The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Yesterday while waiting to play bridge at the Palo Alto club, I read a copy of Sports Illustrated. Something horrible happened to SI since I last read the magazine: It turned into Time! Same fonts. Same layout. Same two-page ads for middle-aged-person-relief medicine. Same cloying, simpering thirty-word letters to the editor. Here is a sample (which I quote from memory):

As a longtime admirer of SI swimsuit editions, I must say that Mia Hamm tops them all. Nomar really has something special!

What on earth motivated this person to submit this drivel?! "What shall I do today? Oh, I'll let hundreds of thousands of people know that I like Mia Hamm. And titties."

SI's decay is horrible, but it does make me less pessimistic about media concentration. Gregg Easterbrook was fired from ESPN, which is owned by Disney, which also owns Miramax, which released Kill Bill, the movie he pilloried. Lawrence Lessig opined:

But [if ESPN] fired Easterbrook because Easterbrook criticized the owner, that’s an offense to society, whatever the injustice to Easterbrook — at least when fewer and fewer control access to media. No doubt, anti-semitism has done infinitely greater harm than misused media mogul power. But if firing your critics becomes the norm in American media, then there will be much more than insensitivity to anti-semitism to worry about in the future.

Yes, it's a problem for me, the TMQ fan, when Easterbrook is canned from ESPN. But it's a bigger problem for ESPN. Easterbrook is a funny and engaging writer with a unique style; someone is sure to pick him up. My disgust with the Easterbrook affair is such that I refuse to watch ESPN, or visit their web site. Similarly, SI's degeneration into generic goo is more their problem then mine. There's plenty of smart sports writing in the world. (I wonder if people subscribe to SI solely for the swimsuit edition. Hey guys: Did you hear that there is porn on the internet?)



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