TSF’s Bissinger Interview : Buzz Isn’t Quite Done Painting With Broad Strokes

Posted in Blogged Down, Sports Journalism at 3:02 am by

H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger’s latest give & take with The Starting Five’ Michael Tillery is not completely without merit ; the former has some relatively sensible things to say about the state of modern journalism, Philadelphia’s sporting scene and his own career. That said, Bissinger has hardly cooled off regarding tackling dummy Will Leitch, nor has he developed a particularly sophisticated take on a medium other than his own.

MT: Could Deadspin be seen as chickens coming home to roost regarding the lack of check and balance for conventional journalism? Growing up I would read a journalist and had the want to voice my opinion but that opinion was never heard. Whether or not it was in a letter to the editor or some other form of complaint. Could blogs be seen as that check and balance for journalistic culpability?

Buzz: Yeah! I think that™s the best of blogs when they do that¦where there is an interplay. People say why pick on Deadspin? Well, it is the most popular sports blog in the country. I don™t see that type of rational dialogue taking place. When I see the comments and replies that people make to a Deadspin post, it™s not rational argument. It™s all about the one liner that maybe can get me on Stewart™s (Jon) show or Stephen Colbert. They all think they™re much funnier than they are. It adds to this era of mockery that we live in. That™s not true of every blog. There™s one called the Beer Leaguer that covers the Phillies where the posts are rational and so are the comments. It™s all about what™s happening with the Phillies and what™s happening with Howard (Ryan), and Myers (Brett) etc. Do the Phillies need another pitcher and the like. It does give the fan a voice to give their opinions. I think that™s great. I think most blogs are used to make idiotic comments that they think are funny. To me it shows that they need to do something else with their lives because they have way too much time on their hands.

There is one big difference to what I did on Costas Now and bloggers. I didn™t hide behind anything. I didn™t hide behind some silly email handle or some silly name. I was myself. That was my name. My email is public and that™s a big difference. Blogs should insist that people use their real names. Would they still get the same amount of hits if they are really for change?

Post whatever you want but you gotta use your real name and it™s gotta be verified.

They™ll never do it because it™s a money game, let™s face it. The more posts you get, the more hits you get, the more money you make. That™s not just to entertain us. That™s also to make money.

Deadspin is in it to make money.

Not for the first time, Bissinger’s argument ends up being reduced to a pure matter of taste. He’s professed respect for “information based” blogs, selectively ignoring how some of those he’s cited engage in the same low-brow pranksterism he claims to despise. And how thin would our mainstream print publications be if they were all purely “information based”? While Bissinger thankfully acknowledges sports yack radio is at least as toxic as the blogosphere, he’s yet to propose a ban on newspaper editorials.

The topic of anonymity is a rather desperate one to raise. The blog Bissinger has criticized most loudly, Deadspin, makes no secret of it’s primary author/editor or publisher. If he’s referring to non-moderated comments, has he spent much time surveying the cretinous reader efforts at least one recently sold Tribune Co. property allows on their site(s)? Why, precisely, are blogs being held to a higher standard than major newspapers that have been publishing for nearly 70 years? Could it have anything to do with Bissinger being a somewhat pilloried figure in the blogosphere long before his pseudo-historic encounter with Leitch?

Finally, if Bissinger believes Nick Denton’s commercial enterprise is all-too willing to pander to make a buck, at least the Pulitzer Winner can sleep at night knowing that he’s only toiled for classy establishments that were only interested in the intellectual stimulation of their readers.

7 responses to “TSF’s Bissinger Interview : Buzz Isn’t Quite Done Painting With Broad Strokes”

  1. nono says:

    He is just mad that blogs are now in competition with newspapers and taking away ads.

  2. R.J. Irwin says:

    Mr. Bissinger,

    Not to make assumptions about your personality traits, being as though the only exposure I’ve had to you is the Costas show, but it appears you may not be the type of man that takes advice from others. If I’m wrong, and you do, here’s a piece of advice you might well take to heart: When stuck in a hole, stop digging.


  3. warmowski says:

    Meh. Bissinger’s not all that wrong. Either Deadspin is a sad puddle of dumb or it isn’t, and he’s right in calling it that. Signing and standing by what you write is either honorable or it isn’t, and he’s right in saying it is. Most blog comments are pro forma, unfunny crap and he knows it. I don’t think he ever said print publications are immune from running lowbrow dogshit, and I’ll hazard a guess that Bissinger has an understanding that both his kind of writing and lowbrow dogshit are paid from the same coffers primarily as a function of mass audience-triangulation on the part of the publisher.

    I don’t read his stance as “blogs suck” because Bissinger doesn’t seem that simplistic. I read it as “unconsidered, cursory writing sucks”. Seems like this is less an old-guard/new media slap-fight than a harrumph of disgust from someone who knows first-hand how much work it is making something worth reading. I can get behind that – even when I can see that he’s not putting in the work now necessary to *find* something worth reading.

    It’s also worth mentioning his own writing has benefitted from the attention of editors for most of his career, and so he is certainly faint in his praise of those who shine without such teamwork. Even then, I can’t fault him for not waving that flag when screen real estate is so overwhelmed with – even typified by – tiresome douchebags with nothing to say.

  4. David Roth says:

    I agree with Prof. Warmowski…but not with Bissinger. Maybe it’s just that the guy is too narcissistic a flavor of nut to say any of the very reasonable things Rob (not unreasonably) puts in his mouth in a reasonable manner. But while I sure understand (and agree with!) the aesthetic and intellectual argument against Deadspin or Sports by Brooks or whatever, he STILL cannot make his points without sounding like a barking, uninformed goof. He seems too angry, yes, but also (still) too uninformed, and too reliant on his righteous refusal to dignify anyone else’s blogs or comments with a coherent response.

    And speaking of comments…if Buzz’s issue is with blog comments, or unmoderated comments sections in general, then he’s barking up the wrong crisis. Yeah, Deadspin and seemingly almost every sports blog but this one have florid, awful commenting cultures: doofy one-liners, faux-outrageous commentary, whatever. This may scandalize Buzz more than it does me, but that’s probably because blog comments are so supremely easy to ignore — you’re probably doing it right now, for instance. And the alternative (not giving people a means to join the conversation, even if it’s with some stupid dittohead bullshit, as it seems to be most of the time at Deadspin — and which would be either mocked or ignored here), seems far worse to me than having to do the minimal amount of work involved in ignoring a couple of stupid comments. I don’t know what the endgame is for Buzz’s cheesy little crusade, and apparently neither does he, but it seems to me that the easiest way to avoid being bummed out or offended by Deadspin-ian idiocy is to ignore it. Or, you know, just do better, more thoughtful work yourself.

  5. GC says:


    I’m hardly defending Deadspin in this instance, but when Bissinger goes on national TV and declares that blogs are “dedicated to speed and cruelty”, his stance is awfully close to “blogs suck”. He’s got every right to say it, sure, but his criteria for which blogs have redeeming qualities (to repeat an earlier point) just reduces this to a matter of taste. It’s incredibly lazy to draw a line in the sand and hail the public good done by “information based” blogs while bemoaning the all the cultural damage wrought by the exchange of opinion and/or someone else’s idea of humor.

    I find the Deadspin comments about as funny as a field trip to Dachau. But I’m sure we can both rattle off a list of blogs devoted to satire, absurdity, etc. equally likely to offend His Buzzness. The difference being, they’re actually funny.

    I’m not questioning Bissinger’s right to publicly berate Will Leitch, but on the HBO show at least, the former hadn’t done nearly enough homework. Several weeks later — perhaps with the benefit of blogs — he’s cited Leitch’s NPR interview with Scott Simon, but he’s also harrumphing in disgust at Will “going mainstream”, when in fact, Leitch had a professional MSM background prior to getting the Deadspin gig. For a guy quick to champion the lost art of reporting, Bissinger’s loose grasp of the facts at hand isn’t all too different from what I’d expect from a not-so credible blogger.

    Finally — just for kicks — you might wanna check out Leitch being intereviewed by Costas on the latter’s syndicated radio show. It’s astonishing stuff — a huge percentage of the conversation consists of Costas seeking to clear his own good name, with Will denying he’d ever contributed to the wave of anti-Bob sentiment. Costas brought up the NPR interview, and Leitch pronounced himself “ashamed”. Meanwhile, ‘God Save The Fan’ remains in circulation. Perhaps the paperback edition will clear up this ugly misunderstanding over who’s really black and who isn’t.

  6. Bjorn Randolph says:

    Did anyone notice that the post linked-above detailing Bissinger’s embarrassing appearance on Boog Sciambi’s radio show quotes Sciambi as sarcastically criticising Bissinger’s work as “information based”?

  7. GC says:

    yep. that was classic. Buzz was called out for what seemed to be seriously lazy research in his Kerry Wood piece for ‘Play’ and he changed the subject to the station’s employment of Sid Rosenberg. As though one had anything to do with the other.

    Soliciting the expert opinions of Nolan Ryan and Ken Griffey Jr. (assuming the latter’s not too busy) is most assuredly real reporting, and hat tip to Bissinger for that. Statistical evidence is helpful, too, however.

    I still can’t get over that Costas radio show. It’s almost as though the host put a gun to Leitch’s head and demands “now tell the listeners that I don’t have an anti-blog agenda”. If you thought Buzz was bummed about being called a horsefucker, that’s nothing compared to Costas’ outrage over being mischaracterized as an blog-baiter. Seriously, that Miami Herald’s almost as bad as The Dirty.com.

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