In turn, plenty of online sports commentators acutely resent their old-media peers. That’s no surprise, since criticism of the mainstream press is a blogosphere staple. Still, there’s an edge here that’s missing elsewhere. Several sports blogs, like firejoemorgan.com and stopmikelupica.com (“Daring to challenge the dullest mind in sportswriting”), were founded to criticize specific sports journalists. And in a column written a couple years ago, Simmons introduced a quote from the Globe’s Ryan thusly: “You can practically see the spittle flying out Ryan’s mouth as he writes the following words . . .”
What the Sam Hill is going on here? Why do a bunch of guys who love sports, and love writing about sports, fear and loathe each other so much? And just how long can this ugly little internecine feud last?
The interactive gangbang
Buzz Bissinger is contrite. For one thing, he says, his enraged tone in the now-infamous confrontation with Deadspin’s Leitch was out of line. “I was just way over the top,” he tells the Phoenix. “I was too heated up. . . . Will Leitch was just treated with disrespect. You shouldn’t say to someone off the bat that they’re ‘full of shit.’ ”
What’s more, Bissinger admits, he didn’t know as much as he should have before appearing on Costas’s show. “There are some very good blogs dedicated to single subjects,” he acknowledges; his examples include Beerleaguer, dedicated to the Philadelphia Phillies, and profootballtalk.com. They’re very informational. Their goal isn’t to play a snarky game of gotcha, or to be malicious and cruel. They’re great.”
But this contrition has its limits. The good blogs, Bissinger maintains, are the exception. The bad blogs — the ones that privilege glib snideness over reporting and analysis — are the rule. They’re also the most popular. And according to him, they represent the future of the medium.
“The younger generation likes the snarky tone,” says Bissinger. “They like the gossip, they like the juice. I don’t think they really appreciate good writing and reporting, and those, to me, are precious arts. . . . It’s all some interactive gangbang.”
He adds, “You have blogs that proudly parade around saying, ‘We don’t need no stinking credibility or stinking information — it doesn’t matter what you say or do if you know how to write.’ They cover themselves under the mantle of the First Amendment. But if John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had any idea what the First Amendment would have wrought, they would have canceled it.”
This comes close to a comprehensive list of anti-sports-blog grievances, but it omits one major critique: accountability, or the lack thereof. “When I write something, or [the Globe’s Bob] Ryan writes something, our name goes on it,” says the Herald’s Massarotti. “You know where we work. And it’s pretty clear we have to ultimately go face the people we write about. That’s a significant element, because you’re more apt to get their side of the story, and you have to understand that there are consequences and repercussions for your actions. . . . But a large segment of bloggers have the power of having a voice, publicly, without accountability. They can say or write whatever they want. And they never have to answer for it.”