Monday, September 01, 2008

The Case Against "Insider" Sports Columns--Twin Cities Edition

That title suggests that we'll be digging into every hometown media outlet's "sports insider", but we won't be. We know the Twin Cities. Yeah, we know all about Mary Tyler Moore and Profane Existence.

There are two "writers" who specialize in inside knowledge in the sports world. One we have denigrated repeatedly, but have never really put together his multiple missteps; the other, we have never really talked about.

Let's talk the about the latter first. Charlie "Shooter" Walters, who prides himself on his inside stuff. Every column has a special section titled, "Don't Print That", suggesting inside controversial information.

Here's the fun bit about Don't Print That--it is almost never anything controversial, or surprising in the least. It should be titled, "If You Want To Print That, Go Ahead, But Good God, It Is A Boring Thing to Print."

Recent first stories under the Banner of Don't Print That include such exciting tidbits as:

If Vikings center Matt Birk, who is Harvard-educated, were not still playing, he would be the perfect successor to Gene Upshaw, who died Thursday at age 63, as head of the NFL Players Association.

Don't be surprised if Matt Tolbert is the Twins' 2009 Opening Day shortstop.

Word in baseball circles is that ex-Twins pitcher Carlos Silva, left, placed on the disabled list by the Seattle Mariners, has been lost without pal Johan Santana, traded to the New York Mets. Silva has won just once in his past 21 starts. Don't think the Mariners wouldn't love to unload the right-hander, who has a $48 million, four-year guaranteed contract, on the Mets so he could rejoin Santana.

Those are the three successive "Don't Print That" lead items. Do any of them make you at all interested in sports, Minnesota sports, or controversy in the least? Or do they make you cock your head and think, "Why did I waste 10 seconds of my life reading that?"

Charley Peters is not the sole reason that the Pioneer Press won't be in existence in 5 years, but he is certainly one of the reasons they won't be. The only reason anyone reads him is because he comes free in the paper some stupid bastard already paid 25 cents for. Can you imagine getting online and googling such information? Who, besides Matt Tolbert, is Googling information about Matt Tolbert being the starting shortstop next fucking year? The Twins are in the middle of a pennant run, for fuck's sake.

But poor inoffensive, unsightful Shooter Peters is actually a step above his opposite number across the river. Legendary sportswriter, Sid Hartman. "Legendary" is a nice way of saying "too fucking old to do the job, and too entrenched to fire." Because, really, Hartman's "scoops" in the past year would have been firable offenses for a young reporter.

Let's count them off:

There is the insanely obvious: The Vikings pull off a free agent coup, and get Jared Allen. Sid reports that the Defensive Coaches are happy about it. No fucking shit. Not a big deal--reporters have to report the obvious as well as the hard research, digging into sources stories.

It is when Hartman reports on the hard stories that the shit hits the fans.

There was the time he was told that KG wouldn't be traded by the Timberwolves. Sid bragged about his inside pipe to ownership, not realizing that Glen Taylor might bullshit him: "If you listened to Taylor, you too would be convinced there is zero chance that Garnett will be traded."

That's not a one time thing, of course. Let us quote Sid Hartman on the chances of the Twins resigning Torii "Gates of Shinto" Hunter: "While there might not be any specific negotiations with Hunter and his agent during the season, I'm 100 percent convinced that Carl Pohlad, the Twins owner, will make sure that Hunter plays in the new ballpark when it opens in 2010."

Just to be clear, Sid Hartman got the status of two of the three biggest free agents, beloved Icons in Minnesota completely, totally wrong. Why did that happen? Because Sid is an old, lazy man, and he thinks "reporting" means "Ask the Ownership what they are going to do and accepting what they say as Gospel Truth, regardless of the obvious facts on the ground."

The next time you are discussing reasons why newspapers are dying, and people throw out reasons like "Blogs" or "Internet Reporting", please do mention the fact that Newspapers are still actually giving column inches to the likes of Charlie Waters, Sid Hartman, and Stupid Fat Fuck Tom Powers and Bob Sansavere.

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