"The incredible dumbness of Sportswriters is a subject I thought I'd exhausted a long time ago -- but let's hit it one more time, just for the fun of it. ... I have described them as "a rude & brainless subculture of fascist drunks" and "more disgusting by nature than maggots oozing out of the carcass of a dead animal." — Hunter S. Thompson
Romeo vs. Lovie.
Now we know who'd win a struggle between men with vaguely romantic first names.
At 2-2, the Cleveland Browns have matched their victory total projected by the wizards at Sporting News. That means either the Browns are better than the alleged experts believed, or else we're in for a heart-breaking 12-game skid.
I tend to believe the former. Cleveland's respectable record at the season's quarter pole is further proof of the near-criminal uselessness of sportswriters. Especially Dan Pompei, the addled Sporting News dunce who predicted a 2-14 mark for the Browns.
Pompei is symbolic of the disease that cripples the national NFL media. A handful of sportswriters try to write about 32 teams across the entire country. Obviously, they can't be experts on all those teams, so in the end they're experts on nothing. What they do instead is glom onto the easy stories — The Patriots are good! T.O. is a wacky dude! Ricky Williams is a crazy beatnik! The Colts score a lot of points! Steroids are bad! And so on.
Like SportsCenter, it's a mile wide and an inch deep. All style and very little substance. They tell you what you already know. It's intellectually shallow pabulum wrapped in catchphrases. Do we need another story on the genius of Bill Belichick? Booyah!
Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman years ago in his excellent book The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football summed up the problem with sportswriters by noting that no one ever wrote a story on how the U.S. hockey team beat the Soviets in 1980. There were plenty of stories about the scene, the emotion, etc. But nothing on how a motley collection of American college kids beat the elite professionals culled from the ranks of the Red Army.
Someone write a story on why Belichick is a genius. Please. The easy story is that the Patriots win a lot of games. But how? What does Belichick do that separates him and New England from the rest of the NFL? The Pats have won three of the past four Super Bowls, but all the media can tell me is some vague stuff about a good defense and a blue-collar offense that doesn't make a lot of mistakes. The Steelers have lived on that same formula since Bill Cowher took over, but haven't won squat in the postseason. Why does it work for one Bill and not the other?
I already know the Patriots have a good defense and careful offense. HOW do they do it? It's more than drafting good players. There's something in the X's and O's, but nearly every sportswriter is utterly stupefied when presented with an NFL playbook or game film. Somebody break it down, please.
It's not going to happen. Outside of a few elite writers — I refuse to debase them by calling them sportswriters — no one appears to have the metal horsepower to truly analyze the inner workings of the NFL. We're doomed to bland game stories about games we just saw, insipid features that read the same and other puerile, facile dreck that vividly illustrates the sporting press' congenital fear of doing anything that requires thinking.
Another reason we're not going to get an analysis of the Patriots is that a couple of losses have the media vultures gleefully writing New England's obituary. Never mind the Pats are atop the AFC East, the flesh-eaters are poised to swoop in the for the kill.
Patience and foresight are not among the noted strengths of sportswriters. (I can't believe I just wrote the phrase "noted strengths of sportswriters." I'm still trying to think of some. Do drinking and butchering the language count?)
Need more evidence of the vapidity and obtuseness of the national media?
Exhibit A: Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com had Baltimore winning the AFC North with an 11-5 record. He had the Browns going 3-13. And the best part was his prediction of Kyle Boller as the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year.
Comeback from where? Did anyone notice, or care, he was gone? The Boy Wonder of Baltimore is nothing more than a frail, limp-wristed cream puff, a mental lightweight laughed off as a bad joke. I'll miss him on Sunday.
Yet sportswriters picked him to lead Baltimore to many victories in 2005. Who are these people, and why are they allowed in front of a keyboard?
I felt vindicated Sunday after watching the Ravens' spectacular meltdown. Twenty-one penalties and two ejections. Proof of what I've been insisting for years: This is a corrupt, illegitimate franchise with a roster of immoral, unprofessional thugs coached by the biggest fraud since Carlo Ponzi (Ponzi developed the infamous pyramid scheme, the economic model favored by Art Modell, the man who fired both Paul Brown and Bill Belichick).
Hunter Thompson once said a Ravens game was like "watching scum freeze on the eyeball of a mule."
I think that's not giving enough respect to mules with scum-frozen eyeballs.
Thompson didn't live long enough to witness Sunday's fantabulous Baltimore implosion. I enjoyed it immensely. I think he would have, too. Baltimore's purple goons are symbolic of all that's gone wrong with America and the American Dream. The Ravens are a tawdry, cheap creation of evil men who didn't respect the game, its fans or notions like honor and integrity.
That's enough Baltimore bashing for now. We've 12 more weeks to twist the knife.
Former Ohio newspaper editor and reporter writes the Doc Gonzo column each week for BerniesInsiders. He hopes to resurrect his football career during the upcoming tryouts for the new indoor football team, the Port Huron Pirates. But only if his medical insurance premiums don't go up until next year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.