A new media site launched yesterday that serves as a rather handy reminder of just why everyone hates the media.
The site is called Mediaite, and according to publisher Dan Abrams' mission statement, it hopes to become "the must-read for anyone interested in media, the business of it and the personalities behind it." At this point, it is perfectly acceptable for the rest of you to throw a shoe at your computer.
As you might have noticed, the world of media is imploding upon itself like a dying star. (That sentence there? Science.) Because we are the media, we keep making a big deal out of this, and the public, perhaps quite justifiably, is responding with a resounding, "Christ, about time!" Why does everyone hate the media so much? I posit that sites like Mediaite — along with Gawker, of course, and MediaBistro and anything else that acts like people in media are somehow more interesting or important than people who have, you know, real jobs — are a major part of the problem. From my experience, 27 percent of the people who work in media (and I'm using the Mediaite definition of media, which is pretty much "anyone who gets paid for typing, talking or figuring out how to fire people who type or talk") are journalists in the truest sense, out to enlighten the public for common good, altruistic believers in the fourth estate and its power to invoke change. The other 73 percent are pretending to be that 27 percent and really just trying to promote their own personal brand. In the past, this has always been an inside joke, something for media folk to snicker about in private. Mediaite breaks with the pretense and just states what everyone already knew: This is really what it's all about. It's not about informing the public. It's not about being good at your job. It's about being known, and being recognized. Mediaite doesn't damn this, not at all, not nearly as much as they should: They just point it out ... and then they prove it. They're excellent at that.
By far, the most entertaining and popular section of Mediaite is their Power Grid, which ranks reporters, columnists, editors, anchors, executives and talk show hosts by their "buzz" ranking, or some such meaningless word tossed out in a dead conference room somewhere.
But wait, you ask: Isn't the media dying? Yes! It totally is! This is the last gasp. It would make more sense to have a Plumberite, or a Morticianite, or a Forecloserite, you know, professions that are actually growing and have a concrete future. (They make more money than most media people too, and are generally more attractive.) But plumbers and morticians aren't self-indulgent assholes! They don't assume that just because they care about what they're doing, everyone else does. They'd never start a site like that. That's our job.
All this said: I'm pretty obsessed with that Power List too. You can probably guess whether I'm in the 27 percent or the 73 percent.
I mean, look! Deadspin has a page! Aw, there's Daulerio's! (Taken, hilariously, from this photo set.) And Dash's! And Drew's! And Craggs! And Simmons! And Reilly! And Lupica! And Me! You don't care about this at all. But I guarantee you every person on that list — with the possible exception of Craggs, who will be too busy counting the number of sentences Joe Morgan ends with a preposition — will be checking that number incessantly. Am I going up? Am I going down? The number doesn't mean anything. (Any list that has me above Eugene Robinson is a profoundly flawed list.) But we will watch it anyway. Because we are pathetic.
And this is why you hate us. I, for one, accept your scorn.
Kobe Bryant. In the last three weeks, pretty much ever since the Lakers won the title, I've received four different promotional packets for Kobe Bryant's "Black Mamba" watch. What is this? Witness. It's the "Most Complex Watch Case Ever Engineered." And it costs $25,000. For some reason, the makers of the watch — some company in Switzerland — has been begging me to write about it. Here's their paragraph: "Swiss watchmaker, Nubeo, will be introducing the Black Mamba collection, at Baselworld 2009, which begins on Thursday March 26th. They have recruited one of the best basketball players in the world, Kobe Bryant, to promote this new collection. The Nubeo Black Mamba collection's main draw, other than being backed by one of the NBA's best, is its 131 component case. The Black Mamba features a 48 mm case made of titanium treated with DLC. The bezel is ceramic. Rubber is used on the crowns, pushers and strap. Water-resistance is 100 meters. The collection starts at $25,000." It's a ridiculously expensive watch with Kobe Bryant's self-inflicted pet name. Happy to help promote, gentlemen. Let's try to keep it orderly, buying masses.
Joey Chestnut. I enjoyed Cajun Boy's writeup of the July 4 Hot Dog Eating Championships almost as much — almost! — as I enjoyed my own. It's truly an event that every American should witness at some point in their lives, and the sad thing is that I'm not even kidding. But they threw in a wrinkle this year a day before the ceremony that I could have done without. Right next to the competitors, there were elephants. As you would probably expect, they ate four times as many hot dogs as their human opponents, and, as the Associated Press points in uncharacteristically wry fashion, "they even paused to eat some fresh fruit, which was not counted toward scoring." Competitive eating is one of humanity's grandest inventions, and it's depressing to learn that animals, even if they don't understand what is going on, are still so much better than us. (Related: The time a bear beat Kobayashi.) Just to exact vengeance, the next two competitive eating events should involve eating elephants and bears.
Bernie Ecclestone. In the future, when scientists have figured out a way to make us grow a foot taller, run 5 mph faster and lactate from dorsal moles with just one little pill, I hope they figure out a dosage that eradicates the word "Hitler" from the vocabulary. You can never, ever go right, whatever your analogy: At this point, it's offensive even to compare Hitler to himself. I did enjoy the Formula One fellow — and by "fellow," I mean "I have no idea what this person does for Formula One, and am somewhat hazy on what Formula One actually is" — going far afield with his "Hitler got things done" comment, and not just because Hitler was rather lousy at getting things done. (That guy would spend hours on a Sudoku puzzle, first off.) These types of sports gaffes usually happen more with Europeans than Americans, but I'm not sure we should feel particularly pleased about that: I suspect it just means that about 3 percent of American athletes have heard the name "Hitler" in the first place.
Ryan Franklin. So, there's no Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez to sully up our All-Star Game this year, so clearly, the Age Of Steroids is over, and we can all go back to our lives. This is the All-Star Game That Will End The Steroid Era, the one when small-ball defensive specialists like Ryan Howard and Josh Hamilton reclaim the game that was always theirs. But, lest we forget: There is a proven PED user on the All-Star team this year: Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin, who was busted in August 2005, when he was with the Mariners. He was handed a 10-game suspension, but nobody cared, because it was Ryan Franklin, and who the hell is Ryan Franklin? Well, now he's an All-Star, and still nobody cares, and Lord, why should they. Charles Pierce has a solid column about fans making their peace with steroids, and even though he's about two-three years late on that observation, that's OK, the message is filtering up (down?) a little bit. By 2045, Bill Plaschke will no longer stop people on the street to ask them why they aren't more outraged. By the way, when you watch the game next Tuesday — and I say that knowing that few of you will actually be watching the game — marvel at Franklin's ridiculous goatee, which I think is fastened to his jersey with its top button.
John Henry. Facts most people don't realize about Red Sox owner John Henry:
*** He grew up a Cardinals fan in Quincy, Illinois.
*** He made his initial money in soybean futures.
*** He bought the Red Sox for $200 million less than the Cubs were just bought for.
*** He has an oddly compelling Twitter.
*** Henry was giving interviews to Rob Neyer about Bill James, sabermetrics and used to play dork Tabletop Baseball, which was like Strat-o-Matic except they had to play it by rubbing sticks together to make fire.
Anyway, John Henry's kind of a fascinating guy who seems to be living the American Dream, which is why, somehow, I found myself not hating him when he got married to an saucy 30-year-old at Fenway Park while guests had their pictures taken in front of the Green Monster (and Larry David showed up!). Life's been good to John Henry. Jerk. Makes one want to start studying soybean futures, like, right now.
Casey Kasem. With all the celebrity deaths of late, it's a little shocking to realize that, lo, Casey Kasem is still alive. He's 77 years old, and he officially left the Top 40 countdown last weekend, saying, "this decision will free up time I need to focus on myriad other projects." I have no idea what those "myriad other projects" are: Can we just assume those projects involve "dying." No offense to the man: Casey Kasem, in a similar fashion to Michael Jackson, is a relic of that time when the top 40 songs in the country mattered to humanity. I mostly just remember Kasem's Long Distance Dedications, which, to my recollection, were always Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings." Kasem also was the voice of Shaggy, of course, which makes this awesome rant that much more entertaining. ".I want a goddamn concerted effort to come out of a record that isn't a fucking up-tempo record every time I gotta do a goddamn death dedication!" Oh, and don't forget Kasem's report on the laser technology of compact discs.
Michael Kay. Every town has its local celebrity sportscasters — I always felt this was the one aspect Anchorman got wrong; it could have done so much more with Champ Kind — and New York, now that Warner Wolf and company are fading, has Michael Kay, the official Iraqi spokesperson for the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network. Kay is everywhere in New York, with a local radio show, like, six shows on YES and, of course, his TV gig as the play-by-play man for the Yankees. Now that he's officially The Voice Of The Yankees, he has cut down on his infamous crazed talking-about-a-perfect-game-equals-putting-people-in-ovens rants. But living here, I think I hear his voice more than anyone else's, and it might be driving me crazy. Fortunately, there's an antidote: The amazing Fake Michael Kay Twitter, which digs so deep into the announcer's lunatic brain I suspect it'll never get out. Every Tweet begins with Kay's condescending trademark "Hey Fans!" and then goes into crazy land from there. It has made listening to him enjoyable, because I can't wait to see what Fake Michael Kay will say. Over the weekend, Jon Heyman "reported" that the real Michael Kay finds the Fake Michael Kay "hilarious." I do not believe that he really thinks that.
Pedro Martinez. According to the aforementioned Heyman, Pedro plans to sign with a team this week. It could be the Cubs, or the Rays, or the Phillies, but it'll be somebody, and we'll have Pedro back. It's odd how Pedro already seems like a relic. (You'd think he did steroids or something.) One would think the ideal destination, if just to assuage that Fierce Competitor Ryan Braun, would be Milwaukee, but, according to Heyman, Pedro was late to his Brewers tryout and the scout left. (Bless his heart.) By now, I assume Pedro throws his fastball around 65 miles per hour, which is fine, of course: As long as he has the Jheri Curl still, we'll all be happy. Now watch: He'll end up winning a World Series for the Cubs. If that happens, we will never, ever be rid of Pedro Martinez.
Steve McNair. I felt the most touching tribute to McNair, in an odd way, was KSK's "McNair murdered, expected to start Saturday" Tweet. It sums up what everyone thought about McNair before this weekend: The toughest motherhumper in a league full of them. I don't know anything about his death and won't pretend to guess, so I'll shut up about that except to say that it's horrible. (Always listen to Spencer Hall, people. He is always right.) I will say this: If McNair's Titans had come back to win that Super Bowl over the Rams, is McNair a bigger legend than he is? Remember how amazing he was on that drive? If Kevin Dyson can reach one ... foot ... farther ... maybe the Titans send that game into overtime, and then win it. McNair and the Titans are not historic footnotes. The man is not The Toughest Guy Ever; he's The Guy Who Somehow Won The Super Bowl Nearly By Himself. One foot short, that ball. I maintain that's the best play in NFL history. So much of sport, so much of the world, so much of life, wrapped up in that idea: You do everything right, you reach out to reach the goal ... and someone behind you pulls you back just one foot short. And then everything is different, from then on.
Gary Oldman. It took Rainn Wilson's and Sarah Silverman's Twitters for me to notice it, but I can't believe it was just last week that I finally learned about Tiptoes. What's Tiptoes? It's a direct-to-DVD film that came out in 2003 starring Matthew McConaughey, Kate Beckinsale and Gary Oldman. What's it about? Well, it's your typical romantic comedy: McConaughey meets Beckinsale and falls in love with her. He then takes her to meet his family, and, as it turns out ... they're all dwarfs! No, really: That's the plot of the movie. And Oldman plays one of the dwarfs. Via Videogum — which was a few months ahead of me on this — here's how Beckinsale described his performance: "He was on his knees. He was basically on his knees with a prosthetic part of his head and face and a hump and different kinds of harnesses to strap his arms back to make them short, and special clothes. They had various different effects, like if he was sitting in a chair, his legs would actually be inside the chair and he'd have these little fake legs sticking out on top. It was amazing what they did with him." Bwahahahahahaha! Obviously, someone realized right after the movie was wrapped that this was a terrible and, uh, kinda offensive idea, and it was ushered to DVD while everyone hoped the world didn't notice. And until the last few months, few did. Everyone go buy this immediately. Remember: Dwarfs, not midgets. Midgets is a slur.