Last week, a minor fracas broke out amongst bloggers regarding Brewer beat writer Anthony Witrado, with several blogs calling for him to be fired. Apparently, Witrado has committed the mortal sin of not being sycophantic enough towards the Brewers, answering demeaning e-mails with smart ass responses, and dressing like he’s at a Lil’ Wayne concert.
First of all, I have no idea who Anthony Witrado is. He could be next in line for the Nobel Prize, or he could be made entirely of feminine cleansing product. But, as a general rule, I’m usually against calling for regular people to be fired. It’s essentially the equivalent of calling someone a racist – it costs the accuser nothing, but damages the subject. The person calling for the firing goes on to live their life as is, while the target has to explain to his bosses why people want him fired. Just doesn’t look good. (My proposal: Anyone who calls for someone to be fired has to put $10 into a fund, payable o the fired person when they actually get the axe. Then you REALLY have to mean it when you say it. Furthermore, if you predict a trade is going to happen and it doesn’t, you have to pay $20 to the nearest Humane Society, unless one or more of the players is wearing a moustache.)
That being said, I may never have read a single word ever written by Anthony Witrado, who, given the current state of newspapers, probably doesn’t make enough money to actually buy a newspaper to read his own articles. It’s fun to call for the firing of millionaire athletes and managers, quite different to do so to regular shlubs. (That being said, the Journal Sentinel is likely paying as much attention to these bloggers as they are to my demand that obituaries be required to contain a counterpoint written by someone that hated the dead person\’s guts.)
Okay, enough about that – what really interests me about this whole issue is how the role of team beat writers has changed just in the past 10 years. (Warning: I am about to expose myself as a hopeless grayballs.)
There were days not long ago when, if you were lucky, you got to see your favorite team on TV maybe once a week. There wasn’t any internet, no blogs, no cable television. In 1987, during Paul Molitor’s 39 game hitting streak, I actually used to pick up the phone and call the George Michael Sports Machine telephone hotline every five minutes on game nights to see if Molitor got a hit. (Maybe our lack of call waiting was the reason no girls were calling me, since they couldn’t get through. There’s at least a 3% chance this is the case.)
In those days, a team’s beat writers and radio announcers were the fans’ eyes and ears. Most everything we knew about players was told to us by newspapers and play by play announcers. (It took me at least a half a season to figure out Greg Vaughn was black, for instance.) That’s why so many old baseball fans have such reverence for baseball writers and radio guys – they painted the pictures that the fogeys remember so vividly. (If you haven’t read “The Boys of Summer” by former Brooklyn Dodgers beat reporter Roger Kahn, you are missing out on some of the greatest of American literature.)
But now, beat writers have a tougher challenge. Everyone can see every game on television – so reading in the newspaper the next morning about what happened a half a day ago, and about something you saw with your own eyes, just seems superfluous. What happens is beat writers like this Witrado fellow have to demonstrate actual value to the newspaper, so they have to do these dopey online chats so fans feel “engaged.” And since every male in America that likes looking at naked women thinks they can do a better job at writing about sports than actual sports reporters, it has to be just a miserable job. (Which is generally why nobody hates sports more than sports reporters.)
So I don’t necessarily fault Anthony Witrado, Tom Haudricourt, or any of the other Journal Sentinel reporters that are being asked to be more fan-friendly. I don’t mind if every story they write isn’t a hagiography of Doug Melvin. We no longer need them to tell us, for instance, that Bill Hall has spent the entire season accidentally batting with a rainbow trout instead of a bat. We can see for ourselves. They’re fighting a losing battle against technology and a more knowledgeable fan base.
I recognize stories about my softball team are about as pleasant as an Eric Gagne highlight film, but we played a pretty awesome trick on a guy on our team this week. One that could, and by all means should, be replicated in competitive leagues around the state.
The “pitcher” on our co-ed team told us he wasn’t going to make it this week, and worried aloud how we would get along without his pitching ability. Eyes were rolled, and the plan was set into motion. We doctored up a fake letter from the league office, complete with letterhead and signature from the league director, telling this guy that he had been traded to another team (Mo’s Sausage Fingers), due to other teams wanting his pitching so badly. We made up the name of a girl that he was supposedly traded for, and mailed the letter to his house.
The very next day, our team captain got an angry voice message from the guy, demanding to know why he got traded. He then called the league office to find out. The league’s organizer (who the letter was supposedly from) told him he had no idea what he was talking about. At that point, he realized he had been had. But the fact remains. HE THOUGHT HE HAD BEEN TRADED. IN A CO-ED REC LEAGUE.
If this trick doesn’t work, feel free to go with our backup plan. Every team has some guy who thinks he’s an all-star. So send him a fake letter from the league office telling him he’s been voted league Most Valuable Player, and to come to the league office to pick up his award. Give him a specific time to go down there to get his trophy and have his picture taken for the newspaper – then camp out and watch as he goes in to ask for his nonexistent award. Laughs had by all.
A story apropos of nothing: I used to work for a guy who ran a golf course in the Madison area. He said he once had a kids’ day out at the golf course, and hired Bucky Badger, the UW mascot, to come entertain the children. But he said (and he swears this is true) that when Bucky got there, the guy in the mascot costume was drunk. Bucky then, in full costume, jumped on a golf cart, took off, and ran it into a tree, damaging the cart. The course owner had to sue UW for damages for the wrecked golf cart.
My question is this: When Bucky Badger gets on the witness stand, does he have to wear the full costume? When a lawyer asks him a question, does he just nod “yes” or “no?” Does he throw both hands up in the air to indicate “I don’t know?” Does he sit there with a steely resolve* when sentenced to life imprisonment? When he makes his one phone call after being arrested, does the other person on the line know it’s him and he’s in trouble? We deserve answers.
As of this writing, the Packers apparently are still interested in signing Michael Vick. I’m not only in favor of this move because I’m a Virginia Tech Hokie, but also because it almost guarantees that the Packers’ sound guy will stop playing “Who Let the Dogs Out” at Lambeau.
Seriously, this song, along with “Whoomp There it Is,” is setting race relations in America back 20 years. Someone PLEASE explain to the Lambeau PA guy that there have actually been songs recorded after 1999. (I’d even approve of him going with “Doggie Bounce”.) The one thing I would NOT encourage is replacing these songs with any songs that actually mention the Packers by name. There is nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing – in the world that is worse than Packer-themed music. (Even Hugo Chavez is like, “yeah, listening to that stuff is brutal.”)
This theory was crystallized last week with the release of Dan the Piano Man’s “Favre is Still a Packer,” which actually briefly made me envious of my hard of hearing grandfather. (Because he’s dead.)
Of course, this aural Armageddon was just the latest in a long line of abysmal Packer music. Who can forget the Wizenheimer’s famous “Go You Packers Go?” Sadly, not me. Or the Bubblers’ “Da Packer Polka?” I actually keep a cyanide-laced bratwurst on hand in case someone plays this song at a tailgate.
Other random notes: After I bemoaned Jason Kendall’s lack of power last week, he hit a home run in Houston. Even Mike Rivera had a good game. I fully credit my column for this power surge. In a related note, if anyone out there wants me to do a column criticizing their wife, within a day, your pancakes will be 15% tastier.
I have to give credit to the guy who commented on a completely unrelated post, calling me a “Rush Limbaugh wannabe” and an “ultra-conservative Puritan fascist.” I actually have all those things on my resume, right next to \”has unusually excessive ear hair.\”
This weekend, David Ortiz held a press conference saying he had never bought or used steroids. One important point: Human growth hormone, the alleged drug of choice for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and others of that era, is not a steroid. So there’s that.