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.