Wisconsin State Journal writer Tom Oates waded into the shallow end of sports commentary in his column last Sunday, taking aim at an easy target: sports bloggers. Oates was reacting to a report on badgerblogger.com that Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost was about to be fired.
That report, posted by Bruce Redenz on Sunday, May 18, reads: "While BadgerBlogger cannot independently confirm this, sources close to the Milwaukee Brewers organization tell BadgerBlogger late this evening...that Brewers manager Ned Yost will be relieved of his duties during the team's off day Monday."
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Brewers beat writer, Tom Haudricourt, picked up the issue early the next morning, posting his view on his own Brewers blog . "I have no idea if there's any legitimacy whatsoever to Badger Blogger's post about Yost," he wrote. "A lot of stuff gets tossed onto the Internet with no validity whatsoever."
Because Haudricourt is the most authoritative writer covering the Brewers, his post was immediately picked up by sports radio, which wasted no time asking listeners to weigh in on Yost, while largely ignoring Haudricourt's analysis of the report. Fans irritated at the Brewers' slow start this season wanted to believe that Yost was on his way out and responded enthusiastically.
As we now know, the ax still has not fallen on Yost. But instead of addressing the larger issue of Yost's performance, Oates leapt at the chance to tell us all what he thinks of the Internet.
In a column titled "Blogs Swing Away, Hit or Miss," he wrote: "There is little accountability in cyberspace, and it has created an out-of-control situation where everyone is trying to one-up everyone else."
Oates' complaint sounds a lot like author and sportswriter H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger's angry tirade on HBO's Costas Now last month. Participating in a "Town Hall" panel with Will Leitch, editor of the popular sports blog Deadspin, Bissinger was beyond irate.
"I think blogs are dedicated to cruelty, they're dedicated to dishonesty, they're dedicated to speed," said Bissinger in one of his few statements that wasn't profane or personally insulting to Leitch.
Bissinger's generalizations show how out of touch he is. Blogs are not the enemy. As with any medium, there are good actors and bad.
Sports fans are supplementing their consumption of mainstream columnists with their favorite blogs, not choosing one over the other. Jason Wilde's reporting from Green Bay is invaluable, but Awful Announcing's posts speculating that Brett Favre will join Fox's football broadcasts next season are hilarious. We certainly don't need Oates to tell us which is worth more of our time.
It's understandable that old media guys feel under siege these days. Their colleagues are being laid off, and some blogs are acting like punks about it.
Deadspin has a regular feature called "Why your hometown columnist sucks," which calls out writers for sucking up to coaches, athletes and owners. To illustrate their points, they provide copious links, begging readers to investigate for themselves, draw their own conclusions and then argue about it in the comments section of the site. Conversely, Oates' take on the Badger Blogger provided no links in the online version and no ability for readers to comment.
That inability to stay current with reader expectations, not the rise of blogging, is what should be worrying folks like Oates.
Maymon to Milwaukee
Madison Memorial's Jeronne Maymon announced Tuesday that he intends to play college basketball at Marquette. Maymon solidified his reputation as the state's best prep player after he averaged 30 points and 14 rebounds in the Spartans' three-game state tournament run in March and continued during AAU play in April and May.
So why is it that Wisconsin's Bo Ryan didn't go after him? Maybe it has to do with comments like this one, from Maymon's dad, Tim, in a May 7 interview with Wishoops.net: "He is not red-shirting and he is not coming off the bench." Such attitudes don't square with Ryan's team-first ethic.