Thursday, May 01, 2008

Buzz Bissinger is an Idiot, Mike Wilbon Too

I had never heard of Buzz Bissinger before last night. I have never seen "Friday Night Lights," which he authored, nor have I seen the television series. I typically find sports dramas to be way too cheesy for my taste. Why fictionalize something that has plenty of drama as is?

Back to the topic at hand, what was it that prompted me to write about Buzz Bissinger? It was his appearance during a segment on "Costas Now" on HBO. I tuned in upon seeing a plug on FireJoeMorgan.com, but wasn't expecting what happened. For those who haven't seen the segment, you can find them here and here. There are two portions: a five minute documentary styled introduction and a significantly longer town hall meeting featuring the aforementioned Bissinger, Deadspin.com's Will Leitch, and for some reason Braylon Edwards. There were several points that I found frustrating and interesting:

  • During the introduction, ESPN's Michael Wilbon states of bloggers, "What are their credentials?" Here you have the elitism that frustrates so many. Does it really take a journalism degree to know about sports? In fact, you could also argue it's the exact opposite. Simply an hour of watching the talking head shouting matches on ESPN will induce a ton of Mike Gundy-esque "That's not true!" reactions from knowledgeable fans. Fortunately, that's only a select few, but more on painting with wide brushes later. If Wilbon happens to be one of the eight people that read this, I will challenge him to a baseball debate anytime. We'll see who has these "credentials." That is, unless he literally means media credentials and press passes. Based on his angry/frustrated tone, I doubt that's the case though.
  • Wilbon continues to say "I don't want to listen to their opinion, unless I know what's backing it up." He just summed up why I don't watch Pardon the Interruption. Congratulations.
  • Mike Schurr (Ken Tremendous) makes the same point later on, although given the format it's not in direct response: "You don't have to go to school to say 'I think the Indians should have pulled Carmona in the 8th." Thank you, Mose for making the point in a much better way than I could.
  • Bissinger completely unleashes on Leitch during the roundtable. Bissinger and Costas are apparently good friends, and it was a clear way for Costas to vent his frustrations through an intermediary. Remember, Costas had previously called all bloggers "Get-a-life Losers"
  • One of the big problems is that these guys cannot distinguish between the comments sections under articles and the blogs themselves, lumping them all into the category of "bloggers." They've also clung to this notion that Deadspin is the epitome of blogs. Frankly, short of a lot of the things making fun of Chris Berman, I've barely even visited the site. I just don't find it very insightful towards what I'm looking for. I do, however, have FireJoeMorgan.com feed to my email.
  • During Bissinger's rant, he calls blogging "The Dumbing Down of American Society." This was ironic, when he showed a complete inability to test his hypotheses about pitchers being rushed to the Majors last year. There was a great exchange between him and radio host (and fellow baseball nut) Jon Sciambi found here. After letting Bissinger go on and on gloating about his interview with Kerry Wood and his "expert" findings on pitching, Sciambi finally challenges him with facts. Bissinger contends that pitchers are rushed to the big leagues now more than ever, and he thinks pitchers don't get as much time in the minors that they used to. Being that we are now in the era of Baseball Reference, where most simple questions about baseball history can be found, I have a hard time believing that he didn't think to check this. Apparently, he didn't, and a hilarious exchange ensues.
Sciambi: ...You could go over the 70's and look at how many innings a pitcher had in the minors before he made his major league debut, and do the same thing now. My guess would be, it's not as different as you think it is.

Buzz: Actually, I'm not so sure. I've looked at it pretty hard. There may be isolated examples, but I think that pitchers spent more time in the minors then than they do now.
  • Sciambi continues to call him out, before Buzz becomes frustrated, trashes the next host before his call is dumped. Bissinger is clearly immature, and doing a pretty good job of dumbing down American Society himself. Besides, that's not the most hypocritical moment of the rant. After all, amidst his profanity-laced tirade, he complains about the vulgarity of some blogs. In case you are curious, pitchers were brought up earlier in the 1970's. Buzz is a tool. Once again, if he wants to prove his expertise on baseball, I am open to a debate at any time.
It's a shame that it has come to this. Bissinger can no longer get away with writing articles based on false premises. Bob Costas is no longer the baseball expert he thinks he is, what with real experts out there. No matter how loud he yells on television, Mike Wilbon is not the authority on sports topics. The fact is a select few feel threatened, and instead of raising their own bar, they are taking it out on those doing the threatening.

A perfect recent example of raising the bar is Lynn Henning and the Detroit News. Instead of poo-pooing about newspapers becoming irrelevent, they have made themselves relevent. In addition to columns, Henning also conducted a Youtube series of video blogs during Spring Training, discussing several Tigers players. I watched every one of them, and hope that he does that again next season. Doing things like thinking out of the box and using the technology instead of rallying against it will do a lot more to help settle this unnecessary conflict. I applaud all of the beat writers on the front line getting the information. Much of what is written on blogs would be a fraction of what it is without them, and they don't get the appreciation they deserve.

Update... I just heard Bissinger's apology. He still maintains that blogs are contributing to the dumbing down of society. I'd argue that they have the opposite effect for many reasons. Most of those reasons revolve around the fact that words written by journalists will no longer be taken for gospel because they are displayed eloquently. The rest are due to the simple fact that more and faster information is simply going to lead to more educated people. He also said he doesn't know much about blogs, and doesn't want to be pathetic enough to find out. What a windbag.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

What people fail to recognize is that blogging is the democratization of the media - giving ordinary people access to one of the traditional bastions of the elitist left. The frustration of tradtional media with bloggers parallels the frustration of the political left with talk radio. In essence, they are saying "How dare you have a viewpoint that is different from ours and that we did not give you".

I think within the traditional media there is also a fear of loss of job security (what if we don't need them anymore?!?) and a fear of accountability (what if we catch when they are wrong?!?) that comes from having bloggers impede on their turf.