Saturday, February 14, 2009

This is what I'm talking about

Jayson Stark's latest column is a monument to the inanity of modern sports journalism. I click on a link on ESPN's front page called "C.C.'s First Day," expecting to find, perchance, something about how he has a new training regimen this offseason (which he did) or lost a lot of weight (which he didn't). Maybe a bullpen session that provided some evidence that his massive and arguably overworked body isn't on the verge of finally giving out, just months after signing a nine-figure deal.

But no, Stark isn't interested in the outlook for Sabathia's 2009 season or analysis of whether he (or Roy Halladay) is the really the best pitcher in the division. His readers are instead treated to an entire column about how the A-Rod steroid scandal has made Sabathia's arrival a secondary story. That the only thing reporters are asking the just-arrived Sabathia is how he feels about A-Rod, whom he hasn't actually played with yet, etc. etc.

It would meet the textbook definition of irony if, in the course of bemoaning how big and distracting this A-Rod steroids controversy is, Stark was at the same time making it bigger and more distracting. But Stark doesn't even have the decency to bemoan this state of affairs. He loves the media circus-as-story. He seems to find it more interesting than baseball. I actually did a post flagging this back in 2005, when he was writing about Randy Johnson signing with the Yankees, and making dire warnings that Johnson was "not yet prepared" for the scrutiny he was about to receive.

My theory is that Stark likes the idea that baseball writers are really important people, and believes that where he and his peers happen to focus their attention is a big deal and influences even the players themselves ("How is the fact that we're not writing about you affecting you, C.C.? Do you find it galling?"). I would submit that, while self-importance on the part of sports columnists is always and everywhere annoying, Stark manages to take it one step further by dedicating a whole column to the "issue" of a stupid story preempting an interesting story, without ever bothering to get around to the latter.

Here's how it starts:

He was supposed to be the biggest ring in the 2009 Yankees circus. Well … never mind.

Oh sure, there was a time when the sight of Carsten Charles (CC) Sabathia bursting through the gates of George M. Steinbrenner Field seemed like it might actually be a gigantic event in Yankee Land.

But that was sooooooo last week.

So there was the inimitable CC on Friday, on his very first day of enrollment at Bronx Zoo University, learning an invaluable lesson:

When you're a Yankee, you're never more than a back-page headline away from going from Most Monstrous Story in the Yankees Universe to $161-million subplot in, like, 14 seconds.

Sadly, if you're reading Jayson Stark's column about C.C. Sabathia's first day in Yankee camp, you're always more than 14 seconds away from something interesting about C.C. Sabathia, or the Yankees, or baseball...

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