August 24, 2009

Chris Brown: How Blogs Killed (and Saved) Sports Writing: Online sportswriting is killing newspaper sports columns, argues Chris Brown of Smart Football, and he couldn't be happier about it. Brown compares today's sports blogging to what legendary reporter Grantland Rice was doing decades before convention smothered the creativity out of sports journalism. "'The Four Horsemen' would not have been published by a reputable institution anytime in the last fifty-years. By modern standards, it is not a very good sports story," Brown writes. "It is merely the greatest sports story of all time."

posted by rcade to football at 12:02 PM - 10 comments

Until such time as you can hold up a card that says "" and be shown into the Red Sox dressing room, this article is fiction.

As for the article... It appears to be an article praising an old writer, tenuously tied into sports blogging.

All I can say is no sports blog I've read comes close to that level of prose and style. Sports blogs are the same as every other sort of blog. Self important "look at me, my words are important" pretentious nonsense.

Feel free to point me to a blog that may change my opinion. (That's serious BTW, because if there IS a site out there that carries writing like Grantland Rice, I want to read it!)

posted by Drood at 02:14 PM on August 24, 2009

The article isn't about the kind of sportswriting that requires locker room access so an athlete can tell you he gave "110 percent." It's about expanding the form of what constitutes sportswriting, which has become stodgy as practiced by print newspapers. Considering the number of times that a print sports columnist has rated a front-page link here, vs. the number of blogs, I think the argument is pretty sound.

posted by rcade at 03:20 PM on August 24, 2009

All I can say is no sports blog I've read comes close to that level of prose and style

You're not looking very hard. Basketball certainly has a couple with TrueHoop and the ChaunceyBillups/Wizznuts writers. Baseball must have dozens.

posted by yerfatma at 03:24 PM on August 24, 2009

You cannot comapre bloggging about sports to actual "beat" sportswriting.

I've yet to see sports blog writing that isn't amateurish. People without access are amateurs.

I see Internet Fanboy-ism has spread from regular Metafilter to Sports Filter.

posted by The_Special_Juan at 04:51 PM on August 24, 2009

I think blog sportswriting is much more substantive and interesting than anything I read in the Wash Post.

posted by bperk at 05:52 PM on August 24, 2009

People without access are amateurs.

Access is great, but it also leads to sportswriters who have to keep people happy or they lose access. There's a role for people on the inside and a role for those on the outside.

posted by rcade at 06:19 PM on August 24, 2009

When I want to read about the Red Sox, for example, increasingly the best and most informative sources are a select few bloggers.

If I want to read drivel, I read Dan Shaughnessy.

Access doesn't improve bad writing. I actually can't believe anyone that's paying attention would disagree with Brown.

posted by justgary at 07:27 PM on August 24, 2009

Access is increasingly pointless when athletes speak more candidly on Twitter than they do in the locker room. Michael Beasley's recent online meltdown is evidence of this.

To carry on with justgary's example, one of the big sports stories in Boston is the complete fade of Jason Varitek's baseball skills, and the obvious need to bench him and get Victor Martinez behind the plate every day.

Sports blogger Chad Finn of
Josh Beckett, whose respect for Varitek is well documented, endured his worst start in weeks on a day in which his favorite catcher was pulled from the starting lineup just three hours before game time with neck soreness.

You know what that is? Coincidence. Nothing more.

Yes, we know Beckett is obsessively prepared, a dedicated slave to his own routine. He likes things just so, and he gets angry (or angrier) when they are not. Even Terry Francona noted that his ace seemed anxious after learning Varitek would not be behind the plate. But Varitek's absence had nothing -- OK, very little -- to do with Beckett's struggles last night.

Sports blogger Joe Veno of Fire Brand of the American League:
Jason Varitek has been a great asset over the years. A notoriously great "game-caller," if that exists. A great leader in the clubhouse, which believe it or not, does actually matter--although impossible to quantify. Varitek has given the Red Sox pitching staff throughout the years, a sense of comfort that is only known by the players within the lines. He has been "The Captain."...Again, an asset.

But Victor Martinez needs to continue to catch most of the time. Four out of every five days, preferably.

Now for professional sports writer John Tomase of the Boston Herald:
The Red Sox captain was a late scratch last night, forcing Victor Martinez to move behind the plate to catch Beckett for the first time. The two had never so much as thrown a side session together, and it showed.

Martinez hastily huddled with Varitek before the game, and then did the same with Beckett, but it's unfair to expect any catcher to walk right in and know how Beckett ticks. The staff ace has spoken in the past about how the get-to-know-you process with Varitek took much of his first season here in 2006. And as he told last week, he doesn't spend a ton of time reading scouting reports, instead putting himself in the best position possible physically to have every pitch at his disposal, while relying on his backstop to know the ins and outs of opposing tendencies.

Still, the numbers are hard to ignore. Beckett is 14-2 with a 2.52 ERA when Varitek is his catcher. When someone else catches him, Beckett is 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA.

"No discounting Varitek's value," read the headline in the Herald.


Now, I suppose reasonable people can disagree...but I don't see any appreciable increase in the quality of writing in the third example. (None of the three are terribly well written, of course.) Sure, Tomase got a quote or two from the players involved. But do those quotations add appreciably to our understanding of the situation? In this case, I'd argue that they don't.

As far as I'm concerned, the "pro" John Tomase got the story wrong, and the two "amateur" bloggers got it right. Varitek is toast, and no amount of "game calling skills" or analysis based on a miniscule sample size is going to convince me otherwise.

(And don't even get me started on the complete inability of the legions of professional Boston sports writers and talkers to recognize that the Sox' biggest flaw is their porous defense.)

posted by Venicemenace at 09:35 PM on August 24, 2009

Exhibit A in support: Rob Neyer. I'd link to him, but the worldwide leader has put him behind the paywall (curse you ESPN!). Even his articles, per se, seem like blog posts, and he's certainly expanded the usual ground covered by baseball writers (among others).

posted by trox at 12:27 AM on August 25, 2009

Funny how Mitch Albom was mentioned as one "school" of writing...I remember when reading his articles was fun. Sure, he wrote the usual beat columns, or tear-jerkers, but he also wrote this, and had a quasi-regular column in the Detroit Free Press where he'd give his observations on the week in sports, like how a bad game by Mike Vernon was probably due to his moonlighting as lead singer for Loverboy. I couldn't find links that you don't need to register for, but he wrote a tour of the Tiger clubhouse back in 87 that was hilarious at the time, an interview with the tarp that attacked Vince Coleman, shopping for underwear with Petr Klima and his interpreter, and going to a Tigers game to see Cecil Fielder with Joe Dumars, Steve Yzerman and Barry Sanders. Great stuff all around. Then he became a radio and TV pundit, and a best-selling author, and the fun got sucked out of his writing. God, I miss those days...

posted by MeatSaber at 03:33 AM on August 25, 2009

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