Friday, May 30, 2008

Going with the change-up

I'd say I'm caught up now on the react stories and blog postings following Wednesday night's debacle, not to mention the news that Tony Pena Jr.'s staying in the lineup while Billy Butler is not, Leo Nunez going to the DL and a giant asteroid heat-locked on Kansas City. This was a bit masochistic of me, but my eyes have passed over all the measured responses and the sad responses and Poz, Deadspin and Rany responses and the angry responses and incredulous responses and everything in between. And Rob Neyer. And all I'm left with is an urge to say...

Let's take a break from it all, shall we? Can we interest you in a little humor to enter the weekend?

From The Onion:

BRISTOL, CT—Gary Belsky, editor-in-chief of ESPN The Magazine, expressed satisfaction and delight with the mockup of his publication's latest issue Wednesday, flipping gleefully through the pages and staring in mesmerized awe at the multitude of "pretty, pretty pictures." "Oooooooooooooohhhhhh," said Belsky, sensuously running his fingers along a two-page-spread photograph of Royals outfielders Joey Gathright and David DeJesus leaping for a fly ball. "Soooo shiiiiiiny." Belsky went on to say that the magazine cover was "so glossy smooth," that the letters were very, very big and in all different pretty-pretty colors, and that there should be more ads.

Is there any doubt who catches it, Gathright or DeJesus?

POSTSCRIPT: Recommended read (and check out the cover if you can): Tom Verducci on the season so far.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oh dear...

Oh dear...

“Too many babies here,” Guillen stormed while seated in front of his locker and spicing his language with obscenity. “They don’t know how to play the game and win the game right, the way it’s supposed to be played. And that’s the problem here. Now I know why this organization’s been losing for a while. Now I know.”

That's Jose Guillen, of course. And now we know a little bit more about you, Mr. G.

We'll open this up for discussion/ranting.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Getting no-hit...

I didn't see the game -- I haven't watched any baseball in nearly four weeks, and I'm less literate because of it -- but pitching a no-hitter is no small feat, almost as big an accomplishment as surviving cancer. Almost. And if you've followed this blog at all, you know my predilection for no-hitters and near-no-hitters (to say nothing of near-perfect games), so... congratulations, Jon Lester, you've given Boston the catharsis it needs to return at last to a friendly, healthier way of living. Seriously, folks, all that cussin' ain't good for ya. Also, Jon, you've joined Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers to no-hit this proud Royals franchise, and that has to be sort of awesome for you. Just don't steal any laptops.

This blog must trudge on, even in my absence. Expect guest posts from here on till September.
Trust me, my ghost writers will all be better than Coach K's replacement that one year -- 1994, was it? (see, I leave this blog for two weeks and I get too lazy to throw a few words into Google) -- whatever his name is.

I can't believe I just referenced Duke.

One more thing: the Royals would dominate the National League, especially with Joakim Soria's extended contract. Two games to .500! Come on!

POSTSCRIPT: One of the reasons I'm not blogging about the Royals from out here is because China is 13 hours ahead of Central Time, and I would hate to provide spoilers since I get the games half a day before you all...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A couple more thoughts, then I resume my leave

It just occurred to me that I was about five days late on this Bissinger-Leitch thing, and that everyone else who needs to has already commented and moved on. Sorry. News travels slow to the other part of the world. (I say that knowing full well that I'm contradicting my earlier depiction of the Internet as this wondrous thing that can instantaneously transmit all the world's knowledge to your fingertips...)

Anyway, it's also occurred to me that I may have seemed a little spiteful in my previous post, which is weird because I'm not usually a very spiteful person. Well, it only seems right that I rectify this situation, and I'll do it with the easy button...

Somehow, Joe Posnanski has again managed to be the sane voice of reason, and -- in that way of his -- the authority on this matter.

There were two lengthy excerpts I wanted to use as examples of what I mean, but I fear reproducing both would violate some sort of blogger intellectual-rights code (yes, even bloggers have ethics). So I flipped a coin and this is what came up:

What is a blog anyway? The question itself is ridiculous … it’s like asking, “What’s an article?” or “What’s a book” or “What’s a song?” It’s a vehicle, that’s all, a way to communicate, a way to spread ideas, a way to entertain, a way to gripe, a way to spew hate, a way to make fascinating points. Some are short. Some are long. Some are curiously long. Some are profane, some are fascinating, some are stupid, some are irresponsible, some are genius, some are not read by anybody except immediate family members.

Remember Buzz’s W.C. Heinz reference? Buzz was saying that Heinz had a whole lot more to say (and could say it a lot better) than, I guess, most people who comment on blogs. Sure. That’s probably true. Heinz was a brilliant writer. Wonderful. Thoughtful. Funny. Tough. I couldn’t be a bigger fan. His piece on Bummy Davis is one of the all-time greats. He wrote a lot of great pieces.

But guess what: If Heinz was young today, if he was 25 years old in 2008, or 30 years old, you know what he would be doing? Yeah. He would be WRITING A FREAKING BLOG. Of course he would. If you love to write, if you want to be heard, if you feel like you have something to say, this is what you do. Your print outlets are shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. You know, Heinz wrote his famous, ”In The Morning They Shot Spies“ piece for True Magazine. Same thing for that great Bummy Davis piece I just mentioned. He wrote sports columns for “The Sun.” He wrote for Madison and Argosy and LIfe and so on.

You know what these magazines and newspapers have in common? Yeah. They’re gone. There aren’t many magazines and newspapers left. It’s corny, sure, but I feel honored and thankful every day to work for The Kansas City Star, not only a paper that is still in business, but more a paper that still cares a whole lot about being good. There’s a hard reality here, and it will only get harder over the next few years. Newspapers are shrinking. Magazines are shrinking. Opportunities in the mainstream are shrinking. Shrinkage is the word.

But the Internet is wide open. If Heinz was young, he would be writing words on the Internet just like everyone else, and he would probably have his own blog, and it would be wonderful, and cranky old people would be screaming about Heinz in pajamas.

Here's the full entry.

I'd also like to refer you to the Posnanski post titled "Costas on Blogs," specifically the comment that reads,

fd // May 2, 2008 at 10:25 am

Will you get an eyejob like he did when you reach his age?


Is it a sign of the times that amid a brilliant anecdote about hope, disappointment, failure and redemption, I choose to share that?

The comment really has to be read in context to be appreciated. Well done, fd.

Leave it to Buzz Fucking Bissinger to pull me back

Well, you knew I couldn't stay away forever. Just three thoughts though, one of them a little extended:

1. Brandon Webb is 7-0? Arizona still hasn't hit double digits in the loss column yet?

2. My thanks to Ray of Royals on Radio Etc. for taking the time to interview me and sending a few hits my way, even though I haven't updated this blog in more than a week (but for good reason, I promise).

3. Which blogger raped Buzz Bissinger?

If you haven't seen it yet, this will be of no interest to you whatsoever. In fact, you may just want to stop reading now, because what follows might offend you, and this blog never intends to offend. Also, it's not baseball-related, and I do apologize for that.

Otherwise, proceed.

First, let me disclose that I've met Will Leitch, and I think he's a stand-up guy. Judging by the video and how he took Bissinger's full-frontal assault, you can guess -- and you would be right -- that Leitch has a bit more class than the Pulitzer winner. His writing may jab a few people the wrong way sometimes, but let me ask: would you rather your jackass be a voice on paper (or the Internet, as it were) or a guy in the flesh?

Second, I read Deadspin and like it, sometimes a lot. But I've never commented and, frankly, don't feel any need to. It can get a bit too self-affirming, not to mention shallow and inane.

But let me get back to my original point: Is Buzz Bissinger really so dense as to not understand the "blog"? I mean, is he really?

And is Bob Costas really so sanctimonious that he'd group Deadspin's commentators in with Deadspin's editor, then ask the editor to justify the actions of everyone else? As if by quoting the most vulgar of Deadspin's million comments -- out of context, mind you -- he were somehow asking the tough questions and probing the "serious" issues?

Do these guys really -- I mean really... like, needing us 20-somethings to hold their hands and explain with a lollipop in our back pockets -- the concept of the blogosphere? Are they really so out of touch as to be unable to even say blogosphere without the italics, as if this was some mystical place inhabited by three-nippled martians?

You know, most of the time, bloggers like me don't mind people like Costas. He does good work. I think Rick Reilly does fine work too. Even the worst baseball beat writer has something to contribute. But when people like Costas and Bissinger take their high-minded, imperious, tyrannical stance that they're better than you, that their opinions count for more, that your college education means less than their college education... well, that angers me. Sort of a lot.

Costas put Leitch into a few corners on his show, and, hey, it's his show, he can do whatever he wants. But a real journalist would have pointed the audience's attention to this, written by Mr. Leitch himself about two months ago, addressed to Costas:

Hey, Bob: Those people, the ones you're calling "get-a-life losers?" THESE ARE YOUR VIEWERS. They are not this special mutant brand of human who has simply bubbled up from the nether since the Internet came around. They're people who, for years, have had no choice but to be talked to by you, with no voice of their own to respond. For years, you've had a free ride; you've had your platforms, and you've been able to spout invective about whatever tickled your fancy. This is your right; you've certainly earned it.

But — with all due respect, sir, from a fellow Cardinals fan and a longtime admirer — why are you the only one who gets to talk? Are you seriously claiming that the people who watch your shows, the people who invest their time and money into this the sports enterprise that has allowed you to thrive, the people who pay your salary ... are you really claiming that they're "get-a-life losers?" These are the people who have been watching you all along. It's one thing to want to elevate the nature of sports discourse; heck, we kind of want to do that too. (Kind of.) It's another thing to portray this divide as one between "People Who Are QUALIFIED To Talk About Sports" and "Internet Get-A-Life Losers." It's that kind of attitude that shows blatant contempt for your viewers — your customers, man! — and makes the outlet that is the Web that much more important.

Costas sees bloggers as a threat not just because they express opinions he doesn't agree with or use humor he doesn't find funny, and his disdain for them isn't based solely on the fact that some bloggers are truly awful (it embarrasses me to have to type this because it would seem obvious, but... yes, I admit, the Internet isn't all good). No, I think it comes down to this: Costas knows, deep down, some bloggers are better than he is, and smarter, and more educated, and maybe can even speak truer than he on subjects like steroids (ask Bob the chemist from Michigan) or euthanasia (ask John the lifelong horse trainer). And he sees his future threatened, his voice minimized. And -- this is in his defense now -- who in his shoes wouldn't try to do all he can to keep the little guy down?

Again, most of the time I have no problem with Costas. I like him, even. Seriously, there's no one else I'd rather have anchoring Olympics coverage for NBC. I suppose I'm just disappointed he doesn't know better.

Bissinger, on the other hand...

I really don't know where to start. Maybe by defending Deadspin's commentators, the scourge of the Earth, as Buzz would have you believe.

A lot can go unsaid in one-liners, the sort Deadspin readers use and Buzz seems to despise. You've heard the phrase a picture's worth a thousand words? A joke is as well. For instance, when one says about Bissinger, "I noticed a surprising lack of onions on his belt," he's not merely calling Bissinger old (because old people should have onions on their belts, thus the "surprising lack of"), and believe it or not, he's also not just making a reference to a Simpson's episode; he's suggesting there's something inherently off-putting -- trite, perhaps -- about a middle-aged man going apeshit on a "whippersnapper"; that there's something about that not worth commenting on, so he'll instead make that Simpson's reference, try to get a couple people to laugh. The implication is that this is a better use of time, not doing what I'm doing now: explaining why Bissinger's an idiot, akin to explaining a joke, which no one likes to do.

Also, this might be hard for someone as humorless as Bissinger to comprehend, but it is possible, when two parties share the same point of view, for one party to say something completely opposite of what he means, and for the other party to recognize this dissonance between saying and meaning and to find amusement in that dissonance, and to express that amusement with a sound one might recognize as "laughter." I think there's a word to describe this sort of highly evolved, purely human form of communication. Um. What is that term? What is it, what is it...

There's value in communicating by humor: it's entertaining. It's interesting. And it can be good.

On that note -- has anyone actually read Buzz Bissinger? I respect the guy's work ethic, but his writing simply isn't very good. I wrote a report on Friday Night Lights in a college journalism class -- leave it to the journalism department of all departments in higher learning to make you write a book report, which we've done since, what, 4th grade? -- and I believe I described Bissinger's prose as a cross between staid and purple. This is the style he's spent 40 years trying to craft, and if you spend 40 years on anything you're bound to make it passable, but still... that's a terrible combination. It's like a high school writer wannabe who tries a bit too hard and ends up with one too many adjunctives, or a poet-manque who hasn't figured out the difference between "O" and "Oh." And what Bissinger says about his kid growing up not reading books... maybe he should, you know, do some parenting.

Okay, this rant's gone on too long. I'll end on this: as a public service -- really, for Bissinger, because apparently he's not aware of any -- let me go into my RSS and pluck a very, very small sample of great blogs:
I don't know how to emphasize that this is just a tiny sampling of outstanding writing (and reporting) you can find on the Internet. There are so many great blogs by people you haven't heard of -- me neither -- that I couldn't possibly link to any one of them without feeling the need -- obligation, even -- to link to five more.

I try to look at these sites as often as I can, but obviously the day has its limits, so I only get to look at a fraction of them on any particular day or even week. But that gets to the heart of my point: The Internet has made it so that if we choose, we can never be uninformed. Imagine that. Our generation will have grown up in an age when we can all be as smart as we want -- as smart as the time we're willing to put in to exercise our brain. If you think about it, that's amazing. And here we have people like Bissinger representing some nebulous "old guard" telling us that we're doing a disservice to our children by giving them a multitude of options. His is a very small, very narrow mind, and when it at last exits stage right, we'll not be one shilling poorer for it.

And if we extrapolate a little further: when Bissinger's kind -- you know, the narrow-minded, like our President, who just had to settle his father's grudge with Saddam, or our Secretary of Defense, who's more interested in peddling blame than figuring out what's going on under his nose, or parts of our electorate, who can't see past Obama's association with Jeremiah Wright -- finally takes their hands off this world we share, we're going to set things right. I'm not sure how, but doesn't it excite you that we're gonna get our chance to try?

POSTSCRIPT: Sam Mellinger of The Star gives a more leveled point of view on this topic.