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Sports Imitating Life

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At least one Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Buzz Bissinger is imitating many of his MSM brethren in his opinion of sports bloggers. Check out this video from the Bob Costas Now program where Bissinger begins a 10 minute segment personally attacking super sports blogger (and BlogWorld 2007 speaker) Will Leitch from Deadspin.

Costas starts off the segment with a short pre-produced piece touting the benefits the Internet offers sports fans:

instant scores, constant updates, any stat that’s ever been computed highlights, breakdowns and analysis of every game from thousands of writers in hundreds of cities. What sports fan could complain about that?

Then the darkside:

but there’s also this, the wild west of the Internet. The Blogsophere. A virtual bulletin board where anyone can post anything. Opinions photos, videos; all bluring the lines between news and gossip, truth and rumor, commentary and insult.

And other than Bob confusing message boards with blogs what exactly is wrong with that?

Well as you find out later in the segment it’s that “anyone” part that has Bob all uptight.

While Leitch is trying to answer a question from Costas; Bissinger interupts:

I am just going to interject because I feel very strongly about this. (looking at Leitch) I think you are full of shit. Because I think blogs are dedicated to cruelty, they are dedicated to dishonesty, they are dedicated to speed

Bissinger then goes on to quote a random Deadspin commenter as proof of the poor quality of blog writing and asks Leitch how can he be proud of it.

Huh? Bissinger maybe a talented writer. He does have a Pulitzer and I loved Friday Night Lights (the movie) but he obviously doesn’t have a clue about the Blogosphere which is sad really.

Costas then reads several more comments and calls them “posts”. Bob is also clueless.

Are Bissinger and Costas responsible for every letter to the editor, those printed and un-printed? of course not. Neither is Leitch.

Now I actually agree with their larger point that the level of discourse on the Internet can be offensive and depressing at times but that depends on the blog, message board, or website your reading.

The moderation policy of any particular blog may be a reflection of that publisher’s judgement but not their writing skills.

Personally I prefer blogs that have some reasonable standard of moderation, like not allowing racial slurs, harassing other commenters, excessive foul language, etc. But that’s my personal preference.

A good argument can be made in this age of transparency that allowing anything goes commenting provides a level of transparency that today’s content consumer demands.

Further into the segment Bissinger takes issue with Deadspin’s publishing of a photo of Arizona Cardinals QB Matt Leinart doing a beer bong. He doesn’t say it straight out but he implies that no newspaper would print such a photo. To be blunt that is BS. Every sports outlet covered the story and many printed the photo. So what is Bissinger’s real issue?

That blogs are scooping newspapers and broadcasters?

He’s right blogs are faster and that’s one of the reasons why they are thriving.

In fact every issue Bissenger has with blogs is territory long treaded on by newspapers including bad journalism, poor fact checking, sensationalism, rumor-mongering, and yes juts plain old bad writing. Having a journalism degree does not make you a good writer.

What made me really laugh was Bissenger’s claim that somehow sports writers were impartial and bloggers weren’t. Anyone who has ever read their local sports page knows the beat writer is a total homer and you can tell in many national broadcasts which team the announcer is rooting for.

Bissinger shouldn’t feel bad, and we as bloggers should understand that journalists like Bissinger and Costas still reflect the majority opinion among their peers.

What they and other journalists need to realize is that blogging is just a tool that they could and should be embracing. The most successful bloggers are great writers. Bissinger’s performance in this piece tells me that he would make a great blogger.

Costas shouldn’t be let off the hook either. He leads us to believe that bloggers and commenters sharing their opinions are bad for sports. That is just plain crazy talk. Sports are all about opinions. Who’s the greatest player, greatest team, best hitter, bets golfer, best goalee, shooter, softest hands, most intimidating, who missed the tag, who missed the base, which shot was after the buzzer, who got robbed and on and on.

All sports fans love arguing about sports. Blogs are the best thing to happen to sports since sports talk radio. Which brings me to the biggest reason blogs are thriving in every vertical but particularly in sports.

Every dedicated sports fan has at one time or another read something in the local paper, heard something on sports talk radio, or seen a commentator on ESPN say something that has gotten you all riled up. You called up the station and then the host cut you off. You yelled at the TV and then realized your spouse was looking at you like you were crazy. Maybe you even started to write a letter to the editor until you realized it was going to cost you 75 cents to mail it and it would never get printed anyway.

Now all sports fans have a voice. Most blogs will run your comments with a pretty liberal moderation policy and other fans will argue with you. If you have a lot to say you can start up your own damn blog and spout off about your team all day and night if you like.

If you are good, you can even find an audience of fellow fans to cheer you on and rivals to antagonize you. That is why we love sports! That is why we love sports blogs!

I would love to recommend a handful of great sports blogs for Costas and Bissinger to read over the next few months and then have them come to BlogWorld this September and tell us if their opinions have changed at all.

I would start with MetsBlog, Athletics Nation, and Gaslamp Ball ( go Pads!). Which sports blogs would you recommend?

**update saturday 8 am PST**

watching the segment again and noticed that as Costas is reading more examples of the nasty comments people make at Deadspin directed at former ESPN announcer Sean Salisbury the audience and the guests are laughing. So we hate them but we laugh at them. In truth many of us contribute in the same “locker room talk” depending on the crowd we are hanging with at the time.

Rick is the CEO & Co-Founder of BlogWorld & New Media Expo. He lives in Canyon Lake with his wife and two dogs Abby and Thor.


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  • GeekMommy

    As a Denver Broncos fan, I’m more than used to the National sportscaster bias being *against* my team most of the time.

    But that said, the real fear isn’t that Bloggers are “dedicated to cruelty, they are dedicated to dishonesty, they are dedicated to speed” as that they aren’t that… and that they have the potential to be more effective, more objective, and better sources of information than “professional” main-stream media guys.
    Because if that turns out to be the case, there are a lot of MSM sportcasters who might find their jobs in jeopardy.

    How sad that rather than exploring and embracing the new media and understanding how they could benefit from it, these guys fear it enough to try and sabotage it instead.

    Great post!

  • Rick

    Thanks GM 8). Well being against the Broncos is only natural =p.

    The biggest thing I think we as bloggers need to take home from this is that these guys are representative of a majority of Americans and the world for that matter that doesn’t really understand yet what blogs and new media do.

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