(The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sports Mockery or its other writers.)
I wouldn’t normally start an article with a disclaimer, but what I’m about to write isn’t normally what we do around here. If you haven’t heard by now, Chicago native Michael Wilbon, ABC/ESPN analyst and co-host of Pardon the Interruption, had a few derogatory things to say yesterday about the modern sportswriter. Sitting on a panel at the Shirley Povich Symposium, described as “an annual event sponsored by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and the Povich family that brings together leading figures in sports and journalism to debate current topics in sports and their impact on society”, this is what Wilbon had to say.
“What bugs me now is that people sit in their mother’s basements and write this crap and they don’t have any knowledge of what is going on in that place, and it’s easy to get it. You can go to a game, you can go to a locker room. The only reason to read this stuff is to tell people why something happened, and if you’re not there, and you can’t tell me why it happened, I don’t care about all your advanced analytics and all the other things you concoct.”
Wow. Okay, I’ll get back to that in a minute. Actually, I’ll be right back. I need to take a break for a few minutes to get lunch ready for my two daughters in the three bedroom house that I own…..
…..Sorry about that. What was I talking about? My tiny blogger brain can only handle so much. Oh right, now I remember. Wilbon, I’ll get back to you. I want to talk about what your PTI co-host, Tony Kornheiser, said first.
“There’s a lot of people who sit around and they wait for somebody else to report something. And then they lay back in the weeds, and when your head comes above the water line, they shoot you. And that passes in many cases for journalism.”
Wait, what? Are you serious? You do watch your own show, right? I’m not going to get into the fact that the picture you’re trying to paint doesn’t make sense, but I actually do understand what you’re trying to say. I’d give you my IQ, but that blogger brain won’t let me count that high. Listen, I’m happy that you’ve broken every single story that you’ve ever commented on. Honestly, I don’t know where you find the time. Otherwise, you might have to go on the air and say something like “Adam Schefter is reporting that (insert NFL story here)”, give the audience a few facts, and then perhaps give your take on the matter. That would just be awful reporting, Tony. I’m so glad that you don’t have to do that on a daily basis. Sorry, I’m not aware of a sarcasm font I can use.
Don’t worry, Michael, I’m getting there; however, I first must also comment on the moderator for this event, Maury Povich, who embodies true journalism (seriously, somebody invent that font). He chimed in by calling out a few websites that are “guilty” of the practice Kornheiser described, namely Deadspin, Barstool Sports and Awful Announcing. Again, wow. This coming from a guy who makes a living waiting on the results of paternity tests before “reporting” on which of the thirteen guys on his stage is the father of a child. But please, tell me more on how I should respect the “old school”. Could you at least accuse Sports Mockery of something next time? We could always use the press.
On to the main event.
Dear Mr. Wilbon,
Honestly, I don’t even know where to start, but how could I? I’m not a real writer, remember? I suppose I’ll just dissect what you said sentence by sentence. Forgive me for putting up the quotes again, but I don’t know how to construct a proper article.
“What bugs me now is that people sit in their mother’s basements and write this crap and they don’t have any knowledge of what is going on in that place, and it’s too easy to get it.”
Nope, I don’t live in my mother’s basement. Not that you came here for my biography, but I’m 36-years-old and as I mentioned previously, I have my own house and everything. I even have a desk where I can sit and write this crap that you despise so much. Yes, I am a writer, and yes, this really is what I do for a living. Call me a freelancer. Call me a blogger. Call me whatever you want, but this is what I do. In addition to working for Sports Mockery, I write on sports for a few others as well. If you really want to know, I also write on other topics, create websites, including two of my own, host a sports podcast, and have been featured in multiple poetry anthologies, but you and Tony are right. I never create anything on my own.
Do I have a fancy degree from Northwestern like you? Nope, sure don’t, and I’m certainly not knocking that. Honestly, I respect you. You’ve spent 35 years in the business (hey look, I know how to research too), and your credentials speak for themselves. Northwestern University to the Washington Post to ESPN. There’s no denying your place among the upper echelon of sports media personalities. Just don’t knock those of us that may not work for the “worldwide leader in sports”, which I’ll get back to in a minute. Of course it’s easy to get information. It’s 2015, Mike. Do I break every story and know exactly what is going on in every single arena or stadium throughout the world? No, I don’t, and neither do you.
“You can go to a game, you can go to a locker room.”
You mean just like the beat writers that kiss the asses of athletes of the cities they’re working in just so they don’t lose access to those locker rooms? I will say I get extremely excited when I hear those locker room interviews though, many of which are on television and online by the way, in which players say that the team comes out to play hard each and every night, and sometimes things go their way and sometimes they don’t, and they’ll just have to come back out and try again the next game, or any other cliché that is the new normal of the modern locker room interview. Is there a little something extra that comes with being in the stadium for a big game? Yes, I’ll give you that, but is it a necessity for me to put together a piece about it? No.
“The only reason to read this stuff is to tell people why something happened, and if you’re not there, and you can’t tell me why it happened, I don’t care about your advanced analytics and all the other things you concoct.”
Really, you don’t care about analytics? You know you work at ESPN, correct? Sports, while I appreciate the emotional side of them probably more than most, are driven by numbers and analysis. Am I the only one who read and watched Moneyball? Well, I suppose that doesn’t matter when you work for a network that puts baseball on the back burner anyway, unless of course it’s the Red Sox versus the Yankees. I guess if I had the NFL with a hand up my ass telling me what and I can and can’t say, I might do that too. But numbers ($$$$) don’t matter in sports journalism. Ask Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons what happens when you don’t talk about the NFL in the manner they like. But I digress.
As far as the other things I concoct each day, I suppose I just love to write about sports, and you want to knock me for that? Just because I’m not in an arena every night doesn’t mean that I don’t understand what’s happening in the sports world. Do I need an outside source for certain articles? Absolutely. We all need a little assistance from time to time. Would you like an example? Last year, for a different website, I wrote a series of articles on Lauren Hill, the basketball player who was diagnosed with cancer and was an inspiration to millions. You remember her, don’t you? She’s the one that got passed over for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs so your network could get ratings by putting Caitlyn Jenner on that stage. I’m not pretending that I broke that story (I’ll always give that credit to Brad Johansen at Local 12 in Cincinnati), but I picked up on it because it inspired me. And do you know who saw it and contacted my admin about how they could get in contact with the Hill family? That’s right, ESPN. The big, bad worldwide leader contacted this worthless little blogger about a story. Make sure to tell that to Kornheiser.
Look, is everything that I write good? No. Is everything that you say on the air perfect? No. You’ve been doing this a long time, Mr. Wilbon, and I’ll say it again. I respect you. You took a passion for sports and turned it into a career for the ages. All I’m trying to do is take my passion for sports and entertain people with my words, just like you. Whether I’m reporting on breaking news, writing a feature, or giving my opinion on something that someone else wrote, I just want to get people talking, and my guess is that if you came up in this age, you and I would probably be discussing the Cubs in a comments section of an article one of us wrote. I appreciate the old school mentality you and your colleagues were discussing, but those who fail to evolve will perish, and this is the way of the world, sir. Whether you like it or not (I really don’t give a damn at this point), people like me aren’t going anywhere, and you just gave us the motivation to work even harder than we already do. Speaking of which, I really need to get to work on my next piece. I just have to call my mother to see if I can use her basement.
All the best,