If there is/was a "Deadspin Era" in sports media or sports fandom or sports consumption, it may or may not be ending as Will takes his final full-time at-bats this week.
What I do know is that I think that the quotes in that L.A. Times story quite possibly reflect the era's lowest moment. Maybe that's what had Will so hopping.
This is not "Us vs. Them": What a canard, propped up by mainstream media – presumably (and ironically) because it generates page views for the story itself, rather than because it actually exists.
It is "Good vs. Bad," to a large extent. Sure, there are plenty of sorry-ass sports blogs out there. But here's the dirty secret that Buzz Bissinger and Bob Costas and Jason McIntyre don't want you to understand (but if you're reading this blog, you probably already do):
No one reads the really, truly poorly crafted blogs.
At least, no one reads them with any particular frequency or volume, and the more widely read blogs rarely link to their work – giving them a wider audience – precisely because they don't add a lot of value.
Great – even good -- blogs aren't the norm, any more than great newspapers or great columnists or great sportscasts or great journalism isn't the norm. The best serve their core audience – the wider you want that core to be, the harder the effort.
When those great blogs are created – or even individual posts are created – the rest of the community (well-read or not) creates a virtuous circle to promote it. It may start with a single great post that raises a blogger's profile; do enough of them, and you become Matt Ufford or Spencer Hall or Michael Schur or whoever.
What all those great blogs share is a dedication to their own sense of what is good and what isn't – whether you are creating a post yourself or linking to others. They share a commitment to the core audience they are serving, whether it's a particular team, a particular sport, a particular point of view – or, hell, a particular time of day.
What offended me most from that Times article was Jason McIntyre's quote:
"The initial reaction was 'Buzz is a lunatic,' " McIntyre said. "After that, people calmed down, listened to what he said and thought, 'You know, maybe we should clean up our act a little bit.' "Sigh. Begin rant:
My initial reaction was: Jason McIntyre doesn't speak for me. He doesn't speak for any sports blogger I know. He should speak for himself. If he wants to change his "act," he can feel free, but please don't speak for the rest of us.
I don't know what "we" or "people" McIntyre is talking about: From all accounts and evidence, I don't think he reads very many sports blogs. I don't think he cares very much about other sports blogs. I certainly don't think he has his pulse on what sports bloggers are thinking, one way or the other.
How could he? Here's another dirty secret of the juvenile junior-high-lunch-room sports-blog world: I find it hard to find anyone who says they respect Jason McIntyre or The Big Lead. The rep: McIntyre as an empty apple-polisher who lacks a position of authority or respect among his peers. And this was BEFORE the article.
I suspect that Will's post will launch a healthy meme of folks coming out of the woodwork to agree: McIntyre doesn't speak for me. (Or put another way: "What a d'bag." Wait, Jason, help me here: Was I supposed to stop calling people "douchebags" as part of "cleaning up my act?" I missed your blogdom-wide announcement.)
But it's not Deadspin vs. The Big Lead. It is apparently MANY sports bloggers vs. The Big Lead, which I'm quite sure will earn McIntyre even more undeserved credit within mainstream media. ("If other bloggers don't like or respect him, he MUST be good!")
From what I can tell, McIntyre speaks for Buzz Bissinger. He speaks for Bob Costas. He speaks for SportsJournalists.com. He speaks for anyone in mainstream sports media who will talk with him. His mouth was a little full while he "interviewed" Tony Kornheiser, so I wouldn't call it speaking.
From what else I can tell -- and, again, I stopped actively reading it a while ago -- The Big Lead isn't a particularly high-quality blog, aside from the page views, which I and everyone else would fully 'fess up to being envious of – if not envious of the way he generates them. The random gossip and tips about sports media were kind of amusing once, although apparently he isn't going to do so much of that anymore, since Buzz Bissinger inspired him to "clean up his act."
TBL is best-known for its sports-media posts. I guess my biggest problem is that I also think that TBL's sports-media analysis is, 95 percent of the time, functionally retarded. It is like McIntyre doesn't know very much about the business of sports media, which makes his reputation for being the be-all-end-all place for media analysis among sports blogs all the more curious to me. McIntyre's core audience seems to be the self-hating sadness over at SportsJournalists.com, perhaps the bleakest community to be found online.
But let's get back to my point about Jason McIntyre, who I quite expect to leverage this backlash to grab yet another hard-suckling interview with some random mainstream columnist who wants to try to establish blog "cred" by appearing at TBL.
McIntyre has become mainstream media's "token blog friend."
He blogs to mollify the mainstream sports media types he so transparently wants to be. I used to think that the Colin Cowherd incident was one of the era's defining moments of sports-blog unity; now I just recognize that Cowherd knows so little about sports blogs that he actually thought that TBL was a bonafide sports blog worth attacking.
Here's your ultimate data-point: Buzz Bissinger regularly cites him as the blogger he thinks is doing a GREAT job. Really? Seriously?! Cripes on a crutch: Buzz was better off with "All blogs suck." At least then, his ignorance was absolute, rather than selectively pitiful.
It is worth noting that I couldn't care less whether McIntyre continues to blog or not. Hey: Based on his growing audience and his revenue deals (which he conspicuously neglected to include in his survey of sports-media comp packages), he absolutely should keep blogging. And mainstream sports media sure seems to like his schtick. All I ask is that he stop speaking for anyone but himself.
Jason McIntyre doesn't speak for me. Thank god.
But if, alternatively, Jason McIntyre has turned into the face of sports blogging, Will is right: It's time to get out.
UPDATE: Some very very good comments were submitted, mostly ripping the post. I'm still working through them all, but -- suffice to say -- I appreciated the thought that went into them, even if they strenuously disagreed with me or simply didn't like the way I presented my argument. As someone who appreciates critical analysis, I'm more than happy to take it of my own work. Sometimes I miss the open commenting here, because the conversation that happens AFTER the post is usually more interesting than the post itself.