Friday, May 2, 2008

Posnanski on Costas

In the wake of the Bissinger thing, Posnanski -- who has been critical of Costas' handling of it -- tells a wonderful story about how important Costas was to his career. Everyone who has a passion for something has an origin story, and this is Posnanski's (interestingly enough, mine involves Costas too, but that's not important right now).

I won't block quote -- you should read the whole thing -- but the upshot is that Costas played a critical role in the development of Joe Posnanski's career, and he did so by being decent, and supportive, and inspiring. It's really a great story.


And you shouldn't read this next part until you've read Posnanski's story. I'll wait. Done? OK, good.

But, having read all that, it strikes me that the Bob Costas Joe met in 1988 is a very different Bob Costas than exists today. Today, Costas takes issue with bloggers because, in his mind, they are uncredentialed and inexperienced and unpolished and in a lot of ways really rough around the edges. They're the ones lowering the discourse, Costas argues, and because of that, they represent some sort of threat to western civilization. So he marginalizes them. He denigrates them. He brings in surrogates to attack them on his show.

Question: in what way was Joe Posnanski v.1988 any different than a blogger today? While I suppose he technically had a credential as an agate clerk, he was, by his own admission, inexperienced, and unpolished and in a lot of ways really rough around the edges. Obviously talent takes over and Posnanski would have been just fine one way or another, but the fact that Bob Costas engaged him and encouraged him made a tremendous difference in his life. He did not view Posnanski as some sort of threat, and did not dismiss him because his talent and the quality of his work was not to the level Costas was accustomed to seeing from newspaper guys.

What has changed in 20 years? The only relevant thing I can see is the technology, because there isn't a damn bit of difference between 1988 Joe Posnanski and a hungry young baseball blogger doing what he does because he loves the game and wants to make it his life. Sure, many blogs are garbage and aren't written with that level of passion and precision, but the same could be said about the work of many cub reporters in 1988 (they probably all ended up going to law school).

Where's the support now? Where's the understanding? Why are bloggers any more of a threat than a hungry young reporter was in 1988? When did Costas stop being confident enough with himself and his career that he felt he could no longer lend a supportive word to a novice?

Thankfully, the next generation has plenty of people who are serving the same purpose for them that Costas served for Posnanski. Whether it's by accident or otherwise, Posnanski may be the best example, as he is the very embodiment of the synergies that are possible when the MSM and blogosphere are combined, with his work in one medium serving to inform and elevate his work in the other.

There are others who are not afraid of technology. Who understand it or, even if they don't, realize that the technology is only incident to the writing and that the public, as always, will ultimately gravitate to the best content regardless of how it is delivered.

Thank goodness for them.

Update: Costas speaks to Aaron Barnhart, and makes it clear that, to the extent he has any animus towards blogs, it's not inspired by feeling threatened. Probably a very good point to note because, no matter how delusional bloggers are sometimes, Bob Costas is right in noting that he is not in any danger of losing his job or stature to them. Of course he does note that newspaper guys are, and despite his claims that he has no anti-blogger agenda, he has given voice to so much of that insecurity, whether he intended to or not.

I guess I'll close all this out by noting that Costas, in the interview anyway, is quickly able to cite examples of good blogs (he doesn't identify them by name, but he makes allusions to U.S.S. Mariner and Baseball Prospectus) and quickly able to articulate his view that Deadspin is where the bullies and louts play. The fact that he knew that already shows that he had an interest in putting what he felt was the worst possible face on the sports blogoshpere for the purposes of his show the other night. If he didn't, he would have had Derek Zumsteg or Christina Kahrl or someone on.

(thanks to Matt Magnone for the heads up on the Barnhart piece).


Daniel said...

I suppose the main difference that I see is that although Posnanski v. 1988 was that all of those things Costas dislikes about bloggers, he was still doing it within the framework of the proper medium. Sure the article Joe wrote may have been coarse, but he was writing for a newspaper, so his supervisors would eventually ensure that the roughness got filed away. I imagine Costas might respond by arguing that had Joe written that same article for a blog, he (Costas) might be worried that he (Joe) would never learn how to avoid over-writing and remain stuck at that level of journalism. In other words, without developing in a more refined and supervised media outlet, Joe would never turn into the writer he is. He would remain coarse and rough.

Obviously I’m projecting a lot on Costas – maybe you’re right that technology is the main difference. In my opinion, the main difference is that Costas had some level of assurance Joe would improve by writing in the mainstream media, while that assurance does not exist for writers in the blogosphere.

Mr. Thursday said...

On the note of JoePo as the representative of Blog-MSM synergy, I'd like to point you to his page on the Kansas City Star website:

His editor (or whoever is in charge of the page) has a link up to Joe's personal blog. I think that's fantastic. If you're a big newspaper writer, and you read Posnanski, you're provided with access to his blog. The newspaper is the very embodiment of feeling unthreatened by blogs--they acknowledge their value by linking to one on their pages.

I love it.

Osmodious said...

As the msm is consolidated into a mere handful of conglomerate corporate owners, the 'coverage' provided by their various outlets becomes narrower and narrower. A case in point would be the several instances of higher level corporate interference at ESPN over the past couple of years (forgive me for not citing sources). An even better example, though not sports related, would be Fox News being a fully owned extension of the ultra-rightwing arm of the Republican party (something that I believe hurts that party as much as helps it)...they push a very particular agenda, and they *never* cite any facts to back up their pronouncements.

It has gotten to the point where there is very little of interest on ANY mainstream media outlet. The only way to get good ol' fashioned debate and discourse, is via blogs. There is very little actual analysis being done by the msm's any more...just loudmouths stating their 'opinions' (one of their main complaints against blogs, ironically).

I think people are finally fed up with it, though. I've noticed a change in the YES Network coverage of Yankee games...where it had become ridiculous in its non-critical banality, they are becoming more open about actually pointing out negative things and sharing actual opinions (David Cone, especially, which could be put down to inexperience, I guess). Jim Kaat was always critical when it was warranted, and there was no way they would punish him...but Susan Waldman got kicked off the Network for being honest (that's how it seemed) and Michael Kay was obviously 'spoken to'.

My point is that blogs seem to be the only place to get anything approaching honesty any more. And they often provide far better analysis (with far fewer resources, I might add) than the big corporate sites and shows. Yes, there are a lot of cruddy blogs out there (based entirely on opinion/fantasy or snark), and even more useless comments...but to dismiss the entire practice because of a few poor examples is, well, it's just stupid.

Pete Toms said...

I watched the Leitch / Bissinger thing last nite. As always, randomly;

I had never seen Leitch before. I've seen his head shot in SBJ a few times. It's way out of date, he sports a long bangs almost in the eyes, emo, shoe gazer kinda look. I emailed him when he made the SBJ Top 20 in the digital sports space or whatever to congratulate him and comment on his haircut - he was generous enough to respond.

I don't read Deadspin. I did read Leitch's Bonds post indictment piece and thought it was good.

I didn't know about the Leinart photos although I am well aware that this stuff is on the web in abundance. I think it's just kinda silly and suspect the guys who do consume it think the same. For Bissinger to claim that this is humiliating to Leinart is way, way over the top.

The token jock on the panel is right. ( don't recall his name ) His generation of pro jocks are doing nothing different than their predecessors in the sixties & seventies.

I read in Sandomir's piece that the entire program was 90 minutes. Anybody know what the other segments were about?

I had never seen Costas' show before. I was disappointed. The staged confrontation has been a staple of TV and radio my entire life and I don't like it. Too bad because Costas and his producers have a good handle on this story but the discussion disintegrated into a WWF ( or WWE ) kinda thing.

Attributing the demise of newspapers to blogging is a gross over simplification of the subject. One of the fundamental problems newspapers have is the fragmentation of mass media. Newspapers have always providied information on a " general interest " level. This is no longer the age of general interest. I look at myself. For decades I read the local sports section(s). I haven't read them in any real way for a handful of years. Why? The sports section hasn't fundamentally changed. What has changed is that I have access to the web. Access to a limitless ( literally ) amount of arcane baseball information. What do I opt for? I didn't have the internet for many years, I'm 45. I read the sports section because that's what I had. Things have changed for the better. It's been awhile since I went to a specialty magazine shop to find a Baseball America.

Costas & Bissinger are right. There is a lot of stupid, cheap, profane sports blogging. Leitch is right, most of that stuff has no audience.

I've never read or seen Bissinger, although by osmosis I know about his big book & TV show. Is this always his schtick? Did he over indulge in the complimentary libations?

Somebody in the "taped" part of the segment makes the point that nobody under the age of 50 ( or somethin like that ) reads game reports and scores in the newspaper. That's right and that's not the fault of bloggers. The internet is better a tool for that than a printing press and a bunch of delivery trucks.

Teams are working with bloggers. SNY has partnered with Mets bloggers ( there are other examples but I can't recall ).

Osmodious said...

One point that I think always gets lost in the whole 'death of the newspaper' conversation is the convenience factor. Yes, the 'net gives you ready access to a multitude of sources, but it is also nice to have everything for your geographical area available in a single that doesn't make you search all over for what you want to read. Another point is that you are more generally informed about learn about other things outside your specific field of search by browsing headlines and taglines.

The big thing for me, though, is the portability factor. I like to read...I read when walking, when eating and, of course, in the bathroom. It's a trifle difficult to lug a computer around to do that. A newspaper is a nice, portable source of reading material.

That leads to another thing...the preponderance of video or audio delivery of information. I don't bother with all the stuff on that is podcast or streaming video...I don't have the time. It takes a lot LESS time to read a Gammons or Olney blog than it takes to watch it...and I don't need to have my butt in front of a computer to read it. But many of these sites are forcing you to get content that way, and I hate it. How is video more convenient than text? Are we, as a nation, THAT illiterate that we need to have talking heads spouting verbiage at us?

Jim D. said...

Other segements were about Sports Talk Radio (Mitch Albom, Michael Strahan, Mad Dog Russo), Sports Television (Joe Buck, Dan Patrick, Mike Tirico), Atheletes and the Media (Tiki Barber, Selena Roberts, and John McEnroe), and a Discussion on Race (Chris Carter, Jason Whitlock, and Mike Wilbon)

All were extremely good, with the Atheletes in the media being the weakest. None were nearly as explosive as Buzz vs. Leitch. Don't know if it came across on television but MANY in the audience were eating up what Buzz was spewing. Guess I was one of the younger ones there.

My thoughts on it are, yeah, there are crappy blogs. Just like there are crappy books, magazines, newspapers, etc. Does someone throw the National Enquirer at the editor of the New York Times to prove his medium is substandard?

Pete Toms said...

Osmod, I don't consume video on the web either. I realize though that it is the present and the future. Team sites, league sites, big media sites, blogs...all have more and more video content, Even RSNs are getting more into VOD and in fact BAM had to give up some control of local content to them. I don't listen much to podcasts either - the last one I did ( I think ) was a deMause (sic?) radio thing. My problem with podcasting is that it seems to be a replication of what has already appeared in text version on the same site. If the podcasts offered content not available in text then perhaps....Or have I missed it? Are podcasts consumed by the IPod users ( I don't own one, I still buy CDs )?

I'm guessing it's generational. I read & hear about teenagers ( I'm an old guy with young pre teens ) who don't watch "TV". They in fact do watch some TV shows but they prefer to watch them on their computers....I don't want to consume "TV" on my PC, I want to lay on the floor....not sayin my way is better.

To further advertise my ignorance of the web, can I find those other Costas segments on YouTube? ( Welcome to 2008, I'm on YouTube downhill skiing but don't know how to use the goddam thing ).

tadthebad said...

Osmod: If you have that opinion of Fox then you must recognize NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR, etc. as virtual extensions of the left. Bias exists everywhere.

Osmodious said..., I mustn't (though I will give you NPR, the others are not even close). I really wasn't trying to get any kind of political debate going, I just couldn't think of a better example of any kind of media bias than Fox and Fox News (there just isn't one).

As has been pointed out on various occasions by our fearless leader, politics and sports just don't mix well. The only time politicians seem interested is when they can use a sport, or warp events in sport as examples of something, to further their own political agenda. In other words, when politicians foist their views or themselves on sport, sport suffers...

Off soapbox, now back to our regularly scheduled baseball discussions!

Anonymous said...

Mike Tirico and Michelle LaFoya were bashing Deadspin on their radio show, which just cracked me up. ESPN and Deadspin are of a kind, they've turned sports into entertainment and gotcha reporting (to be fair, ESPN also covers, you know, actual sports very well.)

Both pounce on any potential slip of the tongue or bad act, puff it up and, in ESPN's case round up some talking heads to chew it up. For example, what Michael Vick did, or what Dusty Baker said about Latin players, was not a sports story but a sports related general interest story and ESPN saturated their outlets with coverage. Also, much of ESPN and Deadspin coverage revolves around sports personalities and lifestyle. Even the ESPN anchors belabor their Ump fantasy league, which is a very Deadspin type self referential cute thing to do. ESPN personnel should not denigrate covering sports as entertainment and personality driven.