King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

When sports niches clash: Radio host Colin Cowherd's use of a blog's material highlighted a cultural gap. Plus: Women's Tournament.

Topics:

Two sports-fan subcultures collided last week, and it wasn’t pretty, though it all ended up well enough.

ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd used some material off a Michigan football fan blog, presenting joke questions from a Wonderlic test on his show Wednesday without attribution, as though it were original material. When e-mails started flooding in objecting to the theft, Cowherd fired off a series of rude, taunting responses calling those with complaints whiners.

Almost certainly at the urging of his bosses at ESPN, Cowherd offered a sincere-sounding apology on the air Monday, five days after the incident.

Oddly, this case of radio plagiarism happened the same week conservative Washington Post blogger Ben Domenech’s print and online plagiarism created a firestorm in political and media circles. Yet beyond the blogs, the Cowherd affair created nary a ripple.

A letter about the incident headlined “What about radio journalism?” was posted on Jim Romenesko’s blog at Poynter.org and gained no traction with the media pros who haunt that site.

The creators of the M Zone, the aggrieved football site, had declared themselves “pissed” last week at Cowherd’s not giving them credit for their work, which was a satire on news reports about Texas quarterback Vince Young having done poorly on a Wonderlic test at the NFL Scouting combine.

The M Zone authors accepted Cowherd’s apology Monday, writing, “It’s over.”

“We felt powerless,” wrote Yost, one of the M Zone’s founders, in an e-mail to me. “An almost-6-month-old blog against ‘the Worldwide Leader in Sports.’ But we were mad.”

So Yost and his M Zone partner, Benny, who both wish to remain anonymous because they don’t want co-workers to wonder if they spend more time on their blog than they do on their real jobs, asked readers to write to Cowherd and, at the suggestion of a reader, to ESPN ombudsman George Solomon.



A procedural note: I’ve made some minor trims to Yost’s e-mail comments.

“We had no idea the response would be so overwhelmingly positive and the sheer numbers would be so staggering,” Yost writes. “It really seemed to have struck a nerve, not only among the online sports community, but bloggers in general.”

Cowherd fueled the outrage when, according to the M Zone and not disputed by ESPN, he responded to e-mails about the theft with replies such as, “WE WERE SENT IT … WE HAD NO IDEA … BUT THE INCESSANT WHINING … MEANS I WON’T GIVE YOU CREDIT NOW … GET OVER IT
CC”

“Those e-mails were inappropriate,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said Friday, “and we’ve spoken to Colin about them and he admitted he overreacted.” Krulewitz said Cowherd would not be available for an interview, and a call to Cowherd’s producer went unreturned.

Cowherd made an oblique reference to those e-mails in his on-air apology, saying, “I got upset. I took it very personally, because again I take great pride in being unique.”

Cowherd accepted blame for not checking on the origins of the fake Wonderlic test he says a listener sent in without attribution. “I just didn’t do a good enough job checking a hysterical e-mail,” he said, then heaped praise on the M Zone, saying, “It’s very funny. They’re still absolutely killing me, and that’s funny. My bosses made me look at that this morning. They said, ‘You’ve got to see what these guys are doing to you. It’s really good.’ And it is.”

I’ve worked online since the days when seeing a URL on a billboard was a noteworthy event — run, kids, Grandpa’s telling war stories again! — and I’m still interested in the ways the Web interacts and clashes with other media and other cultures.

“Benny, who works in finance, and I were talking and he brought up an interesting point,” Yosts writes. “Benny said, ‘I don’t think the two audiences [sports radio and sports blogs] overlap. With so many choices, sports fans are finding their niche as to where to get their sports info. If they get it online, there is no need to tune into MSM [mainstream media] for the same info — info they don’t control or have feedback on.’”

Case in point: Yost says that the M Zone got a bigger boost in hits Thursday, when sports blogs such as Deadspin and EDSBS.com took up its cause, than it got Monday, when a nationally syndicated radio host spent four and a half minutes talking about how funny the M Zone is.

On the other hand — and cautioning that both he and Benny are fairly new amateur bloggers, not experts — Yost writes that he thinks sports blogs and the mainstream media are “merging in a way” as the mainstream becomes more personality-driven.

“With ‘Best Damn Sports Show’ and ‘SportsCenter’ being sold as entertainment instead of journalism, the guy at his computer and the six-figure ESPN anchor are the same guy,” he writes.

And one more point by Benny, as told to Yost: “There is resentment among some sports bloggers of this whole sportstainment culture in the MSM. Many of those fans wants scores and highlights and not schtick.”

I’ve written a lot about TV networks forsaking hardcore sports fans, who the networks know will watch games and sports news shows no matter what nonsense they have to fight through, to focus instead on attracting more non-sports fans.

But I hadn’t thought about the parallel dynamic Benny brings up. The mainstream sports media, I think, is also becoming more gimmicky, more schtickified, if you will, as it tries to react to and keep up with the looser, more iconoclastic culture of the sports blogs.

It’s impossible not to overgeneralize when talking about “the media,” but I think there’s something to this. The mainstream media, afraid of looking like stick-in-the-muds in comparison with the no-holds-barred world of the blogs, rolls out more and more “edgy” stuff, as they say in TV. More Budweiser Hot Seats and newspaper columnists yelling at each other and in-depth reports about the five most-played songs on Reggie Bush’s iPod.

And the iconoclastic, new-media-savvy, blog-reading hardcore sports fan looks up from his laptop just long enough to say, “Did I miss the Pistons-Sixers highlights?”

Or, as in the Cowherd case, the mainstream media ignores the fusty old staid rules of ethics because, hey, dude, information wants to be free, right? Or the ostensible excuse: “Hey, someone sent us an e-mail. What are we supposed to do, check everything?”

And all the “amateurs” in blogland, the ones who have supposedly turned their back on the MSM and its creaky ways, rise up as one to harrumph, “It’s customary and proper to give credit where credit is due, sir.”

And that’s funnier than a fake Wonderlic test.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Women’s Tournament [PERMALINK]

Here’s ESPN studio host Trey Wingo talking to NCAA women’s Tournament analysts Kara Lawson and Stacey Dales-Schuman in the opening segment of Monday night’s Albuquerque regional final between Maryland and Utah:

“Guys, there’s a little bit of a stomach flu going around the Maryland squad, including their point guard, Kristi Toliver. How much do you think that’s going to affect how Maryland plays tonight?”

Lawson: “Well, I think it’s just going to help Maryland stay loose.”

And they say vaudeville’s dead!

Toliver pulled herself together for a Michael Jordan-like, starring-while-sick performance, leading the No. 2 Terps to the Final Four by hitting six three-pointers and scoring a career-high 28 points in a 75-65 overtime win over the 5-seed Utes.

Maryland will play the winner of Tuesday night’s Cleveland regional final between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Tennessee.

In the San Antonio final Monday, top-seed LSU held off No. 3 Stanford 62-59, the key play at the end a charging foul by Stanford star Candice Wiggins — drawn by LSU star Seimone Augustus.

With LSU leading 60-59 in the final seconds, Wiggins drove down the right side of the key. Gambling that Wiggins wouldn’t see her as she eyed teammate Krista Rappahahn spotting up for a three-pointer on the right wing, Augustus came off of Rappahahn and planted herself in Wiggins’ path.

She was right. Wiggins plowed into Augustus a split second after dishing to Rappahahn, who nailed the three — which didn’t count.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

More Final Fours [PERMALINK]

So in the last couple of days I’ve gotten a few e-mails about “the other NCAA Tournament.” Oh, here we go, I think, figuring the e-mail will be a scold about not writing about women’s basketball enough.

And the e-mails have all been about the Frozen Four! It’s really hard to keep up with everything these days.

Wisconsin will play Maine and North Dakota will take on Boston College in the hockey semifinals in Milwaukee April 6. Wisconsin won the women’s title with a 3-0 win over Minnesota in the championship game Monday.

Prediction: I’m about to get at least one e-mail about wrestling.

Previous column: Best Tournament ever?

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark http://www.salon.com/sports to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Discuss this column and the sports news of the day in Table Talk.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to kingnewsletter@salon.com.

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 11
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
      Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
      Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Here by Richard McGuire
      A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
      The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
      This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
      For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Over Easy by Mimi Pond
      When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
      You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Shoplifter by Michael Cho
      Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
      This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

    • Recent Slide Shows

    Comments

    0 Comments

    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>