Hey everyone, Chris here. Story time. During the heyday of this website, some people got upset with, I guess, the collective group of people who wrote here. As far as I remember nobody said anything to me directly, and I never figured out exactly what the issue was. In any case, some people didn’t like us.
David Dodd, who covered the Padres for the San Diego Reader, wrote a piece summarizing the situation. It was well-written, reading it you could tell that David has a lot of experience writing and is great at it.
We wanted to publish it. Not just because David defended us, but because we felt honored he would share his gift of writing for something we were dealing with. We discussed the issue internally, but came to the conclusion that we wanted Padres Public to be about the Padres, not ourselves. It wasn’t the solution we wanted, but we felt not publishing this piece was the right thing to (not) do.
…Until now. I just finished my powerlifting meet and I’ve been drinking a little, but who really cares at this point? So here it is, completely unedited from the archives of my email account.
Who could ever imagine that a professional sports franchise would appreciate their fan base? A bunch of long-time fans who have spent countless sums of money attending games and gracing the concessions at Petco Park (not to mention those who go back to the Qualcomm, and perhaps even the Jack Murphy Stadium days) and then decide to write copious commentary on the internet are suddenly rewarded once the San Diego Padres notice that not only have those particular fans who have opted to blog about the club have also accumulated a fan base. And they are actually smart and intuitive. They have, after all, endured. All Padres fans have endured.
So, now that these bloggers are suddenly recognized, some others (in the form of bloggers or fans) seem to be bent out of shape. The Padres, apparently, have offered certain long-time bloggers a few trinkets in appreciation for plying their trade. Suddenly it comes into question, does this somehow affect their objectivity? Well hell yes, everything affects objectivity. The press box gets free hot dogs and nachos after the second inning, and for that, I was grateful. Simply by being grateful, my objectivity has been affected, apparently. But none of that changes the outcome of the games or my criticisms of the organization when it was deserved. I can’t imagine that any blogger wouldn’t feel the same way, regardless of whatever handout the Padres organization cares to offer.
Let’s make a distinction here; there is a difference between sports journalists and sports bloggers. The former spend ten or twelve hours grinding out interviews (pregame and postgame) and watching games from a stuffy and mostly arrogant press box, while the latter get to drink and cheer and watch from the stands or on television. The former get paid for then writing game pieces or editorials, and the latter write what they feel and their pay is optional and possibly from sources other than a print publication. The former meet deadline, while the latter meet up for beers and have copious amounts of fun and then write when they get a chance.
If you’ve followed the Padres, then you would likely guess which side of the writing aisle I envy most.
Sports journalism has changed over the last decade – whether or not some of the older and crustier sports journalists like it, and these Luddite scribes have been forced to adapt or to be cast out, and so you see them engaging in various forms of social media now. Most sports journalists also blog, and even though the blogs are within the sphere of the company website, they contain blog entries outside of what their columns offer. Unfortunately, their blogs do not much differ from their columns or their game pieces. This is unfortunate because the paid scribes are bound by their AP Stylebook and whatever journalistic ethics they feel bound to uphold.
For example, there is an eclipse going on in the sky as I type this, and isn’t it wonderful? I can’t file that anywhere with anyone, because I’m no scientist and who in the hell cares what I think about the moon disappearing? But I could blog the event, and it is no less relevant than what any scientist could explain. My empirical observations – less telescopes and other magical instruments – are no less important and no less interesting than a scientist’s notes concerning the event.
Where do the Padres bloggers fit in? Nicely. See, the scribes in the press box are bound by certain rules – beyond journalism – that mandates the style and form of their columns, and the bloggers are free to expose that gap, and they should. And if the Padres wish to reward the bloggers for it in some way, then I think that’s awesome.
I covered the Padres for the past two years, for an alternative weekly, the San Diego Reader. I was credentialed and fell in with the scribes who covered home games at Petco Park, and like most of them, I did game pieces. In doing a game piece, you are bound to simply report what happened, how it happened, when it happened, where it happened, and why it happened. Your pals in this righteous scripture are quotes from the players and the manager, and you fit those quotes into the game piece in order to create something readable.
I also wrote editorial pieces, which many of the outstanding game-day writers didn’t get to do. There, in that lovely prairie, I could take chances that only unsuspecting cattle do when avoiding nefarious gopher-holes. Sort of like what bloggers do. And for that, you get criticized when you inadvertently step in one, and this is certainly to be expected. One column I wrote that was most highly criticized was exposing the Commissioner of Baseball for being a self-serving prick. I never imagined that so many rabid fans existed of the Milwaukee Brewers market, much less they uncovered a column by some local schmuck from San Diego. Live and learn, the power of the internet.
While the San Diego Padres have drafted poorly in the past and have purchased free agents who for the most part have failed over the years – since Ray Kroc sold the club and the Friars have been without appropriate ownership to field a team capable of competing for more than a couple of seasons here and there – plenty of criticism is available to toss around concerning the Padres, and rightfully so. Editorials from sports journalists can point that out, but not consistently enough, and game pieces aren’t designed to offer criticism any more than reporting too many losses and not enough wins, and sometimes failure in the occasional playoff series.
This isn’t the fault of the game-day scribes, they are hacking out a living one word at a time, it’s what we do for a living as writers.
The folks at sites like Padres Public are designed to do all of it, game-day pieces and more. The consequence of doing this is nothing more than public scrutiny. Do it professionally, and your job is at stake. Not from the Padres, from whom you write about, but as a blogger, you simply deflect criticism (or perhaps, use it to become a better writer), and keep on doing what you do. If the Padres offer you some trinkets for your contributions, then take them and smile. And continue to write, irreverently, sarcastically, cynically, and humorously. And continue to do this knowing that the paid scribes in the press box appreciate what you’re all about.
And don’t listen to anyone else, because the smartest thing the Padres could do (other than to sign Jedd Gyorko to that contract) is to continue to romance you. And the smartest thing that any Padres fan could do would be to appreciate that romance. While I won’t be a regular in the press box for a while – and I know that certain paid scribes will continue to do their due diligence – I’ll continue to read and admire your stuff and hope that the Padres continue to recognize you in whatever way they can. I know you’ll be impartial, regardless.
You have a large fan base that will hold you to that lofty standard. Be prepared, but enjoy the ride.
David Alton Dodd covered the Padres from 2012-2013 for the San Diego Reader. He writes other stuff that actually pays more, but he loved doing the Padres thing for less.