Earlier today, John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal tweeted this quote from ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, linking to a full rundown of an event that is just as exhausting as it sounds:
Wilbon on sports journalism: “What bugs me now is that people sit in their mother’s basements and write this crap.” https://t.co/hmHuolWRIw
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) November 23, 2015
As it happens, what was once Grantland will be toasted at something like an Irish wake at venue in the city tonight with more than 1,000 people, including yours truly, having RSVP’d. Though Grantland was well-funded and played host to many wonderful pieces of journalism, it also ran very wonderful silly pieces, and many wonderful pieces that came from other reporting methods than the one through which Wilbon attained fame. Wilbon was no fan of Bill Simmons, and while Grantland doesn’t entirely fit the profile he was targeting, he couldn’t have considered it too far off, either. Now Simmons is gone. The blog king got. The Old School rules again. Or so it goes.
It doesn’t, but if he is obliquely right about one thing, it’s that the basics of beat journalism — talking to people, in person — can yield relationships and stories that cannot be unearthed in other ways. This is News, but it isn’t news. If he is wrong about the rest of it, and he is, it is because he has placed himself at the center of a universe in which he cannot be wrong, one in the Right People. Like him, Christine Brennan and Tony Kornheiser believe that the blogs are gonna ruin sports, or reporting, or America, or something, and for this they are afforded the gift of being on Wilbon’s level. If he his right, and I have no doubt he is, they’re professional equals only because they’re fading just as fast as him.