Down in the comments section to an earlier post, the mysterious figure known as Ward York — and by his delicious and nutritious work here — mentioned a dissatisfaction that all of us sports media overconsumers have probably felt at least once (every day). I’ll quote him here: “Why I continue to let the 40-watt sports media world (blog or non-blog) actively disappoint me on a regular basis is beyond me.” He was responding to some typically hail-fellow imbecility from The Sports Bro, in this case from Simmons’ send-off for Deadspin’s Will Leitch. But “Ward” could’ve been referring to any number of big problems in the sports discourse, blog and non-blog.
The one that’s been on my mind of late is how much it is less a discourse than a deafening, concurrent series of ill-considered monologues. In response to those monologues come (sometimes a great many) comments that replicate them almost identically; not questions, not really engagements with the source-post, not even really comments in any meaningful way: just sort of instant homages to both the original post and the commenter himself. I’m aware that this is a pretty broad criticism, and I know that I myself haven’t always done much to change or elevate the dialogue — as long as there are jokes to be made involving a nude Rick Majerus or meandering maunderings about Robinson Cancel and Iron Maiden fans to be written, I’ll be there, like some under-edited Tom Joad with a tendency to place too much importance on Mets wins or losses.
I know, too, those posts are, often, as much about me as they are about what I’m writing about. But I feel that this writing thing (what I do everyday, for a living) has to be a give-and-take, fundamentally: I’m writing (or usually paraphrasing and excerpting, here) for readers to read, because I think or hope that the imagined You might find it interesting/good/bad/whatever. We can’t talk these things over the way we might in a bar, for the most part — and I know you already know this, what I’m writing right now — but that’s what the comments section is for, right? That’s usually what it’s used for here, at least, when it’s used. That attempt at closeness, at remote conversation, seems to me a pretty good justification for the internet in general: it can, even if it doesn’t always, help us communicate with each other; it enables conversations that otherwise couldn’t happen. It’s also good for porn and LOL Animals or whatever, but I prefer the conversational element. (Except when I’m feeling like looking at porn) (then I prefer to be left alone)
Where bad sports blogs — bad blogs in general — let us down is where bad conversations let us down: the person we’re communicating with (or reading) either isn’t interesting or interested enough. Juvenile is juvenile (is Juvenile), and for the most part I don’t spend a lot of time reading blogs that I know aren’t going to add much value to my experience as a reader or sports fan or thinking human being. That’s more Gerard’s thing — the guy’s brain just cannot be satisfied, and so (as far as I can tell) he reads everything, good and bad. And sometimes he sends me stuff to post, when he’s out of range (as he is today, for the most part). And sometimes they are so bad…
Which brings me, late, to my subject. As part of Will Leitch Appreciation Week at Deadspin, the outgoing editor had on e last email exchange with highly compensated Imus-stroker and x-treme blog skeptic Buzz Bissinger. It’s here, it’s probably 8,000 words long, and I’m not going to excerpt it. I wouldn’t even really recommend you read it.
But I can’t help but think it’s some kind of defining statement: two guys in a vacuum, neither with much in the way of insight or even really much interest in what the other’s saying, reiterating the same doofy points they made a couple months ago on TV — points, for one extra dollop of absurdity on top of this shabby sundae, that both reflect the same failing. Which is: a blinkered inability or unwillingness or disinterest to see things through any perspective but their own, and in any way other than “how does this relate to me.”
There are some new twists in this new twist — we find out, for instance, that the hilariously thin-skinned Bissinger thinks that the commenters at Deadspin aren’t as funny as former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell (really), even though both curse a lot — but fundamentally, that’s it. It’s basically, still, two guys talking about themselves in each other’s general direction. I think it explains why I don’t get much enjoyment from either guy’s work (and I have really admired Bissinger’s in the past, and have found his recent magazine stuff really, really terrible). The reason being that it’s fundamentally not for me, or really any reader, and not about much other than the author. This doesn’t necessarily apply to Will’s quick-hit shit on the blog — it’s hard to be very good or very bad in 75 words — but I think his rise to demi-celebrity and facile fan-positive populism (or whatever you want to call his faux-naive worldview) definitely reflects that; Bissinger’s outlandish capacity for taking offense and newfound unwillingness to be surprised by a story he’s reporting (both of which are on great display here) sure does.
I don’t know which one of these guys is more to blame for the poverty of this particular non-conversation (I’d give the edge to Buzz), but I don’t think it matters much. What matters (maybe) is the conversation itself: in its stunning inadequacy in terms of baseline communication, and its amazing poverty of vision, empathy or insight, it’s an instant classic of bloggy non-discourse.