Friday, March 14, 2008

Costas Too

Given that the ShysterBall origin story involves reacting to something stupid Bob Costas once said*, I'm less surprised than many to hear that he has climbed aboard the anti-blog bandwagon, but climbed he has:
I understand with newspapers struggling and hoping to hold on to, or possibly expand their audiences, I understand why they do what they do. But it's one thing if somebody just sets up a blog from their mother's basement in Albuquerque and they are who they are, and they're a pathetic get-a-life loser, but now that pathetic get-a-life loser can piggyback onto someone who actually has some level of professional accountability and they can be comment No. 17 on Dan Le Batard's column or Bernie Miklasz' column in St. Louis. That, in most cases, grants a forum to somebody who has no particular insight or responsibility. Most of it is a combination of ignorance or invective.


(link via the pathetic get-a-life losers over at The Big Lead)

UPDATE: *That article -- the first thing I ever wrote about baseball with the intent of publishing it, came before I had ever heard of OPS+, which explains that weird ratio thing. It also came nearly a year before Canseco and Caminiti came out of the steroid closet and a couple of years before the BALCO raid, thus explaining the lack of any steroids references. The Costas complaint to which I was responding, however, did not explicitly mention steroids. Rather, it was just about how the records somehow aren't special or magical anymore, and because he couldn't reconcile them with the numbers of his youth, the game had lost its luster in his mind.

While that piece was written over six years ago, you can hear the "if it's new it's worthless" echoes in his anti-blogger bit.


Richie said...

Have you read his book "Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball"? It seems like he has the "everything-was-better-in-the-old-days" attitude. He can't cope with change.

Shyster said...

richie -- I was updating the post to address that as you made your comment. You're right: Costas is increasingly taken with the idea that anything new is inherently worthless.

Mr Lomez said...

Being an insignificant blogger myself, insignificant even by blogger standards, it's absolutely infuriating and funny to me that a guy with as much clout and credentials as Costas would see our medium as a threat to traditional sports journalism, as if the majority of bloggers were trying to do anything other than just make sports more sociable, more open, and more fun.

And needless to say to this crowd, but one glance at a site like FireJoeMorgan and it's painfully obvious how uninformed, uninsightful, and unfun a good deal of established newspapermen are.

I just don't get where this hubris comes from. What a jerk.

Pete Toms said...

I'm not anti blog. I like this one for instance - a lot.

Having said that...didn't Neyer write recently something along the lines of 99.999% of blogs are of no interest and the only purpose they will serve is as some sort of artifact that will be studied in attempts to make sense of the early 21st century?

I also think the journalist asks a relevant question. Motive. Why do we do this is?

"....doesn't understand what compels so many nonjournalist sports fans to seek a forum for their opinions."

Before the Internet, most fans were content talking about sports with their buddies. Now, in this interactive media age, many covet a wider audience, while often maintaining anonymity."

And I'm in Costas' camp when he says of Internet and talk radio commentary that it ``confuses simple mean-spiritedness and stupidity with edginess."

Finally, bloggers would have so much less to talk about if there was no "MSM" to bash. BOOOORRRRRINNGGGG!

Shyster said...


I agree that a lion's share of blogs are pretty bad. Goes with the territory. My issue is the broad brush employed by Costas and others. He's not saying "there are so many bad blogs out there." He's saying "blogs -- from thier inspiration through their execution -- are uniformly pathetic and illegitimate." Costas writes books. Surely he'd acknowledge that 99% of the books written -- published or otherwise -- are garbage. Does that make anyone who tries to write a book a "pathetic loser?"

I would have no problem if he called out any blog -- this one included -- and explained why it sucked. That's criticism, and actually, it's something blogs could use a lot more of (agreed that the blogs vs. MSM meme is played out; it's time to mature).

The fact that he instead prefers to take such a reactionary tack is sad and unfortunate.

Pete Toms said...

C, fair enough.

Why do we do it? It ain't money ( even "high traffic" sports blogs generate practically zero revenue ), it ain't fame ( as you know, the overwhelming # of blogs are virtually unread - I DON'T include this one in that group )...

I honestly don't know.

I know we invest a lot in it though and in ways other than time. I've had discussions - both bodily and digitally - with other bloggers and we have real emotional ups and downs with it....I think it's interesting - more so than most of the blogs themselves.

I think I do it for diversion and ego gratification.

Anonymous said...


I took Costas comment to be aimed more at the "comments" potion of blogs, though he certainly sounded off about the bloggers themselves.

Two points:

- As Shyster pointed out earlier in the week, the quality of print journalism is nothing to cheer about, especially as print journalists increasingly ape the ESPN shouters in hopes of becoming highly paid shouters themselves

- Second, Costas and his ilk are almost, if not completely, annti-learning in their approach to baseball. Taking a wistful, nostalgic "The Natural" approach to the game and it's journalistic coverage may feel good. But in a practical sense, longing for days long past is largely longing for a reality that never was. Moreso as applying statistical analysis in a rigorous way has been adopted as a tool by many successful clubs. And those who write about baseball using the rigorous, statistical analytical approach are almost all online.

Costas can complain and whimper all he wants. His comments are shortsighted and self-defeating, and while they may garner cheers at journalists' dinners, they are merely signposts on a road to increasing irrelevance.

Shyster said...

Pete: Excellent question. I can tell you that I started this blog last year while I was suffering from a pretty deep depression over my career and the meaning of life and all of that. I always kind of wanted to be a writer of some kind, and I figure I'd blog a bit to see if I could. I got about 12 hits a day for a long while, but I was happy as hell to be able to take an idea -- however short or insignificant -- and write a few words about it. So, yes, ego is at play.

Now I get a pretty healthy readership, and the ego thing is different -- I'm not ashamed to say that I get off on seeing people click on the blog or link it or whatever. But ultimately I still wake up and do this at 5:30 every morning because I want to think of myself as some sort of writer.

And I understand the ups and downs. It's a totally emotional thing. There are days when I post three things and couldn't be prouder and days I post ten things and think I'm wasting everyone's time. There are days when I think that if I could only get a meeting with the right person I could leave the law and make a career out of this, and days when I think that I'm an untalented and deluded jackass.

All of this over some words about a game I haven't actually played for close to 20 years.

And you know what? That's what really grinds my gears about Costas' thing the most. For every lazy-brained Deadspin wannabe out there, there are way more of us who feel driven to do this out of some twisted but goddamn genuine emotional or intellectual need. Who are trying to do good work, and dammit, do so most of the time. Who sit and listen to a man who has risen so high in his profession that he can't remember what it was like when HE was a scratching outsider disparage our efforts and our work simply because we work in a medium he doesn't understand.

I usually keep things even keel, but fuck Bob Costas. Fuck him with a monkeywrench.

Pete Toms said...

APBA, rightly or wrongly you are certainly correct. Journalism, at least as it has existed for many years, will soon be extinct.

I'm not certain that is a good thing however. The absence of accountablity on the web is one reason. ( I'll admit to being freshly brainwashed, I recently read "Cult of the Amateur" by Andrew Keen.)

Ben Stock said...

The complaint about the lack of editorial oversight of blogs is analogous to the perceived lack of accuracy on Wikipedia. If Shyster (or any well read blogger) goes way off base, either he will be argued with (publicly, I might add) through the comments, or people will simply stop reading the blog because it has become irrational or irrelevant. That's probably about as good as the editing anyone gets.

Pete Toms said...

"...fuck Bob Costas. Fuck him with a monkeywrench."

Isn't that a baseball blog?

Ben S., well stated. I know that is the counterargument to Keen. I'm honestly not smart enough to know who is correct.

Voros McCracken said...

Why do I blog?

Because my insurance doesn't cover therapy sessions.

Roger Moore said...

The complaints about bloggers' lack of accountability would be much more convincing if there were some real accountability in MSM. It's true that columnists in MSM have to put their names on their writing. Of course many bloggers put their names, or at least persistent handles that can easily be traced to their names, on their blogs and blog replies, so that's not much of a distinction. And it's true that bloggers rarely suffer any consequences for anything they write. But that's not so different from sports columnists, either.

As far as I can tell, print columnists are free to say almost anything without any consequences. When was the last time a print columnist lost his job for engaging in a vendetta against a player, manager, GM, or owner he disliked? When was the last time one got in trouble for infantile name calling? When has one ever suffered any consequences for bloviating about a sport that he neither knew nor cared about? About the only thing that can actually lose a MSM commentator his job is saying something racist or sexist, or maybe doing something non-job related that results in criminal charges.

Shyster said...

Pete: Actually, I think it was an old Pogues EP, but I could be wrong about that. In any event, pardon the French there, but I got a bit worked up.

Ben and Roger: Amen on how accountability works (or doesn't work in the case of print journalism).

By the way, is this Ben Stock of Columbus? If so, thanks for reading (and shoot me an email sometime). For anyone who cares, Ben, his brother, and I went to the last Indians game ever played in Municipal Stadium back in 1993. Good times.

Voros: I think we blog for the same reason. You just put it more succinctly than I did.

Richard Dansky said...

Frankly, I think you can ding Costas for bad journalism in this piece. Conflating all bloggers with the howling miasma that is the comments section over on which in large part seems to be what he's doing - is ingenuous at best.

I'd agree with him that the commentary on a lot of so-called blogs (and honestly, the stuff guys like Neyer and Stark are doing aren't blogs, they're notes columns) is awful. Ad hominems, demands that the writer be fired no matter what he says, accusations of bias, and all sorts of other good stuff up to accusations of racism are par for the course, usually with 40% more spelling and grammatical errors. But hey, everyone gets to voice their opinion in public as a reaction, as opposed to coming up with something on their own, and I suspect that may be what Costas is really objecting to. It's sports talk radio with a keyboard.

Mike said...

While Costas may still appear youthful on the outside, he clearly has turned old on the inside. He comes from a generation of sports journalists (in fact, all journalists) who are used to telling people what they think, but not have to hear from their audiences on what they think beyond the chance encounter on the street, or an occasional letter. He's not exactly embracing the idea of community and the exchange of ideas. I guess he figures in order to blog the writer must have a degree from a journalism school.

He is right in one sense. Most bloggers' opinions are pretty worthless, with no more value or insight than the guy sitting at the edge of the bar. Yet with his broad brush he makes the assumption all bloggers are the same.

Costas' comments, however, did provide me with some insight into his thinking and his own self-importance. I come away thinking less of him than I did before.