Thursday, March 24, 2011

T.J. Simers, Marcus Thames, and the State of Sports Journalism

I was one of the many bloggers outraged over the hit piece Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers did on former Yankee Marcus Thames. He called the player a head case and a stiff, and said the following to him without introducing himself: "Are you that horrible on defense that teams don't think it's worth playing such a home run threat?" Then he continued to pummel Thames for not responding and eventually walking away from Simers without saying anything. Lots of people are upset with the way Simers treated one of the nicest people in the game, including Curtis Granderson and Peter Gammons

Here's my article for The Faster Times on the issue, asking if Simers were the biggest bully in baseball. Sports journalist Jeff Pearlman agreed with me on Simers, and wrote about it in his blog. My article also got mentioned in

Sadly, there were a bunch of sports journalists on that thread who defended the guy, saying that's what he does all the time. As if being a complete jerk to the people you cover is okay. How, exactly, does it help your readers to learn more about their team when your entire shtick consists of using your press pass to bully players, then write negatively about how they react, no matter what they do?

Funny thing is that Simers has criticized bloggers for not being accountable, when he's gotten away with being a jerk for many years. In a 2007 interview with the Daily Bruin, he started his screed by complaining that "many sports fans are idiots," and said that that he didn't take any callers on his sports radio show because "I don’t want to deal with morons." He then claimed, "I’m all about putting sports in the proper perspective. The line is very simple, you’re a professional, this is your craft." Right, because calling Andruw Jones The Tubbo, as he has done repeatedly, just screams professionalism. Simers was then asked if he followed sports blogs. His response:

Are you kidding me? Why would I follow a sports blog? That’s some guy in his basement who has never interviewed an athlete. ... That person can’t offer me anything. You have got to go out in the field. ... Bloggers are never held accountable. I don’t trust them. Accountability is a big deal. When I call someone a name in the paper, I’m there the next day, and they can let me have it. I have to stand by what I wrote.

Aside from using the tired cliche about the blogger in his basement (although I guess it's an upgrade, being his own basement, and not his mother's), it's rich that Simers complains about how "bloggers are never held accountable," when he's been getting away with treating people like garbage for decades now. He treats his own readers with the very same contempt he shows his subjects. And newspapers wonder why fans are moving away from reading their product!

And where is Simers' vaunted accountability? Where is his apology? What he did with Thames is, sadly, his typical "poke somebody with a stick" shtick, but he's actually getting called on it for once, because Thames is a great guy who overcome a lot to get into the game. The player raised him and his four siblings, despite being paralyzed from the neck down when Thames was five, and Marcus joined the National Guard in high school to support his family.)

Anyhow, if the best response Simers' defenders have is that he's always done this, that's pretty weak. Just because somebody's gotten away with being a jerk for decades doesn't mean he should get away with it forever.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

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