Sports Media Musings: Internet Tough Guys

Today: A round-up of media matters, starting with INTERNET TOUGH GUYS.

1. The John Dennis vs. Fred Toucher Twitter fight was a thing that happened.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

Screen shots courtesy of Barstool Sports:

VS.

… The obvious reaction: This episode played out like an argument in the comments section of a YouTube video, and ended the only way these such things can end, with John Dennis deleting his tweets from his timeline. Classic Dino.

… “Toucher & Rich” are born to be shit-stirrers, they play the underground card – WE’RE THE COMMON MAN! – very well, but fact is, their show has been number one in the market for an elongated stretch. It’s just funny because poking fun at the likes of John Dennis, kicking someone who’s purportedly down and below your level, would normally be seen as catty – that is, if it was any other media figure than John Dennis, who comes across as a loathsome dude.

… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – “Dennis & Callahan” won’t win a battle of wits against “Toucher & Rich.” They just aren’t likeable; instead, the Men of Guest Street should focus on their true advantage: an ability to deliver compelling discourse about sports, which is something “Toucher & Rich” struggle with at times.

… “Dennis & Callahan” has been much better in recent months and the ratings back this statement up, but that doesn’t warrant Dennis challenging Toucher to a back alley brawl.

… Reading this over, it’s important to remind oneself that these guys talk about sports for four hours a day. Sports, everyone.

… John Dennis is totally one of those old guys who believe if you delete tweets from your Twitter timeline that it means it never happened. NOTHING TO SEE HERE. Meltdowns on the Internet, and especially on social media, live forever. Nobody forgets.

 2. Kirk Minihane’s screed about how NESN should deal with Will Middlebrooks and Jenny Dell’s relationship made plenty of noise across the Internet.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

… Minihane is absolutely correct in his premise. This is, cut and dry, a conflict of interest.

… Sports on Earth contributor, Colin McGowan, thinks Minihane was over-the-top for the sake of being over-the-top, and this was, perhaps, even self-indulgent.

There are numerous caveats and considerations in the article, but they’re ultimately buried beneath certainty. It’s a Hot Take that knows it’s a Hot Take, but self-awareness doesn’t save it.

Maybe the tone of Minihane’s column was a tad acerbic and provocative, but the piece prompted discussion and felt authentic. Moreover, both those adjectives – acerbic and provocative – is how I’d describe Minihane in general. I’ve always felt the greatest compliment you can give to a writer is an ability to develop a voice similar to how you talk. I’ll chalk that up McGowan’s unfamiliarity with Minihane. And that’s fine. But I think it’s important to note Minihane wasn’t flipping his tone just for this topic and the ensuing clicks and comments.

Where McGowan truly loses me, and, I suspect, most people is here:

There are times, sure, even in a field as frivolous as sports journalism, that seriousness is required and a discussion of The Way Things Should Be can be edifying rather than self-indulgent. A sideline reporter is dating a player. This is decidedly not one of those times.

Yes, Jenny Dell isn’t Jim Gray or Pam Oliver, but lines have to be drawn. That there is any support for continued employment is baffling.

… That’s because there is credibility at stake here – yes, even for a place like NESN – and if Dell stays with NESN, and rumors persist that she could be heading elsewhere, the Internet will increasingly develop a jaundiced eye towards female sports reporters.

… The outcome of that cynical thought-process: Jeff Pearlman’s tone-deaf piece about Erin Andrews. Mind-blowing. Perlman later posted an apology.

… Don’t believe those ramifications? The following is from Richard Deitsch’s media column over at SI.com:

Appearances of interest conflicts matter, or they should to any editorial entity that cares about disseminating information. Such a relationship — if NESN stays the course — also hurts the efforts of female sports journalists. On this note, here were some answers to my question from women sports journalists in the field:

Boston Globe sports reporter (and former Red Sox beat writer) Amalie Benjamin: “Never. Ever. And more, it hurts the credibility of every female reporter doing it the right way.”

USA Today’s Lindsay Jones: “Never, never, never. Did I mention never?”

SI’s Joan Niesen: “Under no circumstances. None whatsoever. No, no, no.”

3. Watching the Internet deliver op-ed after op-ed about Richard Sherman made me dry heave.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

… While covering the Celtics, I listened to guys regurgitate “athlete-speak” (“We just have to execute our game plan”) night after night. That, I suppose, is the reason I’d always stick around for Kevin Garnett’s post-game remarks, because he’d talk about real shit, often using crazy analogies that never quite made sense. It was the best. Can’t have it both ways.

… Reasonable people know this was a non-story. This was an athlete, fired-up after making the biggest play of his life, expressing that jubilation, and consequently letting the world watch emotion manifest itself in real-time. Nothing more, nothing less.

… Certain local sports radio hosts have proved themselves to not be “reasonable people.”

… Literally everyone had to have a take on this. A few that stood out: Will Leitch’s take, I felt, was spot on. Rembert Browne provided an interesting counterpoint to the logic behind the narrative: “There is more to Sherman than meets the eye; after all, HE WENT TO STANFORD!”

4. Former Boston Sports Media contributor and current ESPN PR guy, David Scott, teamed up with Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports to write a screenplay which turned into a feature-movie.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

… Wetzel continues to be one of my favorite columnists in the business. This column after the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the Giants is a clinic on great sports writing.

… On a personal level, Scott Shots was a regular read and definitely a precursor to my own work here at BSMW.

5. Lots of fallout from Grantland’s controversial feature, “Dr. V’s Magical Putter.

(If you care about such matters, below are a few scattered musings.)

… Please note: There were ethical breaches and a myriad of other issues about the piece. We won’t dive into the minutia here.

… Initially, the piece was widely accepted as a fantastic feature. It was not until the transgender community pointed out its insensitivity and shortcomings that the Internet gathered their sharpest pitchforks and stormed Grantland demanding blood.

… The reaction prompted Bill Simmons to write a “letter from the editor” response. The letter was candid and sufficient in our eyes; however, Simmons loses me here:

Caleb’s biggest mistake? Outing Dr. V to one of her investors while she was still alive. I don’t think he understood the moral consequences of that decision, and frankly, neither did anyone working for Grantland.

Whaaat? Neither the editors, writer, or any of the other 15 other people who read the piece, thought there was an issue there? Really????

… Writing for Deadspin, Tim Marchman has a great breakdown of the failings here; that is, until he can’t help but go all-in on Simmons and Grantland, conflating the story with a larger issue:

The breakdown that took place here could have happened at any shop staffed by reporters and editors who aren’t as sufficiently attuned to trans* issues as they could or should be, which is to say nearly any of them, including this one. This particular breakdown, though, was a fractal of the Grantland problem in general, which is to say the Bill Simmons problem.

… For the record, I love Deadspin. Like most everyone else, I effusively praised the Manti T’eo story in this very space last year. Let’s use that story as an example, though: what if T’eo had committed suicide after Deadspin broke the hoax? Is Deadspin at fault?

Not to mention, this is a freakin’ Gawker site, a publication that once paid for photos of Brett Favre’s little Viking. I think many prestigious publications make the same mistakes that Grantland made here, but the problem is many publications aren’t Grantland, meaning the backlash isn’t as severe.

As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to say hello in the Twittersphere: @Hadfield__.

  • bsmfan

    T+R had fun with this one, doing a skit on the “John Dennis Fight Club” They addressed the issue toward the end of their 3rd hour, basically wishing that WEEI extends JD for a while, because D+C will never beat T+R.

    You mention the “wits” thing. I don’t know if it’s arrogance or what but JD will lose every single time here, as he did over the weekend, and make a clown out of himself in the process. If D+C stuck to doing what they do, Minihane helping, they would do themselves favors here. We’ve been over the contrast between the shows, which won’t change for the foreseeable future.

    This seems to take the win for the worst piece of sports journalism going today, though:

    http://i.imgur.com/BlntqxW.png

  • Jim

    Good column…Question–is that John Dennis/98.5 feud real? It’s so incredibly lame it almost seems like it has to be contrived. But with those guys I guess anything is possible.

    On the Jenny Dell issue…I don’t konw…If her relationship somehow affected her reporting, why is that different than any other reporters with relationships/friendships and their obvious agendas? Red Sox beat reporters obviously have relationships with the players that impact what they investigate/report…why is this any different?

  • HighWireNickEsasky

    I thought Marchman’s piece was very good but agree that it slip into the default anti-Simmons mode a bit (Simmons did appropriately apologize and take ultimate responsibility as editor in chief, so it’s kinda intellectually dishonest to call that “self-obsessed;” would he rather Simmons blame others?) But I don’t get your T’eo parallel. That Deadspin story refuted the lie, started and perpetuated by T’eo, that he had a terminally ill girlfriend who died during the Irish’s Cinderella season and that the entire team rallied around their heartbroken king. This created the myth about Te’o as strong, sensitive representation of all that is right with college football. Te’o claims he was duped but he did tell the media and others that he had met her in person, which wasn’t true. (Other outlets did try to out T’eo, but that wasn’t in the original Deadspin story)
    On the putter story, Dr. V’s lies about her credentials and the benefits of the putter are completely in bounds for Grantland’s reporting. The subject of her gender identity is much more tangential to the story. Yes, it made it difficult to track down specifics on her (which contributed to her mysterious nature), but the main reason why her gender indentity was of interest to the reporter and Grantland was that it made the story that much more salacious. For that reason, Simmons was correct to write that the collective lack of understanding of transgender individuals was not an excuse, because i don’t think a heightened sensitivity would have stopped them from following the transgender angle in some way.

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