If you haven’t seen the now week-old freakout by Buzz Bissinger on Deadspin blogger Will Leitch, do yourself a favor and check it out. The topic that they were supposed to be discussing with Bob Costas on HBO was the role of the Internet in sports. The discussion degenerated quickly as Bissinger imploded on national (premium) TV. His rage is felt by many in traditional media who seem angry that no one wants to read their papers anymore. Earlier this week, Jason Whitlock weighed in the issue, basically telling the print world to get over it. I realize this story is a few days old, but the Harrison stuff kept me from having time to really comment on it, and there are a couple of points that I feel are worth making.
I completely understand the antipathy some feel toward blogging. It is an inherently narcissistic act to assume that anyone else would give a crap about something you have say. I don’t frequent too many ‘classic’ blogs, and generally pay more attention to ‘old media’ sources. But, um, I also write a blog. Of course Bissinger is correct in asserting that many (most?) blogs are profane and moronic, but he fundamentally errs when he chastises Leitch for not measuring up to one of the great sports writers of all time. Bloggers don’t have go be better than W.C. Heinz. To be useful, they only have to be better than no talent ass-clowns like Bob Kravitz and Scoop Jackson.
Aaaaaaand there’s the rub. The truly gifted and great writers will always find a way to be gainfully employed even in world ruled by the BgAngridit69. The problem with traditional media, and honestly the reason why Demond and I started writing this blog is that a. the traditional sources weren’t meeting our needs, and b. we think we can do it better (smarter and funnier) than some.
I do disagree with many of the points about access being the reason writers suck. I’d freaking kill to have access to players. I don’t think it would jade my perspective. I hope that it would give me additional insight into the ‘whys’ of sports. Access is one of the reasons I love Phil B. Wilson’s stuff.
The traditional media has lost its way because it has to keep stirring controversy to keep people reading. The bizarre way this Harrison case is being handled in the media certainly doesn’t bolster Bissinger’s arguments that journalists are some how more disciplined and principled than idiots like us. When you get right down to it, what’s the difference between a blogger and Jay “I don’t ever show up at the park” Marriotti? When he writes, he has a disincentive to be honest or accurate. He HAS to be inflammatory and shrill or people will stop paying attention. When you don’t write for money, you can be concerned with stuff that matters like strategy and performance. You can say things like, “Wow, that was a bad break” and not be forced to label every loss a choke for fear of losing readers.
This is the ultimate free market. People have a limited amount of time and will gravitate toward spending what they have reading people who are right or interesting or amusing. Most sports columnists have few credentials to recommend them to public. They are just guys who took a journalism class and kissed some editor’s butt along the way. Some are great writers, most aren’t. Some watch the games and pay attention, others just rumor monger and try to be on the cutting edge of controversy (by the way, I appreciate Kravitz holding back this time). We base our ‘authority’ to write this blog about the Colts on the fact that we’ve watched (multiple times) every game for more than a decade and spent time breaking down plays and players. We are amateur hacks to be sure, but I’d like to think we provide something that was missing in the panorama of Colts coverage. And if we don’t…no one will read us. That should say something important to the Bissinger’s of the world.
And yes, I’m well aware that the only thing more self-important than a blog is a blog about blogging. Siiiigh…
Demond Sanders: I was really down on the concept of blogging at first. I used to make fun of people who had their own blogs because I personally hate talking about myself. I would never post pictures or videos of my family paling around the house. My wife would, though. Then it clicked. I realized you could blog about sports instead of baby clothes.
I agree that bloggers aren’t any more foul or crass than Kravitz, Mariotti, or Scoop. Those writers generally don’t swear in print, but they would if they could. They do, however, get away with a lot of things written in poor taste.
The distinction does need to be made between beat writers and opinion givers. Beat writers are irreplaceable because of the vast amount of time they spend around the team. We rely on them for news and I don’t see that ever changing. Phil B’s blog is relevant not because of his opinions (he’s understandably reserved), but because he gives us insight to the severity of injuries and the development of young players. So the question is: do we need highly paid columnists to interpret the beat writer’s news for us? I’m not sure we do. Clearly there are a decent number of people who are happy to do it for free.
Columnists are not significantly more knowledgeable than the average blogger or blog-reader. Most of us have been following the Colts for a decade or more. This stuff isn’t rocket science. Locker room access would be great, of course. There are those of us who would love to know what Bob Sanders looks like naked. Sorry, I’m just bloggin’.
Sportswriters are hypocritical on the blogging issue. Most of them have lucrative spots on radio and television where they amp up the drama and vitriol far beyond what is necessary. The trend of making sports louder and dumber started from within.