May 2008 Posts

Thoughts on Buzz Bissinger vs. Will Leitch on Costas Now (or “Blog Post = Blog Comment?”)

Have you heard about the sports media/blogosphere blow out that took place on Tuesday night on Costas Now on HBO? If you haven’t, definitely take a look at the segment on Deadspin.

Bob Costas set out to host a show, according to to program’s site, “taking stock of the sports media landscape, including the rise of internet bloggers and sports talk radio.” What a disaster.

They had a live “discussion” (major, major quotation marks around that word) between Costas, Buzz Bissinger, whose work I’ve never read (can’t say I’ve read much W. C. Heinz, either), Will Leitch of Deadspin and Braylon Edwards of the Cleveland Browns.

Right out of the gate, Bissinger launches into a tirade against Leitch. Not only that, but it’s really a personal attack with expletives pouring out of his mouth. I know this is HBO, but I would have really expected Bob Costas to have put together a professional program. This was not that type of program.

Hilarity ensued (for me) as Bissinger pulled out printed blog posts and blog comments from Deadspin and read them aloud. Of course, he pulled out examples that a lot of people would find a little offensive or odd. Deadspin has a certain personality. It’s what they do. Criticizing a particular blog is one thing. But, the problem with Bissinger is he took comments by Deadspin readers to equal EVERY BLOG POST MADE IN THE SPORTS BLOGOSPHERE. Apparently, he’s even serious.

As a sports blogger, I’m sure my reaction to watching this was similar to many others. Bissinger is just so out of touch that your mouth hands open, you laugh and you wonder what you can even say to a person like that. Do you just wait for them to die out and/or become extinct?

Blog comments are like letters to the editor minus the immediate control over what gets printed. Is every letter to the editor nice and vulgarity free? Of course not. Is every print article well researched and written? Of course not. So, then, do bad letters to the editor mean that every newspaper is trash? Does one article in one newspaper say something about every newspaper in the world? It’s insanity to take some of the more controversial blog posts on a blog like Deadspin and then say that this is what every blog is.

Simply enough – one person in one medium does not equal all people in said medium. Makes sense, right?

I thought Leitch handled himself pretty well considering that it was a total set up. He was getting it from all angles and Costas seemed to be enjoying himself, as well, playing Robin to Bissinger’s Batman. He deserves some of the same criticisms as Bissinger here.

The bottom line is that what they should have done is not just had the two extremes, represented by Bissinger and Leitch. Keep them, if you must, but also add a less controversial, widely respected sports blogger. Alex Belth of Bronx Banter is an example of one. And then, get someone in the media, like a beat writer, who blogs and have them on, as well. Peter Abraham of The LoHud Yankees Blog and Tyler Kepner of Bats would be examples. And if you want to get a player, please get one who understands the internet. Also, set some guidelines before you start. For example: “don’t tell your fellow panelists that they are full of anything.”

That would make for a more interesting discussion and I would like to see it.

Must reads: Peter Abraham’s take and Will Leitch’s first and second posts on this at Deadspin.