Friday, May 2, 2008

Middle aged white dudes have had enough of your blogs and your hippity hop music

We were going to look the other way on this whole Buzz Bissinger vs. the Blogs nonsense, until we saw the overly sympathetic treatment that Buzz and his pathetic, howly, angry old man routine got from the Globe's Bill Houston. Now that we have the local angle, let's dive in.

We're sure that this has been pointed out in about a thousand other sports blogs by now, but somehow, it's hard to take someone seriously who professes to be shocked and appalled at the profane and thoughtless nature of the vast majority of blogs by spitting out profane inanities like: "This pisses the shit out of me."

Bissinger cried and moaned about how Leitch's stated preference not to have "access" and his aversion to the press box mentality somehow equates to an aversion to the facts. And yet, as this interview with Boog Sciambi from a couple of years back painfully demonstrates, Bissinger is as averse to doing any legwork as anyone, preferring to lord his access to the anecdotal thoughts of Nolan Ryan or Tony LaRussa over anyone who would dare question his "facts". When confronted on what seemed to be a lack of real information about pitchers allegedly being rushed to the majors, Bissinger scampers and bites like a cornered ferret, calling another host a "slimebucket". So, yeah, Bissinger is doing a great job upholding journalistic civility.

In the aftermath of the televised battle royale, Bissinger is doing little to make his own case, telling Dan LeBatard that "I never want to be an expert in the field of blogs. That would be way too pathetic."

Well, that's fine. But why present yourself as a dissenting voice against them if you don't really know much of anything about them? If you can't distinguish between the content and the comments, then why set yourself out as a the voice of authority on all that is wrong with the blogosphere?

Between Costas and Bissinger (and to a lesser extent, Houston), there seems to be this generally accepted notion that the huge, vast majority of sports blogs are ugly, crass, poorly written, mean-spirited and ultimately detrimental to society.

Then again, maybe these aging journalists would do well to look back in their own lives, when a multitude of other media were referred to in the same way. Movies, television, rock and roll, Pop culture, talk radio...hell, even newspapers if you go back far enough...all of them have been singled out as a corrupting influence at some point or another.

The reason why blogs raise the ire of these types is that they are struggling to preserve what they view as an inherently good thing (sports journalism), and yet they look out every day and see this sacred thing being undermined by the fast, quick, profane poor quality blogs.

But they're missing the point.

Blogs haven't caused the decline of sports journalism. Sports journalism has caused the decline of sports journalism.

The reason why we now are as likely to seek out information on blogs every day isn't because we want to take glee at the misfortunes of others. It's because there is so much more out there than the perfunctory ramblings of the columnists in the daily papers.

The whole idea that bloggers are somehow going to eat the lunch of newspaper writers is ludicrous. We'd suggest that Houston get on the horn with the web crew at the Globe and see how many in-bound visitors they have received over the past year to their website courtesy of the Tao, or the Drunks, or the Mockingbird, or the Southpaw, or whoever. Then tell us what the value of those links were to Globe. Because the fact is that we're not making a cent on this, and as Leitch quite rightly pointed out, this is hard work.

We link to the Globe or the Star or wherever because we want to continue the conversation on our own terms. We don't want to sign in to your site to make a two line comment. We want to go on at length, and examine and discuss. Journalists don't have an inherent right to the last word on any subject, and there is immense value to the extension of the dialogue beyond the newsprint and ink. Sometimes we want to hold up your writings to be praised, and sometimes we post them out of scorn. But it's ultimately healthy to have someone out there watching the watchers.

As to the quality of the writing, we'd point out that we don't have the luxury of sitting in a newsroom, formulating our thoughts, running our work past an editor and then past a copy editor to ensure that all of the kinks are ironed out before our posts get sent out into the world. So "professional" "accredited" newspaper writers shouldn't get all up on their high horses about the low quality of the writing on blogs unless they'd like to share with us their unexpurgated first drafts.

And as for all of this talk about your sanctified "objectivity"? Get over yourselves. The truth is that there is no such thing as objectivity, just shared subjectivity. And the reason why we read the blogs we do is because on some level, they share an interest or a viewpoint. They provide further context (sometimes statistical, sometimes historical, sometimes hysterical) that help amplify our ability to defend our own position, or completely tear our arguments down.

We love that. That's a good thing.


Anonymous said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

I was just gonna say the same. Well said.

I saw this video yesterday linked through TrueHoop, a blog, which does the best basketball journalism around.

The thing these ignorant fucks are missing is that they think every sports blog out there practices sports journalism. Why can't a blog just be a blog!? A diary basically. It's like comparing two unlike things and criticizing one for not being like the other. Sports journalism is a profession and blogging is a MEDIUM through which it can be practiced. Not all blogs set out to do this. The ones who do though, are really really damn good.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

beautiful post, Tao.

Well-written, probably much to the surprise of that douche Bissinger.

Tao of Stieb said...

Well, we had to cut out all of the "douchebags" and "motherfuckers" just to make sure we were on point.

Unknown said...

Here. Here. Really well fucking put.

Stoeten said...

Incredibly well said, motherfuckers.

Anonymous said...

Well done, sir.

Your comment about click-throughs from blogs is particularly well-aimed. At bottom, all the pissing and moaning is really about declining marketshare and delivering eyeballs to advertisers to underwrite the bloated salaries of the "professional" scribblers.

Andrew said...

Don't ya know, it's not cool to be smart.


1) What a total ass! We find it ironic to see this story the day after the Daily News' Rangers beat writer John Dellapina basically libeled/lied about Sean Avery's hospitalization. Basically stating that his sudden medical condition was somehow related to his lifestyle
2) Imagine IF a blogger had done this? These guys simply can't stand it that their precious readership is dwindling and 'the folks' can now decide to read what other people think besides them.
3) Its usually THE OLDER guys from the baby boomer generation like Costas and Bissinger who have this reaction. The younger writers seem to embrace/use effectively the 'new' medium. You can see the fear/hatred in Bissinger's eyes.
4) We wonder if he and Costas have this visceral reaction also due to having stuff written about them?

halejon said...

Great, great piece. One minor quibble:

"The whole idea that bloggers are somehow going to eat the lunch of newspaper writers is ludicrous".

Maybe not yet, but I think they're legitimately scared. The sports newswire used to be an exclusive source that papers could rehash and sound like baseball authorities- now anybody can pick it up.

The next wall to fall is the treasured "access", and it's on it's way down. The internet is continually spawning better and better blogs, and pretty soon a sports section is going to be just as irrelevant as Classifieds. I mean, sports junkies used to have to buy a paper every day to get boxscores, and now there's a ridiculously wide range of flavours that you can get your news and commentary in. Papers are trying to start their own blogs, but they just join the choir.

Sure we send them links, but I think that's just handing back some scraps. Those are people who used to be their full-time customers and now they only visit by proxy.

Anyway, if I were working the sports beat for a local newspaper right now I would probably be shitting bricks and say some stupid things about blogs too. Just like those damn immigrants (I'm in character here), taking my job and working for free.

Anonymous said...

"They're takin' our jaerbs!!"

Matt S said...

Well said Tao. While I respect and love Deadspin, I think Leitch left much to be desired in his defense of blogs. Specifically, I wish he had made your point that blogs aren't the cause of the decline of sports journalism; sports journalism itself is the cause. It's a damn shame Will didn't print off some Fire Joe Morgan content to quote while on HBO...

Andrew said...

Sturgeon's Law

90% of everything is crap.

And, I'm sure someone was carrying a torch for the Pony Express. Not everyone can see the writing on their own walls.

The Southpaw said...

Well done, sir. Well done.


Anonymous said...

Great post folks.

Unknown said...

Check your goddamn email.

Doogie2K said...

And really, what has access given us? Certainly, in the case of the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators, I think it's safe to say "sweet fuck all." Just ask Robin Brownlee and Erin Nicks.

John Brattain said...

(standing ovation)

Bissinger's opinion could be summed up thusly "HEY YOU KIDS, GET OFF MY LAWN!!"

Best Regards


sager said...

The Globe made your point for you -- they closed discussion on the Houston column after 20-some comments.

Darren Priest said...

Very well written Tao. I've been following this on FJM as well. I find it a little astounding how much of an idiot Buzz Bissinger is over this issue. He is really off the mark and seems to have no perspective whatsoever. He does make the perfect personification of an elitist asshole baby-boomer though. You could hold a film festival and show The Big Chill on that forehead.

Keep up the excellent work.

Duane Rollins said...

Altohugh I agree with much of what you said...

I'd be happy to let you see my first draft, son. Your suggesting that a blogger has less time to craft his work than a working journalist in a press box does is, frankly, laughable.

You have about 15 minutes to submit. If you're lucky.

Darren Priest said...

Tao, I didn't know your dad worked for the real papers. You should ask him about a job. Although, to my knowledge, there's only one thing you do in less than 15 minutes and it isn't a blog entry.

Duane Rollins said...

Well, Darren...

It's one thing to legitimately critique the mainstream media (whatever the **** that term actually means) and it's another to write: "As to the quality of the writing, we'd point out that we don't have the luxury of sitting in a newsroom, formulating our thoughts, running our work past an editor and then past a copy editor to ensure that all of the kinks are ironed out before our posts get sent out into the world," which is a load of shit that has no basis in reality. Writing to deadline is a task that few bloggers have ever had to deal with.

Many bloggers tend to make sweeping assumptions about what it's like to work in the media and about the type of people that work in it. Ironically, those same bloggers will then work themselves into a frenzy if someone in the mainstream media (whatever the **** that term actually means) makes a sweeping assumption about what it is that they are doing.

Bottom line? By all means continue to critique the media and hold it accountable. That's a good thing. But, maybe y'all could dial back a bit on the self-righteousness.


Tao of Stieb said...

It's a fair point, Not My Cat, to say that writing to deadline is a difficult task, and that it doesn't necessarily allow the writer to casually ponder their work. It's hard work, and we get that.

It's a task that is far removed from writing a column (even a daily column). When we referred to this luxurious existence of taking time to craft a piece and having it go through a number of quality control stages, we were referring to columnists, who are most often the ones who tag blogs as being "poorly written". There's a bit of snobbery involved with that statement that has always rubbed us the wrong way, especially since we go to great lengths to make sure that what we write is coherent, clear, and most importantly, entertaining.

It may well be a sweeping generalization to say that columnists somehow have it easy, but it is something that we observed for ourselves. That statement is based on first-hand experience, and not just reruns of Lou Grant.

We'd concur, though, that there needs to be fewer sweeping generalizations lobbed from our respective trenches, and a little more understanding of our respective roles in keeping the public discourse going in a constructive manner.

Incidentally, if you listen to the Drunk Jays Fans' podcast, we bring up right at the beginning of our segment that we think that bloggers can be thin-skinned when criticized by the MSM, which is why we weren't even going to touch the Bissinger meltdown. We decided to comment on this because we felt as though some (not all) in the media ranks were circling the wagons and giving Buzz an overly sympathetic hearing.

Moreover, we'd point out that while maybe there are a lot of mean-spirited profane blogs out there, there are an awful lot a mainstream media people who have made a career out of mean-spirited pot shots. The blogosphere is probably just a reflection of that sports commentary culture.