It's been an interesting week in terms of sportswriters feuding with each other. There as blog fight on the interwebs between Bill Simmons and Charles P. Pierce over Pierce's review of The Book of Basketball. This came a few days after Murray Chass and Tom Verducci had a dust-up after Chass incorrectly said that Verducci didn't vote for Marvin Miller in the recent Hall of Fame vote. Now, I'm not too much interested in the particulars of each feud* as much as I am this notion of sportswriter-on-sportswriter crime. And not from the perspective of wondering why writers feel a pathological need to attach each other in print, but from the public's perspective.
(*- Charles Pierce is my favorite writer. Not my favorite sports writer. My favorite writer. Ahead of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Rushdie and everyone else. And it's for lines like "I've been thrown out of better joints than your bibliography.")
There's a common thought among sports journalists when feuds like this bubble up. That nobody cares about us. That we are not the story. That this is all inside-baseball knowledge and that readers don't give a hoot about who's nice to who in the media room.
But is that really the case? Look at the comments on these stories. Pierce's response on his Boston Globe blog has, at time of this writing, 189 comments on it. Not only is that far more than any other post he's ever had on his blog, it may be more than all previous blog posts combined. Joe Posnanksi's epic takedown of Chass received more than 60 comments (an average number for his blog) - and that's a third-person account of the feud.
Granted, reader comments aren't necessarily the best metric for measuring interest. It could be the work of a handful of people ganging up on a writer. But the numbers are still interesting. Clearly, in some way, people do care when sportswriter start talking about other sportswriters.
Why is this? A few first thoughts, but I'm more curious than anything else. I'm wondering why people care - and why reporters are so insistent that people don't care?
1. As scholars like Pam Shoemaker (member of the official Sports Media Thesis Committee) have written, conflict is a key news value. It's what we look for in news. So conflict between two high-profile media members? News.
2. Good old-fashioned schadenfreude.
What's everyone else think?