Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bloggolalia: Covering the Bob Costas Comments

I'm feeling under the weather today, so I'll try to be brief for once. By now, you've surely read about the Bob Costas statements. What dismays me about Bob Costas' comments is that all the people who should have paid him no mind were offended. It reminds me of school, where the teacher will admonish the class for not studying and doing poorly on the test...and the only people who are offended or react are the kids who got A's! They're not the ones who should take offense. This topic has come up several times in the sports bloggosphere, and there's a depressing sameness about it all:

1. Mainstream columnist takes aim at the bloggosphere, but fails to separate the portion of Internet sports talk that really is ignorant, offensive, and lowers the level of discourse from the Internet bloggers/commenters who do high-class work.
2. Blogger who has standards and writes well takes offense and e-mails the mainstream columnist.
3. They get into a fight or argument, and both sides look worse off afterward. (And why do bloggers post the e-mails afterward? Yeah, yeah, you raised your "blog cred" by fighting with a member of the MSM, and the e-mails prove it. I'm not impressed.)

Can we please, please stop repeating this dumb cycle? Here are some ideas:
1. Some bloggers need to stop being so humble. Bloggers can't say "aww shucks, I'm just a guy writing about sports and hoping people like it" anymore. First, that statement makes you no different then, say, the Internet commenter who viciously and without proof slurs his team's starting center on a forumboard. Second, if it was really that easy, why can't any old blogger get 20,000+ hits a month? Bill Simmons' comment about not needing to have locker room coverage to be relevant and that only paying attention to games matters was a huge mistake. If that's really true, Bill Simmons is easily replacable by any of my readers, and they can earn his money.

2. Bloggers need to crack down on what they can control. For example, although it's rare, I appreciate that Deadspin will ban a commenter on occasion. (Rob wrote a nice essay confirming that some of what Bob said is relevant, check it out.) Don't tolerate hateful, dishonest people on your site as contributors, commenters, or even on your blog roll. Make it clear that you have no wish or desire to be coupled with such sites or people. I don't remember taking an oath to defend all bloggers regardless of quality--do you?! It hurts our reputation when we make it easy for the mainstream media to lump us into one nebulous category of "Internet sports people." Let's make it clear that there's a difference.

Now, of course, there's limits to what you can do. I'm not recommending visiting the worst forumboards, comment sections, and blogs and flaming everyone in sight because they don't share your membership to Mensa, your enlightened thoughts, or what not. But do what you have the right to do already. If enough of us do this, we can change the public perception about sports fans on the Internet.

3. Take the good parts out of criticism, and use it to make your blog/comments better. Bloggers who refuse to acknowledge that criticism has any veracity come off as thin-skinned and arrogant, just as the MSM does when they do the same. Bob Costas made a great point when he said the following:

My commentary was aimed solely at a portion of Internet sports discourse, an unfortunately large portion, that consists of nothing more than potshots, ad hominem arguments, ignorance and invective. No one who is familiar with the general tone of public discourse, whether it be sports, politics, whatever, can honestly deny that much. It comes from that direction.

Do I agree with everything else he said? No. But this part is definitely correct, and pretending that the Internet is filled with polite, classy sports fans is impossible.


  1. Truer words were never spoken. Maybe if that particular point about public discourse is hammered home enough, folks will start to pay attention...but I doubt it.

  2. why can't any old blogger get 20,000+ hits a month?

    They can...if they want it. Depends on how hard they want to work.

  3. Well, Costas's clarification is good, and it is fair to criticize those internet writers that are low brow and cheap. But in his initial comments, it didn't read terribly like he was distinguishing between good bloggers and bad bloggers--it sounded a lot like he was calling bloggers "pathetic get-a-life losers" (it's pretty easy to "infer" from his comments that anybody who sets up a blog is a "pathetic get-a-life loser"). If he wants to criticize the bad bloggers, OK, that's good. But it sure didn't read that way in the initial comments. Still, I'll happily accept his clarification, since the "it's not everybody, it's just the bad bloggers" is also a fair interpretation/inference from his initial comments.

    It's also odd that his problem is people who use "ad hominem" attacks, and then he calls these people "pathetic get-a-life losers." Yes, Mr. Costas, I dislike ad hominems too--it's frustrating when people have legitimate criticisms but instead resort to name calling. Right? Right?

  4. "Pretending that the Internet is filled with polite, classy sports fans is impossible."

    Well, pretending wouldn't be impossible. Getting anyone to BELIEVE you, on the other hand...