Tuesday, January 13

Corky Simpson: Dream Killer

We've largely stayed away from the controversy revolving around Rickey Henderson being omitted from Mr. Simpson's ballot for the Hall of Fame. Partly because I believe that there's a secret agreement between these baseball writers to not allow anyone to be a unanimous selection. As Mr. Simpson states, “No one in the history of baseball has ever gotten into the Hall of Fame on a unanimous vote,” he notes. “I mean, we’re talking about Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson—nobody. And if anyone out there thinks that Rickey Henderson can carry one of those guys’ shoes, he’s crazy (CJR).”

With those guys not receiving 100% of the vote, it's not difficult to imagine that writers would conspire to ensure that no player would be bestowed that honor. Cleet pointed out, "I gave up when Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn were left off ballots." I do wonder, however, if there's a straw drawing to see who will leave a particular player off or if Peter Gammons sends a messenger with a black envelope to the chosen writer. Maybe believing this shows my naivety, but I prefer to think that there's a justifiable explanation for seemingly unreasonable omissions. The hows or whys are not my reason for posting...

The 70-year old Simpson apparently doesn't spend much time on the internet, but enough that he's been able to form this gem of an opinion,

I think of the literature on the Internet in the same way that I think of the literature on the walls of public bathrooms, with the exception that the literature on the walls of public bathrooms is a little higher class.

We here at ASD may not be wordsmiths on par with Mr. Simpson, but to paint the internet with such a broad brush is as inexcusable as forgetting to put Henderson on his ballot. It's akin to judging all traditionally published pieces on the merits of US Weekley or Rob Parker. Perhaps some of his distaste comes from the recent attention that commenters have given his articles, using them as a forum to vent their frustrations about Rickey. While both US Weekly and commenters can be funny, witty, or even insightful they hardly represent the pinnacle of literature (Parker tends to fall short in all areas).

This slight may have been tongue-in-cheek, but the internet is where so many of today's young writers are starting their foray into the business. Many start without financial backing, writing out of love for their chosen subject. Most will never see the inside of the press box, have a face-to-face with a star athlete, and yet still many grind out quality work, spending hours staring at stats or digging through previous articles, in the hopes of producing a quality piece. Their forums never start as well-travelled, building a readership only through hard work and more often than not reaching a larger audience only by getting a nod from larger sites or even the main stream media. A writer on the internet can choose to write for a larger site where they help pad the wallets of investors, in exchange for a wider audience but no pay for themselves, or they can chose to go it alone, fighting to get noticed, a feat that more often than not seems insurmountable.

To be an internet writer is to know what it means to spend hours on a project without pay or even comment. Being an independent writer and trying to build a following is something that someone who has spent their entire life writing for larger publications cannot appreciate. We're the A.W. Merrick's of the world, just with tradional journalists cursing us instead of Al Swearengen. The (overly aggressive) criticism flowing Mr. Simpson's way was based on the merits of his actions, a courtesy that should be extended to anyone and everyone and not just as writers, but as people.

As a young man trying to forge a place in sports media, there'd be fewer honors more prestigious than being asked to be a voter for the Hall of Fame, but if that day were ever to come, I can only hope that I would handle it with more grace and decency than Mr. Simpson. I used to aspire to one day writing something that people would recall for years, the way I remember, "Jesus Saves, God Invests" after reading it in a stall some ten years ago. The advice no longer seems so sound and my goals too have changed, besides writing in a bathroom stall gives you a captive audience something writing on the internet doesn't guarantee you.

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