Monday, March 26, 2007

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Dan Shaughnessy has blog envy

As predicted in this space, Curt Schilling has taken to the blog format as quickly as Britney Spears checks out of rehab clinics. Schilling reported on his blog that Jonathan Papelbon would be the Red Sox's closer before the Red Sox officially announced it. A few of the local papers' have quoted from the blog for their stories. Others have referred to Schilling's prodigious output of blog posts in the two weeks since Schilling started 38 Pitches (and we can all breathe easier knowing that fellow blogger Mark Cuban is cool with it).

Now, however, comes the first crucial test of whether Schilling can balance his blog and his day job. Today, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy takes on Schilling's blog. Here's how he opens the column:

Getting a little tired and bored here in the final week of the Grapefruit League circuit so I thought I'd take the day off and let Curt Schilling do the work. Schill started writing his own blog a few weeks ago, so today he fills the space with his latest Q & A session with fellow bloggers.

(Note: This is an abridged text. Because of space limitations, we are unable to reprint the entire posting, which was approximately the same length as Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals.")

You'll have to read the column to see where he goes from there. It's safe to say he's not a fan (though he really detests Schilling's blog commenters).

Why the blog envy? Last week Schilling told Alex Belth on that he started the blog in part so he could articulate his public statements in a way that would be hard to misinterpret. There was also this passage:

There is the potential to change the way people get their news. Fast-forward this to Opening Day. It's a 2 p.m. game, hopefully I'll pitch great and we'll win. Sometime around 7 or 8 o'clock that night I'll sit down -- I'm on the road, I'm by myself -- I'll blog out the game, pitch-by-pitch in some instances, inning-by-inning, I'll go into minutia ... By 9 o'clock that night I'll have a post up. I'll give you numbers. In the seven days my blog's been up, I've had 398,156 viewers. Those people will know about things they could never read about [in the newspapers], 12 hours before the newspapers ever come out.
If blogs can beat newspapers to the punch in reporting inside information, what is their comparative advantage? Three possibilities: 1) better analysis; 2) better writing; and 3) better controversy.

I've read enough of Shaughnessy's baseball analysis to know that's not his strength (Rob Bradford demonstrates more baseball knowledge in a single story than Shaughnessy does in an entire season). He's an OK writer, but there are plenty of Red Sox beat writers and bloggers who are better (note to Globe sports editor: give Amalie Benjamin her own full-time Sox blog). No, Shaughnessy's specialty is using his acid pen to ignite public feuds with Shaughnessy.

Which leads me back to Schilling, and some free advice from a Red Sox fan. Curt, as someone who's been involved in more than one blog feud in my day, a word to the wise -- don't swallow the bait. Pissing matches like these are little more than a massive time suck and an occupational hazard for daily bloggers. For those of us who do our day jobs out of the public glare, that can be aggravating but not debilitating. Your day job commands a little more attention, and you don't have the luxury of being distracted. The blogger in me might want to grab the popcorn and watch the carnage of a full-on online feud between the lead sports columnist and the ace of the pitching staff. The baseball fan in me fears this more than a Ted Lilly start against the Red Sox.

You want to respond? Flick off a few short rhetorical jabs and walk away. Don't escalate, and for God's sake don't forget Shaughnessy's motivation.

UPDATE: At least one Red Sox blogger liked the column. Another sports blogger does not.

My favorite take, however, is this from a blog devoted exclusively to critiquing Shaugnessy's column:

One sarcastic joke repeated six times. Dan will never be confused with Mark Twain....

Just know this: If you are interested in how Curt's changeup is going along, or any other aspect of Curt's pitching, you are a sycophantic, loser who lives in your Mom's basement. To be more successful, be like Dan. Give up any particular interest in the little things that make baseball great and just worry about which player to irrationally bash in order to coverup your increasing irrelevancy.

FINAL UPDATE: Schilling responds:
The only response I have to the Curly Haired Boyfriend is this.

“First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win”

Putting his inherent ’toolness’ on display for all the world to see did far more than I could ever hope to do by trying to explain what a dope he is.

posted by Dan on 03.26.07 at 08:44 AM


Dan, the SI columnist's name is spelled Alex Belth (with an "l"), who also runs the NY Yankee blog Bronx Banter.

I just don't get why, with the plentiful sports screamers on the radio and ESPN/FoxSports, and all the commentary available on the web, anyone would ever need to read people like Shaughnessy or Murray Chass. They're both non-entities to me. I take them as seriously as I do Andy Rooney's rants about how it doesn't snow enough for his liking these days. I guess that's your point: Shaughnessy is the sportswriting equivalent of a pro-wrestler needing something, ANYTHING, to gin up controversy and get people to respond. I guess it would be too optomistic for us to hope people'll ignore him and he'll go away?

posted by: festus on 03.26.07 at 08:44 AM [permalink]

RE: blog feuds, Dan's link is to an Iraq-related post of his from November 2003 that drew some 300 responses, many of which left the original subject matter far behind. It may be the fate of all blog feuds to draw comments like the one I made then:

"It's interesting to see just how many of the comments on this now extraordinarily long thread have to do with issues like who has the right to say what, who should feel grateful for one thing or guilty for another, and who should just shut up..." Readers can use Dan's link here and scroll (and scroll, and scroll some more) if they think this mere hyperbole. You'd have to think discussion threads on sports blogs would be just as likely to degenerate into cyberbrawls.

Incidentally, I notice a lot of names, and cybernyms, of people on that long-ago thread who stopped posting here many months ago. Maybe they got burned out, as some bloggers do. Maybe they still read Dan but don't submit comments (you certainly don't see as many commenters anywhere responding to posts critical of the administration with confident assertions that the critics have overlooked President Bush's strategic acumen, strength of will or secret super powers). Or maybe they have all migrated from foreign policy blogs to baseball blogs.

posted by: Zathras on 03.26.07 at 08:44 AM [permalink]

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