What should one do with ignoramuses like Jason Whitlock?

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If you want to read a dumb, reactionary column about how statistics have ruined sports and that people who use statistics should “STFU,” by all means, go read Jason Whitlock’s latest thing over at Fox.  Just know ahead of time that it  is aggressively stupid, profoundly lazy and provides no insight whatsoever.  Even if you hate stats and are looking for ammo in that argument, you’ll find nothing there. It says a lot about Jason Whitlock’s personal aversion to thinking hard about sports, but not much else.

But I mention it anyway because I really find myself wondering what should be done when such drivel is encountered.

The usual response I get when I link this kind of thing is that I shouldn’t have done so because I’m just giving the columnist what he wants. Attention. Page views. Traffic.  And I suppose I am.  But I find the notion that I should just ignore this kind of thing problematic on a number of levels.

For one thing, there’s no evidence that he is writing this as some massive troll or con in an effort to get page views anyway. Whitlock is a contrarian by nature, but there’s no knowing eye-wink here. He’s not poking the “stat geeks” here. He’s whining about them and raging against the dying of some light that only he and a small handful of other gray hairs still see. I think he believes this stuff.

Moreover, I don’t think Jason Whitlock is in desperate need of page views. He gets a lot of them already and makes a boatload of money doing what he’s doing for reasons other than this blog and others like it linking to him.  He’s a big personality. He’s not some guy looking to make a name for himself by baiting me or someone else into a debate.

But it’s exactly for that reason that I have a hard time ignoring him.  He shapes the opinion of a lot of people. More people than you probably realize.  I understand the concept of ignoring this sort of thing — so many people tell me to leave it alone — but ignorance thrives on apathy. For years big time columnists wrote demonstrably incorrect things about baseball. It was only when people started to question them — in print — that opinion on these matters changed.

Maybe it’s different now that Whitlock’s position is by no means held by the majority of sportswriters — indeed, his own Fox-mate Ken Rosenthal wrote a great piece yesterday that serves as a better rebuke of Whitlock than anyone actually setting out to do so could have written — but I still have a hard time nodding and smiling at this kind of nonsense being passed off by someone who is supposed to be an expert about sports.

I’m not sure what the right balance is, but calling stupid things stupid has value to me. And letting stupid stuff slide doesn’t sit right with me, even if I understand the reasons for doing it.

How long do you stay a fan of a team that left town?

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File this under “not a really deep thought, but there isn’t much going on this morning, so why not?”

I was catching up with the latest, and final, season of “The Americans” over the weekend. I will give no spoilers and ask that you do the same, but I want to talk about something that came up in the second episode.

The episode takes place in October 1987 and a character is listening to a Twins playoff game on the radio. He later talks about baseball and the Twins with some other characters. The context is not important, but the guy — probably in his mid-late 40s, living in the Washington D.C. area — makes a point to say that he has been a Twins fan since the beginning, and then says he was, in fact, a fan of the franchise back when they were still the Washington Senators.

In case you are unaware, the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota following the 1960 season and became the Twins. At the same time an expansion team, also called the Senators, was placed in D.C. to replace them. That franchise would stay in D.C. for 11 seasons before moving to Texas in 1972 to become the Rangers.

In light if that, am I the only one who has a hard time buying that such a man actually existed? How would the character, who was a kid when the original Senators moved, be a Twins fan some 26 years later?

There were relatively few televised baseball games back then. Just a game of the week and some out of town coverage of local teams. There was obviously no internet. Outside of the 1965 World Series, it’d be a shock if more than a couple of Twins games were broadcast to the D.C. area during the rest of the guy’s childhood. Maybe he kept up with the Senators players like Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison via box scores, baseball cards and The Sporting News, but I couldn’t imagine a D.C. guy raised on the Senators keeping up with the Twins through the 1970s and 1980s. Would he not become a new Senators fan or, eventually, a Rangers fan? Maybe, like so many people on the D.C. area, he picked up the Orioles as his team due to their 1960s-70s dominance? Any number of things could happen, but I’m struggling to imagine the existence of a Senators guy who becomes a hardcore Twins fans up to and including 1987.

All of that got me thinking about other relocated teams.

The Dodgers are the most famous example, of course, with the narrative being that Dodgers fans in Brooklyn felt betrayed by Walter O’Malley and thus turned their back on the club, later adopting the Mets as their rooting interest. The betrayal narrative is less pronounced with the Giants, but that’s the same general story with them too. I mean, there’s a reason the Mets picked orange and blue as their colors. They wanted to, and largely did, co-opt the old NL New York fans.

I’m sure a lot more Dodgers and Giants fans continued to follow their teams in California than would let on, given that many of the same players starred out there in the ensuing years, but that likely died out as those players retired. Bob Aspromonte was the last Brooklyn Dodger to play in the bigs, retiring after the 1971 season. Willie Mays played through 1973. I assume NL fans in New York kept some nice thoughts for them — particularly because the Mets picked both of them up for the tail end of their careers — but I can’t see those guys rooting for, say, Steve Garvey and John Montefusco in 1979.

Others:

  • There likely aren’t many St. Louis Browns fans left — they last played in Missouri 65 years ago — but even if the ones they had in 1953 felt like rooting for the Cardinals was impossible, I bet most of their kids and grandkids became Cards fans;
  • The A’s fans in Philly — and later Kansas City — probably have a similar story. I mean, there’s a reason that franchise skipped town twice, so to expect undying love over the decades, with the Phillies and Royals around, is a bit much. The Philadelphia A’s glory years were like 90s years ago now anyway, and all of those fans are dead. The A’s modern glory years have all come in Oakland. No one in Philadelphia or Kansas City is looking to the California with an aching in their heart;
  • I could imagine someone’s grandfather in Milwaukee still thinking that the Braves are his team, but not many other people. The Braves won a World Series and two pennants in Milwaukee, but that was an awful long time ago and they moved to Atlanta before the A’s moved to Oakland. Don’t even get me started about Boston Braves fans. They all have to either be dead or have long since moved on. Following a team to a new city is a big ask, but following them to two new cities over 66 years seems pathological. UPDATE: OK, there are some pathological people out there.
  • I have some Nationals fan friends and they tell me that there is a small, weird contingent of Expos fans who root for Washington now. I get that since it wasn’t terribly long ago, but was Brad Wilkerson really a good enough reason to carry a torch? I’d like to talk to some of those people and ask them about their value system;
  • The only other team to move was the Seattle Pilots. They played one season in Seattle and no one would remember that if it wasn’t for Jim Bouton’s book, “Ball Four.” If you find someone claiming to be a Pilots fan in Seattle, you’ve found yourself a hipster peddling revisionist b.s.

Anyway, that’s a lot of words wasted on a couple of lines from a TV show, but as always, your thoughts are appreciated.