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Confessions of an Amateur Dabbler

Mike SteffanosMonday, July 2, 2007
By Mike Steffanos


On Friday I wrote about the coverage in the Daily News of Paul Lo Duca's clubhouse blowup the night before. While the beat writers for most of the area papers seemed to go out their way to give Lo Duca a break in their stories of what happened, the News' Peter Botte went in the opposite direction, calling it a "telling admission" that Lo Duca's words were directed at his Latin teammates, referring to how a "crazy-eyed Lo Duca" was tossed out of the game that led to his suspension, and referring to the old news of the catcher's marital problems and personal life in general.

Despite the spin given by other writers for the same paper in more recent articles, there was a definite negative tone to the article that came through quite clearly when I was reading it. While other writers seemed inclined to give Lo Duca a break based on his past cooperation and the fact that he was admittedly having a bad day, there was no slack in that story. And that's fine, it was Botte's story to write as he saw fit, and he chose to take a fairly cheap shot at a guy who has made reporters' jobs easier since he's been there.

In that same edition of the news, there was an annoyingly self-righteous column from the News' Lisa Olson that also talked about Lo Duca. I referred to it in my original piece, but elected not to quote from it. The words that rubbed me the wrong way were as follows:

The Mets don't seem to mind unveiling their inner clowns, warts and all. After last night's game at Shea was postponed because of rain, Paul Lo Duca aired several gripes. In particular, he said the media ought to interview more of the Spanish-speaking players.

Never mind that they are often the ones milling about the clubhouse before games, generally accessible and usually willing to communicate in English. Outside of Carlos Delgado, whose grumpiness coincides with his batting slump, the Mets' Latino players, like their Anglo counterparts, are almost always accountable. And Lo Duca's hardly in a position to be offering media advice.

... The Mets have taken to wearing hideous orange T-shirts, fashion don'ts that fit nicely with Shea's backdrop. The back reads, "there ain't a big top big enough for this circus." David Wright said the shirts refer more to the team's personality, because the Mets have so many clowns. On that point, few would disagree.

What Lisa Olson seems to miss is that she and many of the others who cover this team are indeed card-carrying clowns in the circus. Especially when they feel the need to be preachy and patronizing to both the ballplayers they write about and some of their readers. Rather than drop it after her annoying column Friday, she returned with something even more annoying the next day -- an open letter to Lo Duca showing him the error of his ways while supposedly admitting to some of the mistakes on the part of the media. Lisa Olson asks the question: Is it fair to say we both have erred?, but then never really admits to anything being the media's fault. She does get a little patronizing shot in at those of us who don't understand how the media do their jobs, including dabbling amateur bloggers like yours truly:

Readers, listeners and fans generally don't give a fig about how we go about our jobs (though many of them dabble in amateur blogging). But based on your emotional interview yesterday, clearly you care about your reputation, just as we care about ours.

Actually, I understand very clearly how the media does their jobs. I'm aware that it wasn't an option for any of the writers who witnessed Lo Duca's blowup to ignore it. Others would write about it, and your editor would rightfully demand to know why you didn't. Still, the writer always has the option on how to slant the story, and Botte slanted it quite negatively. Still, that was less annoying then Olson's patronizing advice to Lo Duca and the little slap at bloggers. I chuckled when I saw those words, actually -- something like that only stings when you respect the person who writes them enough to take offense.

As a blogger, I'm aware of what I am and what I'm not. I have respect for the beat writers as I know how hard it is to write on a deadline. There are a handful of columnists I respect, although many of them don't impress me as particularly insightful -- including you, Ms. Olson. I might be an amateur, but when I dabble in this space I take responsibility for what I write. As a matter of fact, I feel strongly that each writer has to answer to his or her personal integrity. I find it somewhat artful when sportswriters tell me that they are not responsible for the scandalous stuff that appears about athletes like Lo Duca in the rest of the paper, but then refer to it often in their own stories or columns. Even an amateur like myself knows when someone is being hypocritical.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (7)

It's writers like that (And I've long since stopped taking anything the Daily News or New York Post seriously) that make me think even with no experience, unless you count the three months of blogging, I could do at least as good a job as many sports writers.

Ceetar - You and me both, buddy. So that's it, you guys. We're all such amateurs, we might as well not voice any opinions. Leave that to the Lisa Olsons of the world - they'll tell us what to think.

That attitude is why newspaper groups are hemmorhaging cash all over the country. I read my local paper, The Orlando Slantinel, for the comics, Ann Landers, and the Sudoku. And in truth, all three of those features could be gotten just as well, and without having to wash the newsprint off my fingers, with a few clicks of my mouse.

I saw the comments by LoDuca as directed towards the media, not his teammates. Seemed to me he was chided the press for not talking to the latin players because maybe the media has a problem with some quotes expressed with a latin accent.

Where Ms Olsen has you beat is in regular acccess to the players. That's quite an advantage, but somehow it hasn't been enough to keep the newsies from losing readers to the blogs year after year. So far as I know only the Post of the big three New York papers showed anything like a profit last year.

I think if those in the newpaper business wish to assume a place of superiority over the blogsphere, they should first be required to explain their position to their shareholders

I will demur slightly with Ceetar and Nostra above on one point.

I enjoy the writing of the Post's Mark Hale, their Mets beat reporter. I like the way he reports the game he just saw. Maybe I hope he doesn't get handed an opinion column; or maybe he would prove an exception, who knows. Anyway I think he is doing good work.

Tangentially, I just remembered a funny line from a few years back, when the Time's Murray Chass was to be inducted into the writer's wing of the Hall O' Fame: "no word yet whether he will be inducted as a Yankee."

Without getting too caught about this (no fuel, no fire), I agree that loDuca (words & actions) has made himself a sitting duck.

He might have had the right intentions but obviously it was put out in such away that the reporters could run with it. I read into it that he, (loDuca) wanted to see/hear more of WHAT the Beltrans, reyes & Valentins had to say ...in the paper. Rather than always seeing his own (mis)quotes.

The good& very applaudable thing YOU Mike (and fans) are doing is voicing the Mets fans displ;easure of the skewed/polarized/biased media coverage if indeed it creates an unfair stereotype about who the Mets are. The previous contoversy was the use of 'Los Mets' to create a hideous analogy that the Mets were collecting a hispanic club (with glavine, Maine, Loduca....) to attract big name hispanic players. then it was Milledge.

Please keep talking, because I noticed on another site when blogging about the possibility of acquiring Victor Martinez, a FA to be, a blogger noted (paraphrasing) that that would make the team more hispanic. ... At this rate,it would seem (based on some media/random comment perspective) Omar now has to take into account ethnicity when deciding to acquire a Mark Buerle or Johan Santana?'

I really wish the race related commentary would go. Its not as blatant anywhere else, not in the dodgers markets, the Angels, Indians etc.


Ceetar - I tend to like most of the beat writers more than the columnists. Adam Rubin and Mark Hale do a good job on the day to day stuff. Most of what columnists do now seems to me more sensationalist than informational -- or useful, for that matter.
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Nostra - Actually, I found the word "dabble" more obnoxious than amateur.
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John - Lo Duca could have worded it better, but I agree with your take. That doesn't make as good a story, though.
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dd - I'm not a big fan of the style of columnists nowadays, and feel they are writing for more casual fans than you or I. I like Hale, too, as previously mentioned. I actually think the vast majority of the beat writers are good. I think John Delcos does a good job with blog.
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Ed - I felt most writers were willing to give Lo Duca a break based on what they knew about him. If your point is that his words gave the writers something to run with, that's actually kind of obvious. Lo Duca is a guy who doesn't carefully consider every word, or mouth cliches all the time.

I agree that the white/Hispanic debate in 99.9% ridiculous. It's probably not going away anytime soon, sadly. The problem is that there is too much media in this market, and everything sensational like race gets beaten to death.

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