Sunday, October 16, 2011

Easy to Be Hard -- Too Easy

No doubt about it, I was a trifle harsh on my old colleagues Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti yesterday. Too harsh perhaps on two people who are merely responding to the financial and prestige incentives of their new trade. Probably if I didn't know them, I wouldn't take their participation in a medium built for fraud so personally.

The idiocy of talk radio in Jacksonville, Florida (where the hosts make Felger and Mazz seem like Edward R. Murrow and Charlie Rose) only amuses me. But that's because I don't know what they're talking about, not being too up on Florida State recruiting, and can appreciate the absurdity of the genre as an especially twisted form of performance art.

In Boston, it's different. I know everybody, and I know what they're talking about. And when two people who I really did admire as co-workers indulge in the things about sports journalism and journalism in general I most dislike, including pointless speculation, a glory in rumor for its own sake and above all personal meanness, it offends and saddens me. Going after Heidi Watney crossed a line for me, in the original meaning of the word "deadline." (Look it up). That's why I got so angry. Women sports journalists have to put up with endless crap in their lives, and contributing to that crap makes one a compete jerk.

It was not, BTW, spiteful or pointless of Bob Hohler to write about Terry Francona and pain pills. He got information, checked it out with the subject, and got the subject on the record. That's Hohler's job. That's journalism. Journalism is not always a job that makes you feel good about yourself, because it often involves dealing with stuff that doesn't make you feel good about your fellow humans. If you can't deal with that, it's not the business for you.

I am increasingly of the opinion that sports talk radio is not the business for anyone who was ever involved in sports journalism. It is, as John Henry accurately observed, part of the entertainment industry, not journalism at all. The entertainment industry is a fine business, most of it. But I don't really think talking about sports should qualify as one of the performing arts. It's bad for the performers.

Michael and Tony were excellent beat writers, the most demanding position in a sports section. Glenn Ordway was an outstanding basketball announcer. Gerry Callahan was and occasionally still is a superb columnist. All four now work in a field where one is richly rewarded for trafficking in innuendo, insult, and all around unpleasant behavior. That's what makes me angry and sad, and it's why I prefer neither to listen to nor think about sports talk radio in this burg.

I did know these men. I liked them. And I'm terribly afraid they are messengers who have become their medium.


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