I come not to bury Bissinger, nor to praise him. I come to say, however, that he did have a point.
(at this time I'd like to make it fully clear that this is Canadian DJM, not SML. angry letters should go this way.)
Bissinger made it rather difficult to excavate, because his tiny nugget of point was buried deep, deep in a mountain of slouchy, blowhard bullshit. As Leitch said, he immolated. There is no denying this. He was swinging wildly, like an angry child. Which is a shame, because if Costas Now had booked an actual grownup instead of an angry four-year-old, a necessary and overdue conversation might have taken place. We could have had our Jon Stewart on Crossfire moment, only this time we're the asshat in the bowtie.
Bissinger's mistakes are legion, and we could spend a day attempting to list them all without coming close to completion. Here's an abridgment: he was profane and juvenile while accusing someone else of being profane and juvenile, he acted like a fucking idiot, and he had no idea what he was talking about. I think that's a fairly succinct summary. Normally, at this point, I'd say "what a tool" and move on, but I happen to agree with the point he was trying so, so, so poorly to make, so I'm gonna give a shot at making it better.
Blaming blogs for being mean-spirited is like blaming port-a-potties for being full of shit. Like: sure, but you're reversing cause and effect, here. Blogs aren't the reason there's negativity in the world, negativity is the reason *some* blogs exist. Hell, this site's moniker is an imperative against a writer, you know?
Bissinger also made the mistake of arguing that all blogs are equal, vile, and equally vile. As long as Free Darko exists, anybody who claims that "all sports blogs are _________" is lying or ignorant.
And somehow expecting Leitch to speak for all bloggers is ludicrous, unfair, and just... stunning in its lack of understanding. The people attacking "bloggers" have not yet realized that a synonym for "bloggers" is "people." We're not some underclass coming out of hiding in the caves or, Lord help us, our mothers' basements. My mother doesn't even have a basement.
Enough covering my own ass, though. Let's get to it: Leitch isn't exactly blameless here, either.
I mostly enjoy Deadspin. I read it everyday. I have it on my RSS feed. I comment over there, from time to time. But I'm also not going to pretend that it's above reproach. It's not a watchdog site, or a news site; it is an opinion site and it *is* a gossip site. I think mocking Deadspin for posting pictures of Matt Leinart drinking from a beer bong is totally, completely, 100% warranted. That's some childish bullshit, and Leitch is smart enough to know that it's childish bullshit. His defense of it was fourfold, and each of the defenses he offered is ridiculous.
1. "It's funny!"
Why is it funny? Seriously, why is it funny? It's only funny because it's embarrassing. Leitch knows this. He's not posting pictures of Leinart working for charity, or playing with his kids, or going to the library. Leinart gets his picture posted when he's doing embarrassing shit. It's only funny because his image is being captured in moments when he'd probably prefer not to be photographed. Which brings us to Number 2:
2. They post them on their Facebook pages.
Oh, Will. We want to agree with you. We really do, but you have to know that this is horseshit. Perhaps some of the embarrassing pictures you post are from the offender's own Facebook pages, but the Leinart pictures, which were the ones under discussion, were from TheDirty.com. You either know this or really ought to know this, because your site made a follow-up post which was entirely about where you got the pictures. You're posting pictures from paparazzi sites designed to embarrass. Man up and admit this.
3. They're real people!
The fuck is this, US Weekly? Of course they're real people. NOBODY is debating this. I don't even know what this argument is supposed to mean. It's OK to publicly embarrass athletes because it would be OK to publicly embarrass anybody? What?
4. Braylon Edwards, so by extension all athletes, have no complaints, because they are not hounded by photographers like Hollywood stars.
Man, this is a preposterous argument to make. The ends are the same regardless of the means. I can't even tell what the argument is here. Is it "You only have a right to complain about being publicly embarrassed if photographers make it difficult for you to go outside"? Is that it? Because humiliating shit is humiliating shit regardless of the source.
And Leitch's disingenuous claims that he's not encouraging paparazzi or that he wouldn't go through somebody's garbage are riding a razor thin line of believability. Sure, Will's not running out to snap photographs of athletes at parties: but posting those pictures makes him just as bad.
Sure, Bissinger and Costas and pretty much everybody else makes the horrible mistake of conflating what's in posts with what's in comments. But Will pretending that he's blameless for the comments is absurd. He's an editor. You know what they do? They edit. The reason that vitriol is present in the Deadspin comments is not because Will doesn't have any say in what goes on in there (which is the attitude he sort of takes) but that the vitriolic comments are Deadspin's biggest draw. There's money in that hate. He should be honest about this.
And his implication that the problems with Deadspin are *only* in the comments is at best a glaring example of sophistry. Are the comments over there mean? Yes. Are they funny? Yes. Was it in *posts* that we got humiliating pictures of athletes, humiliating video tape of Berman, humiliating uncorroborated stories of Berman's pickup attempts, humiliating answering machine messages left by SportsCenter anchors, and on and on and on? Oh, absolutely. Part of Deadspin's game -- a large part -- is public embarrassment.
I'm not even asking him to apologize for that aspect of his blog. I don't care for it, but whatever. My problem here is Leitch seems to think that spreading that shit makes him different from the people who capture it or report it in the first place. I, for one, wholeheartedly disagree, but I think it's a debate worth having. Unlike the one we got the other night.
So here's my hope: the next time somebody asks Leitch to defend blogs, he say something like "I don't speak for all blogs. I speak for my blog, which is often juvenile and deals with certain aspects of public humiliation because I think they're funny, newsworthy, and our business." Or something. And then we can have the debate over whether pictures of quarterbacks at birthday parties or at clubs are funny, newsworthy, and any of our goddamn business.
Bissinger is a total idiot. He's also not totally wrong.