This was the most intense sport related stand off I have seen in the past month and it had nothing to do with hoops or hockey (It never does). It took place not on a court or a rink but in that bastion of intense testosterone filled dudes, the Bob Costas show on HBO’s cleverly titled “Costas Now”. This was a serious showdown in every way. It was the good ol’ boys of newspaper journalism repped by “Buzz” Bissinger versus the new kids on the blog repped by Will Leitch, founder of Deadspin. I will admit at the outset that I have been a fan of deadspin.com for a year or two. It is not my sports source but it is a site i check out to have a few laughs at the sporting world and more specifically to laugh at the corrupt beurocracy that controls it. To me, when a story is being ignored intentionally by the large media companies, I can trust Deadspin to be all over it. In today’s media, sportswise, ESPN is top dog. They make the schedules, they call the timeouts, they write the stories. Those stories decide hirings, firings, signings and departures. So they are the sports police. SO who polices the police?
The fans. They are the only ones who can do it which is why the Deadspin blog is great. Deadspin is the voice of the fan, the intelligent nerdy fan as well as the drunk, obnoxious fan. It toasts (and roasts)everybody because fans love (and hate) everyone. Buzz Bissinger, the Pulitzer Prize winning author hates blogs and said so in an incredibely crass and vicious fashion at the media roundtable on Costas Now. Naturally, he feels that he is in a better position to “evoke the feeling of sports” than a random blogger. I disagree. Bissinger contends that from his press box seat, he can capture the spirit of the game more so than a blogger sitting in his dirty frathouse living room. Maybe, maybe not, maybe $#@& yourself. The best anyone can do is try to capture their own experience. The rest is up to the reader to decide, isn’t it? Maybe I live in a frat and i want to read about people having an experience like mine. I am not getting into the press box anytime soon. While sports journalism is a great art (and I have long loved David Halberstam and Jerry Izenberg), people should also have the option to write crass stupid things like “Derek Jeter Sucks A Rod” and people should have the option to laugh at that as well. Whatever puts the wind in your sails. Whatever floats your boat. The irony is that it is usually the professional reporters (especially on tv)whose interests are compromised in the business of sport.
For instance, Disney owns ESPN and ABC so you will never read an ESPN column saying that the coverage on ABC sucked for an event and you will absolutely never read ANYTHING NEGATIVE about espn in any major media publication. As long as business entities weild power over sports, the Yahoos and Sports Illustrateds and CNNs will never want to get into a truthful appraisal of sports coverage in America. God forbid corporate synergy takes a hit. Seriously, this synergy nonsense could be fodder for it’s own Coors Light Six Pack of Cold Hard Questions. I am not blaming Pete Coors by the way, he is a good man. I am blaming the owners and commissioners since it was them who decided to sell out COMPLETELY. Sport has sold it’s soul conjuring images of the time Bart sold his to Milhouse for 5 bucks. However, Buzz can’t point the finger at Big Money because they sign his cheques. (or sign his boss’ cheques) So, this sensationilist and exploitive world we live in is not a result of the media or society itself, the apocalypse has come in the form of…blogs?
Buzz argued on the Costas show that Deadspin was immoral and unethical because they celebrated the embarassment and humiliation of athletes and he offerred as proof pictures of Matt Leinart drinking beers at a pool party and posing with college girls. How is that embarassing in the first place? Even so, one could argue that this is an invasion of privacy and that is true. Buzz is correct there yet the problem is that the almighty ESPN ran the same pics on TV again and again. Yet, his beef was with a website that can only reach a fraction of the people that espn does. So why does he choose to attack “the blog” instead of espn? I suppose it’s because he is somebody with sports television but he is just another clown (like me) on the web.
Buzz’ claim to fame is he is the man who wrote Friday Night Lights, the story of high school football in Odessa, Texas. His book was optioned into a movie and afterward a TV series. Hence, he is no stranger to the sports television collosus. In fact, the movie version of his story follows all the usual tricks that modern sports coverage use in that the film’s primary tool to attract young male viewers (the core demographic for any football movie) is very short cuts and fast editing featuring hard hits and spliced with slow motion/ fast forward moves that eventually stop at yet another enormous hit. Throw in some rah-rah speeches and some rock anthems, microwave 30 seconds and you have ..Rudy on STEROIDS.
I find it strange that a writer of such repute can embarass himself as he did speaking with Will Leitch of deadspin. His first comment of the evening is ( 2 minutes into the show) “I need to interject here because I feel very strongly about this. (looks over to Will ) I think you’re full of shit.” He goes on to say that he think blogs are dedicated to cruelty, journalistic dishonesty and speed. So is the modern media, genius. When was the last time the media wasn’t cruel? Cruelty sells and every network serves it up in spades. Your 30 years of humanitarian work are washed away the day you are accused of a crime (who cares if you are innocent?). When was the last time that every single news source in the world was proven HONEST? Do you hold the media to the same standard you hold the blogosphere you blowhard?? and SPEED? Today, every news source in the world rushes its stories out to the point that they are proven untrue the next hour and there isn’t even the slightest bit of embarassment about it. It wasn’t that long ago that ESPN reported that Terrell Owens had committed suicide. Here was a national network owned by Disney reporting that a high profile athlete had killed himself intentionally by overdosing on pills. Yet, TO turned up at training camp looking very alive. But speed on a blog is an embarassment to journalism? Buzz added ever so eloquently “it pisses the shit outta me.”
Let me make it clear that I am a newspaper reader. I appreciate the skill and I still love reading sports in the Star Ledger as well as the New York Times. Today, scores and articles are posted instantly and I believe it takes real skill to get people to read the paper. It is an art, it really is. However, I still completely disagree with Bissinger and his disdain for blogs. His fear that his forum is dying does not justify his attitude and his holier than thou arrogance. I would love it if everyone in the world read the newspaper and was well-informed. However, reading Buzz Bissinger or any other reporter does not make me more intelligent than a blog reader. And that arrogant assumption is why I think Bissinger is crazy. Dude is crazy.
His attack on blogs is weak and irresponsible. The modern media (particularly television) has failed the people and the dumbing down of society has been happening for a long time now. To scapegoat blogs for momentum that has been gaining for years is a cop-out. For your information Buzz, I would be no more intelligent if I read your books. I’m hoping nobody’s dumber for having read this blog either.
Therefore, I hereby dedicate this blog to Buzz Bissinger. I would like to think that this would really piss the shit outta him.