Monday, January 28, 2013

Fellowship Of The Miserable

This is a subject familiar to readers of this site. Boston Magazine writer Alan Siegel pens a terrific column on the local contingent of Boston sports writers.
Whiny, petulant, entitled, self-important—no, it's not Boston fans we're talking about, it's Boston sportswriters. How did the sports media in this town, once the envy of the nation, become so awful?


In late July, Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez sent the organization’s top brass a text message to complain about the team’s manager, Bobby Valentine. It was by then clear that the season was lost. Valentine had clashed with his players since spring training and, despite the team’s bloated payroll and perennially high expectations, the Red Sox looked certain to miss the playoffs for the third straight year. In response to Gonzalez’s message, two of the Sox’s owners, John Henry and Larry Lucchino, called a meeting with a handful of players to hash things out. The players, including star second baseman Dustin Pedroia, ripped Valentine behind his back. They didn’t just air a few petty grievances, they all but mutinied, declaring that they didn’t want to play for Valentine anymore.

That incident, plus several more that reflected poorly on the manager, were revealed in an explosive story published by Yahoo! Sports on August 14. Written by Jeff Passan, the article followed a June report by ESPN’s Buster Olney that called the Red Sox a “splintered group” and described the team’s clubhouse as “toxic.”

Whoever was at fault for the chaos that had descended on the team — Valentine, the players, ownership — it was clearly a massive story. Unless, that is, you happened to work as a sportswriter in Boston. While national reporters parachuted in to break a big story—as they’ve been doing with increasing frequency of late—the local press simply missed the boat.
For what it's worth, we wrote about it after reading the Yahoo Sports story and listening to Michael Felger talk about it. Shank picked up the ball a few days later.
But Abraham is hardly the only problem these days. The Boston sports media, once considered one of the country’s best and most influential press corps, is stumbling toward irrelevance. The national media not only seems to break more big Boston sports stories than the local press, but also often features more sophisticated analysis, especially when it comes to using advanced statistics. To put it bluntly, “The Lodge”—as Fred Toucher, cohost of the 98.5 The Sports Hub morning radio show, mockingly refers to the city’s clubby, self-important media establishment—is clogged with stale reporters, crotchety columnists, and shameless blowhards. Their canned “hot sports takes” have found a home on local television and talk radio, but do little but suck the fun out of a topic that’s supposed to be just that. And we haven’t even gotten to Dan Shaughnessy yet.
Once again, it's a great piece; it's worth your time. I'll just highlight the part that allows me to engage in Shaughnessy bashing!
Take Dan Shaughnessy.
After his more than 30 years at the Globe, everybody knows the columnist’s shtick: Be contrarian, be over the top, and, if at all possible, be part of the story. And why should he change? It continues to work — the rest of the city’s sports-media complex feeds on his bluster. Before that Texans game, for example, Shaughnessy used his column to gleefully ridicule the Patriots’ opponents, calling them “pure frauds.” It was the same caustic, one-liner-laden junk he’s been peddling for years. “Could this get any easier?” Shaughnessy wrote. “I mean, seriously? The planets are aligned and the tomato cans are in place.”
I'm still trying to figure out why Shank, alleged baseball writer, didn't write a damn thing about the passing of former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver. Combined with the points made above, I attribute the lack of a Weaver column to laziness and callousness. Siegel wraps it up with some advice - certainly more than I'd ever give those cocksuckers at the Globe:
Boston’s sports pages became influential because a bunch of forward thinkers had the creativity, brains, and freedom to try something different. Whatever once flourished, though, has ground to a halt.

As national publications continue to recruit next-generation talents like Lowe, Goldsberry, and the many others who went underappreciated in their home city, it’s worth stopping to consider the plight of the local sports telecast. If channels 4, 5, and 7 at last did away entirely with their evening sports segments, who around here would care? Boston sports fans are more likely to turn to ESPN’s national SportsCenter broadcast rather than the local affiliates for television highlights and news. The same fate almost certainly awaits our local publications—print and digital alike — if they fail to adapt.

Were the Globe to stop publishing sports tomorrow, how much loss would readers feel? Certainly some, but much less than even a decade ago. That’s because Boston fans have gotten increasingly used to following the ups and downs of their favorite teams in national outlets rather than local ones.

The message to The Lodge (Massarotti, Shank, Ordway & Cafardo - ed.) is clear: Change, or die the death of utter irrelevance.


Monkeesfan said...

The Siegel piece picked up steam when Kirk Minihane interviewed Siegel and was in full attack mode about how the Red Sox beat guys have to protect their access to the club and thus can't afford to write unflattering portrayals of the team - problem is Minihane misses the point entirely, which is that Siegel's general point pertaining to Red Sox coverage is correct - the beat writers are not telling the truth about the club. Indeed, as is pointed out by some respondents on WEEI's link to the interview, Minihane's confrontational interview tactics wind up proving Siegel's point.

Monkeesfan said...

I am baffled what Siegel has against Glenn Ordway, as he doesn't come across as some shill for the teams; he's quite critical of them when warranted.