Tag Archives: media morons

The Lost Art of Keeping Your Mouth Shut

It’s always okay to say nothing. That’s a concept we’ve lost in the internet age, where we rush to project our thoughts as soon as they flit across our brains. But really, it’s perfectly acceptable to keep your mouth shut once in a while.

I say this because last night, while Hurricane Sandy was unleashing its worst on the tri-state area, Jack Shafer of Slate saw fit to take to Twitter and unleash this (reverse chronology from top to bottom):

Normally, I assume most people outside the tri-state area don’t like New Yorkers, and I could care less. Provincial hatred of other cities might be the saddest, most ineffectual prejudice there is (think Springfield vs. Shelbyville) and it says more about the practitioner than his target.

However, I truly don’t understand the psyche of a person who would see what was happening to New York and choose that moment to express snide, impotent rage against the people living there. And not specific people, either, but a vague idea of those people crafted in a badly compartmentalized brain.

Fine, Shafer, you hate some mental image of New Yorkers. Congratulations. I have zero interest in changing your mind, but is it too much to ask that you wait a day to express this thought? At the exact same moment I read his first dismissive tweet, I saw a news report about two children who were killed by a falling tree up in Westchester. Excellent timing, professional journalist.

As I write this, houses are still burning out in Breezy Point. Neighborhoods in southern Queens and Brooklyn are still under 6 feet of water. Parts of Staten Island and the Bronx were hit just as bad. People have lost homes, and for the most part they’re not the kind of people who have the means to just shrug and rebuild. If that does nothing for Shafer, I can assure him the storm also hit New Jersey and Connecticut hard. Houses destroyed, whole towns flooded and possibly more if levees don’t hold out, power out for who knows how long. I don’t know if those states have been too polluted by their proximity to New York to earn his sympathy.

Tragedy isn’t a contest. When something bad happens, there’s zero point in trying to determine if this Bad Thing is better or worse than the last Bad Thing. There’s no award given out for Best Reaction to Horror to the people involved. In any disaster, there are heroes and there are crappy people, because there are humans. Actual humans. Try to remember that when you’re sitting at a keyboard.

A tweet Shafer wrote later (the last one he wrote, at this moment) indicated he was without power in the DC suburbs. So maybe he didn’t see all the images of destruction that I’ve seen in the last 24 hours. That’s still no excuse for his reaction. As a journalist, Shafer should know that if you don’t have all the facts, you can always keep your stupid mouth shut. The internet will manage to go on without your uninformed, hateful garbage, I promise you.

Different people react to tragedy differently. Some feel compelled to help, others joke to deal with their terror. If your reaction is to sneer at the people who are in harm’s way, I feel sorry for you, and anyone who may be in your life.

Media Turns Its Attention to Other Tiny Bands of Kookadooks

On Wednesday, the collective American media pledged to cover a more diverse selection of incredibly small groups of maniacs. The move came after several weeks of unblinking coverage of Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Church in Gainesville, Florida and their plans to burn the Koran, despite the church’s miniscule membership.

“It’s a basic matter of fairness,” said New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger. “We’ve spent a ton of time reporting on a church with a congregation of 50 people, who not only want to burn the Koran but think their Christian god is telling them to do it. So we have to give equal time to comparably sized, comparably insane religious sects. We’ve already sent two reporters to Des Moines, where there’s a tiny cult that worships Jim Backus.”

Shortly after the Times‘ announcement, other news organizations followed suit. USA Today is planning a three-part series on a temple in Galveston, Texas dedicated to the monster truck Bigfoot, while MSNBC has prepared an hour-long special about a church in Bakersfield, California that believes Jesus Christ was made of fudge.

“When compared to the total US population, 50 people is an infinitesimally small, statistically insignificant number,” said CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “That’s only slightly less than the number of people who believe Jamie Fahr is the antichrist. Which is why I’ll be interviewing some of those people this week.”

FOX News did not join the public pledge, in part because it has already been devoting a large amount of its airtime catering to a small, deranged audience that believes President Obama is a Muslim.

Scratchbomb Salutes a True American Hero

As I wrote in a recent post, the word “hero” is thrown around a bit too freely in the sports world. However, I heard a true sports hero this weekend.

As I was scooting around on Super Bowl Sunday, I listened to Mike Francesa’s “The NFL Now” program in the car, because my brain hates my ears. My beef with Francesa is well documented. Up until this year, most of that beef was confined to his agenda-driven conduct during the baseball season. I still found his football work to be at least listenable.

But as the Jets made an improbable playoff run, he dismissed all of their accomplishments in the same snide, condescending manner he uses to talk about the Mets. When they made the postseason, it didn’t count because the Colts and Bengals didn’t try in weeks 16 and 17. When they beat the Bengals on the road, it was because of Cincinnati’s mistakes. When they beat the Chargers on the road, again it was no big deal the Jets had taken down one of the best offenses in the NFL on their home turf.

Did the Jets draw an enormous amount of luck to get as far as they did? Of course. But who cares? The sheer improbability of all should have been enjoyed for what it was by anyone unlike Francesa, who traffics in misery for a living. It was a sickening, transparent attempt to both tweak Jets fans and get fans of other teams to cheerlead him.

The most frustrating thing about Francesa is that his medium (radio) doesn’t allow for any kind of counterpoints he doesn’t want to hear. If he wrote for a newspaper or a web site, you could comment on his completely faulty reasoning. Instead, he only welcomes callers who will kiss his ring.

On the rare occasion someone who disagrees with him gets on the air, Francesa merely screams at the poor guy until he gives up. I heard one call a few weeks ago where a reasonable caller accused Francesa of discounting the Jets because he didn’t like them, and because their continued success made him look stupid. Francesa’s voice got louder and louder with each response, and his counterpoints made such insane logical leaps they could only be explained by quantum physics. Eventually, the man on the phone couldn’t get a word in edgewise and had to abandon ship.

Radio also being an ephemeral medium, Francesa doesn’t get called out when he makes off-the-cuff, borderline slanderous remarks. Or when he just gets things wrong, like mispronouncing the name of Colts head coach Jim Caldwell. Throughout the football season, Francesa has referred to the Indianapolis coach as CaRdwell. Not once, or twice, or even a few times. All season long.

But yesterday morning, some brave, genius soul managed to get on the air with Francesa. This man not only called him out on his idiocy, but also made Francesa look like even more of an imperious buffoon than usual, as he mumbled he didn’t “have time” to bother with getting Caldwell’s name right because it was early on a Sunday morning. Yes, you work a whole 30 hours a week–when could you possibly look up the actual name of the AFC champion’s coach?

God bless you, Rich in Massapequa. A man can stand up!

Hat tip to the hilarious @MikeFrancesaNY for the YouTube link.

Blatant Homerism Theatre, in Conjunction with Lack of Historical Perspective, Brings You a Jayson Stark Production

The great thing about sports in general–and baseball in particular, I think–is that it turns adults into little kids again. It makes us marvel at amazing feats, believe in miracles…

/the theme from The Natural swells

Sorry, almost had a Costner moment there. Schmaltz aside, sports are fun because they can bring us unbridled joy and enthusiasm. We can all go a little nuts when our team wins The Big Game, pump our fists and proclaim THAT’S THE BEST DAMN GAME I’VE EVER SEEN!

And when I say “we”, I mean “the fans”. That should not include members of the media, who are paid to be impartial and stoic and have a sense of perspective during even the most thrilling moments. Jayson Stark of ESPN must have missed that day at J-school, because he busted out a column about game 4 of the NLCS that blew my mind with its complete lack of historic perspective or rational thought.

When last we met Mr. Stark, he was advising the Mets (via anonymous MLB scouts) to trade Jose Reyes. So his judgment is already suspect in my eyes. My opinion of him has not been elevated by his piece about Monday night’s thriller, entitled “Phillies walk off into history”.

He sets the scene with a series of one-sentence paragraphs, describing how the Phillies were down to their last strike when Jimmy Rollins belted a two-run double into the right field gap, completing a come-from-behind victory and putting Philadelphia on top three games to one in the series.

It was a dramatic win, to say the least. It deserves some dramatic prose. What it does not deserve is to be described as “an October baseball game that is going to be talked about for the rest of our lifetimes.”

Maybe Stark has powers of prognostication that I don’t. But “talked about for the rest of our lifetimes”?! This was, at best, the third-best playoff game played in the past week. It was the second-best playoff game played that day. Games 2 and 3 of this year’s ALCS–extra-inning, tension-filled marathons–were both better.
Continue reading

Glenn Beck Will Save America with Classic Commercials

glennbeck.jpgDo you remember that simpler time in America? Do you remember how that felt? Do you remember this commercial?

glennbeck.jpgYes, there was a time when tow-headed young boys could give Cokes to famous defensive linemen. And the linemen would give the children sweaty souvenirs! When was the last time you saw that in Obama’s America? What has happened to our nation? Or how about this, do you remember this?

glennbeck.jpgWe were all Peppers back then! No one saw color! It didn’t
matter if you were a boatin’ Pepper, a totin’ Pepper, a cookin’ Pepper,
or a good lookin’ Pepper! It didn’t even matter if you were Popeye! We
all danced on the deck of a Staten Island Ferry boat! Only when I look
at ads like this do I realize how much we’ve lost! Still not convinced?
How about this, do you remember this?
Continue reading

Inside the Actors’ Studio with Mike Francesa

fran1.jpgWelcome bu-hack to Inside the Actors’ Studio. I’m yaw host, Mike Francesa. In addition to knowing everything there is to know about spawts, I’m also a cineaste extraordinaire. This is the show where I tawk to some of the best actors in the history of Hollywood films. Some of the greats. Some of the legends. Some of the biggest stars. And I have one of em next to me right now. His name is Richard Dreyfuss. Richard, welcome to the program.
dreyfuss.jpgThanks, Mike. I can hear you, but it’s hard to see you past this heaping mountain of snacks you have on the desk between us.
fran1.jpgI draw my strength from the aroma of unopened Malomars. Now, Richard, you’ve appeared in some of the biggest films of awl time. Some of the hugest films. Some of the real big ones. Which one was your favorite?
dreyfuss.jpgOh, it’s so hard to say. Movies are almost like your kids, you know: You love em all! Ha ha! There’s just…
fran1.jpgIt’s Mr. Holland’s Opus, isn’t it?
dreyfuss.jpgThat was certainly an enjoyable film to make.
fran1.jpgYour favorite film was Mr. Holland’s Opus.
dreyfuss.jpgI don’t think I’d say that, Mike. I mean, it was a fantastic experience, but I always come back to Jaws, the movie that really…
fran1.jpgJaws?! Are you tellin me you like Jaws more than Mr. Holland’s Opus?
dreyfuss.jpgMike, it’s not really question of liking one more than the other…
fran1.jpgMISTAH HOLLAND’S OPUS WAS ABOUT A BELOVED TEACHER FALLING IN LOVE WITH MUSIC AGAIN! JAWS IS ABOUT A SHAWK! HOW CAN YOU PICK JAWS OVER MISTAH HOLLAND’S OPUS?! YER OUTTA YA MIND IF YOU THINK THAT!!

/17 minute pause

IF YOU THINK JAWS IS A BETTAH FILM, YOU ARE LOST! LU-HOST!

/massive gulp of Diet Coke

Alright, we got Frankie on the caw phone. Frankie, what’s up?

Thanks, Mike. I love the show. I worhship the ground you walk on. I cherish the six hours your show is on much more than the time I spend with my stupid wife and children.

fran1.jpgGo on.
My question is, when Mr. Dreyfuss was making that mashed potato Devil’s Mountain in Close Encounters, did he really…

fran1.jpgWait, you wanna ask a Close Encounters question? I have the staw of Mr. Holland’s Opus here, and you wanna ask a Close Encounters question?

dreyfuss.jpgI’d be happy to answer it…

fran1.jpgDid you evah see Mr. Holland’s Opus, Frankie?

I think so, maybe on a plane once. I don’t remember it too well.

fran1.jpgI HAVE THE STAW OF MISTAH HOLLAND’S OPUS HEAH, AND YOU WANNA ASK HIM ABOUT CLOSE ENCOUNTERS? YOU GOTTA BE OUTTA YAW MIND! WHY DON’TCHA AKS HIM ABOUT THE TOUCHING SCENE WHERE HE HEARS HIS SYMPHONY PERFAWMED BY HIS FORMER STUDENTS?! ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT DIDN’T MOVE YOU TO TEARS?!


Um, like I said, I don’t remember it too well.

fran1.jpgBECAUSE I WEPT LIKE A BABY!

Mike, please don’t yell at me! You’re the only ray of sunshine in my life!   

fran1.jpgRidiculous. Get this guy off.

/click

Mark, Chris, Bill, whatever my producer’s name is. This is the kinda question you let on the air? So that’s what we’re doin now. This is how we produce a show. Okay. Fine.

/dismissive snort

Alright, now it’s time faw my Mawquis Quiz.

dreyfuss.jpgI thought it was called the Proust Questionnaire.
fran1.jpgThis first one is easy: Who scawed the first safety in Super Bowl history?
dreyfuss.jpgUm…you know, I’m not a huge football fan.
fran1.jpgTAKE A GUESS, RICHARD! TAKE A GUESS!
dreyfuss.jpgUm…Terry Bradshaw?
fran1.jpgTERRY BRADSHAW?! HOW IS QUAWTABACK GONNA SCORE A SAFETY?! YOU AW LU-HOST!
dreyfuss.jpgYou seem to be running the show fine by yourself. Maybe I should just leave.
fran1.jpgNOT UNTIL YOU SHARE HILARIOUS STORIES FROM THE SET OF “THE EDUCATION OF MAX BICKFORD”!

Hat tip to @kranepool, whose tweet inspired this opus.

What’s the Deal with Everyone’s Deal with Jose Reyes?

reyes_espn.jpgIt’s hard to know why the media latches onto a particular narrative. Sometimes it’s a naked attempt to curry favor with the audience. Sometimes it’s to push an agenda (see: the entire Fox News Channel). Sometimes it’s just pure laziness, because it’s always easier to go
with what everyone thinks they think about something than it is to
actually research stuff.

Regardless of the reason, there’s usually a Point of No Return: a time after which it becomes virtually impossible to change the narrative, or temper it with another point of view. If everyone says the same thing, saying anything else suddenly sounds like lunacy. It’s a corollary of The Big Lie Theory. Repeat something often enough and it becomes true, at least in most people’s minds.

I feel like we’re on that precipice right now with Jose Reyes. If you read/listen to/watch any NY-based sports media–and even some not in NY–you will hear many different people beat the same drum. Its cadence goes like this: Jose Reyes is a malingerer who is not trying hard enough to come back from his hamstring injury, and the Mets should trade him because they’ll never win with him anyway, because he’s not a “gamer”.

Normally, I could care less about writers’ opinion of a player’s work ethic and whether or not he should be traded. But this line of reasoning seriously scares me for two reasons:

1) The frequency of these “Reyes must go” features makes me think that the Mets have already decided to trade him, and are feeding these stories to the press to soften the eventual blow.
2) The Mets are extremely sensitive to the media, and also not very smart. If enough people say “trade Reyes”, they may just bow to pressure and do it. Particularly since this narrative ties into another Mets-related media narrative: that the “core” of the team (code word for Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright) is not “tough” enough and therefore, one (or more) of them must be jettisoned for the good of the team.

For a prime example of what I’m talking about, see Jayson Stark’s recent column on the Mets–an infuriating work given an excellent takedown by Sam Page at Amazin’ Avenue. Ostensibly, Stark’s column is about the “impossible spot” the team will be in next year. (Peter Gammons does not see things quite as dimly.) But really, what Stark does is cherrypick through a series of quotes from anonymous baseball executives and scouts and use them to come to conclusion that Reyes must be traded.

Of course, every reporter uses anonymous sources. And this is an opinion piece, so it doesn’t have the same burdens as straight-forward reportage. But Stark doesn’t have a single on-record source, so I haven’t the slightest idea what agenda these nameless Baseball People might have. For all I know, these sources supplied quotes because they hope the Mets will be dumb enough to trade Reyes. (Amazingly, I find myself agreeing with Murray Chass’s critique of the piece; though Chass doesn’t explictly reference Stark or that column, it’s pretty clear who his target is.)

I don’t mean to pick on Stark. I chose his piece because it’s indicative of the Current Reyes Narrative: Reyes is not a hard worker and never will be one and therefore should be traded. The line has been repeated so often that it’s almost pointless to argue otherwise. The problem is, there’s no serious evidence to support it.

This is not like when Carl Pavano did several very stupid things to set back his injury rehab, then refused to take a minor league deal from the Yankees when he clearly deserved no better. All of the evidence against Reyes in this case is rumor and hearsay. Not some, or much of it, or even most. All of it.

Reyes hasn’t done anything–or failed to do anything–that should make anyone doubt his dedication. Hamstrings are tricky injuries. They can take weeks or months to heal. Nobody but Reyes and his doctor(s) know how much he’s injured. Nobody has any right or reason to question his ability to play.

Still, they do. There’s an oft-repeated rumor that his teammates think his injury might be more in his head than his hamstring. No one’s ever gone on record with that accusation. There’s no evidence to support it. But you hear this rumor on WFAN all the time, particularly on The Sports Pope’s show. It’s even alluded to often at MetsBlog. Site founder Matt Cerrone says “I’m not sure I believe that, but it’s an understandable conclusion”.

From 2005 to 2008, Reyes had played no fewer than 153 games at an extremely demanding position. He played in at least 160 games twice (Derek Jeter, who’s always praised for his grit, has never played that many games in the regular season). Someone who plays that many games plays through pain and fatigue. That’s a simple fact of baseball.

So why is it an “understandable conclusion” that Reyes could be milking his injury? Why did Reyes have to insist to the Mets’ beat reporters–with tears in his eyes–that it’s killing him to not play?

More importantly, why are there any Mets fans who want to get rid of Jose Reyes? I can understand that people associated with other teams might not like him. But how did we get to the point where a vocal segment of his own fan base has written him off? Before this
season, this team’s mantra was As Reyes Goes So Go the Mets. Now it’s Reyes Must Go for the Mets to Go Anywhere.

Peep the comments below that NJ.com link, if you can stomach them. The Reyes defenders are few and far between. Instead, you get comment after comment saying Reyes is soft. Saying he didn’t rehab properly, as if they’ve followed his every move or even know what constitutes proper rehab for such an injury. Saying he’s never come through in a big spot, which is completely untrue. Saying he’s never had a definitive “moment”, whatever the hell that means.

Read any other local newspaper’s sports site, and you’ll see the same kind of comments. Listen to WFAN, and you’ll hear tons of Mets fans chomping at the bit to say similar things to Mike Francesa, the baton twirler leading the anti-Reyes bandwagon. Or Joe Benigno, who, as a Mets fan, is a frightening barometer of mood of the fanbase.

They say Reyes has never “reached his potential” and never will. Keep in mind that he’s put up numbers that haven’t been seen since the days of Honus Wagner. I don’t know what potential these people think is unfulfilled, unless they expected him to raise the dead and heal the sick.

You can look at traditional stats or the new-fangled sabermetric ones. But by any
measure, he’s the best shortstop in baseball not named Hanley Ramirez–and is a better fielder than Ramirez by a mile.

By more ephemeral measures, Reyes is a joy to watch. There’s few more exciting things to see at a game than watching him toy with a pitcher, then steal a bag anyway. Or hit a ball in the gap and try for a triple. From a merchandising standpoint, I’m sure he’s one of the top jersey sellers for the team. He’s a Game Changer for this franchise in every sense of the word, on and off the field. Why is this even being discussed?!

Contrast this perception of Reyes with the general perception of Daniel Murphy. In most fans’ minds, Murphy is a gamer. Murphy guts it out. Murphy works hard. The fact that he’s one of the worst offensive producers at first base in the NL doesn’t bother most Mets fans (if they’re aware of that fact at all). Regardless of his output and overall talent–neither of which could touch Reyes’s with a 10-foot pole–they appreciate his work ethic.

I have no reason to doubt that Murphy works hard. But I have no reason to doubt that Reyes works hard, either. Like a lot of Dominican players, Reyes comes from humble origins and had to overcome cultural and language barriers as he advanced through the minor league system. And he did this at an age when most American kids’ biggest worry is the prom.

If you took a hundred teenagers, dropped them in a foreign land, and asked them to succeed in completely alien territory, how many could rise to the top of their chosen field? Maybe one?

But only Murphy gets glowing articles written about his work ethic. The other is labeled a “pouter” and a “faker”.

I can’t help but think that Reyes wouldn’t have this problem if he was a few shades lighter or didn’t speak English with such a heavy accent. As Can’t Stop the Bleeding tweeted earlier this week, “Anyone heard Francesca suggest that JJ Putz isn’t trying to come back from the DL fast enough?” The Reyes Myth has traction because it taps into stereotypes that have existed ever since Latin players first emerged in baseball. Roberto Clemente was
slandered as being “soft”, and that’s been a rap against Latin players ever since.

Here’s the thing about sportswriters: they’re mostly Big Doughy White Guys, writing their articles for a largely Big Doughy White Guy audience. (I write this as a fellow Big Doughy White Guy.) Very few of them speak Spanish. Very few of them have the slightest idea about the background Latin players come from.

Sportswriters don’t go out of their way to slight or misunderstand Latin players. It’s just that, for the most part, they have no clue about them. Nor does a large, vocal segment of their audience. JUST PLAY THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY, they say, without recognizing that what “the right way” is depends on where you’re from. For instance, Reyes is often slammed in the American media for his “dancing”. This is a take that would be inconceivable in the Dominican Republic, where cheerleaders dance merengue on top of the dugouts in between innings.

The Mets once had another superstar who was inexplicably slammed for being a complainer, with all the evidence coming from hearsay, rumors, and in some cases outright lies. After a while, it became simply impossible for this superstar to stay with the team.

That’s how Tom Seaver wound up traded to the Reds in 1977, and how the Mets lost their franchise player. They valued the vindictiveness of Dick Young over the good of their team. It was a move that sent the Mets into a death spiral, with hideous baseball and tens of thousands of empty seats at Shea. The team wouldn’t contend for another seven years.

Mark my words: A media-induced trade of Jose Reyes would be just as disastrous for the team’s future. The scary thing is, we may already be at the point of no return, where Reyes may find it impossible to stay here anymore.

There’s very, very little that would force me to stop following the Mets. But something this stupid, cowardly, and racially motivated might just be bad enough.