Wednesday, August 12, 2009

He's a Dowbboy who lives in a bubble

You sort of have to admire what Bruce Dowbiggin has done with the place since he moved into William Houston's former digs as sports media critic.

Dowbboy has done a reno. The place has been converted to one part bully pulpit to use on people who didn't graduate from his school of journalism. The other half is an echo chamber for people who want reassurance they are not living through a media revolution.
  • Erin Andrews calling 911 because a couple paparazzi were skulking around her home after dark "demonstrates that the ESPN star ... clearly has no idea how people in her business chase a story." (July 31)

  • The Score tweaking its format to focus on "the chatter, the personalities" means that the network "has in mind what TMZ and Deadspin and a raft of social websites have done to redefine the relationship between those being covered and those doing the covering," (Aug. 5) since those sites are so, so evil for giving people what they want to see. Plus there are all those stupid young people who want to know whom Reggie Bush is dating.

  • Most recently, Chicago Blackhawks hockey star Patrick Kane being arrested and charged with assault last weekend "was not exactly a shining moment for the integrity of bloggers" (Aug. 12) because people joked, passed judgment and gossiped about it on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the like, just like they have always joked, passed judgment and gossiped.
It's pretty clear: Dowbiggin's generation has a monopoly on good taste and substance. We get it.

Sorry to pop that secure little bubble of boomer conceit, but that is hogwash. Next to no one is prattling on about the "blogosphere" in 2009, really. The two sides came together. They locked swords. No one really got anywhere. They called a truce. Eventually, they realized they actually had a lot in common, kind of like Canada and the U.S. since the end of the War of 1812.

One should be grateful for the good sports journalists who share the experience extends to their audience. It might have been best to let this slide for that reason alone. Besides, who knows what if any overlap there is between who reads this and who reads a sports media column on Nevertheless, batter up:
"While Usual Suspects commiserates with Andrews' fragile state of mind after being spied upon, the tape demonstrates that the ESPN star, who has struggled to overcome the reputation as a sideline cupcake, clearly has no idea how people in her business chase a story. Gated community or not, reporters are supposed to go and knock on doors of celebrities, relatives of car-crash victims, defrauded investors, fraud artists and, yes, people who’ve had their privacy violated. It’s called getting the other side of the story."
Erin Andrews calling 911 to get rid of some paparazzi could have had more to do with only wanting the good stuff which comes with being famous during a period when she was also feeling vulnerable.
"Levy has in mind what TMZ and Deadspin and a raft of social websites have done to redefine the relationship between those being covered and those doing the covering. With Twitter and camera phones, fans can engage their heroes in new and - sometimes - frightening ways for traditionalists ... It also means putting younger people on the air who may not have experience but do connect with the target audience.

"... And having both Cabbie (Cabral Richards) and Al Strachan working in the same format is often too jarring a concept to contemplate for Usual Suspects."
Frightening for traditionalists? Too jarring? That's not an M.P., that's a Y.P, your problem. There also seems to be an assumption that everyone in that 18-34 demographic is interested in whom is dating whom and what Chris Bosh Tweeted. Personal experience suggests the contrary.

There are many sports writers born after 1970 who can go in depth about a topic with humour and wit, and without putting themselves above the audience. Just to a name a few, there are Jeff Pearlman, Jonah Keri, Kurtenblog, Jerry Brewer at the Seattle Times , and so on. The same goes for the writers in their 20s, like those at (present company excluded).

Then there's those bad, bad bloggers unleashing a "torrent of abuse" on poor Patrick Kane:
"The question of whether independent bloggers should have equal status with mainstream media is a hot topic in the industry. But the alleged Patrick Kane robbery and battery of a cabby was not exactly a shining moment for the integrity of bloggers. The release of the police charges Monday morning (actually, it was Sunday) brought an immediate torrent of abuse in the blogosphere for Kane, who was accused of beating a hapless Buffalo cabby for a 20-cent tip. Before Kane could explain his side, sites were saying 'How could Kane be this stupid?...

"Patrick Kane is a stuck-up, rich, spoiled, bratty punk... this punk kid needs a ass beating... The best possible light for Kane is that he is a mean drunk, a guy who is not above physically abusing a 62 year old man after a stupid prank went awry.' You get the flavour."
That is what people do when hit with bits of uncomfortable news. They make jokes. The cracks people post on Twitter are in the same ballpark with the sick jokes people told after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, when I was nine. It is the culture, for good or ill.

With respect to sports discussion, what Dowbiggin seems unwilling to reconcile is that the barriers have come down. That's TS for anyone who feels threatened (note that the good ones do not).

With regard to only bloggers looking bad on the Kane story, please. Some would say the thrust of the headlines on James Mirtle's post on Monday and Steve Simmons' Sun Media column on Tuesday were virtually identical: "Patrick Kane: A reputation ruined in an instant" and "No doubt Kane will pay; In court of public opinion, young star's reputation is tarnished by cabbie incident."

That is not to disagree with either Mr. Mirtle or Mr. Simmons. The younger cross-platformer and the older columnist (who does some TV) each said his piece very well and anyone is free to agree or disagree. It's simply that there is no us and them, and it's tiresome to have the "blogosphere" being treated as a bogeyman.

Mirtle also linked to a piece from Second City Hockey which cut to the heart of how "the Kane story ... could be useful in shattering some stories and myths we tell ourselves":
"The big one is 'hockey players are different.' No, they're not. Sorry. You know why you don't see as many athlete/criminal stories about hockey? Because there's less attention. There's less people following them to clubs, recognizing them, flashing pictures on their phones. The gossip pages tend to stay away, because no one cares about hockey players. But to suggest these guys are a different breed, that's asinine. They're rich, young kids, and those can add up to be bad combinations ... These guys are not angels, they're just people. People with freakish DNA and more money than you or I. Sure, maybe there are less of these stories in the NHL than other sports, but it's percentage points, not a wide chasm."
That might come closer to the truth than anything else published on the subjuct of "20 Cent." Hey, guess what? It was on a blog. If anyone had that kind of nuanced take in a newspaper, it passed by like a warm summer day.

Perhaps Kane and the Senators' situation with Dany Heatley each belie the culture of exceptionalism that is part of Canada's Hockey Reflex.

One would think Dowbiggin, having written a really well-received book called The Meaning of Puck, might take this into account instead of playing shoot-the-messenger. It's like what a film critic (this came across the ol' Google Reader during the process of putting this together) said about the tendency of veteran film critics, even Roger Ebert, to indulge in get-off-my-lawn techniques: "Often, the old guard sees the new guard as suspect, their tastes as lacking, and culture waning, no matter what the reality is. In the end, the thing that disappoints me most is that Roger used this moment to take what I consider a profoundly cheap shot."

Meantime, it is understood that perhaps a younger writer should not worry about Dowbiggin. The people on the blogs should just forget what's in the paper. The excellent Toronto Sun Family recently stated "aging baby boomers who grew up with print newspapers in their hands should be considered the demographics of choice ... Canada's 10 million or so baby boomers should be sufficient to carry print newspapers that are adequately staffed and focused on community affairs."

That reasoning is not entirely off. One might wonder about the argument that you should only be paid for your work if you pander to a certain demographic. What happens to anyone who wants to stay current and with it? Do they just get left with the scraps?

Point being, if Bruce Dowbiggin wants to pander to the older audience which still gets the paper, fine. He can do it without cheap shots and condescension. It would be a riot.


Tyler King said...

Beauty, Neate. Nicely done.

Here's his latest gem:

But there are those who still defend him. “I think he has done a fine job,” said Fan 960's Mike Wilner,

Fan 960? That's the kind of callous inaccuracy usually reserved for a blog.

Dennis Prouse said...

I wonder if Bruce Dowbiggin and Buzz Bissinger have ever done lunch.

sager said...

@ Dennis: Which would wear a St. Louis Cardinals cap?