A long transcontinental flight gave me time to catch up on some old mail, a couple of unfinished books, yesterday’s papers, ‘The Fog Of War’ and least interesting of all, Chris Ballard’s “Writing Up A Storm (How The Web Is Changing Sports Coverage”) in the latest Sports Illustrated.

It’s tough to argue with Ballard’s assertion that sports bloggery is packed with drooling, gossip-mongering social reprobates with little or no training, credentials, etc. Because after all, it takes a journalism degree to deliver the hard hitting content you’ll find in a serious sports mag like S.I. For example, did you know the Knicks’ David Lee and S.I. swimsuit model Anne V. are dating?

Seriously, other than those stuck on airplanes or dentist offices, who regularly reads Sports Illustrated anymore? The photography is still top notch, some of the reportage of a high quality (Tom Verducci’s no slouch), but far too much of the modern SI reads like a desperate attempt to mimmick the breezy, personality-parade that is ESPN The Magazine.

(Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly — irrelevent in the pre-blog era, too).

I’m not sure what purpose it serves in the year 2006 to rail against the plethora of crud on the internet aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator. There’s a signal-to-noise quotient for all subjects, not merely sports. For every thousand poorly written, shit-stirring-for-the-sake-of-it-blog, there’s still a sizable minority of articulate, original voices that weren’t likely to be sanctioned by Time-Warner anytime soon.

(Though that said, it is worth noting that some of those voices, Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Wiseman amongst them, are SI contributors these days. Just like Chris Ballard.)

A couple of additional observations from this mess of an article :

1) Though I could certainly Die In Peace without reading another word about Bill Simmons’ career trajectory, there is something kind of amazing about an ESPN competitor giving Simmons that much coverage. I’m struggling to think of a good analogy — Fox’s Sunday NFL show profiling Chris Berman?

2) Next time, I sincerely hope Ballard and SI will commission more photographs of dudes hunched over their laptops. We really need more of that kind of thing.

3) “Leitch is not surprised by Deadspin’s popularity. “It seemed like there was a gaping hole for a site like this,” he says. “Most sites were either hard-core heavy stats, Bill Jamesian, or they were ‘Jets suck!'”

Indeed, I can’t tell you how long the sabermetric approach of The Sports Frog proved daunting to someone like me, who just wanted some light entertainment.

Likewise, the partisian sentiments flowing from a blog like Yard Work so completely overwhelm whatever else the site might have to offer in terms of satire, absurdity, etc. At bedtime tonight, after you’ve given thanks to Will Leitch for inventing the internet, be sure to give him very special credit for pioneering just whatever the fuck it is he wants to continue taking credit for.

4) As paradigm-smashing as the the current sports blogging boom might seem, Ballard’s version of da ‘sphere seems exclusively populated by, well, white guys of a particular vintage hunched over laptops. The sole non-male voices heard from, for better or worse, are the anonymous young ladies behind On The DL (correctly cited by Ballard as “the most risque thing about Deadspin).

Sheesh. They have the internet on computers now. Maybe next time (said in Geico caveman voice) Ballard can do a little research.