4.30.2008

And Will Leitch Stood There As Legit Media Nation Rained Arrows (Spittle) Down Upon Him . . .

Let's start here: the premise of the Costas Now town hall meeting on sports media was solid. The topics and panelists were strong and my only format complaint would be that there wasn't enough time to really get into the issues. And when there isn't enough time, the loudest bark wins - and during the sports talk radio segment of the show there seemed to be a consensus that particular circumstance was bad, bad, bad.

My specific focus, however, was on the segment about the Internet. It was a flat-out ambush of the most visible sports blogger, Will Leitch, courtesy of of award-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger. I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that Leitch was at least prepared for what he was walking into but that doesn't really make it any better.

What I found really disturbing as I watched and I write this - which I surely would have been doing in my basement, in my underwear, if I had a basement, or underwear for that matter - is that the people on the show, specifically Bob Costas, didn't appear to see the common threads running through all of this. The issues of negativity, the grab for ratings, bigotry etc. came up in nearly every segment. There were many more things, obviously, and I think there was huge potential during the TV segment but Joe Buck and Dan Patrick couldn't stop saying "balls deep" but I digress. The thread I really want to focus on is the issue of credentials/qualifications.

This is clearly a big deal to the members of the "legitimate" media because they bring it up every other sentence. Is it important? I'd argue yes and no. And I know what I'm talking about because I was accepted to journalism school* in 1995 (for those of you who take yourselves too seriously, let the record show I was being ironic). Qualifications are important because it provides context to what you say or write. When I read or hear something from someone, and I know their work, and believe them to be a trusted source, then that makes a difference in how I receive and process the information they are delivering. That IS important.

What isn't important is what school you went to, what certifications you have, what year you were born, or if you happen to be "legitimate," meaning someone hired you for your opinion. It's been proved time and time again that employment in the biz doesn't necessarily make you any less full of shit than anyone else.

Here's the part that the show was missing. One of the biggest complaints the mainstream media has of the blogging community is the lack of a journalistic standard. They don't talk to the athletes, they don't attribute their information to sources, if they have them at all. Yet the journalistic standard, that integrity that guided the legitimate media and that bloggers lack, has been dying for about 30 years - pretty much since cable went mainstream.

Every year there is more and more coverage, and this isn't limited to sports. This saturation is the same reason that the other Clinton was nearly impeached for something that likely had become a unwritten presidential perk - oral in the oval. When (and if) it happened in the past it was either buried by those who knew or at least not widely known. But all the coverage now - TV, radio, satellite radio (removing the geographic component), and the Internet - has become so much white noise. And because this is business and all comes back to money, the way a media outlet succeeds is by being faster, louder, and/or more controversial. Over time this has caused journalism to transition into entertainment and many of the standards have been sacrificed in the process.

Of course, I don't want to be THAT guy and say that NO journalists have any integrity because that is simply not the case. There are great ones out there for sure, but the ratio of entertainers:journalists is rising at a steep rate.

One of the most entertaining things you see on a daily basis is the legit media - the sames ones that complain that blogs aren't legit - use materials from blogs for their shows. Sometimes they attribute it to the blog which is, at best, a HUGE contradiction, or worse, they don't mention the source at all. And the journalistic standard dies a little more.

However, none of these things are the most disturbing part of the argument to me. It's the "how is that guy, joe blogger, qualified to say that or write that" line that you so often hear. Now, I don't want to go all George W on folks but, dammit, this is Amurica. And in Amurica, people are entitled to have AND express opinions. The horrible thing that is happening to the legitimate media isn't that suddenly regular people (the people who care about sports and therefore create a career for these people) have opinions, it's that they no longer need a printing press, radio transmitter, or satellite dish to publish/broadcast their work.

This is known as progress, people.

The sad thing is, a lot of these media types are scared for no reason. Just because someone sitting in their mom's basement in their underwear (more irony) can broadcast their opinion doesn't mean it will get read. The cream will rise, and the best/most informative/most entertaining content will get the audience. Just be good at your job - write well, have standards, don't be a complete jackass - and all will be OK.

There isn't really any good way to wrap this up into a pretty little bow except to say that I was left feeling a bit like this (and no, I don't know why this version of this clip was flipped):



I guess us bloggers - even those among us who haven't posted in nearly a year (that would be me) - just need to keep plodding along. Writing our unsubstantiated posts, strewn with poor grammar and profanity, and keep fighting THE MAN so that we may have, AND express, an opinion.

* Yeah, so in 1995 I was accepted to the masters journalism program at the University of Iowa. Not Northwestern or anything, but not bad. I was going to write, about sports if I had my way. I was killing the summer making sandwiches (at a sub shop, not just for myself - I'm a big boy but even so, it wouldn't have been a full time job) when I accidentally got a job offer to build web sites for $21,000 a year. Like that rising junior that couldn't pass on the big bucks of the NBA, I left school behind and the rest, as they say is history, albeit, not very interesting history.

I miss writing but when I think back on it, I don't have any regrets. I obviously have no idea what kind of success was waiting for me had I proceeded down that path but I always imagine three outcomes that I think were all distinct possibilities. One, I get out of school, can't find a job and 13 years later I'm still driving a cab in Iowa City. Two, a get a job but 13 years later I'm writing up high school football, legion baseball, and clever features about the local beer-league softball team for a weekly paper somewhere. Or three, I actually get the job as the beat writer for a major league team, cross over into radio, get my big break screaming at Woody Paige on Around the Horn, and in 2015 replace Skip Bayless as the irrational, screaming, lunatic on Cold First Take Pizza.

Let's just say that I consider myself lucky.

5.05.2007

Derby: Game Over

Some horses ran and there was yelling and stuff. Good race but no winning tickets for me and my crew.

I also may need to modify my theory that God hates horses because after yesterday's deluge, the weather was exceptional today.

Overall, a great weekend and I would definitely do it again.

Ode To Bobby

Between the 6th and 7th races at the derby, Churchill Downs had a tribute to their fallen reigning champion, Barbaro. Out in the grandstand it sounded something like, "blah, blah, blah, blahblah, blah." But that's just a loose translation. My Bobby memorial experience was enhanced by the woman in my section wearing the "Barbaro Forever In My Heart," T-shirt. I'm reasonably sure that this woman expects Bobby to rise from the dead and ascend to his proper place among jebus and the holy ghost etc.

But enough about that. Speaking of miracles, I actually held winning tickets for the first two races. The next 4 brought me back down to earth, albeit with some close ones.

We still have about 3 hours and 3 races until its time for the actual derby but our bets are in. We've got money all over the board but we're a but heavier on Circular Quay, Scat Daddy, and Liquidity.

If you're betting with us, good luck. Because you must be an idiot.

5.04.2007

We're On The Board

True Competitor finished 2nd in the 3rd to give √ľa our first betting win of the day, albeit a modest one. Hooray mint juleps!

Make It Rain (And Pacman Isn't Even Here)

The boys and I are approaching Churchill Downs and it's pouring. Nice. My only conclusion at this point is that God hates horses. Either that or it's a low pressure system. But what do I know? I'm no meteorologist.

This is my first crack at blogging from my Blackberry and I'll try to keep up with it today and throughout the weekend but we'll see how that goes after 2 (or 10) mint juleps.

My horrificness at picking anything has been well documented on this blog, but I like Idoitmyway in the 2nd today.

4.27.2007

NEWS FLASH: Major League Baseball Sucks At Marketing

Barry Bonds is excellent at what he does. Being an especially selective hitter who frequently hits the ball far (or far enough anyway) when he does decide to swing is one of the things he does well. The other is engender hatred from fans, media, teammates, and even his league. In my opinion, he's earned it fair and square.

Aside from generally being considered a jerk, cheating on his wife, and allegedly physically and mentally abusing the woman he cheated with, his greatest sin - in the eyes of many fans, the media aristocracy that is baseball writers, and Bud Selig - is his tainting of the integrity of the game by taking steroids.

One problem. The guy has never failed a piss test. Well, for steroids anyway. But really, who isn't popping greenies? How do you think I hammer out my monthly post?

Summer of 1998 heroes - the guys who many credited with saving baseball after the crushing strike in 1994 - Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, are painted with the same brush even though they never tested positive for steroids. Of course the visual and circumstantial evidence is overwhelming in all of these cases. These guys performance and physical stature likely grew too much too fast to be anything natural. But when McGwire and Sosa staged their epic home run chase in '98 and Bonds began his level jumping in 1999, steroids were illegal in this country, but they were not against the rules of Major League Baseball.

I'm no doctor but I don't think steroids are good for people or good for the game. But I have a real hard time with his retroactive morality. If McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds were taking steroids in the late 90s, it wasn't against the rules. While I'd like the athletes I follow to all believe in the purity of performance, baseball is hardly alone in this. There are performance enhancing drug scandals at the Olympics, in cycling, football, basketball - in short, in every sport. The difference is these other sports and governing bodies regulate the use and punish the cheaters. Baseball did not. So who's fault is it then?

Fast forward to today. Unless he homers tonight, Bonds is currently sitting at 741 home runs. That's 15 shy of breaking Hank Aaron's all-time record. And Bud Selig and Major League Baseball are dropping the ball.

If Hank Aaron wasn't the first baseball player I was really conscious of, he was damn close. I spent most of my childhood thinking wishing I was named after him (my middle name is Aaron - I wasn't . . . the guy I was named after was pretty cool in his own right but he didn't have Hank's stick). So I can understand why many - myself included - wish that it weren't Barry Bonds about to break what might be the most hallowed record in all of sports. Bud Selig and Hank Aaron himself certainly appear to fall into that category. For Aaron, fine. He's still works in the game but he doesn't work for the league. In my mind, he can do what he wants. But Selig is a different story. His non-committal statements about his intention to attend what could be a record-breaking game are flat-out unacceptable for a man charged with operating in the best interest of the game.

Of course, he's allowed to feel anyway he wants personally. And I even understand the fear of celebrating Bonds' feat only to learn later - with hard evidence - that he was juicing. That said, by not celebrating what Bonds is about to do, Selig and the MLB are essentially killing the legacy of the sport, not to mention turning their back on baseball royalty - son of a star, god son of a Hall of Famer, and soon to be the All-Time Home Run King. Wouldn't you think the league would want to have a better relationship with arguably its most visible star.

After Babe Ruth finished his career with 714 home runs, it took nearly 40 years for Aaron to pass him. Now, assuming Bonds' head doesn't explode before he hits No. 756, it will have taken another 30+ years. We are watching a once-a-generation event taking place and so many are letting their disdain for the athlete or the question of tainted performance distract them from the fact that they are watching something truly amazing.

So tonight, I'm officially changing my stance. Instead of hoping it doesn't happen or ignoring it while it does, I'll be closely following Barry's progress. You don't have to like the guy, but he can hit. And like me, you're getting older, and you may never see this again.

And hey, steroids aren't all bad. Without them, chances are Barry wouldn't have had the tits to pull this off:

4.06.2007

Cow-herd the Cow-ard

If you travel in the same blogging circles I do, then you've undoubtedly heard about what ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd and his denial of service minions have done to TheBigLead.com. According to TBL and other reports, this was an unprovoked attack. Now Cowherd can add cyber-terrorism to his list of offenses against blogs - prior to this, it was limited to stealing their content. Of course, Cowherd is far from alone at ESPN or among radio hosts when it comes to using blog content without attribution (fortunately some at the WWL are willing to give credit where credit is due) so let's not focus our attention there.

This story is concerning on a bunch of levels. First, it is clear that Cowherd has no respect for the blogging community. From the brief amount of time I've spent listening to him, I suspect he doesn't respect much. This is a guy that does a solo radio show and is perfectly comfortable with 15 minute monologues that amount to little more than verbal masturbation. In the instances where he does take phone calls from listeners, he routinely listens to one comment and the disconnects the caller while he berates them or their opinion or, usually, both.

The second thing is even though I'm not convinced that ESPN - Cowherd's bosses - truly "get" what blogging is all about, they are clearly trying to get on the band wagon with their Insider Weblog Roster. At the very least, shouldn't some big cheese be explaining this to Cowherd that blatantly disrespecting an entire community has repercussions on the ESPN bottom line (the dollars and cents, not the scoreboard)?

Lastly, and most important in my mind, this is just more proof that ESPN is not an organization of journalists but rather an entertainment company. This kind of activity would not be tolerated by a true news organization. And while you can argue that it shouldn't be tolerated by any kind of organization, this is getting Cowherd and ESPN attention. Don't they say that there is no such thing as bad publicity?

As The Big Lead has pointed out in the last few days, the sports information landscape is changing. The change began when people who loved sports began writing about it online and built their own audience. And the change is continuing as athletes like Gilbert Arenas and Curt Schilling use blogs to communicate directly to the public. The reality is that traditional media is losing control of the content. There will always be a place for ESPN, Cowherd, and others in their line of work but their stranglehold on the distribution channels of information and opinion is a thing of the past.

Ultimately Cowherd has a choice: He can recognize the change, embrace it, and find the angle where he can thrive or he can pretend it doesn't exist, insult it, and steal from it while it swallows him up and spits him out.

I never had a ton of respect for Colin Cowherd but now, he is nothing more than a vandal. If ESPN is really the reputable company it purports itself to be, they can not tolerate this kind of behavior from people in their employ.

See you in hell Schrutebag.

4.05.2007

Baseball Fever - It's Twitterriffic

I've been hearing tons about Twitter in my daily reading as part of my day job. Because I like to experience these new technologies, understand their attraction and relevance, I signed up. I set myself as a "follower" of a friend of mine so I could read her twitters. It was mildly interesting but . . . I don't know, I wasn't feeling the next killer app.

That was, until tonight anyway. That was when that same twittering friend showed me the Red Sox Twittercast. For those of you who don't know about Twitter, it's essentially micro-blogging. Each tweet is limited to 144 characters so the thoughts relayed need to be short and sweet. Well, it turns out this works pretty well for live blogging an event. And with the ability to interact with twitter via SMS, you can receive messages on your phone.

You can bet I'll have that hooked up when Daisuke Matsuzaka is making his debut smack in the middle of my work day tomorrow. I'm a believer.

3.27.2007

I Didn't Want To Do This . . .

I have a beautiful daughter who is four. She's a great kid, really well behaved in general. But a fact of life all parents - and some innocent airplane passengers - learn, is that toddlers occasionally totally and completely FREAK OUT. If I read a book about it, or watched Nanny 911, I'm sure I'd learn that these are power struggles.

As a parent, when I ask my kid to do something, what I want more than anything else is comprehensive obedience. Of course, it rarely works out that way, which is fine. But sometimes the result is out and out defiance. Being as I am, my response to this was to push and push and push to try to get my way. Partially because she's 4 and partially because she has at least 1/2 my genes, she appears to be just as stubborn - or worse - than I am.

One of the hardest lessons I learned was to let her freak. Just let it happen. Refuse to communicate on that plane. If you ignore the behavior then the child isn't getting the desired result from it and they'll change, right? It is always hard listening to screaming and crying - especially when it's over turning off The Wiggles (how can something that makes me so happy make her so sad?) - but lo and behold, the ignoring the undesirable behavior worked.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I did NOT want to post about Dan Shaughnessy. See, if I write and complain about Shaughnessy's latest annoying, stupid, boneheaded column, then I'm just reinforcing his behavior. Everyone up in arms is exactly what he wants. He's made a living off it. There is a freakin' blog about NOTHING ELSE! Of course, to be fair, there is at least one blog about pretty much anything.

But I'm failing. Right now. He sucked me in. DAMN YOU, CHB! (A special thanks to Carl Everett, patron saint of Shaughnessy hatred)

When I started thinking about this post, it was going to be about this Shaughnessy - Schilling spat. But even since he wrote that on Sunday, he's already got another stinker in his assessment of Daisuke Matsuzaka's pitching performance yesterday.

Let's start with Dice-K and work backwards . . . In this morning's column, Shaughnessy had this to say:

The story is that Dice-K walked five batters and demonstrated poor command of his fastball. Then he did some stretching of his back and legs, which was caught by ESPN cameras. Then he iced down in the locker room. Then he changed his mind about his postgame routine and decided for the first time not to speak with the media -- American or Japanese.

The result of all this will be a five-day frenzy of Dice-K speculation on two continents. Is he hurt? Is he frustrated? Is he a diva? Is he physically and mentally prepared for his first big league start next Friday in Kansas City?

Only in Boston. Only here could there be a crisis after a guy throws a five-inning no-hitter.


There's a crisis? I live and work in Boston. I'm not panicking. In fact, I'm encouraged. I rode the T in from Quincy today. No one looked overly depressed. There was no crying and wailing. A crisis? In March? Who really worries about spring training numbers in the first place? Dan Shaughnessy, that's who.

That bring us back to Shaughnessy's Sunday column. He rips Schilling - way to chase the easy target, Dan - and takes a pretty good shot as his own readership because I'm pretty sure the same Red Sox fans reading Schilling's blog also get their Red Sox news from The Boston Globe and Boston.com. Along the way he demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the new media.

Here's the thing though . . . when Schilling is out on the mound, I'm a huge fan. I love his style, love his toughness. He's a guy you want in your corner - cue the 14 billionth bloody sock reference - in tough situations. But when he opens his yap to proclaim he's still the ace, or he wants a new contract, or tell us how much he loves Everquest, eh, not so much then.

Put it this way: Having to pick a side in a Shaughnessy-Schilling feud is like being forced to pick your favorite contestant in a wet t-shirt contest between Charlie Weiss and Bill Parcells. You've gotta "support" Weiss - wins hands down, of course - and the same is true for Schilling here. But it's not something you feel good about.

Aside from his usual jack-assed-ness, what Shaughnessy is really missing here - like many other print dinosaurs (see: Smith, Sam and Vecsey, Peter) - is that in the last 3 years, it just got WAY easier to get your opinion out there. It wasn't that long ago that if you wanted someone to know what you thought, you had to tell your buddy in the bar (or whoever would listen) or be one of maybe 5 columnists in this city. But those days are gone. Long gone. Now anyone who has a computer, an opinion, and some free time can publish. God bless you, Al Gore.

One of the things that especially pissed me off besides, well, everything, was Shaughnessy's characterization of bloggers and blog readers as middle-aged guys living in their mothers basement. This misconception is laughable for a couple reasons. First, CHB and many other sportswriters of his era were likely not talented enough to play the games they now cover. They were the ones getting the figurative sand kicked in their face. But now, 20-30 years, a couple books, and generations of Red Sox players and fans as enemies later, he's the one making fun of the dorks. Second, this whole Internet thing is WAY BIGGER than you think, Dan. It's not just the dorks using computers. I hear it's like a series of tubes. Anyway, it's not just the geeks and the dorks consuming this content. And last, as a person who is now, technically, a blogger (albeit not professionally) and a person who used to work in sport communications (as a newspaper writer and sports publicity contact), let me tell you, those press boxes are not filled with athletic, confident, socially comfortable people. Dan, you need to look in the mirror before you point fingers.

Of all the stuff I've read about this today, I like TheBigLead.com take the best:

What’s the over/under on the day athletes stop speaking to print media, and instead head home and post their thoughts on a blog? Barry Bonds, Gilbert Arenas, Curt Schilling, Curtis Granderson and Paul Shirley, among others, are already there.


Beware, CHB. Be. Ware.

More Poor Performances Like This Please

Forgive me reader(s), it has been over a month since my last post . . .

Since the Red Sox signed Daisuke Matsuzaka - their $100 million dollar man - this past off season, I've been trying hard to temper my enthusiasm. I keep telling myself, experience in the Japanese League or not, he's still a rookie. He will be facing consistently better hitters day in an day out than he ever has before. And, of course, given all the hype, he could be an All-Star and still not live up to his billing.

I paid attention when he dominated a college team, experimented against the Orioles, and then seemed to find his groove. All good things. But I think last night was the best indication of future success yet.

Watching/listening to SportsCenter last night, you heard phrases like "struggled with his control" and "Matsuzaka's dissatisfaction with his performance." I heard Stuart Scott say that Matsuzaka only threw 59 strikes on 103 pitches against the Reds.

So what happened? A disaster right? He got shelled? Gave up a bushel of runs? Got chased from the game?

Nope. He threw 5 no-hit innings. He walked 5 but struck out 6. To see a guy "struggle with his control" on the way to 5 no-hit innings . . . well, it's safe to say that it's quite a bit tougher to contain that enthusiasm this morning. Could the next 7 seem any further away? Let's play ball!