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Gary Cartwright on the Death of Newspaper Sportswriting

Gary Cartwright opines provocatively. You can also read more Cartwright here.

Gary Cartwright is a living Texas treasure and he drives this particular pitch out of the park, past the cotton-candy concessions, over the train tracks, and through a Chevy Corsica's windshield.

In the footprints of these giants we now find ants. The greats of yesteryear have been replaced by dabblers, hacks, and homers, glorified fans with press credentials that permit them to leech onto some sports outfit, usually their hometown team, and bray or bitch about its wonders or shortcomings in the dead language of statistics to audiences who wouldn’t know an original sentence if one crawled up their nose with a firecracker. The prose styles of these modern knights of the locker room are as bloodless and colorless as old cardboard. They lack entirely the fundamental understanding that if you write about events that repeat themselves into infinity, you must first acquaint yourself with literature.

Check his quill for HGH, please.

Generally, the Old Breed who weep about how things used to be are amnesiacs, self-deluded liars, or unrepentant sentimentalists - and I'm sure Cartwright would concede that his age had more than its share of hacks; there was a sports writing formula from his era that is almost unreadable for its maudlin affectation (see Bill Little if you want a dose of that style) - but goddamn if his point isn't true. The modern sportswriter is a human barnacle on the hull of competitive athletics and this screed is a much needed rub of sandpaper on their sessile hides.

You may also detect a hint of self-regard in his essay. Yes. And? His self-regard is entirely justified. There's simply not that many people writing interestingly about sports in the mainstream press. And those that do - say Michael Lewis - aren't sports journalists in any real sense. Lewis is a creative and literate guy who likes sports and, a trained economist, has identified an area of competitive advantage where he can pants apparatchiks.

Gary needs to know that the proliferation of sports blogging was not just a natural outgrowth of the blogosphere - where voice is extended to anyone with an opinion and a keyboard to hold forth on any subject, but also a reflection of the paucity of interesting opinion and discussion. He's writing about something that we've been discussing for a long time. Here is a realm so devoid of original voice that the sports blogosphere couldn't help but pour into its gaping niches like Madonna's boyservants after her mid-day constitutional.

Respectfully, I think Cartwright misses the mark here:

Sad to say, newspapers are now being swallowed up by a parallel universe that revolves around the Internet. Nobody under fifty reads newspapers anymore. I don’t know if they read anything. Funny books may well exceed their limits of comprehension.

No, Gary. Plenty of people under 50 read their asses off. But we've voted with our feet. You've just very adeptly explained why newspapers are being swallowed up and why so many should die. Don't lament their death and pine for an institution that ceased to be when bright, interesting people stopped signing up. Grieve for the men and voices we've lost, not the vehicle of delivery. Perhaps today's Dan Jenkins is on the internet.

Gary doesn't think so:

It is doubtful that any of these rags will ever produce another Sherrod, and I can’t imagine that the blogs will either.

Right. The rags won't.

But blogs are exactly where he'll come from. The style will be different, but the insight, the irreverent humor, the peculiar cadence and tone of a generation, and the ability to look at the human condition through the inchoate world of grown men playing games will be exactly the same.

Have a little faith, Gary. And celebrate when a stony nothing is scraped off and discarded. There are pearls in their cousins.

Dive a little deeper.


Read srr50's tribute to Bud Shrake. Lost one of the great ones.


Be sure to also check out And Justice For All.