@BIGSPORTSWRITER On the State of Sports Discussion: 'The Great Ones Are Weary of Those Who Read Them'
@BIGSPORTSWRITER, our mysterious masked Twitter hero, got to thinking about the state of sports discusison last night, particularly how people can't just debate, they have to WIN. It began when he was talking about watching Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones play and bemoaning the sudden descent of AJ's career. People reacted with their usual aggression and vitriol, and then Mr. Sports Journo went contemplative, and then I spent a few minutes copying, pasting, and lightly editing said contemplations. For your reading and thinking pleasure:
Knowing somebody's VORP and win shares isn't the same as seeing them play. And not because "seeing them play" means I know more. It doesn't. Often it means I know or knew less. It simply means that I can sit in a room and tell you what it was like to watch somebody play. No finality, no punctuation. Just stories.
Good lord—I mean, if you don't love sports for the stories, what the hell are you watching for? What the hell are you following me for? Sports dialogue can be just that, dialogue. A mutual trading of ideas. I'm not here to declare victory over any of you. That's not fun.
I don't know when it got like this. And I don't mean twitter—I mean talking sports. I'm not sure when the win/loss columns shifted from the box scores to the bars and water coolers. When it became more important to be right about a topic, or feel like you bested somebody than just talking it out.
I can remember seeing Around the Horn for the first time, and seeing actual points being given and taken away during conversation. And thinking to myself, Holy hell. They did it. They killed conversation.
We just completely lost the line between a good, spirited debate—and some bizarre necessity to compensate by declaring victory.
I've had people call me a relic when I talk baseball. I have original fucking copies of Bill's abstract from the late 70's and early 80's.
"People like you don't understand" Why accuse? How did that become the first response when talking sports?
And this is not to—repeat, NOT to—take shots a "sportswriters today" or "young kids." It's just a weird, undeniable culture shift. It's not so different form what we see when people talk about education or politics. So maybe it was inevitable. But Jesus.
We're just breeding such jaded young writers and thinkers in sports—I shudder to imagine what it's like in subjects of greater mass. It's no wonder you see these young guys bending the rules and cutting corners to be "first." It's easier to delineate than "right."
And I'd love to just paint it as ESPN's fault, but it's not. Sports radio fed the combative side of sports talk long before E! emerged. They just smelled the blood in the water, swam fast and set up shop.
Because columnists, writers, and pundits take a beating. For being arrogant, for being ignorant, for being wrong. But how can you have your kids type their last name into Google, and see every horrible thing on the planet said about their parent, and then expect them NOT to respond with some kind of barb when you say something out of pocket to them? Even the good ones—the great ones—are weary of those that read them. Part of the reason you won't see some of them on twitter.
I think most would agree that I'm tough on writers. Known and Unknown. But somebody has to be tough on readers too. It's a culture and everyone should be held accountable. Everyone should be trying to grow up.
Yes, steel sharpens steel. But there are so many times when steel is completely undeserved. Wood, clay, water, bread, wine—they all build.
Arguing sports is supposed to be a spar, not a duel. I've lost a majority of my most interesting debates. That's why they were memorable.
I don't know—I want people to disagree with me, and I want to disagree with people. That's why I'm here. But the weird, aggressive anger. The bizarre complexes, often from people within my industry that either doubt or fear that I'm real, as if my status would some how invalidate their own? It's draining. And off-putting. And sometimes just really fucking creepy.
With that, I'm pretty sure I've over-ran my facetime. So feel free to mute me or deduct as many points as you see fit.
I'd love to hear from others, sportswriters and sports fans and whoever else. What do you think about the state of discussion today, when it comes to sports as well as in general?
Now, I don't really know if Around The Horn's format is as destructive as our friend Mr. Sports Journo makes it out to sound. I'll confess, I watch it sometimes. To me, it's just a goofball take on arguing about sports, and I'm pretty sure Reali says something like, "Where points are made up and wins don't matter." Or at least I think he says that. Or used to. Or maybe I dreamed it. Now I can't remember, so help me out in the comments if I'm right or wrong there.
The problem that shows like Around The Horn, and the radio talk shows that @BIGSPORTSWRITER mentions, and other televisions hows like Pardon The Interruption and whatever else shows talking heads debating one another, isn't with the programming itself but how people process it. We act a lot more like the things they watch on television than any of us would care to admit.
Here's a stupid for-instance from my own life: On Saturday, Katie and I kayaked to an island and walked on the beach. It had weird and cool seashells. I picked up one crazy-looking seashell and said in a weird semi-British accent semi-crazed scientist voice, "Ooh, I must take this back to my lab and study it."
"Aw," says Katie, "that was such a good show."
"You were making a 'Fringe' reference, right?"
"No, actually, I was just acting stupid."
We'd gotten really into Fringe for awhile, but haven't watched it in probably two or three months. So, even scarier, I'd made a Fringe reference without ever consciously thinking about it. TV GETS IN YOUR HEAD, PEOPLE!
Where was I going with that?
I don't even know exactly. Be careful little brain how you think? Who knows.
Anyway, @BIGSPORTSWRITER is dead-on about how people treat sports debate these days. Not everyone, obviously. But most people. So many of us spend all our energy trying to tear down someone else and what they said rather than simply add to the conversation. It's like the default response is to destroy, not to build. Maybe because destruction feels good and is way cheaper and easier than building, and being lazy is way more fun.
The crap thing about that is, if the majority are trying to destroy, then destruction is what we'll see most, and the more we see destroyed the less inclined we'll be to build, and that's how empires can become ruins.
Anyway. A fun story, and then, I really want to hear your thoughts in the comments. Deep thoughts, shallow thoughts, funny thoughts, serious thoughts, all thoughts are welcome. Go and think well.