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The Hybrid: War In The Sports Blogosphere

by Bobby Loesch on October 22, 2009 at 1:18PM

College football was terrific last week, and it promises to be terrific this week. I forgo the usual whining to discuss somethin' else...

So yesterday happened. I'm so completely undecided on everything. TUP probably needs some sort of official stance, but I'll leave that to Rickhouse.

The skinny: Steve Phillips was accused of sex things, Deadspin wasn't too cool with the fact they were scooped on it when they had means to break the story, Deadspin posted some ESPN staff rumors they'd been holding off on, other sports blogs (most notably for me personally, MGoBlog) lashed out against Deadspin.

Not World War III by any means, but it's hard not to feel like the online sports world is shaken up by this -- at least a little. Hell, Brian's headline was:

AJ Daulerio Is An Asshole

Seems a bit harsh. But he was fired up about AJ being fired up. Again, I have no idea where I stand on this. My gut feeling is AJ probably shouldn't have done what he did. But Brain's criticism -- though having a basis of legitimacy -- seems just as harsh and over-reactionary as AJ. He went after not only AJ's actions, but took some low blows (emphasis mine):
Daulerio's an embarrassment. As someone who runs a sports blog for a living his wanton flouting of common decency* makes me look like an asshole by proxy, and I don't appreciate it. Buzz Bissinger wasn't totally wrong. If he blew up again today, he'd be mostly right. Deadspin is sleaze, and little else. The overtanned dwarf with the child-molester mustache running it is a perfect representation of its true nature.
You'll always hear about golden ages throughout history. You know, the things that seemed so great to people not a part of it that they're almost too good to be true. Like the way fogies describe rock 'n' roll in the 60s, or punkers talk about the "scene" in the 70s, or rap rockers talk about the 90s/early 00s.

durstwes.jpgWhat a time to be alive...

To me, that's kind of how the sports blogosphere has been since Deadspin's inception during all the Orton shenanigans/2005ish. Such antiquated thinking, looking back -- it was the blogs vs. mainstream media. Or the blogs vs. ESPN. I'm not saying I sided with the blogs on either of the two fights, but it always felt like a "good fight" was being fought. Blogs = good. Mainstream = bad. Blogs vs. the world! (I mean, when Joe Namath hit on Suzy Kolber blatantly, there was nowhere to go. No YouTube. No analysis making fun of it. Definitely no headline on ESPN. This was on a national telecast! Sports blogs are such a damn necessity. For stupid crap like this, but also for real stuff.)

Through all of it, I always thought Deadspin sort of entered what Simmons would describe as the Barkley zone of...  "he can say whatever he wants (no matter how offensive or ridiculous) with no repercussions because there's some sort of unspoken, implicit understanding that he's a good guy and we shouldn't take anything he says at face value."

I'm not saying Deadspin ever had the power to "say whatever they want," but to me, there was always this underlying understanding that they were the good guy. Especially with Will at the helm. Sure, they could post offensive pictures or the occasional off-base rumor, but it always came back to them being laid back sports fans with good hearts at least attempting to tread the line between "taking it too far" and "just right."

It just seems like that idea has eroded almost completely. Is this just TMZ 2.0?

After the Bissinger stuff went down a while back, Brian at MGoBlog wrote:
This is not to say I don't like Leitch, a good writer with his heart in the right place, I just don't like Deadspin so much now that it's gone from the Leitch show to sometimes Leitch but quite often a bunch of other dudes who seem fundamentally meaner than him.
Obviously, if that was where Deadspin was going then, it's at a completely different place now. I still check it every day. I'll probably always check it every day barring something completely unforeseen. Still, I always get a little uncomfortable with Friday's "Deleted Scenes" among other things.

So the "little guys vs. the big guy" dynamic is gone. And you know what? It's most likely for the best. That's what happens when one of the "little guys" ascends to the big guy table. Deadspin rose to prominence calling everybody out on their shit, and now that they're a decent sized player in the sports journalism scene, they probably need someone smaller doing the same thing to them.

They say a house divided can't stand, but as far as sports blogs go, that couldn't be further from the truth. This ridiculously huge community has so much to offer, so much diversity. It's a setup conducive to people inevitably butting heads. But if you would have told me back in my alleged "golden age" that I'd see a Deadspin editor described as an "asshole" in a headline by a prominent blog with a usually laid back writer, I likely wouldn't have believed you. It's like watching parents fight. Do we have to take sides? Sports blogs call each other out from time to time, but there's usually an inherent niceness to it. Certainly nothing as crass as Brian's take down of AJ.

While I'm interested in Drew's take on all this, I think this all comes back to Will Leitch. Always the poster boy for sports blogs in the way that Jerry West is the NBA's logo. Leave, come back, stay, whatever... there's always that intrinsic link between you and the brotherhood. The way he handles this, opinion-wise, will probably tell me all I need to know about the situation.

/oof, rant over

But yeah... College Football!

(Big text this week to separate it from the above part)

Quick, Selective Hits On The AP Top 25 (unbeaten teams noted)

bigtide.JPG1) Alabama (7-0) -- Thank you, thank you, stupid AP. Finally, Alabama gets the props it deserves. Apparently their real wins are starting to mean something to the voters (as opposed to Florida's fake wins). Welcome to No. 1, Tide. Don't screw this up. And don't let Mark Ingram lose his small grip in that Heisman race.

2) Florida (6-0) -- I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. How did you beat Arkansas? Oh yeah, terrible officiating! Nah, I'm just kidding. Blaming the refs is 99.9% of the time the sore loser's way out, and I wouldn't want to Seattle Seahawk you.

3) Texas (6-0) -- Shaky performance because they were playing rival Oklahoma, or shaky because Texas is shaky?

4) USC -- My casual fandom for USC is well documented, but this is hands-down the stupidest and most inflated ranking of the week. (UPDATE: no it's not, keep reading)

5) Cincinnati (6-0) -- Bearcats say rawrrrr. And spitting venom at OSU, too.

6) Boise State (6-0) -- Boise keeps on slippin'-slippin'-slippin'

7) Iowa (7-0) -- What up, alma mater? What are you doing all the way up here? This season has '01 Bears written all over it. And what a thrilling ride it's been.

8) Miami (FL.)
9) LSU

10) TCU (6-0) -- I still haven't seen the Tomlinson's play yet. That should change soon.

11) Georgia Tech

12) Oregon -- Washington this week? Not USC? Ugh, I suck.

13) Penn State -- Laaaame.

14) Oklahoma State

15) Virginia Tech -- That was some good time losin' last week.

16) Brigham Young
17) Houston

18) Ohio State -- I know this is "national pile on Ohio State" week, and as a Michigan fan, I know everybody's heart is in the right place. But... something just doesn't feel right about it.

19) Utah

20) Pittsburgh

21) Texas Tech
-- I accidentally typed this as "Tecas Tech" at first. I bet Mike Leach wouldn't have minded.

22) West Virginia

23) South Carolina --
To quote The Format: "please just leave."

24) Kansas --
Bummer of a loss last week.

25) Oklahoma
-- I was actually going to write a little thing at the bottom of this basically RIP'ing Oklahoma from the Top 25. Saying how likable they were for a traditional power. Talking about how unfair this season has been for the players and fans. And it's all true. But, just one thing stopped me from doing that...


They're 3-3! What has to happen?!  A losing record?!

God, I hate college football sometimes. We're using BCS rankings from here on out.

Dropped From Rankings: Nebraska (sorry), South Florida (is, uh, that billboard still up?), Notre Dame (HE GONE!)

Any Sweet Games This Weekend?

Two weeks in a row of good shiz.

First up, Thursday.

Florida State at North Carolina: Probably don't watch this; I just have a weird fascination with North Carolina football. Others have discussed the whole "rooting against Bowden" part to be appealing, but I've never bought in.

As far as the Big 3 -- or Big 4 -- of Florida football powers go, I've always found FSU to be the most hateable. But I also find them boring. They might be the most boring team in any sport over the last five years. Florida has glamor, Miami is just insane and fun, but Florida State just plays mediocre football for a weird-ass coach. Obviously, they have elements of funny (I'm the same person who went to Tennessee to watch them play Kentucky in the Music City Bowl after they had a quadrillion players suspended), but on the field, they are just so damn boring. Boring enough in the trenches to keep you watching, boring enough to lose boring games to bad teams, boring enough to win boring games against good teams.

They're just not worth thinking about in any way. They're the anti-UNC.

Minnesota at Ohio State (19): Oddly interested to see how the Bucks respond this week. I mean, Pryor is getting counseled by LeBron! ... What a stupid story. This is currently the top headline on ESPN.com. Why couldn't it be Shaq? Or Ilgauskis? Now that's a top headline.

South Florida at Pittsburgh (20): Wait, wait, wait, I know I just blindly listed them above, but Pitt is ranked?!

Tennessee at Alabama (2) -- The Alabama-not-letting-Tennessee-wear-orange story is and was funny. I hope it was Saban's doing. He's hilarious.

Penn State (13) at Michigan -- Penn State can earn 10% respect if they win this game.

Oklahoma (25) at Kansas (24) -- Much cooler game if the Jayhawks coulda stayed undefeated. But still.

Iowa (6) at Michigan State -- I haven't seen spreads or predictions yet, but I assume Iowa is predicted and favored? Iowa and Michigan State play close a lot. And if the weather is crappy -- which I hear it might be -- that could have an equalization effect which doesn't really play in Iowa's favor at all, being on the road. This is Iowa's last "test" for a while...

Florida (1) at Mississippi State -- Any Florida road game, really.

TCU (10) at Brigham Young (16) -- I'm excited for this game in a very reasonable way. I'm excited to watch TCU, finally. Now, a maybe important question: is this game even on TV?

And from the "sure, I guess" department...
Texas (3) at Missouri

Boise State (6) at Hawaii
- Whenever I'm trying to talk myself into a Hawaii game being interesting in the post-June Jones era, I always think "well, maybe that long travel time down to Hawaii will have some insane effect on the game!"

This does not happen.

Big Ten Rant

To expand on the Ohio State "piling on" thoughts from above. Maybe it bothers me because Ohio State has experienced so many of these days already. I mean, you've got the Texas regular season loss during Vince Young's national title year, the Florida loss in the national title game after Ginn got hurt, both USC regular season losses, the LSU loss in the national title, and the Texas BCS bowl loss last year. I know they have a BobbyStompy-crippling win streak against Michigan. But piling on after the Purdue loss? Man. With their streak of dominance against inferior Big Ten road competition, they certainly deserve finger pointing and blame assessment, but Terrelle Pryor is just a sophomore. He's played bad. But that doesn't make him any less gifted/less cool/less mobile. He's done such an admirable job handling the pressure, too... uh, with his words. Not his play.

I mean, look at what his high school coach had the stones to say following the Purdue loss (via Doc Saturday via ESPN):
"There is no question that Rich Rodriguez's offense [at Michigan], for example, would be more apt to suit Terrelle's skills," Reitz said. "But Ohio State sold him on the idea that they would prepare him for the NFL and that they don't run 'zone-read' in the NFL. Jim Tressel is a great coach. But I can tell you there is more to Terrelle Pryor than what we've been seeing."
He also compared him to a robot. What kind of self-respecting high school coach would make a statement like that? And why? Just to get your name into the press?

To Pryor's credit:
"I came here to be a quarterback, and for the rest of the season, we're going to be pretty darn good," the 20-year-old said. "I don't know why [Reitz] would say something like that. I wouldn't trade where I'm at right now."
If I'm an OSU fan, that's exactly what I want to hear.

College Football Bandwagon

Every year, once my actual favorite teams have been eliminated from the national title picture (by, you know, losing just one game), my buddy Ryan and I create what we call the "College Football Bandwagon" which mostly consists of a list of all the undefeated BCS conference teams minus Notre Dame (and this year, Florida). The goal of the CFB is to fake feel good about yourself when your "team" makes the national championship. Plus it gives you invested rooting interests.

College Football Bandwagon 2009

N/A -- Iowa's top 10'ing this thang.

iowawelcome2.jpgIowa-related: "Hawkeye Fan Chooses Game Over Hospital"

The fan is a 71-year old woman.

Dan Shanoff

I'm a long time reader of Shanoff, he's probably in my Top 5 online sportswriters, and he's usually the first thing I read every morning, but as a national columnist, his Florida bias has gotten out of control in recent years (most notably acknowledging no case for Michigan to play for the national title in '06 and creating TimTeblog.com in '09). We'll use this space to make fun of him when he says insane UF stuff which usually happens weekly.

Shanoff's new crusade this week: "Style points are dead"

Of course they are. Because Florida played like crap last week.

His Doc Saturday post gave props to Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, though. And that made me happy, because those two guys are cool as hell. All in all, a modest week from Shanoff.

What They Said -- A Take On Others' CFB Takes

Headline of the week (via Deadspin... see how this is all getting tied back together?)..

Goldy Gopher Answers To No God

There's about 30 great things in this 1-ish minute video. Take note of...
- The fact that it's Penn State being mocked
- The fact that it's at Penn State
- The fact that it's not during a touchdown, but during a more intimate, pre-game moment. This player isn't drawing attention to himself. He seems legit. That just makes it so much more disrespectful.
- Goldy Gopher running a fake tear down his face with his hand after the player walks away.
- The offended (presumably Penn State) fan who ends the video with the gem: "He clearly mocked this player. That's, that's not cool."

Oh no! Call the cops!

Maybe he did, because Minnesota issued an infinitely uncool apology.

I thought reading the apology story would upset me, but it had two great lines, maybe even funnier than the video itself (emphasis mine):
Minnesota spokesman Dan Wolter says the stunt was "plainly a mistake" and the mascot didn't intend to offend anyone or trivialize religion.

"On behalf of Goldy and the University of Minnesota, I want to apologize to the Penn State player involved and anyone else who may have taken offense from this incident," Wolter said in a statement. "We have reiterated to Goldy the importance of exercising appropriate religious sensitivity in the future."


According to the report, Hayes said he has seen video of the moment, and that he's not bothered by it -- although teammates have told him "the Gopher got the best of me."

I love how names aren't named, and the mascot just gets called Goldy. Like he's real and there's no person manning the costume at all.

Runner Up...

USC made a great push with the whole flipping off a Notre Dame camera thing, but if we've learned anything this week -- and I hope we haven't -- it's that mascot hi-jinks trump all.

Random Picture I Came Across While Googling Stuff For This Post

* * *

One last thing: I'm thinking about seeing Teenage Bottlerocket tonight at this bar (possibly venue?) in Philadelphia called The Barbary.

Here are excerpts from the first and only two reviews of the place that I decided read...
(4 star review): I'd give The Barbary five stars easily if it wasn't for one thing. The drug usage. I know I should expect it... but really? Almost every time I want to use the bathroom there are people huddled in the men's room doing lines of coke...
(3 star review) I'm here to rescind my previous 2-star dissatisfaction with The Barbary. My last experience?

People making out: check
Nudity in the photo booth: check
Girls motor-boating each other on the dance floor: double check (get it?)
I basically have to go now, right?

I also love how the making out, nudity, and motor-boating was only enough to bring the star review up from 2 to 3. You'd think it'd really be in the 1 or 5 star zone at that point.

5 Comments | Leave a comment

Chocolate Starrrrrrrrfishhhh

/Owned "Significant Other". The clean version.

Here's what I don't get: to me, there seems to be absolutely nothing abnormal about the fact that ESPN's PR department didn't say "Oh yeah, AJ, this Phillips thing is totally true. Run with it, please".

Like, does that ever happen, ever, in any business? I don't know what Daulerio expected when he asked ESPN about this, but "nothing to see here" seems like the only logical answer they could have given him, whether the story was true or not. Why is he having such a fit over this?

I also think there's a huge difference between showing pictures of Matt Leinart holding a beer bong for some college chicks and the Katie Lacey stuff. The Leinart pictures were silly and funny. What's the biggest fallout those pictures can possibly have? A bunch of "Leinart's not committed to the Cardinals" stories? Who cares. Sports are make believe anyways. But in telling the entire world who Lacey is sleeping with - someone who is 100 percent not a public figure - you're potentially ruining someone's life. For no real reason, aside from an ill-fated run at vengeance. That's just indefensible. I feel horrible for that woman. She didn't deserve to get thrown into this.

Also, Will Leitch = The Logo is probably the smartest thing you've ever written here.

Yeah Deadspin has almost been unreadable since Leitch left. AJ was a terrible choice for his replacement.

Deadspin is trash. The TMZ 2.0 reference is absolutely correct.

Although AJ is a Philly guy...is his proximity to "Bahwston" enough to call him a "masshole"?

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