I'm sure that just about every sports blog out there has had something to say today about this Costas Now segment that aired on HBO last night. (Though I wouldn't know because I try to read sports blogs as little as possible. As it is, I already lament the amount of time I spend writing on this one for little more than my own amusement when I could be applying my intellect to so much else). But I wanted to share my own angle on the matter for our tiny audience.
Admittedly, I'm coming from a perspective of sheer ignorance. I don't have HBO, so I didn't see the segment. All I know is what Will Leitch and Michael Schur--two of the featured representatives of the "sports blogging community"--have had to say about it on Deadspin and Fire Joe Morgan, respectively. But the gist of what happened seems pretty self-explanatory: Buzz Bissinger, a sports journalist and author, verbally and maliciously attacked Leitch and everything about sports blogs, evidently lumping them under one huge umbrella.
That, of course, is absurd and unfair. But by no means am I willing to fully defend Deadspin's authors or readers. If you read this blog regularly and haven't yet picked up on this, I think most of Deadspin's content is--quite frankly--trash. Some people consider their reporting of off-beat sports news (i.e. the personal foibles and misadventures of sports figures) a way of "humanizing" the idolized. I consider most of it to be needless humiliation of people subjected to a brighter spotlight than most of us could handle.
I don't have much respect for what Deadspin does, and I resent the fact that they're considered the nexus of the sports-blogging world and somehow respresent a philosophy by which all sports bloggers and young sports fans abide. I'd prefer not to stand under anyone's umbrella, much less that of an entity which--I don't think--represents our blog at all. This--more than anything--is what bothers me about Bissinger's generalization because I can't say I'm very moved by any empathy I may feel for Leitch or anyone else who writes for or reads Deadspin.
I'd be lying if I said that my frustration has nothing to do with petty jealousy because it absolutely does. Even though we mostly write on this blog for our own amusement, everyone likes a little acknowledgment when they think their ideas and work are worth sharing. And in my own egocentric mind, the material we produce when we're "on" is every bit as insightful and entertaining as almost everything I've read on Deadspin or the many other blogs with heavier traffic--many of which transparently kowtow to Deadspin and other higher-profile blogs.
It would also be disingenuous of me if I didn't admit to selfishly using Deadspin for links on a number of occasions to get hits for our posts. I feel bad about doing that because dishonestly allying myself with something I don't respect for selfish motives isn't something I generally do--even if the other party couldn't care less about how I really feel. (Plus the fact that their links never made for more than a single-day bump in hits is all the more reason to say "fuck 'em.")
Personal grievances aside, I think Bissinger and other authors/journalists who resent blogs deserve some defending. It's one thing to write about sports and make it entertaining. Doing that with accountability and limitation--two things that bloggers are, for the most part, spared--is very different. We have the ability to express what paid journalists can't--in large part because we're allowed to screw up infinitely more than they are.
That said, the two media should be able to complement one other. But I also think that bloggers are incredibly guilty of wandering out of our necessary role and stepping on the turf of paid journalists at no benefit to anyone. Some forms of reporting are inherently best fit for those with access and experience, and to copy it on a blog only makes for a redundant, less substantiated version of the real thing. I think this is a legitimate and justifiable source of resentment.
The frustration felt by those who are truly a master at the craft of reporting must be similar to that felt by scientists and political scholars in knowing that the public will formulate its opinions from Fox News and late night talk shows before anything a true expert can say. And don't we all get a little pissed when people listen to someone else's ill-informed take on a matter over our own just because that person is funnier, or better looking, or simply better at speaking the language of his audience?
As much as we accuse mainstream media and journalists of winning esteem merely by speaking the language of the blowhard, old-school fan, bloggers prosper from this dynamic every bit as much, if not more so. It's a simple fact of human nature--we're more likely to listen to like-minded people. And it doesn't help that a lot of blogs essentially hand-pick their readership by honing in on a specific subject matter with a specific bent, which makes for tons of group-think, insularity, unconditional reinforcement, and an unwillingness to recognize our own vulnerability to stagnancy and blowhardedness. I think this, more than anything, is what bothers mainstream journalists who attack bloggers.
I know nothing about Buzz Bissinger, but I'm sure he's a very intelligent guy and not at all the villain he made himself out to be last night. And by all indications, Will Leitch is a really nice guy (as evidenced by his resistance to villainizing Bissinger). As best I can tell, we're all antagonists in this conflict, and we're all just competing for respect the way human beings do.
Leitch didn't need to say a word to defend himself because right now he holds all the cards. As for the Bissinger's of the world, I'm guessing that their hostility, more than anything, is just the frustration of getting older and losing a competition that they're bound to lose for reasons beyond their control. And that's a destiny that awaits all of us, whether we like it or not. Hopefully we can learn something from it, even if we can't do anything about it.
[AMENDED: After actually watching the segment (I wrote most of this on my lunch break at work where streaming video is banned by our server), I don't feel the need to retract anything, and I still feel the same about Deadspin, its devotees, and sports blogs in general. And Bob Costas is a genius. Did I mention we have the same birthday? That's right--March 19 babies (a group that also includes Bruce Willis) are better than everyone else.
AMENDED: Bob Costas was born on March 22. Oops.]