Wooden's World of Baseball

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Break From The Usual Fare...

Reading my friend's blog "Musings about Sports and other important items" I decided to, as the headline says, take a break from the usual and write about something I'm more than qualified to discuss:

Bloggers vs. "sportswriters"

I put the latter in quotations because I personally think that the true sportswriter is a dying breed. I used to be one, once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away. But I left the field, and anecdotally speaking, I think a lot of guys my age did too for the same reasons...

...Having to pay your dues covering small-town sports at tiny newspapers
...Getting paid less than a shift supervisor at McDonald's while doing so
...The ESPN-ification of sports

The Internet is blamed for a lot of what's wrong with sportswriting today, but the true culprit is the (sharp) rise of style over substance and no other entity encapsulates it than the jocksniffing fanboys at ESPN.

It began with Dick Vitale, the used-car salesmen who allegedly was once a respected college coach. Once he became the face of ESPN's signature product in the 1990s, college basketball, the slide started and it became a requirement to develop a catch phrase.

Yes, I know Chris Berman came before Vitale, but one could stomach his puns (Bert "Be Home" Blyleven is still a classic) when he was mostly an anchor. Vitale, on the other hand, is like the verbal equivalent of one-handed typing. Once his unabashed self-serving cheerleading went from tolerated to celebrated, the locusts began to roost.

Sportswriting became more about how you said it than what you actually said. You had to have a radio gig, even it was just with the local AM radio station. But sooner or later, you'd better get on TV. Anywhere. Anytime. God help you if you didn't have the right look. Or the right "personality."

Even worse, having a Journalism degree (or in my case, two) was becoming less of a requirement and more of an impediment. The lessening emphasis on the printed word was leveling the playing field.

So I left the newspapers, and I left sportswriting. That was 1997.

Now I've been fortunate enough to have been able to translate the skills I learned as a journalist and in J-school to other fields. As alluded previously, a lot of folks who got Journalism degrees hae done the same. Unfortunately, as I've gone along, it's been less and less writing.

Starting my own blog was an effort just to get back to doing something I used to be pretty good at: Writing. I think a lot of bloggers are in the same boat. And is the case with ALL writers, there are varying degrees of quality and passion. But considering that most bloggers aren't in it for the money, I'd have seriously question the implication that there's a lack of passion with bloggers. Perhaps they're untrained, but they're not unmotivated.

Not for one minute do I truly believe that bloggers represent a threat to "sportswriters" — what the most recent to-do between Buzzy Bissinger and the folks at Deadspin.com is grossly overblown. Let's face it, if a blog is selling online advertisements to national advertisers, it's not an alternative media outlet, it's part of the mainstream.

The true confusion is between the message and the medium. If Buzzy Bissinger is upset about what he perceives to be lower standards on blogs, I'm curious if he's ever picked up The New York Post. Or watched "Entertainment Tonight." Or listened to talk radio. Perhaps he hasn't, so maybe he should.

There has always been a prurient element within communication forms, whether they're printed, posted online, or broadcasted. That it involves sports is irrelevant. Sex, violence, and human foibles are always great fodder. And so long as people will consume it, others will produce it.

So while I'm disappointed that sportswriting and sports journalism aren't what they used to be, or what they ought to be, I think there's something to be said about what John Calipari said in the clip I linked above: If you don't like it, don't read it or watch it.

Which is why I watch very little ESPN these days...


Post a Comment

<< Home