Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

When one writes a mediocre column


The e-mails came. And came. And came. And came. And came. One after another after another. Of the 150 or so I received, two were positive. All the others were thoroughly negative.

And rightly so.

For good and for bad, I take great pride in my writing. I don’t just argue for the sake of arguing (I really don’t), and I never hand in columns or books without having read the things, oh, 10 … 15 … 20 times before submission. This is what I do for a living, and I try extremely hard to do it well.

This week, however, I fell short. My most recent column, a piece ripping the Pittsburgh Pirates for continuous ineptitude, was extremely mediocre—and it pisses me off. I suppose the writing is OK and fine and whatever, but the point I was trying to make was completely lost (thus ruining the whole thing). In short: I started writing about how the Pirates would inevitably waste money on a high-priced, over-the-hill free agent, because it’s what they always do. Yet many of the players I listed as examples, from Eric Hinske to Doug Mientkiewicz, were bargain-basement additions from past years. They weren’t expensive, but relatively cheap, no-frills pieces.

What I wanted to express—but, again, failed miserably at—is that the Pirates always seem to bring in these guys, hype them up in the media as potential answers to team problems … then inevitably look dumb when they fail. While Pittsburgh fans can certainly argue this, at least a valid argument can take place. The way I wrote the column, I just wound up looking naive, stupid and uninformed. Ugh.

Truth be told, I don’t enjoy beating myself up. But I do believe in accountability. If we in the media are going to call out others for their shortcomings, we also need to be able to call out ourselves. I dropped the ball.

One more thing—Pirate bloggers were pretty damn vicious in ripping me … and from Free Tank Carter to Bucs Dugout, I applaud them for it. In the old days, writers and reporters could get away with mediocrity. Sure, some angry people might call the newsroom or write a letter to the editor. But it came and went, no biggie. Nowadays, however, bloggers are absolutely everywhere, looking for that next mistake to pounce upon. From this perspective, it’s not always comfortable. But it’s needed.