Archive for the ‘Media Culpa’ Category

The email chain lasted for four years. After graduating university, most of us – friends from high school and college acquaintances – started our careers in positions that took about a tenth of our brain power. We fried a good portion of the remaining percentage every night on the type of substances that single men in their early twenties often acquire when they find a disposable income being added to their bank accounts following four years of student poverty. Any leftover creativity that wasn’t wasted on pleasing bosses or succumbing to peer pressure was spent on writing emails to one another.

That’s how it all began.

The messages were awful. We mistook crass – misogynistic, homophobic and sometimes racist jokes – for being clever. We were cynical and cruel, imagining ourselves to be smarter than we actually were. We corresponded throughout each day about the most mundane topics, trying to one up each other with sarcasm and bitterness, all for no apparent purpose. We wrongly considered ourselves too smart to be appreciated by the general public, and so, found appreciation in the inboxes of one another, never considering for a moment that we might not be nearly as unique as we supposed ourselves to be.

For the purpose of the narrative, it would be nice to pretend that it all fell apart because of the Toronto Blue Jays. However, truthfully, we got older, more mature. Our responsibilities at work and in life increased. Nonetheless, it was at the insistence of other members of the email chain that Andrew Stoeten and I take our baseball conversations elsewhere. Days later, I received an invitation from Stoeten to join a newly created blog called Drunk Jays Fans.

We blogged and blogged, received a little bit of notoriety, then a little more and a little more still. We’d grow giddy over gaining mentions on local sports talk radio, and get even more excited for thinly veiled references to our work popping up in newspapers. I think our proudest moment was learning from a journalist covering the Beijing Olympics that we were banned in China. Eventually, a television sports network contacted us about working together, and in a real-life meeting, an executive with the company spoke about us lending them our cool-factor. We were so serious about our future in sports media that we proceeded to mock the term the very next day in a post. So punk rock. So stupid.

Thankfully, the executive looked past our juvenile behavior and allowed us to record a podcast and associate ourselves with something that was a little more credible than Blogger. After a year, they hired Stoeten to write for their website, and a couple years later, extended a job offer to me to write about baseball. We sold our website to them. It went from Drunk Jays Fans to DJF, and we found ourselves writing about sports as a profession.

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I remember reading a profile of Warren Beatty in a Rolling Stone anthology from several years ago. The writer constantly referred to how Beatty would pause for a long period of time before answering any question. Even though his cautious approach was described in a derisive manner, it impressed me.

I liked the idea of being calculated with responses. The interviewer was asking something of him, and instead of jumping to respond and play along with this public relations game, Beatty took his time and was mindful of the potential outcomes of his answers in terms of other people’s perception. That seemed intelligent to me at the time.

Over the past week, I’ve felt an urge to write about Damon Bruce – the KNBR sports talk radio host who went on prejudiced rant against women in sports – but I’ve also felt a corresponding measure of hesitancy.

So, I paused like Beatty might. And now, I think I’m ready to write.

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bill-simmonsGrantland columnist and ESPN analyst Bill Simmons visited Memphis last week to watch the NBA Western Conference Finals between the hometown Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs. The way this match up went was best described by SB Nation’s Spencer Hall.

The Spurs played out the series like landlords overseeing an eviction.

Simmons, it seems, saw things a bit differently. During his BS Report podcast on Wednesday, he spoke about his experience in the city and the effect that Martin Luther King’s 1968 assassination had on the people of Memphis – (!) – to Jalen Rose, who may or may not have been holding a baseball bat at the time:

I didn’t realize the effect [the King assassination] had on that city.

I think from people we talk to and stuff we’ve read, the shooting kind of sets the tone for how the city thinks about stuff. We were at Game 3. Great crowd, they fall behind and the whole crowd got tense. It as like, ‘Oh no, something bad is going to happen.’ And it starts from that shooting and it’s just that mindset they have.

Ugh.

I’m a firm believer in using sports as a means of examining larger social issues. In doing so, we look at the small and familiar to gain a better understanding of the big and unfamiliar. I’m not so sure about reversing that stream because it inevitably reduces whatever “the big” represents. Sports are so drastically unimportant that using something of enormous importance like the assassination of Martin Luther King to explain an element of it lacks perspective, context, understanding and everything else that should inform the most basic of opinions.

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sportsmediaI don’t really think about it all that much, but I’ve spent most of my life being obsessed with sports. I come to this realization from time to time when I reflect back on my childhood, my adolescence, my teenage years, my early twenties, and then yesterday or the day before, and sports are always there. When I was a kid, I remember waiting with controlled anxiety for the newspaper to be delivered. Upon it’s arrival, I’d dismiss the rest of the paper, isolate the Sports section, and unfold it on the living room floor, where I’d lean over it on bended knee, a supplicant to the gods who determined the previous night’s results.

These days, I’m a little more well-rounded, but I still read about sports more than any other topic. There’s no longer a single religious observance, though. I’m aware of the night’s happenings as they occur thanks to websites, Twitter and mobile applications. I read articles, check scores, watch coverage of games, and even communicate with other fans all over the world via social media to learn new perspectives and gain insight. What I don’t do is wait with anything approaching anticipation for the game summaries that I used to worship.

I already have the information.

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2012-2013 NBA Most Valuable Player AwardA few weeks ago, FOX Sports columnist Jon Morosi wrote an especially frustrating piece on the unexpected woes of the Toronto Blue Jays. It was disconcerting not for offering a particularly revealing examination of an ugly and unconsidered truth, but rather because it was the type of column for which the writer very clearly had a narrative-based idea in mind, and then sought out evidence to support it, as opposed to formulating an idea based on the information collected. The result was a column steeped in small sample citations, cherry-picked data and quotations from questionable sources.

It angered me. And so, I wrote a piece in response to the original article in the heat of my righteous indignation.

It was stupid, not because I was wrong in my criticism, but because I was outraged over a column about baseball. Morosi’s writing was an estimated thirty-five times removed from anything resembling importance or relevance, and yet it succeeded in making me feel petulance to the point of expression. This is only made more regrettable by considering that such a reaction was quite possibly the very goal of the author.

I thought of this last night when social media went berserk over the idea of the Miami Herald’s Dan Le Batard voting for someone other than LeBron James for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

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CAN_OSThis is the cover of the Ottawa Sun this morning, after the Ottawa Senators beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the first game of their first round NHL playoff matchup.

It shows Lars Eller, a Canadiens forward, bloodied on the ice after Eric Gryba, a Senators defenseman, ran him over in Montreal’s defensive zone during the second period. It was a play for which Gryba would receive a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct.

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Following a defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals in Vancouver on April 22nd, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was interviewed by Karen Thomson for Team 1040 radio. She asked Keith specifically about a two-handed slash to the back of Canucks forward Daniel Sedin after he scored Vancouver’s third goal of the game. Keith condescendingly suggested that no such incident happened.

Oh, no. I don’t think there was. I think he scored a nice goal, and that’s what the ref saw. Maybe we should get you as a ref maybe, eh? The first female referee. Can’t play probably either, right? But you’re thinking the game, like you know it? Yeah, see ya.

Demeaning and unprofessional? Certainly. Sexist? I’m not entirely sure.

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