Sucking Up A Storm With S.I.’s Chris Ballard

Posted in Blogged Down, Sports Journalism at 6:32 am by

A long transcontinental flight gave me time to catch up on some old mail, a couple of unfinished books, yesterday’s papers, ‘The Fog Of War’ and least interesting of all, Chris Ballard’s “Writing Up A Storm (How The Web Is Changing Sports Coverage”) in the latest Sports Illustrated.

It’s tough to argue with Ballard’s assertion that sports bloggery is packed with drooling, gossip-mongering social reprobates with little or no training, credentials, etc. Because after all, it takes a journalism degree to deliver the hard hitting content you’ll find in a serious sports mag like S.I. For example, did you know the Knicks’ David Lee and S.I. swimsuit model Anne V. are dating?

Seriously, other than those stuck on airplanes or dentist offices, who regularly reads Sports Illustrated anymore? The photography is still top notch, some of the reportage of a high quality (Tom Verducci’s no slouch), but far too much of the modern SI reads like a desperate attempt to mimmick the breezy, personality-parade that is ESPN The Magazine.

(Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly — irrelevent in the pre-blog era, too).

I’m not sure what purpose it serves in the year 2006 to rail against the plethora of crud on the internet aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator. There’s a signal-to-noise quotient for all subjects, not merely sports. For every thousand poorly written, shit-stirring-for-the-sake-of-it-blog, there’s still a sizable minority of articulate, original voices that weren’t likely to be sanctioned by Time-Warner anytime soon.

(Though that said, it is worth noting that some of those voices, Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Wiseman amongst them, are SI contributors these days. Just like Chris Ballard.)

A couple of additional observations from this mess of an article :

1) Though I could certainly Die In Peace without reading another word about Bill Simmons’ career trajectory, there is something kind of amazing about an ESPN competitor giving Simmons that much coverage. I’m struggling to think of a good analogy — Fox’s Sunday NFL show profiling Chris Berman?

2) Next time, I sincerely hope Ballard and SI will commission more photographs of dudes hunched over their laptops. We really need more of that kind of thing.

3) “Leitch is not surprised by Deadspin’s popularity. “It seemed like there was a gaping hole for a site like this,” he says. “Most sites were either hard-core heavy stats, Bill Jamesian, or they were ‘Jets suck!’”

Indeed, I can’t tell you how long the sabermetric approach of The Sports Frog proved daunting to someone like me, who just wanted some light entertainment.

Likewise, the partisian sentiments flowing from a blog like Yard Work so completely overwhelm whatever else the site might have to offer in terms of satire, absurdity, etc. At bedtime tonight, after you’ve given thanks to Will Leitch for inventing the internet, be sure to give him very special credit for pioneering just whatever the fuck it is he wants to continue taking credit for.

4) As paradigm-smashing as the the current sports blogging boom might seem, Ballard’s version of da ‘sphere seems exclusively populated by, well, white guys of a particular vintage hunched over laptops. The sole non-male voices heard from, for better or worse, are the anonymous young ladies behind On The DL (correctly cited by Ballard as “the most risque thing about Deadspin).

Sheesh. They have the internet on computers now. Maybe next time (said in Geico caveman voice) Ballard can do a little research.

10 Responses to “Sucking Up A Storm With S.I.’s Chris Ballard”

  1. Repoz says:

    “It seemed like there was a gaping hole for a site like this”

    Unfortunato…that gaping hole under the bed in the Twilight Zones’ “Little Girl Lost” closed up back in ’62.

  2. David R. says:

    Goatse.cx RIP

  3. Bob Cook says:

    SI put a Q&A with Simmons up on its Web site. It’s fascinating, in the sense that every comment by Simmons wreaks of abject self-hatred and raging insecurity. What he really wants to do, of course, is write screenplays. His brief foray with Kimmel looks like it was meant to be an attempt to kill the Sports Guy. But like Jekyll with Hyde, Simmons just can’t ditch the Sports Guy so easily.

  4. That Guy says:

    Wow, you have a problem with an article that condemns the very medium which you use to give readers nothing but snide remarks.

    That’s surprising.

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this website so that I could see different photos of Julian Tavares and Joey Gathright going at it. Now THAT’S journalism that doesn’t require a degree.

  5. GC says:

    “Wow, you have a problem with an article that condemns the very medium which you use to give readers nothing but snide remarks.”

    actually, my comment about Ballard’s version of the sportsy bloggity-blogosphere being a bunch of “white dudes of a particularl vintage hunched over laptps” wasn’t meant to be snide.

    A cursory scan of this photo-swiping, cut & pasting, non-journalistic website will reveal, T.G., myriad examples of this very medium being taken to task for inaccuracies, out-to-lunchism, ethical transgressions and failing to kiss my ass often enough. An equal amount of research will also show no shortage of praise for several print journalists (one of ‘em, a Ballard colleague at S.I.), a couple of whom are regular whipping-persons for the new media mavens

    But that said, thank you very much for correctly pointing out the photos of Julian and Joey came from elsewhere, as my journalism degree is as transparent as your skull.

  6. That Guy says:

    Thanks for the quick response, GC.

    I appreciated you pointing out what wasn’t meant to be snide in your article, such as “Rick Reilly – irrelevant in the pre-blog era too.”

    Also, if your journalism degree is as transparent as my skull, that must mean it’s non-existent. But this is a “non-journalistic” website, so I suppose that doesn’t matter.

    Oh, but thanks for reprinting those aforementioned photos from elsewhere, as though including them in your website doesn’t amount to publication and therefore (!) journalism.

    A cursory scan of my previous comment would’ve let you know I disagreed with your article, not how well your blog praises certain S.I writers or discusses the online sports medium itself.

    I’ll still be reading!

  7. GC says:


    I’m sorry, but I see nothing snide about calling Rick R. irrelevant. I think that’s a pretty direct way of dismissing him.

    Here are a few popular definitions for “journalism” :

    “a style of writing for presenting bare facts to describe news events” ;

    “the profession of reporting or photographing or editing news stories for one of the media ”

    Though I’m not particularly hung up on the distinction of whether or not CSTB constitutues “journalism” (my “non-journalism” reference above wasn’t entirely serious. You might even call it SNIDE), I don’t think cutting and pasting a picture of Julian Tavares is in and of itself an act of journalism, though perhaps future generations will revise the definition to include such an act.

    But while we’re on the indirect tip, you’ve not actually explained what you disagreed with other than, presumably, the “snide” tone.

    As always, it’s a fucking blast to engage in spirited debate with someone who doesn’t have the courage of his convictions to sign his or her name.

  8. That Guy says:

    Thanks for the tip on leaving my name, GC. I’ll have that in mind for next time.

    Again, cut and paste a picture of Tavares, write something snide along with it, and…you have something of an online newspaper (or call it a blog, whatever).

    As for what I disagreed with, it was simply your assessment of Ballard’s article. Is it a prerequisite that I always agree with you? Perhaps you’re not ready to have comments publicly available.

    I also thought it was peculiar that the online sports realm condemned in Ballard’s article was…condemned by someone in the online sports realm.

    You can be snide all you want, I’ll still be reading!

  9. GC says:


    yes. It is a prequisite that you always agree with me.

    As far as not having comments publicly available, there’s nothing about views in opposition to my own being expressed here. If the editor-having-the-last-word aspect is troubling, by all means, start your own “online newspaper.” I dare say there’s more opportunity for free expression in the CSTB comments section than you’ll find on the letters page of Sports Illustrated, or for that matter, some of the comments sections of the blogs lionized by Ballard.

    So I think I’m pretty ready to make comments publicly available. You, on the other hand, don’t seem nearly as ready to stand by something you’ve posted.

    I’d have condemned Ballard’s article if I’d been writing on the back of a shovel. I’m hardly an apologist for online sports blogging. It’s Ballard’s incredibly narrow view of the genre rather that’s worthy of examination.

  10. That Guy says:

    Here’s my final stand: I simply disagreed with your assessment of the article.

    - Hedrick Rivero

    Now you can have the “editor-having-the-last-word aspect” while I’ll still be reading!

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