone and Dominic LeMorta, the other founding fathers of the site, proclaim to be nothing more than Siena fans with a gimmick. They wear Siena-color green blazers at games, thus the catchy name for their site.
What they do, though, goes far beyond the morass of traditional (and, most often anonymous) internet message boards devoted to teams and leagues that have come into vogue in recent years.
Those boards tend to attract more negative commentary from posters since it's always easier to be critical without having to attach one's own name to the messages. One message board dedicated to Siena, for instance, had posters calling for current coach Mitch Buonaguro to be fired after a 1-3 start in his first season.
But not 4guysinblazers.
"We're fans first and not journalists," said Benoit, who graduated from Siena in the mid-1980's. "I've been following Siena since I was little. But we noticed that fans started booing at games, and, then, you look at the message boards ...
"We know the players are true student-athletes and not professional athletes. We wanted to do something, to provide a place where Siena fans could read about the team, that was only going to be positive."
And, that's what 4guysinblazers is, a throwback, of sorts, to when team fans were almost universally supportive and not so critical as the message boards seem to have become.
The site surely is unique within the MAAC -- a forum dedicated to a specific program, operated solely by fans who seemingly spend a much time at it as local newspapers' beat writers yet entirely devoid of criticism -- and, possibly, at any mid-major level.
The 4 guys are season-ticket holders, but are also granted traditional media access at press conferences, etc., and Benoit, the site's primary writer, is rarely absent from a media event.
All four have non-sports full-time jobs and family obligation, yet still find time to keep their site up-to-date and informative. By now,. the site is no secret in the Siena community, and has attracted as many as 20,000 site hits in a week.
The site recently attracted some advertising, but Benoit claims the intent isn't to make a profit.
"We're just trying to make enough to pay for the site, and, maybe, have a little extra to pay to go on the road (Benoit and Hamm attended last season's MAAC tournament in Springfield, Mass.) so we can justify this a little to our wives," he joked.
The 4 guys, though, have done more than just pass along Siena news.
Their most-innovative feature might have come in the summer prior to the 2011-12 season when they all put themselves through two day of conditioning drills at Siena's Alumni Recreation Center not only similar to those team players go through but conducted by the program's strength and conditioning coach Dan Taylor.
The result was an entertaining, three-part series by Hamm, in which he writes:
"We are all fans ... (but) the next time you have the urge to boo at a game, I would ask that you think of the tremendous work these young men put in every day to bring their best to the court ... remember the work and sacrifice these student athletes make the next time you want to take out your frustrations on them. Being in the gym at 6:30 a.m. over a summer break is a foreign concept to most college students ... these young men do it almost every morning to ensure that they are ready once that season starts in November. This was an eye opening experience for us, and I hope that you were able to take away even just a small part of the appreciation for these young men that we gained from putting ourselves in their shoes for just two days."
The 4 guys also conducted a community event this past summer, organizing a one-day clinic for youths at the Schenectady Boys & Girls Club, and used their connections to enlist several former Siena players, including Prosper Karangwa, Ronald Moore, Ryan Rossiter and Kenny Hasbrouck, as clinicians.
About $3,500 was raised to benefit the Boys & Girls club.
And, the site linked with the school to help publicize and promote Siena's summer "Legends Game," a fund-raiser for the Saints' athletic budget that culminated with a game between teams of former Siena players. The 4guys' site conducted on-line balloting that determined each team's starters.
"It's tough for us because we all have jobs," said Hamm, who has a young family, too. "There are a lot of nights when I've worked a full day, spent time with my wife and kids and, then, late at night put in an hour or more working on or writing for the site."
But, the 4 guys aren't complaining. Quite the contrary. It's clear their work is a labor of love. They are true and dedicated Siena fans, and their 4guysinblazers site is proof of that.