King Kaufman's Sports Daily

New, improved theories on football bloggers, Rush Limbaugh's racism and the power of insults: The readers write.


Salon Staff
September 15, 2003 11:00PM (UTC)

Last week I wrote a column wondering why there are so many baseball blogs and so few football blogs. In the column, I mentioned and linked to the baseball blog Clutch Hits. The column was then posted on Clutch Hits and discussed there. If I had joined that conversation, I think I would have formed the perfect postmodern feedback loop.

But I didn't, so we'll stick to feedback of the more usual kind and return for the first time in too long to your letters, because you're all so much smarter than I, as evidenced by the fact that you don't buy it for a second when I patronize you like that.

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One funny thing that happened in the reporting of the blog column is that several of the bloggers whose opinions I solicited via e-mail reproduced my note to them in their blog. It was strange to happen upon my own question out in public like that. It felt a little like suddenly realizing I was walking down the street in my underwear. You're not supposed to see that information-gathering part, where I'm going around asking dorky questions. I mean, it's OK. It was actually a, for me, rare intelligent question, I think. It was just sort of startling and embarrrassing.

Cyd Ziegler of the gay sports site Outsports, which isn't a blog site, tosses a theory into the ring, pointing out that "the younger set" has turned away from baseball in favor of football, basketball and extreme sports.

"As baseball is pushed more and more to the fringe of our culture," he writes, "the more and more the shrinking number of fans bond together. Plus, the more and more they feel marginalized. And those who are marginalized, representing the opposite of the trends of our society, are those bloggers who become most interesting, most-read, most well-known. Andrew Sullivan is the ultimate example of that."

W.F. Boof, who writes the San Francisco Giants blog Waiting for Boof, expands on the idea that the offseason in football is so long by saying there isn't enough to talk about during the down times. however long they last. "The salary cap is freakin' boring, and kills the idea of trades," he writes. "Most of us without doctorates from M.I.T. can't understand basketball hot-stove action either. Baseball has much more to rap about, from the minor leagues to trade action."

Bill Liefer writes that he was surprised at my contention that football blogs are rare. "I spend way too much time on the discussion board for the Kansas City Chiefs," he writes. "All hours of the day and night, fans discuss upcoming games and past games. People invade each others boards the week before the game and often post really interesting and intelligent things amidst all the childish taunts and trash talking. When you write about blogs, are you meaning these discussion boards? If so, it seems that they are not only thriving but hopelessly addicting NFL fans in every city. Maybe I am just ignorant regarding the definition of a blog."

I would never call one of my readers ignorant, Bill, but no, discussion boards are a different beast. A blog is someone's own Web site where they comment on something, usually linking quite a bit to other sites.

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But your note brings up an interesting thought: Maybe football fans are so busy on discussion boards that they feel no need to create their own blogs. Perhaps it's an insight into what kind of fans each sport attracts. Football fans are followers, maybe. They're happy to exist within a structure that's been set up by someone else. Baseball fans, this theory that I'm thinking up as fast as I can type goes, are more iconoclastic. They feel the need to create their own places to express themselves, rather than relying on the forums "the man" has established.

Of course, the fact that almost everyone I know who is a football fan is also a baseball fan pretty much torpedoes that theory, but it's good to think up theories from time to time.

The amen chorus chimed in when I wrote less than kind things about Rush Limbaugh's "official" debut as a football commentator, but I've also been taken to task by many for saying that I don't think Limbaugh is a racist.

"Judge for yourself," writes W. Bowman Cutter. "'The NAACP,' Limbaugh once said, 'should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.' Then there was comment to the black caller that he should 'Remove the bone from his nose.' Also how about the time he said every composite crime photo looks like Jesse Jackson. You must have a much higher racism standard than I do, and I grew up in the South. Men who make these statements in public are always far worse in private."

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Brian Campbell puts it this way: "I agree with you that Rush Limbaugh isn't an overt racist, but at the same time, I don't think he's the sort of guy who's really spent a lot of time trying to imagine race from a perspective other than his own or who has really thought through the way race operates socially. So when a black player does something boorish this season and it's a topic of conversation on 'Sunday Countdown,' I'll be really surprised if he gives that player the same pass he gave to Jeremy Shockey on his."

One reader pointed out this 2000 Fairness & Accuracy in Media article that details Limbaugh's history as someone who "has a problem with color."

At the time of that piece, Limbaugh was auditioning for the "Monday Night Football" color analyst job that eventually went, disastrously to Dennis Miller. Limbaugh's new gig has inspired Cal Godot to come up with a way to fill that "outsider" announcer slot of which the networks seem so enamored. He writes that ABC should have "a reality TV show where Joe Sixpacks compete to be the guest host for a game. The idea would take, and it would last forever. It would boost fan support and involvement. The ad revenues would make you light-headed. Plus, we'd be forever free of nitwits like Limbaugh or Dennis Miller."

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Finally, I wondered last week whether an insult can really inspire a football team, the way the Houston Texans were supposedly propelled to beat the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 by a pregame insult. Psychology professor John Silva of the University of North Carolina told me that if an insult by an opponent struck just the right chord, "It would be only human nature that it could create an increase in incentive to want to beat that team." But he warned that it doesn't always work out.

"Here's a perfect example of a quote not exactly paying dividends," writes reader Sean Walsh. "In February, the firing of 49ers coach Steve Mariucci admittedly frustrated [quarterback] Jeff Garcia. When told that one of the candidates was Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache, Garcia said, 'I don't even know who he is, and I don't know much about Chicago's defense.' The quote was revived [last] week, which raised the Bears' ire. Blache said he took the comment personally and defensive end Bryan Robinson said Garcia should keep his mouth shut."

Inspired, the Bears went out and lost, 49-7. None of the many newspaper stories about the Texans being inspired by the Dolphins' pregame insult said a word about how Garcia's comment had riled up the Bears.

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