Cafe 227

Friday, May 25, 2007

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio, and What About the Sportswriters Who Wrote About You?

I have been having this discussion with people on this blog, chat rooms, and in person on-and-off for ten years, so many are probably sick of hearing me talk about it, but a few recent articles have forced me to proselytize yet again. I am outraged and concerned at the demise of the talented sportswriter (beat or otherwise). It's past the point of crisis for sports fans. A few examples.

Jayson Stark, a mediocre ESPN columnist, is attempting to make money by writing a book about Overrated and Underrated baseball players. You can read his internet column about it here. His first two lines ("I never set out to be The Ultimate Czar of Overratedness and Underratedness. It just happened.") followed by some yuckster back-tracking and explaining is basically standard ESPN columnist fare these days.

Bill Simmons, who is entertaining once every fifth column, continues to tarnish the sports journalism world by lacing his very solid analysis with bathroom humor.

Arash Markazi still has a job.

Mitch "I plagiarize but people love me because I make them feel good about their dead relatives" Albom still has a job!

Jeff Schultz (of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) who writes. In Fragments (example here.) All the time. And no one. Likes him. Still has a job.

Heck, even Deadspin seems tired lately.

Somewhere along the way, sports journalism has died. Now, I think there are a few noble souls who still genuinely try to practice the lost art of solid analysis, non-hyperbolous yet soaring description, and piercing insight. I would say Tim Kurkjian, Peter Gammons, Wilbon, David O'Brien (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) Rick Reilly (sometimes), Dr. Z, and Peter King (again, sometimes), are fighting the good fight. Beyond that, we are condemned to having to endure the same in-your-face, over-the-top, let-me-try-to-keep-up-with-the-times hack journalism in every market on a daily basis.

Sports remain as popular as ever and there is no shortage of people interested in them. What, pray tell, is keeping the talented writers who love sports away from devoting their lives to writing about them?

One of the arguments I've heard is that ESPN, like CNN did to regular news, has created an "instant gratification" culture where writers are expected to turn around stories immediately and, thus, quality suffers. I've also heard sportswriters accused of the type of Woodward & Bernstein "Gotcha" journalism that has made athletes limit their access.

These arguments simply don't hold up. Every sports fan knows that if you want the score and the brief synopsis, you can go online or watch SportsCenter. What I (and many others) crave is a return to that thoughtful, well-crafted piece on our beloved team that informs us about the mundane and lifts our spirits with stories of hope for the future (that next hot prospect, that possible trade) in soaring prose that demonstrated a passion for the game that the writer was covering.

Does anyone else feel this way? Am I imagining this decline or do you see it, too?


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