Jim Souhan devoted his Sunday column to cataloguing local reaction to epochal events in Minnesota sports. The public’s supposedly unanimous responses -- “Minnesotans hated these deals”-- to moves that worked out well served as a refrain that lent the piece a satisfying cohesion, stylistically speaking.
That the refrain also painted a misleading picture did not seem to concern Souhan. How else to explain his decision to include among the "hated" moves the decision to draft Joe Mauer over Mark Prior in the 2001 draft? No doubt some observers felt that the Twins were choosing the lesser but more affordable talent in Mauer. But to suggest that Minnesotans in general hated this deal? Didn’t the excitement surrounding that pick suggest that most took pride in the selection? I suspect that Souhan decided to include the Mauer pick near the end of his list because the pick turned out so spectacularly well, and the suggestion that Minnesotans hated the pick served as a fine exclamation point to his contention that Minnesotans react with knee-jerk and ultimately myopic unanimity to sports related events.
Of course the obvious problem with that contention is that it is wrong. Turn on sports talk radio or enter the Minnesota sports blogsphere and you’ll discover a diversity local opinion on most any local sporting subject you’ll care to name. To remain ignorant of, or possibly ignore, that diversity for the sake of thematic and stylistic integrity of a piece is to engage in lazy journalism.
Souhan is the Crown Prince (or rather the Court Jester) of lazy journalism in that his pieces are loosely constructed and typically favor glib humor over analysis. That approach makes for entertaining, but rarely informative, pieces. As someone who relies at least as much on humor as analysis in his own writing, I’d be a hypocrite to suggest that there is no place for his style of writing in the sports page. I will suggest, however, that Souhan ought to recognize where his contribution rates among those who elevate substance over style.
Certainly that substance is out there. There are local bloggers who write some very informative stuff. For instance, Nick Nelson, Aaron Gleeman, Ubelmann and company over at SBG, the crew at Twins Territory, Kyle Eliason, John Sharkey, the inimitable John Bonnes (aka Twins Geek), and a host of others frequently featured at MNGameDay.com and whom I do a disservice by failing to mention often write posts steeped in detailed, research-driven analysis.
Which brings me to a throwaway line in Sunday’s throwaway piece:
“Gentle readers – and bloggers who remain ever-hopeful of gainful employment – hate everything about the (Santana) deal…. And they remind me that I must be wrong, because Minnesotans’ gut reactions are always right."
The implication in this line – and indeed in the entire piece – is that bloggers base their opinion on their gut, whereas Souhan bases his opinion on informed argument. Certainly one might argue that this should be the case. With the exception of Gleeman, the bloggers I have mentioned are not full time scribes. They are college students and business men and women and blue and white collar professionals who shoehorn their blogging into crowded lives. Indeed, it is precisely because bloggers are gainfully employed by organizations that don’t pay them to write that one would expect to discover in their works a species of lazy journalism. Likewise, it is precisely because Jim Souhan is gainfully employed by a newspaper that pays him to research and to write that one would expect much research-backed analysis.
That this is not always the case -- that Souhan’s Sunday column stands as an exemplar of his loose, style-driven approach while MNGameday.com is loaded with links to research-driven blogs -- suggests that, at the very least, when Souhan tars the purveyors of relatively uninformed sports commentary, he feathers himself in the process.