Writing buzz-kill

Finally saw the Buzz Bissinger rant from HBO. Almost a week later he sounds regretful in his tone — even though he was still spoiling for a fight two days afterward in a New York Times story — and I have to agree with him on bemoaning the overuse of gossip on blogs. But whereas David Simon’s anger made me want to save newspapers and pray for their survival, Bissinger’s over 50 anger made me hope they’d die off, and die quickly.

Perhaps the best point of the reaction to Bissinger’s comments is the blogosphere gives hacks and never-was’s like me a space to write, even at a table of one. At some point, much like a career minor league pitcher, you realize you’ve gone as far as you can go professionally. The 25-year-old minor leaguer, of course, has the fear of being cut and finding another line of work. The Single-A journo has these fears, too, in the form of layoffs and buyouts, but can sometimes exist longer, provided he or she has can stomach continuing on in hackdom, but has to give up pretensions of even making it to Triple-A. Otherwise, if the layoffs don’t get you, the depression will.

Maybe you had the talent but weren’t willing to move to Odessa like brave Bissinger. Maybe you got sick of covering small-town school boards and high school games. Maybe you fell in love with a person, or a place, and didn’t want to move but couldn’t land a writing gig in that town, and you curse your desire to write while your friends in other professions seem to have plenty of opportunities and earn more than your pittance.

Maybe, hard as it is to realize, you just didn’t have the talent, not enough of it anyway.

I’d like to make excuses that it’s more competitive in the last 15 years than it ever was for Bissinger, that there were more newspapers and magazines and outlets when he started with fewer writers of all stripes (read: non-white males) seriously competing with him, and when I began trying to land jobs papers were in decline and Al Gore and Kim Jong Il hadn’t invented the Internet yet, to say nothing of blogs, and blah, blah, blah.

Maybe W.C. Heinz would’ve blogged instead, as the Kansas City Star’s Joe Posnanski says (link via The Big Lead). Or maybe not.

But there it is: talent, most likely, would have risen anyway, as Bissinger said of Heinz, especially had it been accompanied by greater ambition.

And a willingness to move to Odessa. And a publisher that would even read a query letter. And an ability to have a hiring editor overlook that you have neither an Ivy League pedigree (Harvard, especially, Cornell probably won’t do) or an MBA or useless J-School Masters. And a willingess not to eat or support your family while that all goes on. OK, I’ll stop.


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