06.27.08

One Last Leitch/Bissinger Convo: It’s A Show About Nothing!

Posted in Blogged Down at 3:06 pm by

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.

7 Responses to “One Last Leitch/Bissinger Convo: It’s A Show About Nothing!”

  1. james says:

    well said.

    divergent thoughts:
    what’s exceptionally creepy to me about lil weitch is how disarmingly cynical his “hokey”-ness affect is. i didn’t really get a taste of it until the hbo blowup, but reading the initial email exchange with gc gave me the creepy-chills.

    not to recall any skeletons in the closet, but is it safe to say that by accepting a “legitimate” writing job (i still don’t know which it is, might look it up), that weitch is to the totem of “blog ethic” as rick rodney is to xedgex?

  2. james says:

    also, do you think there’s a chance leitch continues to use the royal “we/us/our” in his next gig and is promptly shitcanned?

  3. mush nick says:

    Delgado has 6 RBI! In one game! At Yankee Stadium!

  4. andrew says:

    What bugs me about the ol’ sports blogosphere is the abysmal lack of creativity. Most of the sites cover the same stories, in the exact same way, and each with their own opinion/snide comment. For example, you go to True Hoop and see what Henry has posted in the morning, then you go to the (awful) aol FanHouse and see they have basically taken what Henry has written verbatim, and simply added their own comment to it. And I’m sure you could go to Deadspin and many other sites and it’s the same thing over and over and over. And this is supposedly “news.” I used to have my RSS feeder loaded up until I realized I could just go to a couple sites and get the actual ‘news’- for me that being True Hoop and Baseball Think Factory. I’ll go to other sites if they actually have interesting/different takes on things or are funny (such as here). My main point being there just isn’t much creativity out there…which to me isn’t terribly surprsising considering most of the people running these blogs do nothing but watch sports.

  5. mush nick says:

    here’s some breaking news for you… scientist have finally figured out how to return the dead to life. Because Carlos Delgado has 9 RBIs!

  6. Rog says:

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been making the same rants on this and many other boards for a while now and it’s nice to hear someone else saying it, too. Technology’s a blessing and a curse. There’s probably too much minutiae being discussed on the topic of sports and there are very few places where you can feel like you’re actually having a fruitful discussion. Just remember that it could be a lot worse. Have you seen the boards on CBS Sportsline?!? At least not all of the places to go and read about sports are that bad but, yeah, it’s disappointing that Deadspin is such a ‘hit’ with the sports fans. It’s much MUCH more of a massive disappointment to know that every single thing that you just posted can also be applied to politics. That is not as easy to joke about.

  7. GC says:

    though I was initially intrigued by Will saving the Buzz dialogue for his last day on the job, that it really came down to, “but what do you think of me?” was all too predictable. Leitch built the D.S. brand largely on his own hokey-as-fuck persona and it only figures that one of his parting shots would consist of a desperate attempt to ply some faint praise out of his most prominent public critic.

    It was slightly illuminating to discover that Buzz’ hard-on for Will was not 100% motivated by a huge concern for the future of sports journalism. But it wouldn’t have looked that great on HBO had Bissinger started off with, “I think you’re full of shit — and you slagged off my last book”.

    Andrew, I agree with your general point but there is some original stuff out there. Bugs & Cranks and Hardwood Paroxysm both deliver so much more than mere Sports-On-Fark content. If some of the bigger guns reflect a somewhat dopey/narrow worldview, that’s not necessarily a bad business model.

Leave a Reply