The Saturday Sports Reader: New hope in old D.C.

The Major League Baseball playoffs lead off this weekend’s list of stellar sports reads from around the Web, starting with Nathan Fenno’s marvelous piece in The Washington Times about the last time Washington played host to a post-season game.

The year was 1933, still early in the Depression and late in the era of Prohibition. Fenno goes retro about a city with six daily newspapers, scalpers and pickpockets galore around the stadium grounds, and the Senators falling to the New York Giants in the World Series:

“Three hundred and fifty policemen eyed the crowd. Prohibition would end in December. Concern about the nation’s whiskey supply — 18 million gallons — loomed. Would there be enough? Three-point-two-percent beer, the only alcohol 26-year-old Senators manager and shortstop Joe Cronin drank, already was legal. Pabst Blue Ribbon insisted its brew ’soothes jaded nerves, develops fresh energy and helps build a sound, healthy body.’ But Griffith Stadium remained as dry as the afternoon. That was a good thing for home plate umpire Charley Moran.”

Next week, 79 years later, the Nationals will end that long home drought against the Cardinals. To quote a clergyman cited by Fenno all those years ago:

“A new hope is evident in the hearts of the people.”

More Baseball Goodness

Weekly Rewind

On the blog this week, I wrote about the continuing existential probing of the NFL; a new rash of books about the Dallas Cowboys to relieve fans of the awful present; the mockery of sports justice by some ultra-powerful governing bodies; and resisting the temptation to place politics above sports.

The one post I’d like to have back, or many need to expound on in a future post, is the emergence of fan sports mega blog sites and the rap they get for low quality. Geting the worst rap of all is the commercially lucrative Bleacher Report, the subject of a scathing story in a San Francisco alt-weekly. In response have come some thoughtful defenses of BR, including King Kaufman, the site’s writer program manager, who wrote a solid sports column at Salon for many years.

After I wrote that post, I took a deeper look around BR and noticed a vast improvement, much different than the impression I’ve had. There was some bad old-school bias that came out in my post, but more than anything I was beleaguered by the rote demands for high churn and a formula dictated by reverse-engineering. It’s hard to develop a distinctive voice under the duress of running with the SEO-driven herd. My first instinct is to run from it. Like hell.

But BR and SB Nation are evolving into even more powerful entities as the legacy media’s struggles continue, and it’s far too tempting for someone from my background to be dismissive of that reality.

Other “printies” like to lambaste the blogging masses for not being exactly like them. At the Awful Announcing blog previewing the ongoing Blogs With Balls Conference, Andrew Bucholz takes exception to the “replacement journalists” sneer in declaring that the bloggers have won. But this shouldn’t be about picking sides:

“People on both sides are becoming more cognizant of the other side’s value, and it’s those people in turn that are doing well. Lots of mainstream reporters on the rise are the ones who get the web, get blogging, understand Twitter, etc. Many of the bloggers who have gone on to greater prominence are those who can use mainstream content effectively to build something new, and those who can use mainstream techniques when it adds value. The lines have become so blurred that it’s very hard to find many people who can be described strictly as ‘bloggers’ or ‘journalists.’ Most are doing both.”

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