Friday, July 14, 2006

Sports writing for the 21st century

Great sportswriting is a genuine rarity these days, as every joker with a dialup connection and an opinion is offered the chance to become an expert. And while I frequent for information (looking for trades that won't happen and news on the teams I follow, and often instead finding the 30 billionth article written this week on Barry Bonds), the writing is generally subpar.

So when one finds respite from the generally neandearthal analyses, and stumbles upon a couple of gents who

1) know of what they speak,
2) write about it really, really well,
3) apply a generous dose of humor in their tropes, and
4) they happen to support the team you root for...

well, it makes one happy, that's all. And I can tick off all four qualifiers for the two who pen the sophomorically-monikered 47 Million Dollar BJ (hence named for best closer in the bigs BJ Ryan, signed by Toronto for a king's ransom this offseason -- and worth every looney).

What the 47MDBJ does really well is, it encapsulates what I'd call the two most important characteristics of baseball: a wild fascination with statistics (recently attempting to account for "behemoth" Troy Glaus' inexplicable stolen bases), and a nature conducive to storytelling and narrative that has kept this sport alive for over a century. What this game is about, always about, is stories -- every stat has a history and every player has a backstory (former Jays' hurler Cory Lidle's fear of SARS a few years back is also thrown into the most recent entry). ESPN doesn't do this well -- the stats become parodies of themselves, where a batter's slugging percentage in domes on August weeknights is actually supposed to reflect something, when it doesn't. It tells no story.

Kudos to the 47MDBJ for reinventing the genre for a team that doesn't get much pub in the division of Yankees vs. Red Sox. Sadly, they only blog accounts of games they attend. Somebody get these people some season tickets.

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