Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You know what they say

Opinions are like assholes...Buzz Bissinger eats them everybody's got one.

As you might guess from that opener, this post is:

A. About the Costas/Leitch/Bissinger/Braylon Edwards (mostly Braylon Edwards) debacle
B. Judging by the forced gay joke, likely to play into every stereotype imaginable about bloggers

I almost feel duty-bound to write this post, as though we wouldn't be a legitimate sports blog if we didn't chime in with our two cents (I mean, we're not a legitimate sports blog anyway, but it's nice to have a dream). I've read a handful of posts on other blogs about this. Some I agreed with, others I heartily disagreed with. Some made me think, some made me laugh, some made me scratch my head. According to the formula, I think it's here where I say, "You know...just like blogs in general." But eh, that's not really my point.

I should probably stop here quickly and say, whatever else my feelings might be, I'm totally and horribly biased about all of this. On pretty much any issue, I will side with Will Leitch. I've met the guy (briefly), I've interviewed him (as you can see on the sidebar), and he once linked to a post I wrote, which remains easily the biggest (and almost only) exposure this blog has gotten. So as far as I'm concerned, Will Leitch is totally and utterly the shit. Just wanted to spell that out.

Since I'm being totally honest, I'll admit right now I haven't watched the various YouTube clips of all this. That's right folks - I am embodying the bad blogger stereotype to the motherfucking T by writing about something I haven't even bothered to research. Look, I watched all of season two of Extras over a couple days a month or so ago, so I think I've reached my "excruciating awkwardness" quota for a good long while. So, um, yeah. I have no business saying anything about anything.

BUT...and this may not be much of a but...I can't really figure out what the big deal is. I mean, sure, if you enjoy watching the video, more power to you. I'm certainly not going to make the slightest judgment for enjoying the occasional (or even not so occasional) embedded video:

And I certainly can't be accused of having good taste. More on the above video (and others like it) in an upcoming post, though.

Anyway, I appreciate that the whole brouhaha (KSK already took "hullabaloo") has made for its own brand of surreal entertainment, but what I don't get is why so many bloggers have felt the need to address the issues raised by the likes of Bissinger. There probably was a time awhile ago where it was worth actually responding to the arguments put forth by the mainstream media (and yes, occasionally they were arguments, not just random frothing), but the debate hasn't moved on one inch in the intervening time. So really, what's the point?

Because really, I'm far from convinced the MSM and the blogs are in direct competition anyway. Blogs remain fairly niche entities; even a site with robust traffic like Deadspin pales in comparison to what ESPN gets. I certainly wouldn't object if Deadspin (or if I can be openly delusional, this little blog) enjoyed the same kind of traffic ESPN gets - Mr. Leitch certainly deserves it, assuming he even would want the attendant pressure - but that isn't happening anytime soon, I don't think. Bissinger's job, whatever he might think, is safe. It isn't threatened by the likes of us, and there's no need to ambush Will Leitch in some half-baked attempt to stop the demise of old media. And honestly, I'm pretty happy with the current situation.

I suppose there could be something "elitist" about what I'm arguing - and I'm aware what I'm arguing is maybe tangential to the whole Bissinger issue, but if you've got nothing better to do (and if you're reading this blog, I suspect you don't) stay with me here - but I'm pretty sure it's not. Elitist, that is. (Sorry, got a little lost in that sentence.) And not just because I like to reserve the word "elitist" for condescending generalizations about Pennsylvanians. You know, like "Pennsylvanians start reading Buzz Bissinger columns because they're bitter and poor and assholes."

Anyway, I don't think the fact that I like blogs having a smaller audience is elitist, at least not necessarily. The cool thing is that blogs lack a built-in audience; they have to sink or swim on their own merits in a way that, say, a Gene Wojciechowski column doesn't. Because Mr. Wojciechowski's column has the ESPN brand on it, people will read it. Lots of people. Some will like it, some will hate it, and some will waste hours of their dwindling lives making fun of it (hey, that reminds me...). But the readership it gets isn't really a reflection of its own quality. It's a reflection of the ESPN brand.

And yes, this exists with blogs to a certain extent. Robert Weintraub is proof enough of that. You can argue that for lots of little blogs (like this one), the only realistic way they'll get traffic these days is to score a link from a bigger blog. But there's a reason the likes of Awful Announcing, Every Day Should Be Saturday, and Fire Joe Morgan keep getting linked and I don't, and that's because they're, well, better. I'm OK with that. I love reading a Ken Tremendous post and not even being able to work out how someone could come up with something that creative. It's written magic, I guess, and it's riveting to read. Also, it's funny and has swearing, which I'm a fucking fan of.

So I think there's a sorting mechanism, an imperfect but fairly robust meritocracy at work among the blogs. Blogs are a niche thing that appeals to a certain subset of sports fans - the adjective I think I'll choose is "irreverent", although "fucking awesome" is good too - and come in all shapes and sizes. They'll never replace the mainstream media because they're fundamentally different things. And I have to say, thank goodness on both counts. And I can't help but draw the conclusion from all that that it really doesn't matter what Rick Reilly, Bob Costas, or Buzz Bissinger think. Unless a funny post can be made of making fun of them, of course. But to treat their criticisms seriously? Eh, I'll pass.

And yet...I just did. That's some tasty hypocrisy.

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