There are numerous reasons not to want the job of baseball-team beat-guy — eating in hotels a lot is one; the threat of wedgies from Adam Dunn and having to stare at Nick Johnson’s Jon Polito mustache for 162 games also come to mind — but busting out 162 game recaps on mega-tight deadlines pretty high on my list. Because of how soon the recap is due after the game — usually within an hour or so — most writers bang out their leads (or “ledes” if you want to get
awful journalistic) in advance, while the game’s still happening. Plug in a few quotes and the final score, file, and you can head back to the Ramada for a caesar salad with grilled chicken on top and as many whiskeys as you can drink before you just start crying, crying without really knowing that you’re crying or why it’s happening although maybe it’s because you’re so tired, so sad, your stomach hurts, etc. I don’t really know, myself. It’s probably not that bad.
But I just took a part-time job doing xtreme-deadline stuff — I wrote most of the player news notes on this page, although there’s obviously no way to tell that — and that, I can at least say, is pretty miserable. More typing than writing, less about quality than quantity, the whole pooped-up works. It’d probably be pretty exhausting and unpleasant to have to live like that full-time, and I’m sure — in part because he has already admitted as much — that Washington Post Nationals correspondent Chico Harlan can think of things he’d rather be doing than recapping lopsided losses 90-110 times this season. But it probably doesn’t bode well that, two games and two lopsided losses into the 2009 season, he’s already not even bothering to conceal his disdain for the team. These are the first two paragraphs of his recap of yesterday’s 8-3 Nationals loss:
The Washington Nationals might not be this bad. Give them some time — maybe another day or two, maybe another series — and surely they will demonstrate the ability to fall behind by only a few runs, rather than a half-dozen. And maybe their starting pitchers can last four or five innings, rather than three. Surely sometime soon their steady third baseman will be throwing balls to the first baseman’s chest, not his cleats, and right-hander JuliÃ¡n TavÃ¡rez — the sort of relief-pitching blanket you only throw atop a raging fire — won’t be making his cameo before the stadium entrance lines clear.
Give the Nationals enough time, and they will return to the mean; debate all you want if that good fortune will also help them win with any regularity. After losing Tuesday night to the Marlins, 8-3, the 2009 Nationals have proven only an ability to turn an ugly season opener into an even uglier season-opening series. In front of 11,124 at Dolphin Stadium, the Nationals trailed 8-0 by the third inning. Starter Scott Olsen was bad against the middle of Florida’s order and just as bad against its bottom. By the middle of the third inning, the Marlins (2-0) — already with two home runs this game, four the day prior — were on pace for more than 800 homers for the season.
I kind of don’t know what to say about this. In a sense, everything that’s there needs to be there, data-wise. And I suppose it’s a bit livelier than the average recap, in the sense that Harlan was obviously having some fun with writing it. That “fun” thing is nothing another couple decades on the job won’t cure, I guess, but I think more notable is the fact that there’s something dismayingly dickish about the whole thing, a sort of bloggy jerkiness that I don’t really think an actual journalist can afford. At the risk of getting Bissingerian, a pseudonymous blogger can type more or less whatever he wants about the subject s/he is writing about — this can be done under your own name, too, I guess — because s/he’ll never have to face said subjects and explain those comments.
I think that a pervasive sense of a real or perceived distance from almost everyone has been one of the uglier results of the atomized nature of life online, and that it drives a lot of the nastier, more sneer-intensive stuff in the media. (This includes the “athletes are idiots” stuff bro-bloggers favor, but also those wincy schadenfreude reality-operas on Bravo with the nightmarish matchmaker and the awful Housewives and whatever) I also think, more practically, that this sort of snarky dis-reliant shit is not the sort of thing I’d want to have to explain to Adam Dunn’s face, especially if I were the same person who made such a big deal about wanting to write about the “characters” and “personalities” of the team I was (so blase about) covering.