Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Educated gas...

Well, I guess we all know about the latest broadside to the blogosphere. This time it’s Stephen A. Smith:

..."And when you look at the internet business, what’s dangerous about it is that people who are clearly unqualified get to disseminate their piece to the masses. I respect the journalism industry, and the fact of the matter is ...someone with no training should not be allowed to have any kind of format whatsoever to disseminate to the masses to the level which they can. They are not trained. Not experts. More important are the level of ethics and integrity that comes along with the quote-unqoute profession hasn’t been firmly established and entrenched in the minds of those who’ve been given that license...”

Personally, I think we are being played a bit here. Smith saw all the publicity Bill Conlin’s remarks generated and now Smith wants to use his platform to puff out his chest and look down at the ‛amha·’a′rets’ of the blogosphere. Here’s the thing, major league baseball is more than box scores and gathering vapid clich├ęs from those within the game.

One thing that has been said time and again about the media is how little they understand about the issues facing the sport. Does Smith understand the game’s economics more than Doug Pappas (R.I.P.) or Maury Brown? Does he comprehend stadium financing and its effects on the game better than Neil deMause? Can he claim to be better at statistical analysis than Bill James or Pete Palmer? Is his knowledge of the history of the game deeper than Steve Treder’s? How would he stack up against Lee Sinins in a discussion of baseball and the law?

These are important issues within the sport--what credentials does Smith have that qualifies him to have a platform to disseminate his opinions on these subjects? Being a journalist doesn’t mean you know a common rodent’s sphincter about economics, law, statistical analysis, collective bargaining, or history. One thing we have learned about professional journalists over the years is that they’re utterly clueless about many of these things.

Just ask Marvin Miller.

Yet they’re still entitled to a platform to expound on their opinions on these subjects? Based on what? As we discussed during the Conlin episode journalists used their platform to inform us that:
  • Free agency would end the game of baseball.
  • That indentured servants making anywhere from $6000-$10,000 a year were pampered, spoiled, ungrateful malcontents that should be willing to play for free for the privilege of playing in the major leagues.
  • Publicly financed stadiums are a huge boon to a local economy.
  • That baseball doesn’t suffer with a problem regarding performance-enhancing drugs.
  • Many teams were on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • The commissioner of baseball is neutral respecting the labour management issues of the game.
  • People of African-American descent couldn’t succeed in the big leagues.
  • The Florida Marlins, Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s can’t assemble competitive teams without a publicly financed revenue-generating ballpark.
  • Eight credentialed, educated journalists covering baseball thought the career of a player who was (at the time) first all time in home runs, RBI, total bases and extra-base hits, second all-time in hits, third in runs and intentional walks, with two batting titles, three Gold Gloves, league MVP, batted .305 in just under 3,300 games, was a 20-time All Star and hit .362/.405/.710 in the post season (.364/.417/.600 in World Series) didn’t have a Hall of Fame career.

This is a small sampling; here is a personal favourite, it’s a line from the strike of 1972: “The fan goes from steak to hamburger while the ballplayer rides a golden gravy train.

Um, I’m pretty sure the players weren’t taking food out of anybody’s mouth. The average salary (not the aggregate, but the average) was a little over $22,000 a year. However, this was an insight from a journalist.

I can’t get overly upset over Smith’s remarks. He fails to distinguish the difference between knowledge and having an education. Even though his education probably didn’t touch on the issues within the game, he feels that his diploma entitles him to a platform to inform the public about things of which he knows little.

Meanwhile, people who do understand these things should be denied a voice because they haven’t received an education regarding a subject that has nothing to do with issues affecting MLB. Smith's stance is like a architect pushing aside an experienced mid-wife to deliver a baby pointing to his degree as proof that he should be the one assisting in the birth.

Stephen A. Smith truly embodies the idiom that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Best Regards

John

Post Script:

Two posts below this one you will see “Goin’ all Grandpa Simpson …” dealing with the fight to save Fenway Park. One of our biggest hurdles was dealing with journalists who refused to do the necessary legwork and simply parroted what the Red Sox front office said regarding the necessity a new park.

I received tons of hate-mail from Red Sox fans who were using various columns that stated that a new Fenway would be, not only a boon to the economy, but it wouldn’t divert a single penny from necessary services. I can’t help but wonder when they learned ‘pimping millionaire interests’ while studying to be a journalist.

Personally, I would put integrity over education as the criteria of who should disseminate information to the masses. Too many journalists have sold out to retain their access. I can understand their justification for doing so, but it puts them in a poor position to lecture others about who deserves a platform and who does not.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pure... golden...

Best regards,

The Hells Angel

Pete Toms said...

This is the 2nd baseball blog I've seen today that rips Smith. This is the most recent chatter in the bloggers vs. MSM debate.

I'll sit on the fence. Yes, there is a lot of bad blogging - probably way more than good - but there's also a lot of bad MSM sportswriting. I read both bloggers and MSM - Neyer, Law, Olney, Blair, Brunt et. al.

I'm old - 45 - and was raised on the general interest sports section, read them for decades. I remember going to specialty magazine stores to find The Sporting News or Baseball America. The past few years I virtually ignore the local daily sports sections ( it' all Sens all the time anyway ). These same past few years I have become addicted to baseball on the web. You're right Biz of Baseball and Field of Schemes are indispensable and brilliant! ( I think you err though in lumping deMause in with the bloggers, he is a Village Voice reporter ). As you know ( you're part of it @ THT ) there is boundless amounts of well reasoned, interesting, original baseball stuff on the web.

Having said that, the bad blogging - poorly researched, unoriginal, vitriolic - often bashes the MSM. I think there is some false, idealistic, anti corporate attitudes amongst these bloggers that is childish and stupid.