Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just Let Me Know Ahead of Time

When I was a kid there really wasn’t such a thing as internet. That meant that everyone published had to go through the process of submission and publication. Writers had to have their work edited and Okayed by editors and publishers before it would see the light of day.

Today this is not the case.

Anyone has the ability to become “published” instantly. What I mean by “published” is that the work—a Facebook status, a Tweet, a blog entry about a trip to Seattle—is online and can be seen by more than say, eight people. Now I don’t mean to imply that everything “published” is total crap. In fact, a poem posted on a blog could have more reads (and more acclaim) than a poem read by all the subscribers of the North American Review. (Nothing against that magazine by the way.) The point is that we all have the power to put ourselves out there for all to see. All we need is internet access and an email address. Not only can we display our ideas and writings easily but nothing and no one hinders us from doing so. We can create worlds that suit us and at the same time attract audiences to see what’s up. I believe that if we don’t deceive them and tell them what they are getting into when they join up with our personal creative guilds, we can be very successful.

In this essay I will be examining one particular article titled “A Hierarchy of Hypocrites” by Bill Simmons, the editor-in-chief of Grantland, an online sports magazine affiliated with ESPN. The article is (mostly) about the commissioner of the National Football League Roger Goodell, although the commissioners of the NBA, MLB and NHL are discussed, too. Simmons criticizes Goodell for various decisions he made around the time the article was written, October 2012, and suggests we oust him. The article is a hodgepodge. Fans’ emails and YouTube clips are seen on the page as well as Vegas picks for upcoming NFL games.

First, let’s get a little insight into Bill Simmons and Grantland. Grantland is an online sports magazine that Simmons runs, and it’s very clear that he runs it. While there is a gaggle of recurring writers Simmons’ articles always receive a link on the ESPN homepage, conveniently located next to a black and white picture of the man himself. Simmons is also the host of the B.S. Report, a podcast also linked on ESPN’s homepage.

On the Grantland website Simmons has his own link at the top of the page and the magazine’s other authors fall under the label “Contributors.”

Well now, have I led you to believe the Simmons is a narcissistic, megalomaniac writer? Heck, if I was the editor-in-chief of an online journal I would want to make a big deal of it too. Plus, it is not like the other authors of this journal have their pieces hidden behind spam. It's not like they require secret codes to access. Their pages are a click of the mouse away. My reason for showing how much Simmons’ image and name are attached to Grantland is this; by increasing his own identity and visibility within the magazine we are allowed to understand that what Bill Simmons wants Bill Simmons will have. We can ascertain, from the very first site of his picture on ESPN, that whatever there is to read, it was allowed to cross the finish line into publication by Simmons.

On October 19, 2012, Simmons published the article into which we will now dive. Titled “A Hierarchy of Hypocrites” the article begins with the subtitle “The Sports Guy [Simmons] wishes we could run our sports commissioners out of office and makes his Week 7 picks.” Clearly no subjectivity will exist in this article. If we are looking for research-based and opposition-answering rhetoric, look away we should. But really, what kind of sports article would be written in that way? Don’t we, when reading such articles, expect to gather the opinions of the writers themselves? Aren’t we prepared for objectivity? The first paragraph of the article is as follows:

The first paragraph of the article is as follows:
This wasn't the best morning for Roger Goodell. Hours after former Viking Jimmy Kennedy practically ran out of ways to call the NFL's commissioner a “liar,” Goodell announced that he would be recusing himself from hearing the Saints' latest bounty appeal. Taking over? Wait a second … good God, that's Paul Tagliabue's music! Can you remember another commissioner having his objectivity questioned so vociferously that he had to enlist his former boss to clean up his mess? Me neither.
Having no knowledge whatsoever of American football we can still gather that someone named Roger Goodell is the commissioner of the NFL. We can assume that for whatever reason the commissioner of the NFL is the highest position attainable. We can also gather that Paul Tagliabue used to be the commissioner and likely preceded Goodell in that position. All of these things happen to be true, but what about Jimmy Kennedy? So, he’s a Viking, but why would he call the commissioner a liar? What did the Saints do exactly? Simmons provides a link to Kennedy’s comments on Goodell but the rest of this information requires our own research to understand. There is a lot of knowledge and background information Simmons expects you to already know in this article.

A little later Simmons says, “And then there's Gary Bruce Bettman, the serial killer of the National Hockey League, someone who keeps murdering games and seasons without being caught. He's only missing a catchy/creepy nickname like the Zamboni Killer or the Canadian Bogeyman.” We can deduce that Bettman is the commissioner of the NHL, but Simmons refers to Bettman as a “serial killer” for specific reasons not mentioned. Simmons is referencing the cancellation of half of the 1994-95 season as well as the entire 2004-05 season. Bettman was head of the League during both those labor stoppages.

If Simmons wants to expect his audience to be up to speed with the current events in the sports world and have a somewhat intimate knowledge of the game, fine. It’s his magazine. We don’t have to read it. Let’s go back to earlier in this essay, when it seemed the Simmons was on the verge of appearing narcissistic to us. This narcissism would be achieved if he expected us to know as much as sports as he does and blew past anyone who didn’t live up to his standards. Simmons is redeemed because of two things: the humor of this piece and the accessibility of it.

Simmons describes a notion of Goodell’s hypocrisy and follows it with a funny jab: “Translation: This dude is a H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E.”

He follows this judgment with the clever paragraph:
If you noticed, Goodell never responded — not even after Fujita called him “condescending” and “extremely desperate,” then complained about Goodell's “absolute abuse of the power that's been afforded to the Commissioner.” By continuing to trade shots with Fujita, Goodell would have inadvertently broken the golden rule of hip-hop: Thou shalt never beef down. And after word trickled out last weekend that Fujita had suffered a potentially career-ending neck injury, there was little chance Goodell would fire back. Even Stern during his swaggerlicious apex wouldn't have feuded with a badly injured player.
Simmons made up a word!—a fact which he acknowledges in the side panel of the article. Why not?

The second point to make is the accessibility of this piece. This may seem like contradictory on my part since I’ve already shown that Simmons demands prior sports knowledge from his writers. That is still true, but what I mean by accessibility is that this article can be enjoyed by people who don’t necessarily understand everything that is going on. Simmons provides links, YouTube clips and “even Brick killed a guy.” As much as this article is for those who are well versed in the people, places and goings-on in sports today, this article is for casual sports fans who want a laugh. The prose Simmons creates is not near academically sound, clocking in at the grade level of 8.0, not including the texts of fans’ emails, but the goal of this article is not to comply with the expectations of academia. So we see.

Let’s go back to the paragraph starting with “this wasn’t the best morning.” Look for the sentence containing Paul Tagliabue. It reads, “Wait a second … good God, that's Paul Tagliabue's music!” Someone who has never watched a World Wrestling Federation match can both laugh and wonder at this sentence, and thus it perfectly emphasizes my point. Isn’t that funny or weird, the idea of your old boss coming through a door—possibly smoke-filled, at least in my fantasy—to music to clean up some mess left by your current boss? It can be funny without the specific knowledge of entertainment wrestling.

Simmons’ article is written in one of the plainest styles—academically speaking—a legitimate adult author can use and still be respected. But he needs to write in this way because it suits the humor of his style and because it has the power to attract an audience. Simmons’ objectivity can be forgiven because it’s clear from the get-go what the intentions of this article are, and the brashness and ballsiness of the article can be allowed because, after all, it’s his magazine and because the day after this article hit the internet Goodell could have become the nicest and most loved man in the NFL thanks to some redeeming action. Anything could change and so a writer must go all out to be heard in a world where people are clamoring for opinions and ready for the next change in the sports world. This world of Sports sees many punches and Simmons delivers his own, his way. And what can I say except write on, sir. We are better for knowing ahead of time what you are all about.
By Matthew T. Bauman

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