An Aside

I will briefly move away from writing about our beloved Cleveland franchises (particularly the Cavs) for just a second this morning as I join likely hundreds of other sports bloggers in responding to what occurred last night on HBO’s Costas Now as it pertains to blogs and new media.

First off, if you didn’t see last night’s edition of the HBO show you should stop right now and go try and find a way to see it, especially the segment on internet media that featured Will Leitch of Deadspin, author Buzz Bissinger and Browns WR Braylon Edwards (oh hey look, this DOES kinda deal with Cleveland!). Find a friend who DVR’ed it, scour YouTube or, if worst comes to worst, come down to Kentucky and watch it on my DVR. I don’t plan on ever deleting it.

I found the entire show riveting. As somebody who works in the sports talk radio realm, (infrequently) writes a blog, has been a beat reporter in the past and constantly consumes sports on television, this show really had it all for me. While I won’t directly address it here, I will say I found the final segment on race to be the most interesting one, with great points made by Costas, Wilbon, Carter and Whitlock. Now, onto the real reason I’m writing…

Obviously Leitch walked into an outright ambush last night. For a quick and dirty recap, check out Ken Tremendous’ recap on Fire Joe Morgan today. About 15 seconds into Leitch’s first response, Bissinger cut him off and launched into a blind, profane tirade against all things blog and united it under the banner of Deadspin. I was struck by a number of things, first of all how Bissinger really picked and chose the more subversive corners of Deadspin such as Big Daddy Drew’s (or Balls, I was confused) columns or vulgar commenters–in a 100% context-less manner, might I add–and used these isolated examples to lambaste the entire institution of new media. Costas, to a lesser extent, did the same when he cited A.J. Daulerio’s column on mainstream media. Context, in these cases, was flagrantly ignored to bend Bissinger’s arguments to a point where if anyone had bothered to invoke said context the discussion would’ve abruptly ended. I really wish someone had been there to explain that Drew’s columns are satire pieces rooted in sophomoric humor or point out that commenters were not, in fact, the actual writers, editors or contributors to the blog, but were, in fact, readers commenting briefly and anonymously on an article. Of course, time to explain such things was at a premium with the rapid-fire nature of the segments that were jammed into the 90-minute format. This is of course more of an evaluation of the points Bissinger made as opposed to how he made them, which is an entirely different story.

The content of Bissinger’s tirade was a bit shaky but certainly not uncommon fodder for old-guard mainstream media when assaulting the blogosphere; the delivery of the content, however, could nicely be described as hypocritical and rude or, more critically, as vulgar, paranoid and borderline-psychotic. I still cannot get past the fact that one of the main points Bissinger tried to convey was that new media was hugely flawed thanks to its propensity for vulgarity and led off that point by telling Leitch, “I think you’re full of shit.” Of course, that was only the beginning of the profanity-laced assault Bissinger had planned, all while decrying Deadspin and blogs as being too profane. Just a staggering double-standard, there, Buzz. The hypocrisy aside, the part of Bissinger’s tirade that left the worst taste in my mouth was his constant interruption of Leitch. It seemed that every time Leitch was asked to respond to something by either Costas or Bissinger himself, he could barely get out a, “Well, I–” before Bissinger would cut him off and start screaming onto his next point. It got so bad that Costas, at various points, had to scold Bissinger for interrupting the guy who was ostensibly brought in to be the hostile witness. All in all I found it to be a juvenile display by a needlessly desperate man… a man I lost a great deal of respect for as a result of his premeditated televised blow-up.

Another thing that spins out of this sort of argument that gets me is the din of mainstream media voices who do their best to make it sound like every blogger is an unemployed drop out with a computer who doesn’t know the first thing about sports journalism. Michael Wilbon said as much in the pre-taped piece that led into the new media segment on Costas Now. Well I’ve got news for all you folks who love to fall back on that: we aren’t. Certainly not on this blog: I have a Bachelors of Science in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University; JTBI has a Bachelors of Science in Mass Communication from Miami University; we are both sports directors at real life over-the-air broadcast entities in the midwest. We have call letters and everything; it’s really great. Can we finally dispel this perception of bloggers as the sports equivalent of the Comic Book Guy? It’s getting really, really old.

Sadly, as Leitch pointed out in the wee hours of the morning in a reaction piece, these voices are not going away, at least not yet. Bissinger really did speak for a good chunk of the mainstream media last night, sad though that may be. The aforementioned Daulerio addressed the topic this morning on Deadspin, though I personally disagree on the debate being put to bed, as I tend to think that it may have been ratcheted up a notch last night. I tend to think, however, that Bissinger’s rant may ultimately be viewed analogously with the Germans’ final surge in the Battle of the Bulge… that is, a pointed, desperate attack that worked initially but ultimately signaled the last gasp of a cornered combatant. (NB: I’m not saying MSM’ers are Nazis… I AM IN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA)

Finally, I think the biggest thing the mainstream media needs to do is stop assuming all of its consumers are morons. Most people can read The Sports Pickle and realize that it’s satire, just as most people will read A Modest Proposal and realize that Swift is not actually backing the idea of eating babies. The same thing goes for stylized vulgarity and over-the-top fandom. Give your readers/listeners/viewers just a little credit and you’d be amazed at how discerning and intelligent they can actually be.

Thank you, that is all.

Now back to bagging on that idiot DeShawn Stevenson!

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8 Responses

  1. What absolutely kills me about the whole segment is that Buzz uses commenters as the reason why blogs suck and both he and Costas lambasted Will basically for allowing commenters.

    Well, dillweeds like Buzz and Bob are the reason there are blogs and commenters. They won’t deign to be involved in a conversation with a sports fan. A newspaper wouldn’t dare hire a young columnist because some old fart who is tired of going out on assignment gets the gig. Talk radio couldn’t handle it if topics like horse racing, soccer, and anything else outside the Big Four came up.

    The people you blast are the people you refuse to acknowledge. You created this, as Will said, by trying to determine what is valid and what isn’t. And we don’t have to listen to you.

  2. Fantastic post.

    Anyone think Costas thought about the fact that HBO recently finished airing one of the best expressions of human intelligence I have ever seen with a season long story arc about the decay in standards of professional journalism?
    Chances are if you can’t spot the sucker at the table, it’s you.

  3. I’ve only watched the first part of the round table that Awful Announcing posted, but I actually found Braylon’s piece to be the most insightful because it is rare that you hear what athlete’s think about blogs, and it was interesting to hear it (nevermind that it was in white washed athlete-speak), this is mostly due to the fact that Buzz was screaming and Will had to be on the defensive the entire time and wasn’t able to make full points.

    That said he was probably totally freaked out by the crazy screaming white dude next to him.

  4. Will held his own. It’s hard to have a good discussion when some guy is yelling in your ear about why you suck. He had some good points, and so did Braylon. They were the most interesting part.

  5. Braylon’s a hottie, that’s for damned sure! (Oops, sorry about the salty word, I’ll go wash my mouth and crotch out because I don’t want Buzzie Bissinger to get a conniption, damnit! Oops, there I f*cking go again, sh*t goddamnit f*ck.

  6. […] of other sites have said more eloquent things than I can on this topic. OK, the last one wasn’t […]

  7. Brian, what disappoints me most is that Costas actually DOES “deign to be involved in a conversation with a sports fan.” I only know this because he is a regular visitor to a resort I used to work at, and while he would wait for his baggage/car/etc. we would engage in the same sports talk you would hear around the water cooler. That’s why I am so disappointed by this.

    Also, his lack of moderation of the ” round table” makes him guilty of the same non-moderation of commenters that he accuses Will of.

  8. I don’t think it’s the same thing, John. Costas, and many other of the old school, may be willing to talk to the average fan on any given day, and most likely enjoys it. But how often do they bring those conversations into their work? Does Wilbon begin a column with, “I had a great conversation with a guy in a bar last night who had a unique take on the NFL salary cap. Here’s what it is.”

    Of course not, and that why the Costases and Bassingers of the world equate the commenters with the bloggers. Then again, Leitch has repeatedly said (including my interview with him that a large part of the success of Deadspin is due to the quality of the comments. An old-school columnist is only interest in the numbers of readers, not what they’re saying.

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