Pat Jordan is an old-school sports writer, from an era where the writers started out as jocks, rather than TV viewers. Because most of his writing comes before my time, I haven’t really read anything he’s written, outside of a couple of interviews he’s done for his latest book, The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan
(but that is going to change very soon). Then today comes this interesting piece by Jordan from Slate about the changing relationship between athletes and sports writers. While you should just read the piece yourself (and then go out and buy the book), I have a couple of quick things to say about the Slate piece.
Jordan’s take on how TV has shaped (or destroyed) the dynamic between sports writers and athletes is spot on, and demonstrates that a lot of the anger displayed by old-school print media types toward blogs is really misplaced. Jordan describes how TV eliminated (or at least greatly decreased) the need for written athlete profiles, but the story is the same for most other forms of sports writing. Game recaps are a dying breed, because now every game worth watching is televised live, streamed on the internet via live scoring (often including more information than any written box score contains), and recapped (however briefly) on SportsCenter. While some people enjoy or even cherish a well-written recap, most people are just as happy with seeing the event with their own eyes (it’s faster, and requires less thinking). This is not the fault of blogs- for the most part, blogs are pretty piss-poor at writing game recaps anyway, but they do it to add posts and offer one-stop shopping for their readers (it saves them from surfing over to Yahoo or ESPN’s scoreboard). Plus, many blog readers probably prefer three snarky sentences about the game to a bland 500-word AP recap.
What bitter main-stream media types are missing when they rail at bloggers is first, what Jordan said about writers losing access to athletes (which understandably pisses them off), and second, that most of the info about the games people used to get from newspapers is now free on the internet or on their TVs. Said old guys are misguided because they are now trying to use bloggers as whipping boys for the access they have lost (access both to athletes and to game information). Deadspin or thedirty.com posting party pictures of Matt Leinart will probably make him even less open to interviews or profiles (this is the part that pisses off main stream media); however, Jordan’s point is that athletes really aren’t accessible anymore anyway, and that was true before blogs came around. And that’s what should be pissing off the main stream media. The irony in the whole thing is that the original technologies that started closing athletes off from the media (TV, and to a lesser extent, radio) are where the most vocal blog-slammers are currently employed. You think the Wilbons, Kornheisers, and now Reillys of the world are gonna go after ESPN, which pays enough that they can quit their prestigious newspaper and magazine jobs? That’s what I thought.