With guys like John Steigerwald gainfully employed, David Matthews wonders where the jobs are for the left-brained sportswriter.
It’s fitting that in the week that Josh Zerkle stepped down from his post at “With Leather,” Dan Levy’s “On the DL” Podcast switched to an an easy-listening format (or whatever it is when a podcast goes to a really nice podcast farm, out in the country), and Bethlehem Shoals locked away the FreeDarko gramophone and discarded the key—though we have turntables now, lots of them, and there likely exists a lock pick Charles Joseph Carter himself would appreciate were Shoals to ever deem its use necessary—John Steigerwald, a columnist for the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pennsylvania, wrote this missive:
Maybe someone can ask Snow [sic], if he ever comes out of his coma, why he thought it was a good idea to wear Giants’ gear to a Dodgers’ home opener when there was a history of out-of-control drunkenness and arrests at that event going back several years.
The whole thing was a reminder of why we needed all those bloggy guys in the first place.
If you’re unaware of the situation that Steigerwald’s column (which was seemingly written unawares) refers to, allow this brief refresher: Bryan Stow, a San Francisco Giants fan who was wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey, was savagely beaten by two Los Angeles Dodgers fans outside of Dodgers Stadium on Opening Day and is currently in a second medically induced coma, and for all intents and purposes, the story has become a Story.
For all the different reactions this story has elicited, never would I have expected the “Maybe an Opposing-Fan-Cum-Grown-Man Shouldn’t Be Wearing a Jersey Like Some Sort of Child” angle. As a corollary to the “You Shouldn’t Use the Word ‘We’ When Referring to a Team You Root For, Though That’s How Language Works Sometimes” rule, it has become so very obnoxious that it surpasses the very thing it chides. The faux-insouciance has given it a place on this writer’s list of “Things That Are Obnoxious Which Carry With Them Invented Rules and Corollaries and Thus Create Ouroboric Inanity.”
The jersey angle makes an appearance during rivalry weeks and playoffs when news spreads of campus-invasion pranks, tailgates-gone-awry, and concession-stand-stuffs-thrown at or leading up to a Big Game. The only hockey blog I read has a feature called Jersey Fouls dedicated to snickering at these people, and it happens elsewhere as well. Hell, I’ve done it to an extent. Common sense dictates, though, that we back off when bona fide assault comes into the discussion. It doesn’t take a Rob Neyer to think this line of thinking gets perilously close to the misogynistic victim-blaming that men, like Steigerwald, have never experienced and likely never will—even if a Rob Neyer does say it.
My old employer Deadspin has a #hashtag for stories like this called #yardabandonment, named in honor of this Mark Whicker column in the OC Register about all the developments in the sports world Jaycee Dugard missed out on during the 18 years, as one of my former bosses Tommy Craggs wrote, she spent “impregnated … living in a shed.” In Whicker’s defense, he and his editors apologized soon after, but still. (Note: Tommy Craggs has tackled Steigerwald’s example of irresponsible piffle as well.)
Steigerwald’s column is not as egregiously stupid as far as egregiously stupid conceits go—Whicker’s is still the worst—but it is another example of that “Everything Is a Freighted, Symbolic Event to the Grumpy Old Man Who Imposes His Dumb Worldview on Anything That Moves” school of writing. That’s the sort of out-of-touchness we associate more with a parody of a sports column one would expect to find on The Onion. And it’s an example of the type of writing we’re going to be stuck with if we keep losing left-brained sportswriting and coverage because a site like FreeDarko, a podcast like “On the DL,” and so many others can’t find a way to make their labors of love work in conjunction with getting the mortgage paid, or in the case of Zerkle, becoming too fed up with how the blogging business has become a Business.
To expound on this idea though—and also note that FreeDarko (for example) was a platform that raised its members to a level where they could split and succeed while making cameos together like an alternate-universe KISS—if someone like Mike Tunison is tweeting about house-moving jobs that I’m pretty sure are not jokes, what fucking hope can there be in this industry?
Yes, people have to move on—or grow up, if you’re a dick—and settle into something more stable. Where are we going to be when the stable jobs that will allow us to keep reading these people we’ve come to know from their words and fleeting, sparsely organized meetups-slash-blowouts dissipate or never appear? How are some of these people not staffers yet? Most of the people mentioned here—John Steigerwald notwithstanding—are going to be fine and gain larger audiences, but things still won’t be the same until we have McSweeney’s Sports or Something and several competing titles.
Maybe Bethlehem Shoals can become a newspaper’s sports columnist, even. I imagine there might be an opening at Washington, Pa.’s Observer-Reporter. Hey, trading states for towns works sometimes, right? And it’s close enough to Haverford that maybe an old gramophone will show up.
So, with that in mind, here are a few other John Steigerwald headlines:
- On Canaries: “Know When You’ve Consumed Enough Poisonous, Coal-Mine-Trapped Gas”
- Salmon: “Know When You’ve Swum Too Far Upstream” (or, “Beware: Bears”)
- Lawrence Taylor’s Latest “Companion”: Actually, I don’t want to think of how he would handle this one, outside of something about the sad state of fake-ID manufacturing.