A New Era: We Are the Media and We Won

Youth winning, again. - Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

There have been enormous changes in the landscape of the Phillies media coverage over the last few days, some practical and some symbolic. It's a good thing. What now?

Let's review a pretty seismic last week+ in the world of the Phillies:

  • Bill Conlin is dead.
  • Chris Wheeler and Sarge are out.
  • WPHL is out.
  • The cable deal is done.
  • Comcast appears to be acting as a counterweight to at least some of ownership's more reactionary tendencies.

This has been the most consequential week or so for fans of the Phillies that I can remember since perhaps the 2008 World Series.  Throw in the existing trend lines across baseball of a continuing and mainstream Baseball Enlightenment and the recent public shaming of the more egregious BBWAA old schoolers who reject that Enlightenment, and things feel newer to me today.

Conlin's death was just chance, but the Comcast events and the broadcast changes were related.  Conlin's death let me review old grudges, including the spat with Bill Baer in 2007.  Blogs have been more relevant than Bill Conlin since Conlin was deposed, and blogs have been better than him for a lot longer still.  Wheeler and Sarge being sent to re-education camps is another instance of old guard soldiers added to the body count.

The old guard is pretty much gone.  Coverage of the team is finally beyond the grasp of those living in what Wet Luzinski calls the "hot pants" era.  The newspapers are taking longer to die than Mary Queen of Scots, but the spiral is spiraling, with the Inquirer swooping in and out of bankruptcy and litigation. They will still be around and have a role (and that is not a bad thing).  Access to the clubhouse ensures that, but it will never be like it was.  And it hasn't been like it was for a long time now.

Throw in a new year, the end of the Polar Vortex, the possibilities of a new baseball season that is mere weeks away, and it feels pretty amazing right now.  A whole bunch of old school pieces were just swept off the board this week.  Heck, there's even a rented stat guy.  It's not all gone (Ruben and the Owners), but the trends are pretty clear in baseball, in Phillies coverage, and even with the team.

All this made me feel like I did when I saw Amanda Palmer's kickstarter video.  Liz probably won't wear a kimono and flip signs on a street in Melbourne with her keytar, but she could wear her fuzzy boots and do it on Broad in Philadelphia.  It's morning.  The old record model is dead.  AFP beat the establishment.  That video is us, too.  Watch it.


Done? Good.

You know what?  It's morning in America.  We won.

How about that?

Go ahead. Do a little dance. I did.

What does this mean?  You tell me.  That's what it means.  That's the new world that has been shaping up for the last 10 years.  I like it a lot better than the old one.

Who is we?  Us. Twitter. TGP.  Crashburn Alley.  Zoowit.  Younger writers, like Gelb and Zolecki who give us what we want as raw material and debate with us, but don't tell us what to think with condescension and vitriol.  Younger broadcasters like Franzke (he's 41 - many of us at TGP are contemporaries).  Blogs instead of papers.  New thinking statistics folks instead of the old timers like Conlin and Wheels.  We won by having better ideas and better processes.  We confirmed the wins as youth will, by waiting for them to die or lose it.  The battle was over a long time ago. We've just been running out the clock, but I think we can throw some Gatorade now.

A new media model for baseball coverage has been shaping up for some time.  The one-way production and consumption died a long time ago. No more can pretentious asses like Conlin jam their views down the throat of a mute public that has no alternatives. He apparently worked the way he lived.

A new model has formed where information comes out from feet on the ground like Gelb and Zolecki.  We analyze the shit out of it.  All of us talk about it.  Crap is thrown at the wall in a loud, crowded pro/am marketplace.  Good ideas bubble to the top.  Good writers do, too.  Some of us even get paid still.

Now what? That's all pretty good, right?

We have some problems of our own to solve, or at least to mitigate.

The most significant thing I am concerned about is the tone of the community.  The internet has a ton of give and take, and debates can be harsh.  Occasionally, I joke about the "hive mind" here, and different thinkers can find it hard to gain acceptance.  We all associate with like minds IRL and on-line.  The reinforcing nature of the echo chamber and the disembodied and distributed nature of the internet make us less careful about what we say and how we say it.  We should be more mindful. I should be more mindful.  If we don't, we'll lose the community.

We've got a pretty good community here, but snark and condescension are perpetual threats that are not always out of sight or below the surface.  I've essentially decamped Twitter because of them, and I plan on being more mindful of those things here.  Twitter is a whole different post.  I love the funny stuff and the weird things, but it's almost violent in terms of temper and aggressiveness if you don't share the conventional wisdom.  Rob Neyer got blasted a couple of months ago for supporting a person he knew who said awful stuff.  I've stepped on landmines with unpleasant results.  Rather than be annoyed by it, I'm just more or less done with it.  That's where the new model can lose it, and quickly.

Beyond tone, we need to be careful of our own orthodoxy calcifying into an inflexible ideology.  Baseball was late to the party on management techniques and business process improvement through statistical analysis.  It's a great thing, but it has limits.  Music does not always need more cowbell.  Baseball coverage does not always need more stats.  It's great and it is here to stay, but it would be neat to find the next thing on the horizon.  History has not ended.  We also need to realize that right now, we are likely being just as blind on some issues Ken Gurnick is on the Hall of Who Cares.

I'm celebrating, belatedly, a new year this weekend.  I'm optimistic as a result of the this changing of the guard, real and symbolic.  My resolution is to engage everyone with civility and mutual respect.  I'll forget sometimes, but I know you folks will remember to steer me back on the path.  I'll do that with a healthy skepticism, especially for ideas that I've grown comfortable with.

And watch that Amanda Palmer video.  It's really fun.  I know it is derivative.  So does she.  It's still fun.

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