This Week In F–k You: Dan Shaughnessy

12.18.13 4 years ago 90 Comments


Dan started today off with a blue whale’s turd of a column telling his readers why other writers who aren’t as brave as Dan Shaughnessy are bad. It is simply too putrid to ignore. So here’s my response: Fuck you, Dan Shaughnessy.

Your sports columnist is here to write, not to root

Right off the bat, fuck you Dan. You lead with this pile of cockroach-shit and the idea that being a sports columnist is a public trust. The idea that he refers to himself as “Your sports columnist” in the lede of a column about how he can’t stand his own readership is a middle finger with flying spittle. Bonus points for the hackey, forced, alliteration.

So after 40 years and 12 books and thousands of columns and millions of words, I have just one question for you gentle readers of sports coverage and commentary . . .

Not that you’re counting. And by the way what is this “gentle readers” passive aggressive line here? This column reads less like a hot sports take and more like a casual fisting from your evangelical neighbor inviting you to bible study because you were listening to Kid Cudi on your deck last night.

Do you want coverage or celebration? Do you want subjective commentary and analysis, or do you just want writer/fans rooting for the local teams to win?

Hmmm. Feels like there’s one that I’m supposed to like here. I will agree with one aspect of this article: No one would want or be able to read a sports column written by your average Patriots fan. But Dan’s already on the soft shoulder of the exit to “Truthtown” and he doesn’t really give a shit that you know that he just created a flaming false dichotomy just so he can swing his pen at it later.

The older I get, the longer I work, the more I wonder.

Nope I’m pretty sure you’ve always been a dick about this type of thing.

I thought about this after connecting with so many Patriots fans in Miami over the weekend. There were thousands of New Englanders in southern Florida and I had many pleasant encounters with Patriots fans. But the conversation often came around to the same question. Fans would ask me: Don’t you want the Patriots to win?

There’s that fucking passive aggression again. I too, have had many pleasant conversations with people asking me if they can put a cigarette out on my eye.

How many deep conversations with his gentle readers is Dan entertaining down in Miami? Dan strikes me as the kind of guy who would rather swan dive in front of a rhino in heat than listen to what one of his readers thinks about the Pats wide receiving corps. My guess is that after the games are over he he sneers around the locker room berating reporters for being in between him and the players, and goes directly to the airport and sighs heavily at the mother in front of him in security who didn’t put her breast milk in a clear bottle.

And the answer was always unsatisfactory.

You do understand these are Patriots fans right? They would be pissed off if their dog didn’t commit seppuku with its own tail after Tom Brady choked away the last possession of a divisional game. I’m not sure I’m buying this notion that Boston was always the shining city on a hill when it came to having rational sports fans before the Internet existed.

Patriots at Ravens Sunday is a good example. If the living-on-the-edge Patriots win, it’s off to the playoffs. If they lose to the surging, cocky world champs, the pressure mounts. It’s a good story either way. The game is suddenly bigger than it was. I can’t wait for the game. And I don’t care who wins.

Wait! What’s this?! Oh, my stars! “the surging, cocky world champs,”? If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Dan was writing like a fan here. The Ravens are coming off an improbable win where they didn’t score a touchdown. I don’t think they’re overestimating themselves here Dan. But yes, you are better than us because you don’t care who wins.

You’ve no doubt seen “The Fugitive” with Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford.

Actually I was just watching Veronica Guerin, but please, do go on.

It’s a classic. There’s a scene early in the film where Jones, as Deputy US Marshal Samuel Gerard, pursues fugitive Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) through a viaduct in a dam. In the ensuing confrontation, Kimble points a gun at Gerard and says, “I didn’t kill my wife.’’

/Checks byline for “Jay Mariotti.”

With nary a shred of emotion, Gerard barks, “I don’t care.’’

That’s it right there, people. It’s not the marshal’s job to determine Dr. Kimble’s guilt or innocence. The marshal’s job is to bring him in.

That’s me. I write the stories. I care about the stories. But when my head hits the pillow at the end of the day it does . . . not . . . matter to me if the Patriots won or lost.

You brave, brave man. YOU ARE THE GUARDIAN OF THE GAME. Great job, by the way, keeping steroids out of baseball when players were using in front of you for 15 years.

It’s not Dan’s job to determine if a team wins or loses, that’s up to the fans I guess? His job is to write about how hard it is to write for fans who want to read columnists who root for their teams. It’s a lot like being a federal marshal except instead of getting shot at, you get free Super Bowl tickets.

This comes in handy in some deadline situations. In our business, it’s important to be able to function when an 18-0 season blows up in smoke in the final minute in Glendale, Ariz. The tracks of our tears don’t fill the column space in Monday’s newspaper and on the website.

Ah yes. There is no crying in journalism. By the way, here’s Dan on February 4th, 2008. “In New England, the church bells are broken…The Patriots lost the Super Bowl. It is an alternate universe. It does not compute.”

This is how we were trained a few decades ago. We were instructed not to root for the home team. Just deliver the story and the analysis.

Stories like, “Wow. Lawrence Taylor  does a lot of cocaine on gameday.” And, “Steve Young sure seems to throw up a lot after games for a guy who only got his bell rung.” Just the facts ma’am.

That’s the way it is in other departments of a legitimate news operation. Journalists who cover politics, science, medicine, labor, and international relations are asked to put their agendas on the shelf. Tell the story. The reporter covering the Romney-Obama election is not supposed to be a fan of either candidate.

Right, this actually makes sense. Well done. Journalism should be 100 percent objective in the areas of international politics, crime, breakthroughs in medicine, wars, and sports.

Why is it presumed to be different for us? Why do readers expect — and in some cases, demand — that sports reporters be fans of the team they cover? This amazes me. Are we supposed to suspend all rules of journalism because we cover sports?

Ah yes, “The Rick Reilly compromise.”

I had this discussion with a very smart woman at a dinner party some years ago. She was from a family of newspaper publishers. And she was astounded to learn I was not rooting for the Red Sox while I was covering the Red Sox.

She was a credit to her gender. Came from a good family. Somehow she could not comprehend a simple fact about journalism though. Really bright one, her.

Trust me when I tell you this whole thing has changed. When I came into this business in the 1970s, it was OK for sports reporters to be skeptical and critical. It was not a crime against humanity if you suggested the Patriots or Red Sox might not win the championship, or perhaps might not be serving the best interests of their fans. It was OK to occasionally poke fun at Haywood Sullivan or Billy Sullivan.

You can still do all of those things. In fact, by distancing themselves from the team that they cover, many “fanboys” are able to maintain a more objective viewpoint than you are.

Naturally, the Internet is a good source of explanation for this new dynamic. The web gives fans an infinite forum. Fans have a place to read like-minded people. It’s like one giant sports-talk show with no hosts interrupting.

This might be one of the best descriptions of the Internet that I’ve heard. But along with it comes the idea that every fan desires, nay, needs a Dan Shaughnessy to keep their thoughts and feelings from straying too far afield. He is our moral compass, our Bilbo Baggins haired guardian who will ensure that we maintain scruples.

It turns out that fans love reading other fans. And, naturally, they all love their teams. What a surprise. Now they expect everyone else to love a team. It’s the wild west of fanboys.

/Saloon doors swing open.

“Bill Belicheat shouldn’t have used that timeout!”

“Now now, we don’t want any trouble Mr. Bleacher Report.”

And so the industry has changed. The press box is peppered with folks who are working for the teams, or the league, or other fans. And woe is the fly in the punchbowl who’d dare interrupt the fanfest celebration.

You poor, poor federal marshal. You have lost your monopoly on the cold cut spread. The entire premise behind this article has been Dan Shaughnessy getting worked up over some bullshit that doesn’t really affect his job at all. It’s Dan getting upset that people who read his column also enjoy reading columns from people who don’t think exactly like you. Dan would wipe his ass with the fact that you read his column if he could.

These are high times in Boston sports. We have seen eight Duck Boat parades since February 2002 and all four of our pro teams seem to be in good hands. We are the envy of sports fans in America.

What’s this “we” bullshit? You got a turd in your pocket Dan? You’re not a fan, remember?

But not everything is always great and it’s OK to point this out now and then. Opinions about sports don’t impact important issues that touch our lives. This isn’t about taxes, abortion, gun control, or health care. It’s about first-round byes and Cover 2 defenses. If we have differing opinions about Wes Welker, it doesn’t mean we can’t get along with one another.

Maybe you should have left this part out of your column bitching about how you disagree with the way that a handful of people cover sports.

Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram once said to me, “If I wake up on January 3 and put on my coat before going outside, I am not being negative, I am just preparing because it’s probably cold outside.’’

Bill Ballou never once cheered for anyone except for London Fog. Bill Ballou roots for weather. I’m not really sure what Bill’s getting at here with this, but I can tell you with certainty that he was wearing some sort of hat and the point he was making was boring.

In this spirit, I submit that the 2013 Patriots are headed to an unfortunate ending this season. Please don’t take this as negativity. It’s just an opinion. I may be wrong. But it really won’t matter if I’m right or wrong. It’s sports. It’s entertainment. It’s fun. And it’s not going to change your life or mine, one way or another.

Jesus H. I can say with a high degree of confidence that the past 48 hours in Dan’s life were mildly inconvenienced by maybe two people who disagreed with him about the Patriots’ playoff prospects. This led him to focus his pen on an entire swath of his readership who also consume other, less cultured sports-media. He just needed a bullshit column wrapped around his only thesis: that the Patriots might not win the Super Bowl. I feel more like I’ve been assaulted by Tommy Lee than Tommy Lee Jones after reading this.

But Dan’s only here to get his man. No one in history has ever done anything wrong while simply following orders.

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