Monday, June 12, 2006

It Isn’t That Hard
By Ben Valentine

Here at Sportszilla we are all aspiring journalists, all of whom would probably jump at the chance to write for a major sports site such as CBS Sportsline or work an international event a large as the World Cup. We attempt to parlay these dreams into our columns, and I certainly hope that we provide insight and analysis that is worthy of your respect. Even if you don’t agree with us, we all strive to produce material that is thought out, well researched and something we wouldn’t feel embarrassed to present to one another. We do this not only because we want to get into the field, but also because we like sports.

So when someone in the industry seems to be abusing their privilege to work in it, we all get frustrated. Bryan and David have been the two people who are at the forefront of these critiques, but seeing columns that we would be ashamed to hand into our journalism professors back in the day, written by experienced professionals and not sleep deprived college students, just leaves us with a sick feeling inside.

My critiques as of late have been directed at CBS Sportsline’s main baseball writer, Scott Miller. I have taken issue with the overblown sense of grandeur Miller has shown when he writes about Barry Bonds, seeming to write these columns as if Bonds had, to paraphrase a line from Kevin Smith’s Clerks, raped his mother while pouring sugar in his gas tank. I’m not sure whether Miller has ever been personally insulted by Bonds or was turned down for an interview, or whatever, but I found his seeming hatred for one man beyond reason. To focus so primarily and angrily on Bonds in a league filled with cheaters to be odd at best, an unprofessional to say the worst.

But while his hatred of Barry Bonds is something I can critique and question, it is his opinion. Whether or not he chooses to focus on Bonds rather than look at the bigger picture is his choice. Perhaps there’s a strategy to his writing; lord knows it got me commenting about it. Again that is his opinion, so I can critique and disagree with it. But he’s entitled to have it.

What is inexcusable is laziness.

In his Weekend Buzz, entitled "Pujols Fallout Affecting Pitchers, Too," Miller actually goes on to state that "Complicating matters for the Pujols-less Cards is that their pitching suddenly has gone wacko." Those of you that read this blog frequently know how erroneous this statement is. Outside of the Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals pitchers have been terrible all season. And there isn’t any silver lining here with them pitching to poor peripherals but good ERAs, outside of Sidney Ponson. They’ve just been bad across the board.

He proceeds to mention Jason Marquis, who has been awful for two years running now, Jason Isringhausen who has always been a second rate closer at best along with the decaying corpse of Mark Mulder, who as I’ve been saying for a year plus now, stinks.

A simple look at the Cardinals two weeks ago, as Zach and I both did (in fact, Zach mentions it twice), will tell you all you need to know. The Cardinals pitching isn’t very good but got by because Albert Pujols was carrying that offense. If he got hurt, both of us agreed, the Cardinals would be in trouble because their offense isn’t that good and their pitching is terrible behind Carpenter.

So, how come we, as unpaid bloggers who are doing this in our free time can find this information and Miller, a paid professional, cannot? Did we use some web site that Miller may not be aware of? Some statistic that he’s unfamiliar with?

Not unless ESPN.com, K/9, K/BB, ERA and GB/FB ratio are somehow barred from the Miller household.

Perhaps Miller was using the ridiculous idea that “wins” actually explain how well a pitcher is doing. I can’t even begin to comprehend how anyone who gets paid to write about baseball for a living could miss the fact the Cardinals staff has been poor. And if you’re going to write a piece stating that an offensive player is affecting the pitchers, then you’d better have more than two games worth of anecdotal evidence to back it up. Of course, if Miller had done any research, he’d have seen that this is no new trend, which says to me, Miller didn’t bother to do any at all.

Such a thing would be unacceptable for a college student, for a blogger who takes themselves half seriously and damn sure is for someone who is being paid to report baseball on a major website.

But Miller isn’t the only journalist who did a poor job today. Dave O’Brien, doing the play by play in the Mexico/ Iran game, irked me as well. For him it wasn’t the actual play by play, which was one of the better jobs I’ve heard from an ABC broadcaster, and far outshined the job done on Saturday. Instead, the problem was his constant attempts to turn this game into some political forum.

O’Brien continually brought up Iran’s president, whether it was through mentioning the country’s attempt at proliferation of nuclear arms, or his comments about the Holocaust. Now, whether or not you agree with those comments, and I do not, the only place you should find Sunday morning commentary on them is onMeet the Press. It interjects something that quite frankly, is not there.

This was not the US/Iran, though O’Brien’s repeated mentioning of the “political ramifications” of the game would have led you to think so. Somehow, I highly doubt anyone in Mexico cares about Iran’s use of nuclear weapons. I don’t think Mexico’s team believed they were winning one for the world, or for Jewish people or for the freedom. I think they were winning one for their own country and for their goalie, Oswaldo Sanchez, who’s father passed away before the start of this tournament. Not only is there no political issue or history between Mexico and Iran, but there are so many teams with more interesting subplots and rivalries out there, it is just a joke to even put such an odd ball idea together. Heck Portugal/Angola has a far greater history and were playing after the Mexico/Iran match. But O’Brien never once mentioned that.

I won’t say a soccer match can’t be more than that. France/Senegal in 2002 proved otherwise. Watch what will happen in the streets of Port of Spain if Trinidad upsets England. Or check out the reaction in the matches between the US and Mexico. But to throw it in because you, as an American, have an issue with Iran, is not right. To project your own biases and problems with the country and its president on to another team that has absolutely nothing to do with it, is unprofessional to say the least and quite misleading. Maybe the ultra patriotic Americans really want to believe everyone cares about their squabble with Iran. But that isn’t reality. And when I’m watching a soccer game that doesn’t involve the US, I don’t need to hear about their problems.

Come guys, it isn’t that hard. Suck it up, do your homework and don’t project your angst on the world. Keep it professional. Because if you don’t, I know at least six guys that will.

And we’ll work for a hell of a lot less too.

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