The calm before you-know-what.

It doesn’t seem possible, but my world – which is to say, our house – has contracted even further. Not only is all the stuff from the master bedroom, including our closet, shoved into the two other bedrooms, we realized last week the hall linen closet will have to be emptied, too, and that took up both laundry baskets. All to accommodate the floor-refinishing crew AND the furnace/AC-replacing crew, both of whom are arriving tomorrow morning.

The floor guys said they’d be here “sometime in August.” We’ve been living like this for a month now, waiting. Of course, tomorrow is still technically August.

Fair warning, this week may be a mess, blogwise. We’ll do what we can. I have a little carve-out in the spare bedroom/office that works for now, but we’ll see what happens when the dust tents go up.

For now, though, things are calm. So on to the main thing I want to talk about today, this piece, which is sports-focused, looking back on a famous (for those concerned) confrontation between sportswriting titan/Jabba the Hutt Buzz Bissinger and the at-that-time Deadspin editor/founder Will Leitch on HBO’s “Costas Now.” But it’s really about the clash between old media and new, and why it happened. It’s long, but smart and worth your while.

Perhaps you’re too young or you were too offline when it went down, but this was an industry-defining moment, and it illustrated a generational standoff.

Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, plus other books and big-time magazine articles, unleashed tirades directed at the younger generation of sports writers. He assailed the blogs of that era as ushering in something cruel and glib. The great bulk of the media response to the incident, which skewed BlogBoy, was highly dismissive of Buzz, perhaps responding in kind to his highhanded dismissal. Look, the old man doesn’t get it. He doesn’t understand that some blogs are great. He isn’t aware of how the industry is being disrupted for its own good, towards some greater ideal.

Now 14 years later, it looks like old Buzz had a point or two. There was no halcyon era on the horizon, no media utopia after Deadspin, Fire Joe Morgan, SportsbyBrooks, Kissing Suzy Kolber, With Leather and Mr. Irrelevant. Indeed, quite the opposite.

On that fateful night of April 30th, 2008, Costas’ HBO show featured a panel discussion on sports blogs, with Deadspin founder Will Leitch present. NFL wide receiver Braylon Edwards was also there, but served more as bystander to the car wreck than as an active participant in the proceedings. This show was the most public Leitch would ever be as Deadspin representative, and it would accelerate his exit from that mantle. Will has, subsequently, been edited out of Internet history just a bit, though perhaps it’s more accurate to say that he deleted himself. Leitch still works as a successful writer at New York magazine, but he left Deadspin behind in 2009, and hasn’t exactly worn that background on his chest since leaving. When people, well, media people, talk Deadspin, you hear Gawker, Nick Denton, and A.J. Daulerio. Seldom discussed is the man who invented this website that changed Internet culture.

As we were discussing blogs here a few days ago, you might find this interesting, even if you don’t care about either Deadspin or Buzz Bissinger. But two passages stood out to me. This one:

Bissinger’s performance was mostly ridiculed by critics. He was rude to Leitch and, unfashionably, read from printed out Deadspin pages like a triumphant prosecutor. The easy take back then was “what a boomer.” My take, however, is more admiring: What a boomer! Look, I can’t defend many aspects of Buzz’s assault on Will. Overall, I like both guys and was certainly more partial to Leitch’s perspective when I watched in 2008. But there’s a redeeming aspect to Bissinger’s presentation, something you just don’t get from the younger generations. It’s authentic, it’s passionate, and it’s confident. Buzz, who likes to explore nontraditional aspects of gender expression, is classically masculine in this moment. He isn’t, as the younger generations so often do, mystifying his meaning with stylized irony. His tenor isn’t undermined with upspeak. This man is just gloriously unreconstructed. He hasn’t been conditioned, as my generation has, to worry about how public acts will be received on the Internet.

So true. I feel bad, I really do, for kids in Kate’s cohort, who grew up having their pictures taken 25 times a day and grew to fear where those photos – and their words, and their opinions – might end up. They’re now almost literally afraid to answer their phones. Many of them seem nearly crippled by self-consciousness.

This was the other part, which comes at the end, after a section higher up about what it was like to be a younger sportswriter trying to break into the business at a time when people like Bissinger and Mitch Albom and Mike Lupica were squatting at the top, holding onto their sinecures while the industry dissolved around them:

What the boomers missed, however, was how they created this generation. They promoted an aesthetic of rebellious gatecrashing, then pulled up the ladder once safely ensconced. Moreover, they demeaned their privileged perch out of a moralized pique, all while ceding no purchase. This food is terrible, and such small portions, but none for you. No tradition was upheld because no tradition was offered.

So the younger generation responded in kind, not with tradition, but with an all-out assault on it. They beat the establishment, then beat themselves, and in the end, almost nothing endured.

You could blow out this part to describe many other beats besides sports. I wish Albom would at least occasionally reveal that he understands this position. But I won’t hold my breath.

Anyway, big media is nearly over now, beyond a few titans like Fox News and the New York Times, etc. Deadline Detroit threw ourselves a party Saturday, although we’ll stay afloat a few more days – I even have a story in the pipeline – and the site will stay up for a while. In the end, it wasn’t a bad place to end a career. We had fun, all four of us:

And now, to get some recreation in before the sanders arrive and the check-writing begins.

Posted at 12:45 pm in Media |

34 responses to “The calm before you-know-what.”

  1. alex said on August 28, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Taking a quick time-out while my onion slices, jalapeños and garlic char in a cast iron pan preparatory to making green chili. Next up is charring a sheet pan full of tomatillos under the broiler and browning three pounds of pork in a dutch oven. Kitchen’s gonna be trashed but the aroma is divine.

    And I’m hardly making a dent in the backyard produce supply.

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  2. basset said on August 28, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    “End a career”? No, no, you still have more to do – and even if this was the end, you’ve had a better run than most.

    What does the front of that t-shirt next to you say? Can’t make it out.

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  3. Julie Robinson said on August 28, 2022 at 3:13 pm

    Smooth hair in August? Unbelievable. August was always a bad hair month for me, but down here every day is August, so I gave up trying to make it straight.

    More journalistic carnage today, as Gannett has announced another round of layoffs, often cutting the only local reporter at many papers. Gannett, BTW, is paying off $1.3 billion in debt from a 2019 merger.

    Fun and games retail style today. If the CVS has only one employee and she is busy helping everyone else, how long will it take to get a passport photo taken? And will she know how to take one that fits the standards? I’m not convinced it will; she didn’t even know that I needed to remove my glasses, nor precisely how far away to stand. She was very nice despite language difficulties and obviously being untrained.

    We went to Walgreen’s last time and it took over an hour, duplicating y other experiences at this particular location. Post Office has no appointments for the next month. But Staples deserves a special kind of hell for telling you in-store that you must make an appointment online and not having any place on their website to make an appointment.

    Anyway, I measured the size of my face on the photo and am praying for a little mercy at the State Department. The paperwork accompanying the photo lists 13 different ways it adheres to the biometric standards Hah!

    Of course this is all because my current passport lists the wrong state of birth, and I didn’t notice the error when it came. Ugh.

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  4. Sherri said on August 28, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    With sports in particular, old guard sportswriters were so resistant to the analytical revolution that was bubbling up on the Internet, and dismissive of it. A generation that had grown up reading Bill James was likewise dismissive of the sportswriters clinging to the old conventional wisdom. I didn’t like the dick pics at Deadspin, but I was a regular reader because there were actually interesting things being said in between the crass stuff, whereas there weren’t that many traditional sportswriters writing much I wanted to read.

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  5. nancy said on August 28, 2022 at 4:21 pm

    Exactly. Bissinger et al didn’t want to admit how many were phoning it in. The reference to Mike Lupica was spot on.

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  6. LAMary said on August 28, 2022 at 7:10 pm

    I started working for an executive search firm about 20 years ago. There was a guy, a jerk. Let’s call him John V. John was a native born LA guy. He was talking baseball with the guy whose desk was next to mine. He said “when the Dodgers moved to LA their fans all became Yankee fans.” I told him that was very incorrect. He laughed. I bet him ten bucks it was incorrect and I called a friend at the NYT who called George Vecsey, who called me back. I handed the phone off to John V. and collected my ten bucks.

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  7. alex said on August 28, 2022 at 9:12 pm

    Julie, I had my passport photo done at Walgreens and when I took it to the Social Security office they said my face was too narrow for their parameters. So they tweaked it digitally and blew it up to fit.

    Green chili was phenomenal. Tangy. Tenderest pork I’ve ever bitten into. And I roasted another sheet pan full of bells, Anaheims and jalapeños and froze a big fat baggy so I can do it all again another day.

    Substituted pork tenderloin for pork shoulder out of dietary considerations and didn’t miss the fat a bit.

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  8. Alan Stamm said on August 28, 2022 at 9:32 pm

    Reply to basset: The shirt, a Moroccan visit souvenir, says Fes (Fez) in Arabic and English.

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  9. Jeff Borden said on August 29, 2022 at 10:21 am

    I’m increasingly concerned with the gangster-style rhetoric of QOPers who ought to know better. Yesterday, the sniveling shit senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, declared there would be massive violence in the streets if the orange hemorrhoid were to be indicted and arrested. He was almost gleeful in his prediction. Now, while it is true that Graham is as worthless as a monk in a brothel, he was generally an institutionalist until he sold his soul to play golf with the hemorrhoid. Now, he’s talking like Jockstrap Gym Jordan, the looney lady from Georgia and the rest of the junior varsity fascists. . .leave our orange god alone or suffer the consequences! God, that party needs to be burned to the ground and salt scattered on the earth to keep it from ever reappearing.

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  10. Julie Robinson said on August 29, 2022 at 10:36 am

    The big news in central Florida is the Artemis launch. Crowd expectations varied from 100,000 to 500,000, including two members of my family. They spent all week talking about it, all day yesterday planning and coordinating with friends, got up at 4:30, and…scrubbed. Sad trombones.

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  11. Robert said on August 29, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Alex – yum!!!
    re: passport photos – my local photo/camera store guy took ours, but we’re lucky to live in an area that still has them. (Boo, Costco, for removing your photo centers)
    re: Lil’ Lindsay Lickspittle – amen

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  12. FDChief said on August 29, 2022 at 11:55 am

    I think an under-reported part of the old/new sports media was (and this is where bringing Bill James into the discussion is critical) is that sabermetrics exposed a bunch of “old” sports writing accepted wisdom as nonsense.

    Wait…you’ve told me for generations that so-and-so is a brilliant “clutch hitter”…and it turns out that now we have data that shows there is no such thing? The CW is that there was something awesome about the the big batters in the Twenties and Thirties and now we have data that shows that it was an artifact of the way the game was played?

    Throw in revelations like Ball Four and the old style sportswriting started to read like so much mythologizing.

    Of course, the end of the Deadspin story is a New Journalism morality story in itself…

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  13. Sherri said on August 29, 2022 at 2:22 pm

    And now, of course, Bill James has become a reactionary old grump, which knowing him back in the day, is not too surprising.

    Bissinger attacking the new guard for humiliating athletes is also funny, because the old guard hated athletes. As athletes began to gain a larger fraction or the power and money through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, sportswriters clearly resented it. Despite being union members themselves, when covering the various work stoppages in sports, the tone was always management friendly. And the racism was very real.

    (I don’t mean to imply that Bissinger belongs in the category of bad sportswriters. Friday Night Lights is a very good book, recommended even if you’re not a sports fan.)

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  14. Jeff Borden said on August 29, 2022 at 3:04 pm

    There’s a Yogi Berra quote in David Halberstsam’s “October 1964,” which pitted the younger, more athletic St. Louis Cardinals against the aging New York Yankees.

    Why did he have to talk to sportswriters? “I make $60,000,” said Yogi. “Why do I have to talk to guys making $4,000?”

    So, yeah, resentment has always been in the mix. Most sportswriters of my acquaintance loved the games if not always the athletes, but I’m sure there are exceptions.

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  15. FDChief said on August 29, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    Since he stopped putting out the Abstract I’ve not kept up with much of James’ recent work, so it’s unfortunate to hear that he’s let his reactionary freak flag fly, Sherri. Maybe it ties in with being the OG and being overtaken by younger writers? I know he also got work from some of the ballclubs, and nothing changes an outsider like becoming an insider.

    The outside/inside feud between the writers and players is probably as old as Delphi.

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  16. Sherri said on August 29, 2022 at 5:26 pm

    FDChief, if you check out James on Twitter, you’ll see some pretty reactionary takes. I don’t recommend it.

    But Bill was always…interesting. He may have kicked off a revolution, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he liked the revolutionaries. He may have opened the door to making data available to the masses with Project Scoresheet, but he also had opinions on who was worthy of that data.

    I knew him back in the day, and always got along with him, but he’s always been a curmudgeon.

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  17. Deborah said on August 29, 2022 at 6:56 pm

    Fruit trees are ripening in Santa Fe, they’re in many parks and the fruit on them goes unpicked, falls off and rots. Critters eat them so lots of skunks and raccoons around. Cherries and apricots are done now apples and pears are readying. LB and a friend have been picking apples from the trees in the little park near us. We have way too may apples now and have been frantically looking for recipes to use them. We’ve pickled them, put them in sheet pan dinners with pork etc and are making rustic tarts with Brie and such. No pies yet, but that’s coming. An Asian pear tree on the condo property is laden with produce that usually just drops and rots but this season LB and her friend are going to try to do stuff with them. They aren’t great for jams and cooking but they’re supposed to be delish raw with cheese. If anyone has any good apple or Asian pear recipes do share.

    Apricots around here are tiny so peeling is a huge chore but they’re tasteless and grainy so no reason to peel.

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  18. Julie Robinson said on August 29, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    Apples and Pears can be cooked down to sauce, then left in a crockpot for a few days, turning into apple butter or pear butter. Sweeten a bit if you like, add a little cinnamon, spread on toast or with peanut butter for a sandwich. Yummy.

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  19. susan said on August 29, 2022 at 8:48 pm

    Why would you peel apricots?

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  20. Sherri said on August 29, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    I’m watching the discourse on the modest student loan forgiveness program, and realizing that I live in a weird bubble. After over 30 years in areas heavily impacted by tech, I no longer think of doctors and lawyers as the rich people in town.

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  21. alex said on August 29, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Julie that sounds heavenly. In summer we grill peaches and pears in foil and serve them over ice cream (naughty, naughty now that we’re diabetics, but we don’t give a shit sometimes). We used to add confectioner’s sugar to the grill packet but those days are long gone. But it’s a suggestion for making a decadent dessert out of simple ingredients.

    Lately I’ve been trying some syrupy balsamic vinegars over ice cream and it’s a magnificent substitute for liqueurs which I used to pour over ice cream.

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  22. Suzanne said on August 30, 2022 at 8:45 am

    My oncologist, a wonderful man and a good doctor, told me he has $300,000 in college debt. It made me want to cry. He’s young and very good at what he does and I fear the weight of the debt and the stress of the job will do him in. I sincerely hope not but the system is set up to screw people like him who really do want to do good and heal people.

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  23. JodiP said on August 30, 2022 at 8:55 am

    Deborah, I wonder if you could donate the extra fruit:

    We have something similar in Minneapolis.

    Alex is right–thick, aged basalmic is wonderful on ice cream. I love honey on vanilla ice cream as well. Hmmmm, we have a couple peaches, I’m already grilling tonight and have the ice cream on hand as well!

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  24. tajalli said on August 30, 2022 at 10:40 am

    Just came into some super ripe mangos, so I’m thinking chutney with dried sweet cherries and ground chili pepper, plus some cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and red onion.

    Juice concentrate from the health food store (blue berry, pomegranate, or cranberry) are great over vanilla ice cream. I wonder how mirin (japanese cooking sake) would work if basalmic vinegar is good.

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  25. Julie Robinson said on August 30, 2022 at 11:48 am

    Raspberry jam can nuked at half power for a topping on cheesecake or ice cream. Probably other flavors too but we favor raspberry in this house.

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  26. LAMary said on August 30, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    An Italian gentleman I knew back in NYC used to put finely ground espresso and Scotch on vanilla ice cream.

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  27. Deborah said on August 30, 2022 at 4:14 pm

    We made pickled apples today, with yellow onion, apple cider vinegar, lemon zest and the juice of 2 lemons, some herbs and spices including a pinch of cayenne. It looks beautiful and will last 4 months in the fridge. Later today we’re starting a crockpot recipe for apple butter that (YAY!!!) you don’t have to peel the apples. The Asian pears on the tree in the yard aren’t quite ready to pick yet, but very soon.

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  28. Suzanne said on August 30, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    Deborah, recipe for the pickled apples? Sounds intriguing…

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  29. Deborah said on August 30, 2022 at 6:07 pm

    Sure Suzanne, here it is from the Pickles, Pigs and Whiskey cookbook, by John Currence (borrowed from LB’s friend that she went apple picking with)and my added comments in parenthesis:

    6 Honeycrisp apples peeled, cored and sliced into 12 wedges each. (we don’t know what kind of apples we have, and they’re smaller than honeycrisp, so we estimated about how much would equal 6 honeycrisps)

    1 cup of yellow sliced onion (we got ours from the farmers market today)

    Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

    2 cups of apple cider vinegar (we used a cup and a half and added a little water to make up for the liquid because the last batch of pickled apples we made [different recipe] were way too sour, we used the full amount of apple cider vinegar in that recipe, not doing that again)

    2 tablespoons of honey

    2 dried bay leaves

    4 whole cloves

    1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (again we only used 1 teaspoon because the batch before were too salty)

    1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper (we thought this was too much so maybe used 1/2 teaspoon, you can always add salt and pepper when served at the table)

    1/8 teaspoon of cayenne

    In a large stainless steel bowl (I have no idea why it’s supposed to be stainless steel?) , toss together the apples, onions, and lemon zest until combined. Pack into 2 quart-size jars.

    Combine the vinegar, honey, 1/2 cup of water, the bay leaves, cloves, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to simmer. Remove from the heat and cool slightly (?). Pour the pickling liquid over the apples etc, submerging them completely and filling the jars to just below the necks, Let cool to room temperature and screw on the lids. This will keep, refrigerated, for 4 months

    We had a couple of extra lemons so sliced them thinly and added the slices around the inside perimeter of the glass jars to make it pretty.

    The crock pot apple butter is super easy because no peeling, just coring and dicing, cooking on low for 10 hours with the lid on, then 2 more hours higher heat with the lid off. It takes brown sugar and granulated sugar, of course too, I don’t have the amounts handy. You can find it online, I’ll try to find a link, if anyone is interested.

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  30. Deborah said on August 30, 2022 at 6:15 pm

    Did I say that the pickled apple recipe above makes 2 quarts?

    I will add that the our first attempt at pickled apples a couple of weeks ago was a recipe I found online that called for cider vinegar, salt, serrano pepper and maybe a few other things. We couldn’t find serrano peppers for some reason that day so we used jalapeno. They were ok, our neighbor loved them but I thought they were too sour and too salty. That recipe only lasts in the fridge for 2 weeks. It is meant to go on tacos.

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  31. basset said on August 30, 2022 at 8:00 pm

    The apples do sound good, Mrs B wouldn’t eat it with onions so we’ll have to leave those out.

    A big chunk of deer meat is defrosting in the sink right now, will make jerky later in the week.

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  32. Deborah said on August 30, 2022 at 8:02 pm

    Tonight’s apple dinner consists of a savory rustic apple tart with brie, shallots, thyme and arugula. I make the dough for that and LB gets the ingredients for the filling ready.

    The apple butter cooking starts a bit later and goes through the night, at 6am tomorrow we do phase 2 for that.

    On various nights we’ve had an apple and pork sheet pan dinner and various salads with apples as well as the first batch of pickled apples. Surprisingly I’m not sick of apples yet and we haven’t yet made a pie, cobbler or crisp. More to come!

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  33. Deborah said on August 30, 2022 at 8:11 pm

    I hate it when I copy a recipe wrong. When I said to toss the apples, onions, lemon zest in a stainless steel bowl (for some reason a s.s. bowl?) I forgot to add to that the juice of the 2 lemons when you toss. Damn.

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  34. Dexter Friend said on August 31, 2022 at 12:23 am

    My wife and one daughter and her boyfriend walked the bridge a couple times, and I walked it just by myself a couple or three other years, and it is a glorious uplifting thing to do. Time flies of course, and now it’s been 30 years since I walked the bridge. It’s a Labor Day tradition. I’ll never forget how surprised I was when that fatass governor John Engler and his wife led the walk one year, Engler pushing his triplets in a big baby carriage. He pushed that thing all the way across. Back in the 80’s, one year I made the 5 miles in 56 minutes. It would take me 5 hours these days.
    Those first few Labatt’s Blue lagers never tasted better at the Keyhole Bar in Mackinaw City.

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