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Posts Tagged ‘Bob Costas’

I’ve been at a conference out of town and am just now catching up to the whole Will Leitch/Buzz Bissinger/Bob Costas train wreck. Watch here.

A few thoughts:

First, King Kaufman over at Salon wrote a wonderful rebuttal to Bissinger. It’s full of links and everything! You know, the exact kind of thing you can’t do on your old-fashioned typewriter. In any event, it’s much better than anything I could write so if you want to read it, I highly recommend it.

Second, from the above-linked clip of the show, at about the 4:41 mark Bob Costas says:

A.J. Daulerio [Deadspin contributor]… said ‘you can’t brutally criticize athletes and expect them to give you any access.’

Two parts to this question: Isn’t that a false choice? Brutally criticize them or kiss their ass? What about responsibly criticizing them and responsibly praising them when they deserve it? Why would access preclude that?”

Is Bob Costas serious? That’s not a false choice but it is a false question. Rather than focus on the actual point Costas tries to create a straw-man and focus on the descriptive word “brutally”. When writing about politics, does a guy like George Will “responsibly” criticize some liberal political position or does he “brutally” criticize it? Peter Travers is the film critic for Rolling Stone magazine. In his review of the Matthew McConaughey/Kate Hudson movie Fool’s Gold, he began: “It’s early in the year but I defy any 2008 comedy to be as stupid, slack and sexless as Fool’s Gold.”

Okay Mr. Costas. Now is that “responsible” or is it “brutal” criticism? Isn’t it a matter of perspective? (Or perhaps it is “responsible” since Travers writes for a print publication.) Of course Costas can’t answer that because it’s all semantics and he’d rather get bogged down in the idea that “brutal” must necessarily be synonymous with “unfair”.

But never mind that. Consider also that he asks why access would preclude responsible criticism or responsible praise. I wish at that point Leitch would have turned to the athlete on the panel, Braylon Edwards of the Cleveland Browns, and just rattled a bunch of questions right at him: Have you ever experienced a writer shading a story or situation in the favor of an athlete he has a good relationship with? How about one where the writer and athlete (or coach or general manager or owner or whatever) didn’t have a good relationship? Have you ever had a teammate who intentionally tried to gain favor with any member of the media? How about a teammate or opponent who leaked information to a member of the media in the attempt to create a controversy of some sort?

And so on. And the answer is: of course! Geezus, Costas. Off the top of my head: what about Bob Hammel and Bob Knight? Do you really think Hammel, who’s close friendship with Knight was in part chronicled in John Feinstein’s excellent book A Season on the Brink, could be totally objective about The General? Hammel went on to help Knight with his autobiography for crissakes. Jim Rome obviously has different standards of criticism for people who come on his show and those who don’t. Just this year Doug Gottlieb suggested that perhaps Ty Lawson’s injury was a result of “karma” because Roy Williams would not come on his radio show.

You don’t think access has anything to do with that Costas? That’s just stupid, and it’s absolutely one of the advantages those of us wearing pajamas in our mother’s basements have over people like you, Buzz Bissinger, and everyone else who thinks that journalism is something you are, not something you do.

Finally, a while back I reviewed Friday Night Lights(the book, not the show). Until this controversy broke I had never seen Buzz Bissinger before but I’m somewhat comforted–I feel more justified in my reaction to that hit-piece than ever.

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