Monday, May 05, 2008


The internet continues to be aghast over the comments of author Buzz Bissinger on HBO last week.

(More here.)

To a certain extent, I understand the buzz (no pun intended). Bissinger was belligerent, profane, and combative in his appearance on Costas NOW. He's been much more articulate, understanding, and conversation in his media appearances since.

For that, I applaud him. I also applaud him for the interview he gave with The Big Lead. Not only did he give an interview, but he answered all the questions and actually made some very interesting points. I'll post a few of his thoughts and respond, because it seems like a really good idea.
The initial reaction was quite positive, more than quite positive from those I immediately spoke to–fellow panelists and members of HBO with the exception of Costas (Bob was friendly but muted in his response to my performance. He is one of the most thoughtful people I know and I think he was mulling that I had gone way too far.) What I began to realize by the next afternoon is this: What the fellow panelists thought (at least the ones I spoke with) were not remotely a representative group. When I came home from New York, my wife simply told me that I had been over the top and undignified.
I don't know how you can watch his performance and not have an "Oh, my God. What is he doing?" reaction. I'm glad Mrs. Bissinger conveyed the same reaction, though I think I would shriek if my wife used the word "undignified" in a conversation with me. She'd probably just say I made an ass of myself.
I believe in what I said (although the emails I received have also directed me to some excellent information-based sports blogs I was not aware of). But I made a terrible mistake in the manner in which I said it. I am a man of passion and my passion truly got the better of me. I should have considerably toned it down, in particular in terms of my treatment of Will Leitch. Without going into details, I have taken steps to remedy that. I have also publicly apologized on several radio shows that have been widely disseminated. Those apologies are sincere, just as my passion was sincere if terribly misplaced. I treated Mister Leitch like the worst kind of blogger.
You're not going to get a blind defense of Will Leitch on this site. I think Will is brilliant, but he does have flaws. One of them is the amount of profanity that can be found on his site. For some of you, that's either a turn-on or a non-factor. And that's okay. It's part of the beauty of the internet. If you don't like something, you don't have to click on it. Personally, I'm not a fan of it, and I choose not to read the saltier stuff that you can find on Deadspin. I prefer to keep things a little cleaner around here, and I will very rarely use any words here that I couldn't use on the radio without getting at least a call to the proverbial carpet.

But your mileage may vary. I bought Leitch's book and was riveted. It was superb content. His site is usually the same. It's not so much about showing athletes to be jerks and philanderers. It's about showing that we shouldn't take sports (or ourselves) too seriously.
As I have just answered, there are some very good information-based sports blogs out there written by bloggers who clearly have excellent sources, just as there are some ESPN commentators who think before they talk and some marvelous radio talk show hosts who know their information inside and out and also have real sources. Now of course I will contradict myself by making the generalization that as a society, we have become more petty and mean-spirited and nastier than ever. We revel in watching celebrities fall apart. We revel in mockery and that is true of every media outlet whether you define it as new or old or mainstream or the future or whatever. Sports blogs certainly do not hold the monopoly on being vindictive.
I'm in absolute agreement on all counts. We're too voyeuristic in our society nowadays. We take pleasure in the downfall of others, which simply isn't right.

(NOTE: To me, there's a distinct difference between being amused by the problems of others [see: "Clemens, Roger"] and reveling in the destruction of said person's life.)

My youngest son, who is 16, never picks up the paper. So I have no solutions for the American newspaper, although it makes me terribly sad to acknowledge what appears to be their extinction in print at some point in time.

I became a writer because I loved the feel of a newspaper in my hands. I know saying that makes me sound terribly old, but it is hard to hold the Internet in your hands. But you guys are not simply the future; you are the present. All I ask, and I am pretty sure I have already said this somewhere before during this Q and A, is to take up your responsibility with seriousness and honor while not stifling what is the best part of the Internet, which is the way in which it gives a voice to everyone. That part of the Internet is truly exciting. As for us MMSers, we will continue to write and cling to print, and sometimes we will still do it pretty damn well. And maybe with some tolerance along the way and acceptance, we can co-exist and maybe even like each other instead of fueling the flames of hate as I unfortunately did with my appearance. But it will take more responsibility on the part of the blogging community and less maliciousness and sophomoric sexual references.

The bottom line is that the internet is here to stay. Any solution for newspapers doesn't involve the internet going anywhere. They need to to understand ways to use the internet to their advantage. Give us compelling content, make it available on the internet, and re-construct the business model to make better use of the internet.

Frankly, this isn't anything compelling or original. But it's the best I can do. I just don't have any reason to pick up the hometown paper anymore. I can read all the content I need on the internet. The one day I used to always pick up the paper was Sunday. I don't anymore, because I'll read articles on the internet, and then I'll just use the internet to look at the Sunday store circulars and print any ads or coupons I want to save.

The only time I buy newspapers is when I'm on the road. There's still no better way to spend an hour-long flight or a long car ride than thumbing through the newspaper and finding interesting stuff to read and talk about. When I travel for hockey, I almost always buy the local newspaper, even though I can usually read the content on the internet.

Even travelers don't need physical copies of the newspaper anymore. Just fire up the laptop, connect to the hotel's wireless network, and read.

It's a different world. Someday, a newspaper executive in a reasonably-big city is going to find an answer. His/her newspaper will thrive, and everyone will follow that lead.

I just hope that day comes before the newspaper goes away. There's still great use for the material, and even those of us who have migrated to the internet would miss the voice.

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