"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sports Rant/Composed Look At How to Write a Contrarian Piece

First a brief version of the rant: Paul Daugherty, of Sports Illustrated, is a fucking moron.

Scaling it back.  I think every writer, anyone who wants to be published, wants to be read, has at the very least a gigantic inner narcissist.  You have to think to yourself- my opinions are worthwhile.  I am someone who is worth reading.  And you get to believe that about yourself as soon as people start reading your work.  It can go to your head.   And, if you are someone with an opinion about things, you almost instinctively want to move away from the herd.

That is a good instinct to have.  Conventional wisdom isn't always wrong, but believing that is is makes a good starting point.  However, the contrarian impulse, combined with the arrogance of a writer, the idea that your opinion is always a good thing, can lead to down a dark path.  Anything that most people believe is wrong.  Even when it is right.

Additionally, the internet age, the need for hits, has generated tons of authors and bloggers who rely on this ginned-up controversy to get hits. Talk radio and the political blogosphere are obviously prime examples of this mentality, but it is just as bad, if not worse, in sports. I blame a lot of this on ESPN, who decided that attitude equaled excellent and provocative coverage.  Also they are soulless bastards who, with their Disney overlords, have conspired to ruin sports. 

So now that I slipped back into the rant I want to bring this back to where I started, with that jackass Paul Daugherty.  I don't know the fellow- to be fair, I don't think I have ever read anything of his before.  Maybe I have, and it slipped by without me noticing.  But then he had a piece yesterday (linked above, and also: here) which I read, because, as I may have mentioned, Butler is my school, and I am teeth-chatteringly excited about them.  So I am reading everything.  And everyone, every sportswriter, is on board: they are a great story.  Tiny school in basketball-mad Indiana beats the big boys only to play a Final Four in their hometown.  If you follow sports at all you already know that.  Hoosiers and all that.  While it is a little embarrassing, it is cool to see.

But not Paul Daugherty.  He thinks that upsets are great in the first couple of rounds of the tournament, but not the later rounds.  He wants the big boys, the schools with pedigree, with the NBA studs, from the big conferences to be in the Final Four.  Not little pissant schools from nowhere.

This might be an interesting article if he didn't describe what happened every year.  Nearly every tourney, by the time we get to the later rounds it startes to shake back into reason.  The IT guy who was winning the pool after the first weekend has fallen back to earth.   If every year you had 4 or 5 seeds in the finals, he might have a point.  But that isn't the case, and that is why people are excited this year.  West Virginia is a newcomer, Michigan State has a great tradition but had a down year before rallying, and Butler is, well, Butler.

Daugherty hates that.

The NCAA tournament encourages the myth of equality. You, too, can be George Mason. We relish that; it's in our national DNA. Rags-to-riches. Butler-to-Indy. In America, anyone can grow up to be president.
But, not anyone does. Thank goodness. By the time March Madness reaches the middle of its second weekend, we'd prefer sanity. It beats Butler in a national semifinal.

We, sir?  No, we don't.  And this is not just because we- and here I am using the royal we, unlike you, who thinks they can presume for the masses- are fans of Butler.

Now check this out.  The first paragraph is just another dig at Butler and a reiteration of his point.  The second, though- and I know it is just sports- but is the second paragraph not the single most Republican statement you have ever read?  John Boehner wouldn't be so blunt in his contempt for the lower classes.

It's like prescribed medicine. Just because five upsets are good doesn't mean 10 are better. There is a limit to their effectiveness. It was reached when Northern Iowa KO'd Kansas in Round 2. It was exceeded when Butler beat Syracuse five days later.
Give me a tournament where, after the first weekend, pedigrees take over and pumpkins take off. The meritocracy is assured -- yes, Ohio, you really did beat Georgetown! -- but the aristocracy is preserved.

Thank you for letting us know the limit of upsets.  I wasn't aware there was a line, frankly, but then I don't spend my entire day drinking lighter fluid, like I presume Daugherty does.  And the reason I presume this, in addition to the inanity of his premise, is his skill in defending it.

  (Get me) a semifinal featuring Syracuse, Kansas State, Ohio State or Georgetown.

Really?  It would be better if Georgetown, a team that couldn't get out of the first round, got crushed, is in the Final Four?  Syracuse and Kansas State should be there, even though they both lost to Butler?  Please tell me how you defend this aristocracy.  Why do I have the feeling you are soon going to bring up...

Or Kentucky and Kansas -- as good as Yankees and Red Sox -- scrumming for their latest Shining Moment.
The Phillies played the Rays in the World Series two years ago. Both deserved to be there. The Rays were a great story. Nobody watched.



  1. Sports are booooring! Write about how hot Roxana Saberi is instead.

  2. He's right! She's like the Betty Grable of our modern times.

  3. Who's Betty Grable?

  4. Shut up, that's who.

  5. I care nothing for sports. OK, that's not true. I care nothing for sports unless the athletes in question are really, really cute.

    However, I will root like the dickens for Butler if it ends up being them vs. Duke. Because I totally hate Duke.

  6. Congratulations on Butler's advancing to the finals.