Friday, April 10, 2009

Brilliant Insights Into Blogging (From Two People Who Know Nothing About It)

[I know what you're thinking. You are looking over at the scroll bar and saying "Wow, this post is long". It is, but don't let that scare you away. There is an escape hatch about 500 words in]

I must admit, when I dropped some podcast recommendations on Wednesday, I hadn't yet listened to the B.S. Report with special guest Rick Reilly. I read a couple accounts of the interview and didn't think there was anything too objectionable within. I also knew I was going to be busy and work and wanted to leave something substantive up there for the afternoon.

Well, I finally got around to listening to it, and I wholeheartedly retract my lukewarm recommendation.

In lieu our FJM Simmons feature* which comes around every two weeks when ESPN the Magazine ends up jammed in my mailbox, I'm going to transcribe the portion of the BS Report where Bill and Rick talk about blogs. I think it was necessary to put it down in writing to eliminate the ambiguity of trying to remember six minutes of conversation. It took forever, but it should be basically word for word, after stripping out some of their verbal tics.

[*Also because the column in the magazine was quite excellent and there was basically nothing to take issue with]

Reilly is the one who really comes across like an idiot here. Simmons is in interview mode, but Reilly makes almost the exact same cliched, uninformed points that Buzz Bissinger did on Costas Now about a year ago, but in the typical hokey, yuk yuk fashion so brilliantly mocked by Fake Rick Reilly on Twitter.

It only takes a few minutes to listen to the relevant part (24:30-30:00, give or take), so if you are interested, that would be the easiest thing to do. I've transcribed that portion (with a few parts omitted) and I'm going to make my comments in footnote form. That should save the 3 or 4 of you who might find this interesting some reading.

For those who aren't interested in reading the 800 word transcription and 12 subsequent footnotes, I'll sum it up in one paragraph:

Reilly claims the supposed feud between him and Simmons was made up by bloggers, ignoring the fact that ESPN brought him in at roughly four times Simmons salary when he produces a fraction of the content. It might be a one way feud, but it's certainly not made up. They agree that the internet is mean-spirited and say that sometimes bloggers only go for traffic over good content/accuracy (which ironically is pretty inaccurate). Reilly says that he doesn't want to hear some one's criticism if he's never met them before, inadvertently compares himself to a "poor 7th grade girl" and ends with a flourish about why his opinion is more important than that of a person who doesn't have the access that he does.

To which I would like to pose this question: What have you done that was so great with your access, Rick, beside deliver 800 word blowjobs to the people that you got paid to spend time with? Rick Reilly is the epitome of why access doesn't mean a fucking thing. A beat writer? Yes. He needs access. But the only good stuff Reilly has ever done did not result from the ridiculous celebrity-level entree he has been given into the sports world.

You are free to go, the rest of this post is extra credit.


The first twenty minutes consist mostly of the breathless name-dropping and star-fucking that you have come to know Rick Reilly for. That is egregious in it's on right, but the part I really took issue with came a little later.

At right about the 24:30 mark, BS & RR are talking about the difference between their writing styles (mainly column lengths) and how that is a function of Simmons coming up online and Reilly doing so through newspapers and magazines, which leads to this:

Reilly: What I don't get is why people think that there is this feud between us. Because, obviously, we are two completely different styles. But what I dont get is, why can't there be both? What can't I be old school and why can't you be new school? I mean why do they have to fake this whole, "they hate each other"?

Simmons: [deep breath] Aaaaahhh, I don't have an answer for that one... (1)

RR: I think you do, because you understand, like some of these guys, it seems like the only way to get attention in a blog, and I'm not saying all blogs are like this, but a lot of them, it seems like the only way to get attention is to rip.

BS: Right...

RR: Is to just rip, rip, rip. There's nothing added, it's all just... the joy of destruction sometimes and I think that's how you get picked up on the blogosphere is by ripping, or coming up with a fake rumor about two people who actually like each other!

BS: Yeah, you know what, I've found that, the biggest issue I have with the bloggers is that sometimes they'll do anything for traffic.

BS: And I do think you should have to have some sort of guidelines to it. You know, for instance, there was a blogger who, after I went on a radio station in Boston... they asked me about you, I talk to you on email about it, and I said some comment like "he touches my soul" or whatever. And the blog: "Simmons Rips Reilly!" In print it didn't capture that it was like this totally joking exchange I had with these guys. and it seemed like it was the goal of the blogger was to get picked up by Deadspin and some of these other blogs, so they would subsequently get the traffic. So they didn't care if they were being accurate or not, they just wanted the traffic. And I think that's when you can get into danger. Is when you are going for traffic over actual accuracy. (4)


BS: Well do you actually check out the blogs, or no?

RR: We'll I just get people who seem to think that you want to see everything written about you and I really don't, because I understand criticism, I get criticized, I criticize other people, I know that's part of the game. But I don't really want to read people that have never met me. Or some guy that's an actuarial by day and at night is trying to do this blog and is pissed that he never got hired as a sports writer. And so he's gonna take it out on me and other people that
are hired. You know, I don't really need to head his gripes, you know? (5)


RR: To me it's a lot like 7th grade girls. Because in the old days, when I was in 7th grade, 7th grade girls all gossiped about each other, right? But the poor girl didn't have to hear it. (6) But now, cause I had a 7th grade girl, they put it on blogs, and they start websites like "I Hate Amber". You know?


BS: ...There is a mean-spiritedness that's come up, I guess it's like a snarkyness, and I don't know if I've helped to contribute to that or not, but I hope not.

RR: But generally they LOVE you, you're part of that new school!
(8) You can imagine what they say about me. Because I didn't come up with that world. And I just don't see the value of a guy who never goes to a game, never meets the athlete, I don't particularly want to hear his opinion. (9)

RR: I've been doing this 31 years, for a living, I feel like I go out there, I'm in the locker rooms, I'm in the clubhouses, I'm meeting these guys, I'm hearing what they are saying, whatever. It seems to me a guy like that has a little more valued opinion than some
schmo who, as I say, is holding down couch springs on his mom's basement. (10)

RR: Having said that though, there are some really funny guys who I know have no access, that are really funny, and good, and I read them.
(11) I think that kind of, you are the leader of those guys who don't want access because you kind of want to be part of that world where you get to just shoot from the hip and you never have to see the guy, the 6'8" 280 pound guy that you totally ripped the day before. (12)

  1. /raises hand... I do, I do, I do, I do!!! It's because ESPN gave Rick Reilly $17M when Bill Simmons was already their top writer/personality and he gets paid about a quarter of that to write about 4 times as much.

  2. Yeah, a total fabrication. Bill Simmons loves the fact that you get paid over $4M a year to write 800 words every two weeks.

  3. Simply not true. I wrote a post a while back (actually concerning Simmons and Max Kellerman) make some erroneous assumptions and taken to task in the comments for it. I had to write a follow-up post to set things straight. I would take it back in a second. You think those 2,500 visits mean a thing if what the people are reading is garbage? The end goal is developing a readership and if what you are writing is inaccurate, who is going to come back to the site?

  4. See above. Traffic means nothing for building a readership if the content isn't good.

  5. No, Rick, I don't know. You don't want to read criticism from people you've never met? You are a writer. Why does someone have to know you as a person to criticize the things you write?

  6. It's funny, because I don't think he set out to make himself the poor 7th grade girl who was getting picked on in that analogy, but that's sure where he ended up.

  7. Yeah, there is some snarkyness, because you can find plenty of fluff pieces like the the shit Reilly writes in the mainstream media. The internet didn't beget snark. It was always around, it just took a long time for society to circumvent traditional media outlets to connect on that level. Even the meanest drivel written on the shittiest blogs represents, on some level, what people were already saying to each other in bars and in their living rooms. Is some of it repulsive, even to me? Yes. But it's easy to steer clear of it: Don't go on SEC message boards.

  8. Except Simmons isn't part of the new school, as far as anyone in the new school should be concerned. He made his way on the internet, but it was before it was cluttered with a trillion blogs. It's not like he's writing three blog posts a day.

  9. Why does having access make you a real journalist? Rick Reilly is the least objective writer I've ever had the displeasure of reading. He fawns over athletes like he's an US Weekly intern as evidenced by the first half of the podcast.

  10. "As I say". I didn't know Rick Reilly invented the "Mom's basement" cliche... Or maybe he was just taking credit for the "holding down the springs" part. That's creative, Rick. I like what you did there.

  11. I'm sure they would be thrilled to hear what you said about them 8 seconds before that.

  12. Ex-fucking-actly. Bloggers don't have to be afraid that someone is going to kick their ass for telling the truth. They don't have an agenda to push. They don't have people to answer to. Sometimes that's a bad thing, because there are no editors to catch our every typo and maybe we miss some stuff while watching the game at home. But at the same time, I think we do a great job of relating to other fans. The reason why old media types hate blogs is they are not the target audience. Personally, I could give a shit what Murray Chass or Rick Reilly or Mike Lupica thinks about this site. There seem to people some like-minded people out there that find it mildly interesting, and that's good enough for me.


  1. Neither side gets it. MSMers are paranoid blogs are eating into their audience. Blogs think MSMers are "so yesterday" and that blogs will replace MSMers.

    Fact of the matter is there's room for both at the table.

    You say these columnists fawn over athletes. OK, maybe at times. But when they've spent time and covered the athlete and been around them and get to know them while bloggers have watched on TV... who has more insight?

    At the same time, columnists are out of touch often with what the audience wants. Blogs (good ones at least) can be snarky and witty and crude (in a good way) in ways traditional media can't. There's a place for it.

    Both sides need to stop fighting over the last piece of meat. There's enough food on the table. Grab a spoon. The audience will decide what it wants to consume.

  2. Reily is an old school hack. He blows the guys he loves and give him the time of day and rips those he hates or ignore him. Exhibit A is that hatchet piece he wrote on Bonds many years ago. I can't believe ESPN is getting their money's worth from him because I know I haven't read him and don't know too many others that have as well.

  3. Are we still talking about mainstream media vs. blogs?

    Everyone needs to give up the argument because blogs are a part of the mainstream. Fackyouk might not be (and you certainly want it to be), but the New York Times has 80 blogs on their site. The Miami Herald has nearly the same amount, etc. Blogs are a part of the mainstream and the argument about the mainstream not caring is almost as tired as people giving a shit about Rick Reilly vs. Bill Simmons.

    Ooooohhhh, they're both at ESPN, whose box is going to be hire on the homepage? Who gives a shit? Simmons is still relevant and Reilly is not. It's that simple.

    Sports blogs these days seem to argue about the most chickenshit things because every crack has been filled by someone else in the blogosphere. There isn't enough room for everybody who wants to be a sports blogger, so we go through somebody's podcast line-by-line.

    Are you kidding me? Go do something productive with your life. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or teach Sunday school. Just please stop worrying (and writing) about petty shit that doesn't matter.

  4. bloggers are pretty annoying and if they didn't exist I wouldn't be clamoring for them to come around.

    They refuse to admit they only post controversial things to get people to come to their site. Its the basic fundamental step in becoming a successful blogger and they all like to deny the cold hard truth.

    So until you admit that you have no credibility. Not that you would gain that much by admitting it anyways.

    People need to realize that these are just everyday people and its basically like listening to any idiot who sits next to you at the ballgame.

    And Simmons made a great point about how they don't want the access that better and more knowledgeable reporters get because they just want to complain and vilify.

    Not that actual sportswriters are great, they are few and far between... but bloggers are worse. Thats why I can only stand to read a few of them and even they aren't great.

    Enjoy your celebrity for another couple years, pretty soon the whole blogging fad will go the way of POGS once people realize how pointless they are.

  5. "Enjoy your celebrity for another couple years, pretty soon the whole blogging fad will go the way of POGS once people realize how pointless they are."

    Can I qoute you on that?