The Buzz in the Blogosphere: Two Points to Bear in Mind

I know better than to respond to this kind of low-rent mudslinging. Really, I do.

I know better than to add my two cents' worth after Will Leitch, Orson Swindle, and MaconDawg, as well as SG Standard, Joel, and HornsFan (you know . . . some of those dastardly blog commenters we hear so much about!), already have said all that needed to be said.

I know better than to engage in debate with a grown man who answers to the name "Buzz" but who has not either walked on the moon or defended the galaxy from the threat of the evil Emperor Zurg as a member of the elite Space Ranger Corps.

Nevertheless, I will add my voice to the chorus for the purpose of making two points which bear enunciating and reiterating. These are they:

1. The blogger and the beat reporter, like the farmer and the cowman, should be friends. The traditional media are not the enemy. We in the blogosphere must take special care not to lump all professional journalists together; if we do so, we are guilty of the same bigotry as the Buzz Bissingers of the world.

Although some cracks are appearing in the perceived barrier between the two roles, it generally is the case that professional news outlets are getting interviews, breaking stories, and publishing box scores, fulfilling essential functions we in the blogosphere could not (and, typically, do not aspire to) replicate.

Likewise, the search for commentary and analysis increasingly is turning to the blogosphere, but this loss of readership is suffered not by full-time reporters, but by the punditocracy that knows its fifteen minutes of fame are on the verge of expiring. Bissinger is aware of this and he is reacting the way fans of The New Yorker did to Tom Wolfe's incisive and witty takedown of the moribund magazine a generation ago.

Bissinger knows full well, or ought to know if he is anything other than ignorant and wholly lacking in self-awareness (which certainly could be the case), that condescending pundits in the Stewart Mandel mode are every bit as self-appointed and lacking in valid credentials as the bloggers upon whom he heaps his disdain with such vitriol. Which brings me to my second point:

2. Buzz Bissinger has nothing to teach the blogosphere about good manners and insightful observations. If you're trying to convince me that you're the last noble Roman standing astride the bridge, bravely warding off the invading horde in a quixotic effort to save the last vestige of human decency, you may not want to go about it by unleashing a profanity-riddled tirade at a guy you're mad at for being several orders of magnitude more famous and more widely-read than you are, because you'll just come across as a crotchety Luddite fuddy-duddy . . . and I say that as someone who is himself a crotchety Luddite fuddy-duddy. (These kids today! With their iPods and their text messages and their TiVo!)

I'm proud of the community all of you, MaconDawg, and I have built here at Dawg Sports; I'm proud of the quality of the discourse that goes on here. It offends me to no end (see, Buzz? some of us can express ourselves using language that doesn't make others wonder whether we kiss our mother with that mouth; Bissinger used rather a more evocatively colorful phrase when voicing precisely that sentiment on Bob Costas's show) to have bloggers tarred with the brush of what their commenters write, particularly when any number of blogs---including, I am happy to say, this one---have made a concerted effort to keep the conversation at a high level and have found a readership---which, once again, most certainly includes the regular commenters at this site---that is responsive to, and respectful of, such standards.

When a guy is obnoxious enough long enough and is given a sufficient number of chances, he gets banned. When a guy offers an honest constructive criticism of the message this site sends, he gets results. The conversation around here sometimes gets heated, but the discussion typically is thoughtful, witty, and incisive. The same could be said for any number of other weblogs.

One thing Will Leitch said deserves special amplification: yes, anyone can blog, but not just anyone can blog well, and the cream rises to the top in the blogosphere as it does in few other walks of life. One of the reasons weblogging is so perfectly suited to analyzing sports is that both are meritocracies in which neither nepotism nor seniority nor even name recognition, good looks, and personal wealth are any substitute for quality.

The difference between Braylon Edwards and Will Leitch on the one hand, and Buzz Bissinger and Bob Costas on the other, is that, if the job performance of the former two were to decline sharply and consistently for a long enough period of time, they'd both have to go find another line of work. The latter two, evidently, need not bear such burdens, and this unfortunate condition has freed them to act like cheap hacks, to be as nasty as they want to be, and to suffer the fate of aging boxers who have fallen out of fighting shape and, sadly, feel the need to flail as wildly against the inexorable rush of fleeing time as against the younger, swifter challengers who are battering them into submission.

When Will Leitch appeared on ESPN Radio some months ago, I wrote:

Scott Van Pelt's interview with Will Leitch was brief but significant; it will be remembered either as the opening round of negotiations that will lead to peaceful relations between established and novel forms of media or it will mark the initial face-to-face confrontation in an escalating war of words.

Leitch showed admirable restraint in answering the questions put to him in a reasonable manner without bitterness or acrimony. How Van Pelt's employer treats the rising generation represented by Leitch in addressing our valid concerns will go a long way toward determining the way in which fan-centered sports commentators are able to interact with the monolith in Bristol.


While I do not presume that Buzz Bissinger speaks for anyone other than himself, Bob Costas's ostensible (and, if true, deplorable) complicity in this premeditated thuggery suggests that influential figures in the traditional media have opted to chart the "escalating war of words" course rather than take the "peaceful relations between established and novel forms of media" path Scott Van Pelt appeared to prefer.

That, I believe, is unfortunate, although it is not irreversible. I do not know Will Leitch, having never met or corresponded with him, and, to the best of my recollection, Deadspin has linked to Dawg Sports no more than twice (if that) in this site's existence. I have no reason to think ill of him, but neither do I have any vested interest in defending him, except for the not insignificant fact that he appears to have been cast in the role of front-line footsoldier and demonized synecdoche for the sports blogosphere.

If Buzz Bissinger and Bob Costas want to tar good, hardworking people for the sin of loving their sports teams because they didn't like four---count 'em, four---comments left at Deadspin, they lose all credibility with me and I not only will defend Will Leitch out of a sense of blogger solidarity, I will take quite personally their prejudiced broadsides against my readers, my co-author, and me.

I challenge Buzz Bissinger and Bob Costas to read Dawg Sports for a week. Give me a week . . . read every posting, every diary, and every comment for seven straight days, then tell me about the lack of quality in what is written in the blogosphere by bloggers and commenters alike. I stand by what we do here---what all of us do here---and I take the gravest possible exception to any ignorant insinuations to the contrary.

But, Buzz, if you do stop by and you want to leave a comment . . . watch your language. We run a family-friendly site around here, bub, and, in these parts, vulgarity is no substitute for argument.

Go 'Dawgs!

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