Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Spirit of the Moment Dictates That I Call This One "Buzzkill"

This has nothing to do with football, but anyway. Buzz. Buzz Bissinger. Those who frequent the intellectual red light district known as the Blogosphere will know Buzz, the Certified Author who went bananas on Bob Costa's HBO chat show, getting all up in the grill of Deadspin's Will Leitch, accusing Leitch and his fellow bloggers of dragging the English language into the dirt, destroying the elevated tone of American sporting discourse (?) and, most of all, of displaying insufficient dedication to the Craft of Writing. The Craft of Writing, of course, must be learned using an Olivetti manual typewriter in the course of filing deadline-driven 400-word reports on American Legion games for slave-driving, micro-minded alcoholic newsroom lifers at theSmileyville Herald. The ill-disciplined youth of today have the temerity of skipping straight to those gimcrack Computational Machines, sounding off about the Majors without paying their dues, and writing without editors. Bad Things, man.

But I come not to rehash the Bissinger Diatribe, amply rehashed elsewhere. Nor, really, to prosecute any beef with Buzz, who does actually have some grade-A books to his credit. I just want to say that Bissinger doesn't really do his argument any favors with this sort of thing, a weird op-ed column for the Times. The Craft of Writing notwithstanding, this column contains the following phrases, which technical experts and even some gifted amateurs may recognize as "cliches":

"Pick your poison."
"I couldn't help but pinch myself."
" naked eye..."

Okay, whatever: I use them too. Not trying to be mean. Just saying. The larger problems, two-fold:

1) In a short space Bissinger manages a complete evocation of the Serious Writer going off in the usual fashion about the National Pastime. I love baseball, but Sweet Jesus, can we declare a five-year moratorium on odes to the bucolic majesty of the greensward? All the usual ingredients of Serious Baseball Writing are here: nostalgia; conservatism; passing attacks on free agency and modern equipment; the gee-whiz sense that the whole thing just oozes American goodness. Which I'm sure the College World Series does—but do your journalistic duty, man, and tell me something I don't know.

2) And then there's the strange twist the thing takes in the last few paragraphs, when it becomes clear that Bissinger wrote the thing, in no small part, because he got into a mini-brawl with stadium security. He wanted to take his camera into the park. They said no. Some sort of physical fracas ensued. The writer got roughed up, had to leave his camera behind, et cetera. I don't know what to make of it, really. Odd little story, which Bissinger tries to make fit into his overall thesis that the NCAA is evil—a thesis I can well believe, by the way, but which he does not prove dead-to-rights in this instance at all.

But they roughed me up! Buzz, I hate to break it to you this way, but that's what often goes down when you tangle with stadium security, a breed even less well-known for its professional comportment than sportswriters. I further hate to break it to you, but there is a forum tailor-made for one man's account of his fight with security guards—better suited to such tales, in fact, than the columns of the nation's leading newspaper. That forum, my friend, is called a "blog."

1 comment:

Brian said...

Right f***ing on. My own favorite Buzz Bissinger Craft of Writing moment comes from his piece on Kerry Wood in the Times' sports magazine last year. It's opening day in the cathedral of baseball, and

"the Cubs' clubhouse is brimming with a hopefulness that seems positively staggering."

Sure, some people might call that mixed metaphor awkward. But those people have obviously never filled a glass so full of liquid that it physically knocked them back.

Anyway, cigar-chomping city-desk editors in suspenders and green visors who taught Hemingway everything he ever knew by making him push a broom over the newsroom floor until his arms were so sore he couldn't even take the pencil out from behind his ear to jot down a hot tip from a racetrack bum in his miniature vertical-flip spiral notebook have absolutely no problem with that sentence.