“Far too much snarky, smart ass cynicism on blogs/social media posing as genuine wit. Obvious. Not constructive. Now cue smart ass replies.”
That quote came Sunday afternoon, from the Twitter account of ESPN TV personality Chris Fowler. And to quote Peter Griffin in an old episode of Family Guy, “Oww…my pride.”
It’s no secret that yes; I am in fact a blogger. I write about sports on this website, because I love to write, love sports, and quite frankly, this was the best avenue to combine both those passions. I might not be good at it, and my opinion might not be any more valid than the Starbucks barista down the street with a tattoo running across his face. But much like Fowler, you, a million other people on this Earth, I work hard, and take great deal of pride in everything that goes up on this site.
Which is why that one, innocuous Tweet hurt so much. Who knew 140 characters could do so much psychological damage?
Now before I go any further, let me be clear and say this isn’t a personal attack on Fowler. I like him. Actually, I really, really like him. He’s smart, insightful and professional, and like a great point guard, always seems to know when to take over on set, and when to defer to everyone else. Understand that College Gameday is popular because America loves college football. But it’s more popular because of Chris, Kirk, Lee, Dez and Erin.
And for the record, I do understand where Fowler is coming from. Whether it’s through social media, message boards, blogs or whatever, there are a lot of cruel people out there. A lot of people with nothing better to do than spit out negative, ignorant and insensitive comments. What their motive is, I will honestly never know.
At the same time, those people are something everyone has to deal with, whether you’re working at ESPN or running a blog that few people read like I do. Believe me, I’ve dealt with negative, mean-spirited idiots here before. Hell, just last night I had to block someone on Twitter that made a couple of really nasty comments. It happens. It’s what I signed up for. When your job (or hobby) includes putting your thoughts and opinions out in a public forum, you’re opening up yourself for criticism. Fair or not, that’s life. If you don’t have thick skin, find something else to do.
Still, while I understand Fowler’s frustration with the state of things, I can’t say I agree with his comments. Those idiot bloggers with nothing nice to say? They’re a miniscule percentile of the blogging population, and the lowest common denominator. To say that all bloggers act that way, is like saying all college football coaches are as clueless as Bill Stewart. It’s just not true.
You know who most bloggers are? Regular guys (or gals) like you or I, who have opinions and just want a place to share them.
And ultimately, that’s the thing that bothers me most about comments like Fowler’s. What people who say stuff like that don’t understand, is that blogging isn’t a bunch of guys in their underwear sitting in a dark basement (As a matter of fact, I’m wearing pants as we speak). What blogging is, is the ultimate meritocracy. Yes anyone can start a blog, but if you don’t have anything fun, clever, interesting or unique to say, people aren’t going to read your work, or come back to visit your site. That’s why so few blogs stick, and have any long-term staying power. Blogging is a place where the cream rises to the top. It’s a place where the best and brightest shine. It’s a place where no one gets promoted from within. If a blogger has a strong platform, he or she has earned it.
Moving over to the sports media landscape, there are a whole bunch of people who carry great influence that started in blogging or are still considered bloggers. And I’m not even necessarily talking about the guys at Deadspin or The Big Lead either. Maybe my favorite college basketball writer is Matt Norlander, who just started at CBS Sports a few months ago. Sure he’s still considered a blogger, but I would argue that between his videos, interviews and game recaps, Matt covered this past tournament as well as anyone in the business. Well, guess what? He started out in the college basketball world by running a blog called CollegeHoopsJournal.com, and parlayed it into the CBS gig. And whether he’s a blogger or seasoned journalist, we’re all better and more knowledgeable fans because of his work. There are 100 other bloggers just like him.
Speaking of Deadspin and those kinds of sites, I don’t know if they were the one’s Fowler was talking about with his comments. If he was, I’ll be the first to admit that I agree with him. I don’t like the way they report stories, with simple human compassion and emotion disregarded to get page views. To me, there’s a difference between unearthing good information and ruining lives. And Deadspin certainly toes the line between the two.
At the same, we can’t deny that those guys are damn influential. Whether the mainstream media wants to admit it or not, the Brett Favre voicemails, the Sean Salisbury photos and Josh Hamilton’s escapades are things people want to hear about. They are news. And nobody, NOBODY did a better job breaking, reporting and following those stories than Deadspin did.
Finally, you know what bothers me most about comments like Fowler’s? They act like nameless, anonymous bloggers are the only ones who try and bring a little humor and creativity to sports coverage.
As one of my followers on Twitter @Kensing45 pointed out, there are plenty of people in the mainstream media who have made a heck of a career out of “snarky, smart ass cynicism.” I’ve stopped reading T.J. Simers, Mike Bianchi and a few others, because they’re as snarky and cynical as any blogger I can find on the internet. Colin Cowherd isn't much better on the radio. Nor is Skip Bayless on TV (Ever heard him call LeBron James, “Queen James,” or “LeBrick?” Yeh I thought so).
Also, since when is snarky, smart ass commentary always a bad thing? Bill Simmons has made a career as the most popular sportswriter in America with his own brand of being a snarky smart ass. I’m sure if you asked Simmons, he’d even be the first to admit it. Again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unless you’re Peyton Manning's face.
Speaking of which…wait a second…don’t the College Gameday guys make all kinds of smart-assed remarks every Saturday on set? On Joe Paterno’s age, on the state of Big East football, on Mark Mangino’s weight, and a million other things? Aren’t they injecting a little opinion into their coverage? Of course they are!!
And that’s my point: This is the world we live in. It isn’t enough anymore to just deliver the news, but more importantly, to put that news into some kind of interesting context, and present it in a clever way. That happens on blogs, but it also happens on sports talk radio and ESPN’s airwaves. It’s what the readers, listeners and followers want.
So Mr. Fowler, I want to make this clear: You are a fantastic journalist and broadcaster. Understand that I like your work and I look forward to joining you and your pals every Saturday from my couch this fall. But with that said, I respectfully disagree with your latest Tweet.
Oh, and one more thing.
If you found any of the remarks in this article snarky or cynical, try to understand it’s nothing against you.
Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll all agree: I was a smart ass way before I started blogging.
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