The Pole Dancers of Sports Journalism

Blogging is “the pole dancing of sports journalism.” ~ Frank Deford

So …

 

… ((thinking … thinking)) ….

 

… ((still thinking)) …

 

Oh, for crap’s sake.

I’m not even sure what to say.

Am I supposed to stand up for bloggers? Pole dancers? Both?

How am I supposed to respond to that?

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The Thoughtful Voice Of Frank Deford

Frank Deford passed away on Sunday. He was 78. If you don’t know who he is, that’s a shame. But, here … let me get you up to speed.

Embed from Getty Images

 

Deford was one of the great cerebral sportswriters. His opinions on sports were thoughtful and deep and could be read in Sports Illustrated and in his many books and heard on National Public Radio.

If you ever wanted to be a great sportswriter and great sportsthinker (which isn’t a word, but should be) … if you ever wanted to tear down the ugliness of professional sports to look for the goodness and meaning inside … Deford was one of those rare people you turned to.

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The Mendoza Line of Posts

This is my 200th post.

It is of interest only because people like milestones and milestones come in round numbers.

Two-hundred blog posts is no big thing. I follow people who have twittered 48,000 times. (As Truman Capote once said, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”)

For Mario Mendoza, whose lifetime .215 batting average led to calling a woeful .200 or under average “The Mendoza Line,” .200 was just a lousy break, because statistics will tell you that plenty of guys never cracked .200, but Mendoza was the poor shmoo who got singled out.  (Thanks, George Brett. I’m blaming you for this.)

Mario Mendoza

For me, 200 posts is a nice milestone and with milestones come the responsibility of writing something worthwhile or memorable … or, really, just something.

There are wonderfully talented people with much to say who can post on their blogs with daily, sometimes twice- and thrice-daily regularity. If you are one of them, please know that I find you admirable, role-model worthy, and, to be honest, a little annoying.

Most of what I write never gets posted. It is too weird, fractured, stupid, unfunny, baffling, or confusing (even to me and I wrote it).

Here are a few scraps that I tinkered with over the years that never became post-worthy. Well-intentioned, sure. But, like Mario Mendoza, not quite good enough to get on base:

“Minnesota Twins: You play outside now. Good for you.” (2012. From an abandoned effort to say one nice thing about every major league team.)

“Do you think a guinea pig is jealous of a rabbit’s ears?” (2013)

“Try throwing a basketball 100 miles per hour.” (2014)

“It has been brought to my attention that my blog is frivolous. This came from someone who is of the belief that Supreme Court rulings are important and baseball is not.” (2013)

“Giraffes have the biggest hearts of all land mammals.” (2015)

“I’m so glad that there is something that Bill Ripken does better than Cal.” (2012, Playoffs. Following Cal’s atrocious time in the broadcast booth.)

“While living in Paris, Hemingway would bring mandarins to his writing garret each day. Eating mandarins as you write will not turn you into Hemingway. Trust me.” (2012)

“Craptastic. That should be a word.” (2013)

“I was hopeful that the Montgomery Biscuits’ mascot would be someone dressed as a warm, buttery biscuit. But, this is not a perfect world.  And, baseball, for all its perfection, often disappoints. (2015)

big mo not a biscuit

Big Mo. Not a biscuit.

“Dear Gentlemen: One day you will thank the Bloggess for this advice – never suggest to your wife that the smell coming from the hard-to-reach dead mouse under the fridge will go away ‘in a few days.’ Here’s a tip, use a vacuum cleaner and stick the hose right under there and suck that stinker out. Don’t make your wife do it. She will only be annoyed and write about it in an effort to shame you.” (2013)

“Oh my god, I’m getting soft on A-Rod.” (2015, World Series)

“Dear Tampa Bay Rays, Great idea for 2013: make the roof girders light up when balls hit them and turn the entire stadium into a giant pinball machine. Moving girders become flippers, bumpers throughout the outfield, flashing lights, a whirling disco ball, and a “tilt” that will shake the stadium at random times. I’m just trying to help.” (2012)

“We wandered through exhibits in and around the ‘Downtown Mall,’ Charlottesville’s hipster outdoor space where much of this Photography Festival thing was going on. Photographers were shooting like they were Annie Liebovitz in Tiananmen Square on revolution day. I’m pretty sure I ended up part of  someone’s Street Art Portfolio.” (2015)

“Does that Brewer guy still slide into a pool after home runs? I hope so.” (2012)

“I’m not an expert on baseball, but I feel like I’m not destroying a thoughtful national conversation by weighing in on it from time to time.” (2013)

“I have been cold since I was 12.” (2014)

“I saw that Cincinnati just signed Jair Jurrgens. My take on that … if your team is signing the Orioles’ pitching castoffs, you probably have a bigger problem than you realize.”  (2014)

“I’ll write what she’s writing.” (2015. The headline from a discarded draft in praise of Nora Ephron.)

“I’ve bet on baseball and I don’t belong in the Hall of Fame either.” (2015)

“Jim Palmer wrote to me!” (2015)

palmer tweet

Actually, he typed.

 

 

One Magazine.

At the start of every holiday I make a “to-do” list. Don’t get the wrong idea – thinking that I am a habitually organized person who makes to-do lists for everything. I don’t.

I really just make to-do lists to make sure my holidays are well used.

I don’t want to waste a minute of a day off, let alone an entire week of days off, since they don’t come around that often.

My list was three pages long. The “work stuff” page was longer than the “fun stuff” page, and one of the things on the “fun” page was “Do something fun” which shows how uninspiring my lists can be.

Mookie On Squirrel Patrol

Mookie’s To-Do List: 1) Look for Squirrels. 

Now, with the end of this holiday approaching much faster than it should, I have one last load of massage laundry left to do, which will give me one more satisfying check-off on my list.

Lest you get another wrong-headed idea – that I actually accomplish all those things that need doing – let me assure you, my list’s check-off rate, even with that last load of linens, was barely 46 percent. (Forty-six percent, however, puts me well ahead of Donald Trump in the polls!)

One of the things I did do … I worked my way through a year’s worth of magazines that had piled up by my bedside.

I love magazines. I love them so much that I don’t even mind the perfume samples, ads, and blow cards that fill them.

There was a time when I had as many magazine subscriptions as a small-town library.

Time was not enough. I had to have Newsweek, too, to catch the things that Time missed. (I had a fling with U.S. News, but it didn’t last.)

New Yorkers would sit, sometimes for years, because they were too precious to discard even though there was more inside a single issue than I could ever read. Old New Yorker covers and cartoons are still tacked up on my office walls … even though the subscription expired long ago.

write what you know

My dad would, without fail, renew my Reader’s Digest each Christmas, and when he passed away, I let it go. But, when my mom died, I absorbed her beloved People subscription, and, although it is pricey and generally news-less, I still keep it, because it seems like something she would want me to do.

I’ve subscribed to Rolling Stone since high school and it hasn’t changed much in all that time, except to become much smaller, and Bob Dylan is still a comforting presence on at least one cover each year. I let Spin go years back. I long for the days of Trouser Press, which you have probably never even heard of.

dylan in rolling stone

Still to-do — Read all these Dylan articles.

Sport. Baseball Weekly. Elysian Fields Quarterly. I got ‘em all.

I’m told that Sport is still around.

And, Sports Illustrated.

At first, my dad would just mail me his old copies, and they would come stuffed three or four to an envelope, often months out of order. Except the swimsuit issue. He always kept that one.

Eventually, he got me my own subscription, but sadly, there were no dad comments written in the margins or big circles drawn in Sharpie around the stories my dad felt were most important. I let SI go for awhile. But, I came back, because it is, I swear, one of the best-written magazines ever.

Editor/Husband estimates that I read 25 pounds of magazines over the holiday.

“Read” is relative here.

One “reads” War & Peace. One “skimmalafies” a year-old Rolling Stone (oh, look, Bob Dylan!).  In the case of People, “reading” may mean simply seeing how fast you can do the crossword or marveling that this week’s cover story on Adele contains not one single piece of original reporting, but is just a jumble of Adele’s previous quotes to Rolling Stone and the Today Show.  (Which means that People did what any blogger could do.)

adele and zuzu

Zuzu is not one for celebrity gossip or, in the case of the new Adele cover story, lazy reporting.

Editor/Husband gets one magazine – Vanity Fair. He has three years of them stacked up on his side of the bed.

“I read them as frequently as there is a Common Redpoll irruption.”

Which means, almost never. Editor/Husband was very excited to see a Common Redpoll at our birdfeeder this morning. (If they’re so rare, why are they called “common”?)

I planned to share three of the best articles I read with you.

But, as the days wore on and the pile by the bed got smaller, I thought maybe two articles would be enough.

Now, the pile’s gone and I have one magazine set aside. Just one article.

It’s from a 2014 Sports Illustrated and it’s about Roger Angell, who has written for the New Yorker since 1944, the last 53 years as its baseball writer.

angell and stevie

Why should you read it? Because it is beautiful.

Because it includes the line, “Angell is the curator of our baseball souls.”

Because, as Angell points out, reading about baseball is somehow even more exciting, vibrant, and memorable than just watching a highlight replayed on video. Maybe because a play is just a play on film. But, when someone who loves the game writes about it, it takes on extra layers, extra meanings … maybe joy, maybe amazement, or maybe despair. It becomes personal, something a video is not.

You can find the Sports Illustrated profile here: The Passion of Roger Angell.

And, you can find Angell’s New Yorker piece This Old Man about aging and getting by in your 90s, which won a National Magazine Award and has one of the world’s best jokes about death, here.

It has been four weeks since baseball.