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Bill Conlin: Professional A-hole

Maybe it's being charged up from bakestar's article, but I know for sure who could best cover his All-Despicables Team: Daily News Senior Grouch Bill Conlin.

If you're a fan of Philadelphia baseball, and computer-enabled, you might well have e-mailed Conlin in the last few years. If you did so in a completely obsequious way, he might even have responded with some measure of gruff grace. But if you challenged him on anything--however politely and respectfully--you probably got a response indicating that a) he had more money than you; b) he'd been covering the game since before you first touched a keyboard; c) you're an idiot unworthy of dialoguing with him; or d) all of the above.

But until today, I don't think he'd ever invoked Hitler against anyone.

The proprietor of Crashburn Alley, a well-regarded Phillies blog, communicated with Conlin to ask about Bill's recent article defending Jimmy Rollins' MVP award win. See here for the full back-and-forth (and see if you don't agree the questioner had much the better of it) but Conlin's last reply is the nut:

The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler's time on earth-I'm sure he would have eliminated all bloggers. In Colonial times, bloggers were called "Pamphleteers." They hung on street corners handing them out to passersby. Now, they hang out on electronic street corners, hoping somebody mouses on to their pretentious sites. Different medium, same MO. Shakespeare accidentally summed up the genre best with these words from a MacBeth soliloquy: ". . .a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. . ."

If I may be permitted to step away from baseball for just a minute, this is unintentionally pretty revealing. "Pamphleteers" embodied a supremely important development in the history of media: the first step in the democratization of discourse. In other words, civil and religious authority no longer had a monopoly on mass communication: you could go to the printer, get a few hundred copies of your message run off, and distribute them or sell them in the streets.

This was, in part, how we got the American Revolution.

Perhaps it's to Conlin's credit (intellectually if not morally) that there is a strong similarity between the pamphleteers of the 18th century and the bloggers of the 21st. Just as the Thomas Paines of that time helped spread radical new ideas that  ultimately undermined old, corrupt power structures, bloggers too refuse to passively accept the "wisdom" of pundits in every field of human activity--including sports. All of the sudden, we can talk back.

He sees us, all of us, as a threat to his enormous self-regard as an "expert." The discourse no longer goes just one way. As was never the case until the mid-1990s, when Conlin writes crap, we can call him on it, whether through direct e-mail--my god, how he must loathe logging on and having to endure the uninformed opinions of the hoi polloi--or by writing about it our own damn selves on blogs.

That he invokes Hitler is sufficiently offensive on its face that I feel no additional need to comment on it.