Tony Mazz has a new blog entry up, including the following:
"Somewhere along the line, someone needs to devise a system in which people who post comments on the internet are required to provide their real names and, perhaps, places of employment. This would help eliminate the legions of nitwits and cowards who shred anything and everything in their path while hiding in their mothers’ basements."
Columns center around opinions, and opinions sometimes derive from facts, but often from false beliefs that fail to distinguish causation from correlation. In 1968, Ken Harrelson had a 1.000 fielding percentage in right field for the Red Sox. Few observers thought that Harrelson was a Gold Glove outfielder.
The imprimatur of a major newspaper now qualifies a sportswriter as being infallible based on experience, access, and judgment. Other opinions based on statistics, close observation of professional sports for over forty-five years, and spectacularly unsuccessful college and amateur baseball careers count for nothing in a town where the scribes see all and know all.
Sportswriters have total objectivity. Baseball executives don't influence them, nor does their relationship with players and their families. They simply call it as they see it, oblivious to the impact on the team or the players, or even their access and careers. Or do they have a more nuanced view, colored by the realities of their position?
One former local writer told me he witnessed a player doing something ignoble prior to a game and the player simply told him that he would never talk to him again. "Sports doesn't build character; sports reveals character," was how John Wooden put it. The writer didn't write the story. The story just wasn't worth telling in the context of his relationship and his employer's relative to the big picture.
We have a passion for sports, the teams, and the competition. Writers measurably add to our enjoyment of the game. But their unique access doesn't always make them correct, immune from criticism, or invalidate their critics. After all, columnists are about opinions, not just facts. That's what they tell us.