Thus came Bissinger, a veritable buzzsaw of opinions, laying waste to virtually everything and anything about sports blogs in a way that Costas could only dream about. His vitriol was so widespread and so complete it was actually hard to discern his overall point. From what I could tell, he doesn’t like, for example, the profane nature of many blogs and he made this point as forcefully and profanely as he could. He’s no fan of the fact that many of the postings are done anonymously, the opinions offered by cowards who won’t use their real names. For good measure, he also thinks nearly everything on these sites is poorly written, lacking in insight, and authored by a bunch of boobs, misfits, and idiots.
Deadspin’s Leitch, representing the new guard, actually came across as the adult in the room. He didn’t defend some of the more ridiculous examples that Bissinger cited but neither did he find it necessary to point out that these examples didn’t represent the level of electronic discourse any more than People magazine represents the level of printed discourse.
Costas did his best to appear as the moderate voice, reminding Bissinger in a “there there” fashion that from time to time there is some insight to be gained from bloggers, even if you have to dig through 10 layers of cow dung to find it. How could Bissinger disagree? He couldn’t so he didn’t. But if Bissinger came away with a more complete picture of his nemesis he didn’t let on either.
And then there was the odd sight of Braylon Edwards of the Cleveland Browns sitting with these two wearing a look that suggested “what am I doing here?” Edwards said, I think, that he reads the various Internet sites but didn’t seem to have a strong opinion one way or the other about much of anything. The guess here is that he was invited because he’s one of the bigger loudmouths in sports. Instead he used the opportunity to finally shut up. If Edwards thought this might be a tryout for a media gig post football, he needs to get back in the weight room, so to speak.
In addition to the Bissinger/Leitch carnival, there was another somewhat similar panel about athletes and the media. It featured the aforementioned McEnroe along with former New York Giants running back and current NBC commentator Tiki Barber and Selena Roberts, columnist for Sports Illustrated. It was less theatrical than the Bissinger segment but basically it made the same points.
Roberts didn’t directly attack the internet like Bissinger, but she made it pretty clear that all of this attention has made athletes much more guarded and made her job much more difficult. She complained, for example, of the obstacles placed in front of her just to interview LeBron James about his relationship with Jay-Z. Without saying it specifically, she let it be known that ultimately it was the reader that suffered because she was not able to bring her special insight to bear on such a hot topic. Ah, for the old days when a beat writer could sit in the hotel bar with Mickey Mantle and knock back shots until 4 a.m.