Everyone on the fucking interwebs has had a chance to say their piece on the Costas Now panel discussion that saw Will Leitch (full disclosure: he's one of my friends, though we've never actually met, and we've written together) attacked by both Buzz Bissinger (full disclosure:he's an asshat of epic proportions and someone I have a long history with) and by Bob Costas. Bissinger was more overt, flailing his "notes" and cursing as much as Will ever does in a Deadspin post. It was Costas, who's made his disdain for blogs known, who did the more subtle placement of the dagger.
On the heels of the Clemens-McCready story, of the widespread reporting of Brian McNamee's stored garbage, of Alex Rodriguez's stalking which resulted in pictures of him and his swingin' pal, and countless others, Costas had the gall to ask Will if he'd go through someone's garbage. Braylon Edwards, who at least doesn't hide behind the stanchions, said it was wrong to post pictures of athletes doing stupid things. Here's the thought -- if you know that camera phones are everywhere, how about not doing something you don't want pictured?
One player I spoke to recently took things a step further. He noted that a club he frequents now requires patrons to "check" their cellphones at the door. The place is pretty popular with athletes and celebs. I figure this will be a growing trend at those high-end clubs, though I probably still can't get in.
Will brought up a great point. Matt Leinart is young, rich and good looking. He's drinking beers and hanging out in the hot tub with hot chicks. Good for him. He's not drinking and driving as far as I can tell. He's doing a beer bong, not a line of blow. I've been out recently and put a few more drinks into me than I should. If someone had pictures, I'd probably laugh, but I wouldn't hate that they were out there. Someone's going to have to pull a Barkley and remind people that if you're going to make athletes your role models, you might be disappointed when you find out their just human.
Minor off-topic: The other night on ABC's nightly newscast, they covered the "Miley Cyrus" controversy without once mentioning that they were owned by Disney, the company that created Cyrus and has a long term deal with Annie Liebowitz. Are you kidding me? How do you not at least mention this? ABC has done more damage to their journalistic credentials over the last month than Big Daddy Drew.
Update on this ... it was pointed out to me that Bissinger and Costas worked on a book together. I haven't read it, but it should have been disclosed. As well, Bissinger wrote the screenplay for "Shattered Glass." I think that fact is key here and might color much of his commentary on journalism.
As we see blogs growing and newspapers dying, I just laugh. We've had recent news that Murray Chass is being bought out by the NY Times and that Gordon Edes is headed from the Boston Globe to Yahoo. Is Edes' writing any less readable or informative at Yahoo than it was at the Globe? I read Peter Abraham's blog every single day and unless I go look it up, I have no idea whatsoever what newspaper he writes for. Kat O'Brien was a must-read for me on the Rangers and now she's a must read on the Yankees. I not only don't care what paper she writes for, I don't even care what TEAM she writes about. I read a ton of writers every day and I don't even get my local paper delivered. I'll read Evan Grant, T.R. Sullivan, and Jamey Newberg when I want to know about the Rangers. They're three writers in different mediums with different viewpoints -- and that's what I want!
For me, the democratization of the internet just allows the opportunity. Will's point about building readership was strong, but building credibility is an even harder thing. Will's had a hard time with that because he's willing to run things that don't meet the typical standards, such as the Albert Pujols connection to the Jason Grimsley story. Fact is, I was one of Will's sources on that, but he took the heat. I gave it to Will because I couldn't get a third independent source. I know now it's because the base information I was working with was incorrect.
But guess what -- factchecking wouldn't have stopped that any more than Buzz Bissinger's completely infactual article on pitch counts that ran in the NY Times. I've written for that same publication -- with Will Leitch! The irony! -- and know how they work. Bissinger made claims about pitch counts, pitcher age, and medical information that was such a leap as to be as out of touch with reality as he was out of touch with sanity and decorum on HBO's panel.
Several years ago, I tried to organize an Internet-based BBWAA. It was a wrongheaded idea, because it's not needed. Instead of artificial constructs, modern journalism is based on merit. If a writer comes from a newspaper, a blog, or something in between like MLB.com or FanHouse, he'll get an audience if he's credible, talented, and informative. If he's not, he'll end up passed over and the blog will die. How many flash in the pans have we seen? Even the really good ones -- Brian Gunn, I'm looking at you -- can fade for various reasons. Just because we don't have a membership card or press box access doesn't make me feel like less of a colleague with Will Leitch, Ken Tremendous, Alex Belth, or Eric Seidman.
But I also feel like a colleague of Matthew Leach, Joe Posnanski, Jeff Passan, and Peter Gammons. They're all great writers, guys I aspire to match, and guys who are just one click away from me. On Ballbug, we're all equal, the way it should be.
HBO does an amazing job with sports coverage. The Costas Now show was done in a way I can't imagine any other organization doing it. While I feel they put Will Leitch in a near-impossible situation (almost as bad as the one Braylon Edwards was in!), he came out of it stronger. The best response is not flailing around on the net -- though the lack of discussion by Bissinger's peers is intriguing -- but watching the tape and seeing how Will acted in the face of what was, I think, supposed to be a firing line.
He made us proud. Now let's do the same by doing good work in whatever fucking form we choose.
Update: Bob Costas called me and had a long, off-record discussion about this situation. While I can't discuss the content, he came off as he usually does -- smart, classy, and open-minded. On the heels of that conversation, I want to clarify my statement about Costas. The conflict was clearly produced, but wasn't a "setup" or "ambush." You put people in the situation and hope that something happens. It clearly did and that's the medium - not right or wrong.