Buzz Bissinger just ripped on bloggers, including Will Leitch, who had to sit there and take it because, once angered, no amount of reason would get through to the guy who wrote Friday Night Lights.
Bissinger has no idea what blogs are about, though he may claim to. So in short, for the record, we thought we might state for the record a.) who a blogger might be, and b.) what blogging does. Ready? We'll keep this short.(For an epic poem or Supreme Court ruling--ed.)
A. Who a Blogger Might Be, or in this case, me.
My desk: taste the glamour.
DURR-HURR! GUY WHO LIVES IN MOM'S BASEMENT DURR!!! Untrue. We know of only one one blogger who lives in Mom's basement, and that makes him just like Mike Lupica, doesn't it? (Mom! Meatloaf and the Mets game on in five! MOM!) The bloggers we know best do the following;
1. Will Leitch. Full-time writer. Lots of people read him. Not mom's basement on the address.
2. Matt Ufford. Ditto, and ditto. Has roommates, I think, but still. Oh, and COMMANDED A FUCKING TANK UNIT IN IRAQ. Buzz Bissinger went to Phillips Academy, a very dangerous place in its own right. They ride English saddles there! There's not even a horn on it for stability!
3. Big Daddy Drew. Likewise, successful before becoming a sports blogger, and would be even if the medium didn't come around.
4. The guys from Fire Joe Morgan. No idea what these men do, because they cover American Cricket, and I therefore don't obsess enough about them to follow up. Fortunately, neither do mainstream journos, none of whom have inquired into blogger's backgrounds before accusing them of living in Mom's basement. I assume, judging from the brawny machinations of their writing, that they could presumably do other jobs quite successfully without going on the maternal dole.
5. Lawyers. Most post under pseudonyms, but these people make up the rank and file of the blogging world. Why? Because they are bored to tears by their jobs despite being creative, articulate, argumentative, and passionate people. Give a dam an outlet, and it'll crack mountains into silt. That's what lawyers are to the blogosphere. None of them live with their mothers, and many make more than the sportswriters who accuse them of living--yes--with Mom.
6. Me. Yep, I'll go there.
I'm not in the august company listed above, but I get paid to sit at home write while occasionally going somewhere else to write. I've been a vagabond professionally, and for a stint in late 1999 to June of 2000 I lived with my in-laws, but other than that horrific crash after post-collegiate backpacking I haven't lived with my parents during that time. (Perhaps a sensible person would have given the often dire circumstances, but I didn't.)
How does a person get to do this? And think this sick, perverted way about sports? Easy. I know sports doesn't fucking matter. At. All. It's dada, a delightful distraction, something not to be underestimated in its importance, but in the end the gravitas wasted on the Masters or the World Series or the BCS Championship game is just that: wasted, and deliberately so. If most people were to pay attention to the really, really important things in life, they'd spear their eyeballs out with cocktail forks and go stand over there in the tryout line for Equus.
Distraction is a necessity in life. I'm not questioning that. What I question is devoting such seriousness to it, as the Alboms, Bissingers, and other Brahmins of sportswriting would have it. (Back off, Kornheiser and Wilbon. You have no part in this fight, being normal people seemingly unwarped by access and privilege.)
I get ahead of myself. First, me.
Look, dorky-lookin' 31 year old white guy. I took three pictures for this, and this is the worst one, which is exactly why I chose it: fat cheeks, slightly walleyed, hairline running for Canada, still in my prissy workout shirt especially made for working out and stuff.
But not behind a shroud, or hiding. In fact, my phone number is public record. Dial a common Atlanta area code, and then dial 668-5092. There's my phone number, live and on the internet. If a mainstream journalist has a problem with anything, they may call it. I work with Matt Hayes at the Sporting News now, and I once called him a dick in print. He has no problem with what I do, because he emailed me, we exchanged virtual winks, and now it's all kosher. Email Matt, too: he actually answers his, unlike some people.
I'm not good-looking, either: Rainn Wilson crossed with Jack Black is the best way to put it. I'm fifteen pounds overweight but not unfit. I ran a half-marathon in November of 07 before my right knee said "FUCK THIS SHIT" and went all runner's knee on me. I'll be married in ten years in June 2008. I make above the average American wage, which in and of itself is a bit of a crime. I have love handles even if I work out two hours a day, and I talk too quickly at all times. If drunk, I may have the slightest bit of an accent.
I grew up in Franklin, Tennessee and have one sister and one brother. Off and on, because Dad was in the restaurant business, we lived in Atlanta (four years total) Columbia, South Carolina (one yearish, too young to remember,) and Palm Harbor, Florida, remembered most fondly as "The Place Where Someone Let Us Have Sex With Them For the First Time. Thank you, Father Finnegan, for the favor!)
Religion/politics: I grew up Catholic and dropped it because religion, like some combinations of biochemistry and antibiotics, does not react with my system at all. It's a big house where I wear uncomfortable sweaters and get bored to the point of anger: that's church, and will always be church for me. No atheist evangelism, no rage: it just doesn't catch, and never has. I'm a conservative Democrat, meaning my political decisions are easy: I hate everyone, and pay society to leave me the hell alone.
Education: bachelor's at Florida, full ride because I scored well on the PSAT and turned in some paperwork. Magna cum laude in English with a focus in cultural studies because I loved to read beautifully written French literary theory in between drinking 12 packs of Miller High Life, lifting weights, and playing matches of Mario Kart lasting longer than some cricket matches. Master's degree from Georgia Tech in International Affairs because I was in my mid-twenties, bored, and tired of working with refugees and breaking down in tears in the detergent aisle at Publix for no reason.
Career, or something like it: I got out of college and taught a year of ESL in Taiwan. In 1998. At the heart of the internet boom. Yes, all the money's gone now, but at the time it was career suicide to miss out on the dot-com trough feed. I swallowed vocational cyanide in the name of adventure because a guy I worked in a warehouse with in college said it was good money, and because I left a stupid piece of paperwork out of my JET package to teach in Japan.
I thank Allah/Xenu/Matsu/Cthulu/Jesus for that, too, because I got to do things in Taiwan I'd never done: overdose on betel nut laced with methamphetamine, convince Taiwanese schoolchildren all foreigners were scary, huge-headed monsters with hangovers, and get into a motorcycle wreck and go through a 6.2 earthquake all in the same year. Have you ever been asked if your chest hair will interfere with an X-ray? Didn't think so, Jay Mariotti. Suck it.
Then I traveled. I went to a lot of places, and smoked weed in all of them while getting horrendously drunk. All of it was an immensely good time. I learned nothing about humanity from this, though, lest you think I'll get preachy backpackery on you. I do know this: foreigners think dorky-looking white guys want hookers, and on the fly like now, laowai. I'm married and was at the time, so I didn't have the chance to contribute to the local economy in this fashion. But otherwise, I'm their target audience.
Oh, and Asia rules. It's like having your head next to the engine casing of the world when you're there. At first, the roar makes you nauseous and mad from lack of sleep. After a year, you start to crave it. When you leave it, everything else seems forever quiet and too devoid of neon, exhaust fumes, and people asking embarrassingly personal questions.
When I did learn something about humanity is working with refugees. That's what I did in stints from 2001 to 2007 at two different agencies. I learned that people are mediocre, and that on the whole, the ones who survive ordeals like the Rwandan genocide, the Balkan conflict of the mid to late '90s, and Iraq, Burma, Afghanistan, Somalia, and whatever other God-smote shithole you care to plug in here are the most annoying, the most sociopathic, or simply the most noble, hard-ass people you have ever met--or combinations thereof, really.
I started writing the blog as a hobby in 2005. It got out of hand when I couldn't stop writing it.
So in short, that's who a blogger can be. Not mom's basement. Not a trustafarian peeling off posts from the house my inheritance bought for me, and not a lone hack who doesn't answer a critical email. I answer about 80 percent of my emails, including the one from the guy three years ago who suggested I never put a word down again, because I was unfunny, untalented, and horrible. All three may be true, but you can't stop a dog from licking its balls, and you can't stop someone from writing about something he loves, even if it's the kind of love a graffiti artist has for the train he tags.
(And remember: not living in Mom's basement, professional journalists.)
Part two is coming up, and it will be shorter, we promise: what bloggers do. Then I'll end the pedantry and get back to writing a mock-crime drama starring Tommy Tuberville.