Thursday, April 9

Rick Reilly and the Blog Counterpunch

I hate opening a post with a confession, but hey - can't win 'en all - so here you go: I listen to the BS Report at work. I read Bill Simmons too, while we're at it. Is he a writing influence? Probably, but that's largely immaterial right now. (Besides, my writing was - well, is - more influenced by the old-school TWoP than Simmons, and that's definitely not related. Those of you who figured that I kind of made it all up as I go can now be solidly refuted, ha!) His writing's entertaining, but I'd stop short of calling it insightful; aside from the overlap on baseball, we follow different sports for the most part. It's more mental popcorn to me.

Anyway, now that I've gotten totally off-track, I was listening to the Simmons / Rick Reilly podcast at work today, and Reilly hit on something that bugged me: he contended that some blogs function to get traffic primarily by slamming other (read: mainstream) stories. Furthermore, he seemed to think that people enjoy writing that basically says "zomg this guy is soooooo wrong he sucks". I'm going to have to take issue with that - which is admittedly ironic on my end, but again, can't win 'en all.

First off, I'm willing to admit that there are some people out there who probably do take glee from bringing people down for its own accord. I would contend those people need to be kept away from keyboards. They do the rest of us a grave disservice, and it grates on me that I could be lumped in with them.

As for the rest of us, we're smarter than that. When I take issue with an article or a statement, I take issue with the idea or assumption behind the article. For example (I'm going to the FJM well here, but bear with me), an article on David Eckstein being the piece that put the St. Louis Cardinals over the top misses a key point - namely, Albert Pujols is much much much better than Eckstein could ever hope to be. Writing that article isn't a bad story (I think the overloooking of just how good he is serves as one of the most interesting continual storylines in baseball), but it is boring. Anyone can figure that out. But: this isn't to say you can't write an article on how good Eckstein is. Instead of focusing on how he's short and can run (note: I'm paraphrasing here), put it in numbers. Show me he's made 7 plays outside of his zone and talk about that time you saw him range 40 feet to his left to pick up a ball that was going over the second base bag. I'm okay with that.

I know advanced / new stats can be difficult to grasp if you haven't seen them before; still, most writers should be smart and connected enough to be able to send an email to the guys developing the stat asking for a quick explanation. When the stat-creater sends you back a two-paragraph explanation, distill it down and put it in your article. It's okay to make people smarter. It's okay to think. I know that's harsh, and I know that's not the case, but sometimes it's tough to tell. That's what drives us - well, me, since I can't speak for everyone - insane. (That and the "I'm going to be contrary to this obvious idea because I'm going to be, nyah nyah" article, which ...again, probably not how it's done but that's how it reads.)

Anyway, I've gotten totally off-track. Again. Getting back to the point: part of the function of blogs - part of the reason I even have this damn thing - is because I want to express my opinion. That means I have an impetus and a need to generate original content. Now, I'd contend that my original content could be a discussion on someone else's original content and that's within my realm. I liken this to a writer telling a coach, player, or official that their contention was incorrect and here's why; I retain the right to have the same freedom for myself. The problem is that it's not just me, it's one million people. Now that one voice has become a cacophony. It's on me to make my voice unique among the crowd.

That means it's on me to generate original content and get my voice out there. It's not on anyone else, and if I have issue with someone else's statement then it's on me to explain what my problem is and why. If I do a bad job explaining my position, then again - it's on me. If I can't get traffic to my site by expressing original content then I'd join Twitter then I'm not doing my job. Those that think otherwise are fools.

On the plus side, it's not like he'll ever read this. So I've got that going for me.