Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why don't we like thee? Let us count the ways

(Note: Saturday’s CHB column offered more of the same on Daisuke Matsuzaka and so I have chosen a different topic for today’s column)

An anonymous student posed the question of why the bloggers on this site have so much disdain for Dan Shaughnessy. I can’t speak for the others but I would imagine that our reasons overlap to a large extent. I am happy to offer my perspective and I am curious as to what others might say. Here are a few thoughts:

1) Shaughnessy is both a columnist and a reporter. As a columnist, he is given editorial license and is given liberty to inject his opinion. First and foremost, I believe he fails as a columnist. As a reporter, he should stick with the facts; however, I believe he often blurs the line when he “reports” and uses too much editorial license that other reporters would not get away with.

He fails as a columnist because he has misinterpreted the role. In my opinion, a columnist can take license but still has the responsibility to back it up with careful analysis and logic. All too often, Shaughnessy offers his opinion but does a woeful job in backing it up. That is why we get a constant barrage of statements like “Manny quit last year” or “Nomar wants out of town” but little or no proof is ever offered. Friday’s column about Matsuzaka is another example of his extreme laziness—he offers a position but there is simply no depth to the story at all. It is inane. He hides behind this editorial license as a shield from having to do hard work and ultimately to justify his positions.

When he does game reports, he should stick with the facts but it seems impossible for him to refrain from editorializing. In a recent game report, he took a pot shot at Schilling’s blogging. (Contrary to what Objective Bruce might think, the bloggers here are not Schilling “fanboys” – I personally do not idolize athletes in general or Schilling in particular.) At any rate, I don’t care for the pot shots when I am reading a game report. Unfortunately, Shaughnessy does not know when to stop.

2) Shaughnessy is vindictive. He seems to hold grudges against certain people and it further clouds his writing. If you read him long enough, his contempt of Theo Epstein is blatantly obvious as well as his dislike for Schilling and Ramirez to name a few. He has every right to criticize players and management but when it becomes so personal, it undermines any shred of credibility he might have. Frankly, I think we deserve better from a major newspaper writer.

3) Shaughnessy loves to inject himself into the story…the phone call to Schilling to stir up some of the bad blood between the two; the dinner with John Henry and the details of how he brought Henry one of his autographed books; the phone call to Jon Lester’s parents about cancer; the story of tasting Larry Bird’s wine. Some of this can be interesting and is okay—he has that discretion as a columnist . All too often, however it is over the top because there is the tendency to make it all about him.

4) Shaughnessy blows with the wind and he is an annoying revisionist. Most recent example is his take on the 2006 season. In April of last year, he said the Red Sox would finally win the division because they had great pitching and defense. Within the past month, he called the 2006 team a poorly constructed and flawed team. That’s all well and good but it’s a surprising statement when he had “bought in” to this flawed team a year earlier.

5) Shaughnessy thinks he speaks for all Red Sox fans as he says “We believe this” or “We don’t buy that” etc. . His one comment about Keith Fouke (something like “We all rejoiced when Foulke retired”) still annoys the crap out of me when I look back on it. Coco Crisp is the guy “we love to boo”. Shaughnessy does not represent me and I resent his use of “we” in such a consistent and pervasive way.

6) Shaughnessy loves to comment that “Only in Boston would you see this” as if Boston has an unrealistic fixation on sports. The irony is that Shaughnessy is the one that often fans the flames. His reporting of Matsuzaka this spring is a classic example. On the one hand, he mocks the press coverage that the story has received. On the other hand, he has contributed column after meaningless column about Matsuzaka.

7) Invoking DBVader’s classic line, “Dan hates you and thinks you are stupid.” He likes to tell us what and how to think. He likes to remind us that we take too sports seriously so he feels the occasional responsibility to get on his preachy pulpit and repeat stories about heroic firefighters that really belong in the metro section. I really don’t appreciate the preachiness.

8) Shaughnessy often get his facts wrong. See any number of the Chief’s posts to this end. It is sad.

9) Shaughnessy trots out the same old tired phrases again and again. “Sons of Tito”; “Theo and the minions”; “Mo likes the Foxy Lady”, etc. It’s not fresh and in fact it’s very stale.

I have a few more points but this column is already too long but I hope it gives you a sense of things. It is funny how many people come to this site and remark, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m not the only one who dislikes Shaughnessy so much.” The reason is simple, with Shaughnessy, there are many things not to like.


Paul said...

Let me add another point:

10. Shank uses outdated sports references to jab player, fans and anyone else within the reach of his keyboard. Case in point: a Clive Owen reference that I had to look up on the internet to get. I've taken a lot of flack on this blog by ObjectiveBruce (or Shank himself. Let's not kid ourselves) because of it.

The point is, Shank uses tired Larry Bird, Clive Owen and other outdated, hackneyed and half-remembered references to jab the current teams (and fans) of Boston. He comes off as an old-timer you might meet at a local pub, grousing about how they don't make teams like they used to. Even though the Red Sox and Patriots are in a renaissance period.

paul said...

I have one more point:

11. Controversy for controversy's sake. It's akin to setting your house on fire just to see how long it would take for the fire department to get there and put it out. Ball-gate, Sock-gate, even Blog-gate. Non-stories become the target of Shank's slings and arrows.

Hell, the whole Curse of the Bambino didn't come about until he created it. Lucky for us, that Shank-enstein monster ended in '04.

Anonymous said...

12. He is a racist. His most venomous columns and comments are more often than not aimed at blacks and Latinos, and his Caucasian mancrushes can do no wrong.

dbvader said...

I have said this before, but the problem that is the genesis of all the other problems is his inability to analyze the game on the field. Without this ability he is left to ad hominem attacks and off the field controversies. This inability is surprising considering that he was both a baseball and basketball beat writer.

Another problem is that he writing is not very good anymore, if it ever was any good. The Matsuzaka column on Friday was a great example. Lame comedy followed up by a clunky "all that was a joke." (No, really?) His writing ability used to be the last thing that kept people believing in him even as they attacked him.

Another thing about his writing, he often writes his columns before or during games and later sticks in game info. Check out his WS columns from last October.

dbvader said...

Today's column was worse than useless. He wastes four paragraphs giving a play-by-play account of the fourth inning. There is nothing in there that you couldn't look up on, in fact it was even worse. There was nothing about what the pitches were or anything interesting.

Another thing. A long history of factual mistakes that detract from his columns.

Chris said...

I hope the nappy-haired columnist reads this blog. If not, it must torture him to know that many of his friends do. I think this blog entry was one of the best, as it summarizes Shaughnessy quite precisely. In the end, working for a newspaper that has seen better days must be taking its toll. There cannot be a more angry, resentful, seething collection of writers and columnists than at the once-esteemed Boston Globe. It comes out in their writing, and makes it quite easy for me to say 'NO!' every time some Juanita from the Globe calls to ask me whether I'd like to subscribe for a mere twenty-seven cents a week.

Beth said...

//“We all rejoiced when Foulke retired”//

he said this? seriously!?!?

i always knew if i ever ran into him in person i'd at least heckle him a little. right now i think i'd punch him.

ObjectiveBruce said...

1. Manny had one hit against a team above .500 after the Yankee sweep. Clearly the critics don't like it when their heroes are criticized by a columnist whose job it is to go beyond game stories. When he writes the main story on a game, its because the paper made a conscious decision that it should be his voice leading the paper. He's not the only one doing this, for years Ryan's Celtics game stories were unique -- so much so that when he wrote unbylined pieces from the office when the Globe didn't staff west coast trips and the game stories were obviously written from Johnny Most's broadcast, it was obvious that Ryan had written it. It's not that you don't like this blend of style and substance on the sports page, it's that you are more intersted in hating Shaughnessy because of his failure to follow the knee-jerk luv luv luv of athletes and teams that is so popular these days. You would have loved Claflin, Liston and Hurwitz.

2. Failing to join the hero-worship club is hardly vindictive. Neither is repeated criticism of individuals.

3. Injecting himself into the story? That's absurd. Some stories are best told in the first person, and seeing someone who went through the ordeal of having a child diagnosed with cancer writing about his conversation with people in a similar circumstance is one of those stories. Saying he called Schilling to "inject bad blood" is absurd, but the Shaughnessy-haters couldn't stand the fact that he had a conversation with their hero (who indulges in name-calling whenever he reads something he doesn't like.)

4. Thinking a team will do well, being wrong, and analyzing why the team did not do well is hardly revisionism. I thought the Sawx would win game 7 against the Yankees in 2003. They didn't. Does that mean I can't be critical of how the game was played or managed or would that be revisionism?

5. I'm not a fan of the royal "we" either.

6. Not sure that "mock" is the best way to describe the commentary about the media coverage of Matsuzaka. But Matsuzaka was the biggest pre-season story in baseball this year, ergo his performance is News, especially the episodes of inconsistency followed by brilliance. It's been a pretty good ongoing story, and the "pressure" of pitching in America's most storied ballpark is a good angle, that probably should have been developed more.

7. A columnist offering an opinion is not delivering a lecture on how or what to think. The "Dan hates you and thinks you're stupid" line is a comment that doesn't hold up against the analysis that is suggested be applied to Shaughnessy's columns. Many of the self-proclaimed critics commit sins far worse than those they claim to see in Shaughnessy, with knee-jerk reactions and the pathetic scouring the archives for Larry Bird references near the top of the list..

8. There are occasional mistakes, and any is too many. Some should be caught by the copy desk. Writing anything on deadline is no easy feat, since the Boston Globe doesn't play games with press times for the benefit of a column. Many of the comments the nit-pickers take such delight in aren't mistakes but differences in interpretation, and some "mistakes" noted by some of the critics hereabouts are dead wrong and go uncorrected. Meanwhile, we're still waiting for someone to substantiate, with time, date and tape the claim that he called Ortiz a "sack of bleep." But then, fast and loose with the facts is a way of life around here.

9. I can take or leave the shorthand phrases. But the guy is influential enough so that he popularized the expression "Red Sox Nation" and now it is universal. And the curse (a metaphor that some dingbats think he meant literally) was featured in the front page hedlines, subheds, cutlines or reefers in 29 of the 34 front pages with World Series stories among the first 40 papers featured in the News Museum Page One archive of 10/28/04

As for the rest of it, Clive Rush is part of the Patriots culture that preceded Parcells and to brag about not knowing who he was should be embarrassing; it's not controversy for controversy's sake if it becomes a widely discussed issue and reported issue; the racist charge is absurd (how come only Shaughnessy has the "responsibility to back [up opinion] with careful analysis and logic"); and like it or not, the Globe still dominates local journalism

Anonymous said...

OB says:

When he writes the main story on a game, its because the paper made a conscious decision that it should be his voice leading the paper. He's not the only one doing this, for years Ryan's Celtics game stories were unique -- so much so that when he wrote unbylined pieces from the office when the Globe didn't staff west coast trips and the game stories were obviously written from Johnny Most's broadcast, it was obvious that Ryan had written it

yet again, OB gives us enough insider info to make it crystal clear he works for the Globe.

Chris said...

"yet again, OB gives us enough insider info to make it crystal clear he works for the Globe."

Pretty obvious to me and others as well. The Globe is such a laughingstock that their only defenders come from within.

mike_b1 said...

The Globe dominates local journalism? I would say that dubious title belongs to Fox News. At least Fox makes money.

Anonymous said...

OB said: As for the rest of it, Clive Rush is part of the Patriots culture that preceded Parcells and to brag about not knowing who he was should be embarrassing.

Okay, I am twenty-six years old, lived in New England all my life and can clearly remember the reigns of Raymond Berry to Bill Belichek (my first game was Pats-Phins the year they went 1 and 15). I am a New England Sports fan. I don't understand how the "Clive Rush" episodes are definetly history I should know. Does that make me some sort of "Fanboy" or something?

The simple facts are that there are a lot of New England Sports fans who don't get Shaughnessy's references (not even some of the Bird references sometimes). However, Dan's tone seems to be that we are stupid if we don't get his jokes. I think that is brutally unfair to his readership.

Anonymous said...

OB posted: "Meanwhile, we're still waiting for someone to substantiate, with time, date and tape the claim that he called Ortiz a "sack of bleep.""

Well here you go again, taken from Chief's quote on March 31 on this year. That would be less than a month ago on this very website. I know its been posted several times over the last two years but maybe now Bruce you will finally acknowledge it.

The Chief said:
As I have identified many times before, The CHB's reference to David Ortiz was made on WWZN on Jan. 4, 2003.

At the time, he said: "[David Ortiz is] a giant sack of you-know-what ..."

Don't know how to make that any clearer for you.

Dave M said...

1. OB - are you that dense? It's nothing to do with hero worship. I am not arguing that Manny played sparingly or poorly after the Yankees series last year. I have argued repeatedly that Shaughnessy offers no proof that Ramirez quit. While it is certainly possible that Manny quit, it is also possible that he was hurt. Shaughnessy, as usual, offers no proof.

Also, you don't answer the criticism that Shaughnessy does a poor job in substantiating anything.

2. I see no problem with repeated criticism. With Shaughnessy, however, it's seems personal. Tell me its not personal with Schilling and tell me its not personal with Epstein

3. Schilling is not my hero and I am not altogether a huge fan.

The first person voice is just fine--but Shaughnessy likes to instigate and I think that is out of bounds.

4. Of course, he can critique but a disclaimer would be nice. He said the team was well composed at one point and then said the exact opposite later. What's wrong with saying "I was wrong"? (To his credit, I believe Shaughnessy does admit to being wrong from time to time but Ryan is usually much more forthcoming in this regard)

5. Glad we agree on something

8. I am willing to give him a little leeway--no one is perfect but still he makes his share of mistakes.

As for the rest, I would expect every writer to be held up to the expectation that they back up their claims. But this blog is about Shaughnessy and not other reporters.

So, OB, what do you do for the Globe?

Dave M said...

Hi Beth

I had the quote about Foulke a little bit off.
It was
"We have rejoiced in the retirement of Keith Foulke..."

Dan wrote this in a Feb 18th column.

Anonymous said...

OB is DS

Anonymous said...

OB is DS (CHB) He perceives himself as objective, not the mean-spirited, vindictive, cheapshot artist he is and the Bruce part reflects his oft-referenced with dated song lyrics, Springsteen man-crush. Makes sense to me.

Chris said...

Does the Shaughnessy recipe really work? If you alienate yourself from the real power-brokers in Boston sports...the key players, the management, et al...don't you end up ruining chances for quality time alone with said power brokers? Quality time that would give you a leg up on your competition? As it stands now, the nappy-haired columnist has to lump himself in with all the other newspaper journalists and columnists with degrees from 4th rate schools (or none at all) to get his material? I mean, Nappy-Haired can't write in his column, "I was speaking with Schilling the other day," because we know that Schilling won't give Nappy-Hair the time of day. So I think by 'Nappy-Hair being Nappy-Hair,' the esteemed columnist of the esteemed Boston Globe (rolling eyeballs skyward in both instances) has done himself quite proud (once more with the eyeballs).

Anonymous said...

The worst thing about CHB is that, not that many years ago (okay, maybe 15), he was, without a doubt, one of the best columnists in the country. He had energy and insight and we didn't mind the gay references to Bruce Springsteen all the time because he made cogent points and wrote with enthusiasm. Frankly, he doesn't give a crap now, and it shows. And those of us who were brought up reading the Globe need to vent.

CHB Junior said...

He can dish it out but cannot take it.

There are scores of stories of his calling readers who email him, confronting his critics in online chats etc.

He takes cheap shots at everyone, yet the slightest criticism and he freaks out and gets defensive.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it has been said around here before, but Dan reminds me of the reporter in "The Natural" who tries to destroy Roy Hobbs because he's "protecting the game."

bandit said...

Dan never got over getting cut from his Little League team