January 05, 2004
The Dangers of "Inside Baseball"

It never ceases to amaze me how $*(@&@ smart Jay Rosen is.

This is from his latest, “ Horse Race Now! Horse Race Tomorrow! Horse Race Forever!”:

“An army of sentries encircles the game, guarding every situation from which a glimmer of fresh truth might be allowed to escape,” [sportswriter Bill] James wrote. (Substitute for “game” the word “campaign.”) From his angle, the sportswriter is less interested in dispensing knowledge than in monopolizing analysis and discussion of the game. This is done by popularizing the sportswriter’s clichés until they become the sound fans expect to hear.

The outside view didn’t require locker room access. It was there in the action itself, in the part of baseball the fans could see for themselves, or read in a box score. Or even study. Outside baseball was publicly-available knowledge taken deeper by the writer, and that’s the formula James followed to fame and modest fortune. Inside baseball is backstage knowing, and it requires a gate. It is in some sense about the gate.

How is it you know you’re the press? Because you have a pass that says PRESS, and people open the gate. The locker room doors admit you. The story must be inside that gate; that’s why they give us credentials. We get closer. We tell the fans what’s going on. And if this was your logic, Bill James tried to bust it. Fellahs, said he to the baseball press, you have to realize that you are the gate. Your clichés, and the athlete’s clichés and the clichés of the coaches are a barrier between fans and the beauty of the game. James was a radical. He was out to destroy and re-build. What he said was: access means zip. You can learn more from the outside.

Here I’ve been writing about this stuff for years and I haven’t captured this idea as cogently as Rosen does in this essay. Read it already. [Seen on Halley’s Comment]

UPDATE: Doc Searls makes some excellent points in reference to Rosen’s piece as well.

Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at January 05, 2004
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