Tuesday, October 21, 2003

What is Worse, To Be Wrong, or to Have Never Been?

The Gregg Easterbrook thing... pretty distrubing. First off, Easterbrook's statement on Jews, Hollywood, and profiting from violence- pretty off base. I think Talking Points has it right, "It seemed out of context not only for the writer, but even in the post itself."

That said, I find the goings on with ESPN to be more disturbing. Why more disturbing? Because, be this an aberration on Easterbrook's part or not, what is his influence? Particularly posting on a New Republic blog? a) Is he even reaching an audience sympathetic to the hate in the statement? b) As many have reacted to this (outside of the chattering opinion journalists who travel in his circles) "who the hell is this Easterbrook fellow in the first place?" It's a comment which will not echo forth (at leat in those circles), may very well not represent the man, and likely did not impact much of anything on its own.

Back to ESPN, they have apparently fired Easterbrook- a move I consider silly and ill considered- and removed every trace of his "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" columns from their website- a move I consider deeply troubling and borderline inconceivable. I should add that I enjoy reading his TMQ columns from time to time for the different perspective they bring to the coverage. Firing Easerbrook silly and ill considered? He did not use ESPN to spout this nonsense. He, and this may simply be my lack of sensitivities here, did not say anything "beyond the pale" which would make him unfit to publish regardless of the forum or subject matter (and this is not likely a beyond the pale moment as TNR isn't dropping him). Easterbrook did name Disney chief (which owns ESPN) Mike Eisner (see Shrek for a former employee's opinion of him) in his smear. Making this look more petty than principled- though that may simply be the appearance of it. As for the firing, Rush Limbaugh got a job on ESPN having said some pretty hateful things over the years and was welcome to keep his ESPN gig and say some pretty hateful things in other forums. Ditto for Michael Savage at MSNBC this summer. It's not a line which liberals much liked, but so long as they kept themselves clean and mainstream they were welcome on mainstream outlets. They were willing to distinguish (I would say create, but anyway) alternate personas for alternate venues. But not in Easterbrook's case. And that is silly and ill-conceived.

The deletion of his columns however, is what has moved me to commit my thoughts to keystrokes (in spite of the space if I've given to lesser issues in this post... the whole thing is just odd). It's possible that Easterbrook continued to own his TMQ columns after publication and upon termination took them "with" him. Maybe ESPN hasn't done anything untoward, but part of what I'm about to say remains either way. The deleting of his columns, rigging the search feature to not return any results for Easterbrook or TMQ (try it, it's scary), it's actually Orwellian. I hate using that overused term. But it is like he never worked there, like TMQ never existed. And that is petty, but also disturbing. If I read back issues of the newspaper, shamed and fallen columnists words still exist. They are still there. TMQ was something, it was part of ESPN's quilt of NFL coverage, and it is now as if there were a whole in their coverage over the past few years. Whether ESPN has acted in an untoward manner regarding the columns or not, they need to remain. Same thing for Bill Simmons' "The Sports Guy" columns if he were to quit or Andy Katz's pieces if he were to leave. They need to remain because they are part of historical record. How can we say what sports reporters (and those who play as sports reporters) thought about players if we, in our new digital world, go around removing their columns? They need to remain, because they exist and without the permanent record, we come one too many steps closer to a world in which shared experience disappears, a world in which we are each divorced from that which surrounds... our contemporaries, our ancestors, our future. And that is unacceptable.


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