1) George Castle, a long time baseball writer in the Chicago area has a new book out. It's titled, "baseball and the Media: How Fans Lose in Today's Coverage of the Game."
I've ordered the book and will have at it in the next few days. The book's publisher, University of Nebraska press (I'm curious as to how this book ended up at a university press), has made the preface available at its website. The first five pages or so is really just throat-clearing, but then comes this interesting claim:
"Baseball writers don't stay at their jobs long anymore, disrupting the continuity of coverage demanded by fans. Many on the beat eschew relationships with players in favor of roaming clubhouses and foul territory in packs or cliques in what one writer calls 'socialized journalism.' Elitism and arrogance, as bad as any practiced by wealthy players, exist among the pen and mike crowd. Columnists and radio sports talk-show hosts often don't show up at the ballpark. That in turn creates ill will among baseball folk when the opinion-meisters craft their output on the basis of second and third hand information to which their readers and listeners already have access. 'Entertainment' is liberally substituted for accurate journalism by ratings-hungry broadcast executives."
I don't know whether Castle marshals data to support his claims here, especially on the question of whether beat writers spend less time on the job than they used to. But, the point Castle raises here about elitists sports media strikes a chord with me - I've complained about it before. If the average working Joe on the street wants to complain about players' salaries, lifestyles and sense of privilege, that's one thing. But, when sports media - given their unbelievable good fortune in life to have the jobs they do - complain the way they do, that's tough to take. Especially when they're all hanging out in Miami for the week on the company dime.
2) The guys over at Cold Hard Football Facts are offering the best coverage of the Super Bowl I've seen so far. I don't always agree with their take, but they are not only really well-informed, but readily admit when they're wrong. They were convinced that Peyton Manning was going to gack against the Patriots and, when he didn't, they owned their mistake, lock, stock and barrel.
Today, they say they are tired of the two Black coaches story line and explain what they view as the real story of this Super Bowl:
The “pundits” want you to believe that “black” is the color of Super Bowl XLI. The Cold, Hard Football Facts want you to know that the color of this Super Bowl, and almost every Super Bowl that has preceded it, is Brown – as in Paul Brown.Paul Brown died almost 16 years ago. And he never coached in the Super Bowl. But his pigskin progeny have lorded over “America’s Game” nearly since its outset. They’ll do so again here in Super Bowl XLI.
What follows is an entertaining and informative discussion of Paul Brown's extraordinary impact on pro football, spanning seven decades and counting. For example:
Students of the Paul Brown School have won 18 of 40 Super Bowls. No matter which team wins Super Bowl XLI, it will be another victory for Brown’s legacy: Indy’s Tony Dungy and Chicago’s Lovie Smith both came up through the coaching ranks under students of the Paul Brown School.And, if you choose to play the race game, you can think of Paul Brown, too.After all, it was Paul Brown, the colorblind visionary, who reintegrated pro football in 1946 – a year before baseball’s Jackie Robinson took the field for the Dodgers.Who is Paul Brown?Paul Brown is the deeply rooted trunk of modern football’s most important coaching tree. You know that famous Bill Walsh coaching tree that everybody talks about? Any time you see or hear “Bill Walsh coaching tree,” just think Paul Brown.But it goes much deeper than Walsh. The 49ers legend, after all, is just one of many coaches who dominated the Super Bowl and who learned much of what they know about football from Brown.Paul Brown is the central figure behind not just one but two NFL franchises, the Browns (which were named for him) and the Bengals. He forged pro football's greatest dynasty, as his original Cleveland Browns played in an unfathomable 10 straight pro football championship games in two different leagues from 1946 to 1955, winning seven of them. We discussed the dominance of the Browns in this piece from two years ago.Brown was born in Ohio, the heart of the Gridiron Breadbasket, and is the most important football figure in arguably the nation’s most important football state. He played and coached at Ohio’s famous football power Massillon (a few miles from Canton), he played and coached at Ohio State University, and he played at Miami (Ohio) University – a school known today as “the Cradle of Coaches.”Brown himself posted a 170-108-6 record in 21 years as an NFL coach. He also went a remarkable 52-4-3 in four years coaching the Browns in the old All-America Football Conference.
Unlike Kincade, their goal in pooh-poohing the race angle isn't to whine irrelevantly about Chinese American discrimination in pro football. Instead, it's to inform and illuminate, which they do really well. You can read all of it here.
3) speaking of owning mistakes, as faithful readers know, I - like every other Knick fan I know - have trashed Isiah for his personnel decisions, cap mismanagement and, especially, his Eddy Curry trade. I've said all along that the problem isn't that Curry lacks talent (see, by contrast, Jerome James, a player Isiah inked for $30 million in the summer of 2005 who, in all seriousness, just doesn't belong on an NBA roster). Instead, it's that Curry's health problems made him seemingly untradeable (or so his GM with the Bulls, John Paxson, thought so) and Isiah behaved as if twenty nine teams were begging for Curry's services.
OK, this is not shaping up to be a "cold hard football" style owning up. And, it's not going to get much better. But, I have a friend in Chapel Hill who, every time I see him, says chidingly "Curry's pretty good." And, Curry's been a very productive offensive player this year, averaging 19.3 points a game and shooting a stellar 59% from the field. In fact, my friend argues, Curry is a young player who is developing under Isiah this season. Curry remains a piss-poor rebounding center, can't hit free throws and has one assist for every five turnovers, but until yesterday, despite all those flaws, I was going to write that, OK, Curry's got good upside, he's a legitimate scoring center and, you never know how lottery picks are going to work out. Of course, you do know that lottery picks won't cost you ten million a year for several years, but...(there I go again. For more on Curry, David Berri has his usual thorough analysis).
OK, so what happened yesterday that made me re-think my planned abject apology to Isiah? It was a piece I read in Sports Illustrated about the disappearance of shot blocking from the NBA (the article, by Chris Ballard, is excellent, by the way). In discussing which big men are the worst shot blockers and why, Ballard writes:
"Perhaps the most docile big man is 6' 11", 285-pound Eddy Curry of the Knicks. Curry has tremendous strength and leaping ability, yet he has averaged fewer than a block a game for his career and was at 0.55 at week's end. Among players who have played in at least 25 games this season, 123 are averaging more blocks per 48 minutes than Curry, including 6' 4" Boston guard Delonte West. "He just doesn't make the effort,' one Eastern conference scout says of Curry. "He plays with his hands down and he's not active defensively."
Since I'm not really eating crow about Isiah and Curry, let me bring this whole Peyton Manning/eating crow thread full circle and offer a sure-fire credibility destroyer, from days of yore: I thought Ryan Leaf would be a better NFL QB than Peyton Manning.
There, I said it.