This is why Murray Chass dislikes bloggers

October 15, 2013

One of my go-to on-line haunts is Baseball Nation. It’s a combination of in-depth analyses, funny/off-beat features, and general bric-a-brac about the national pastime and its place in pop-cultural.

Yesterday this intriguing title caught my eye: “The least surprising mystery of all time,” by Jason Brannon. (If it’s not surprising, can it still qualify as a mystery?)

Here’s comedian Mike Birbiglia talking about performing at the annual dinner held by the New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. This is where the writers hand out their major awards—the MVP, the Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, etc. (It gets slightly NSFW at the end.)

So, who was the humorless, quick-to-take-offense recipient of the BBWAA Lifetime Achievement award who couldn’t let a comedian’s mild, decidedly not pointed jest go unremarked upon? Five minutes of googling provided the answer, in the form of this blog post by a friend of Birbiglia’s who was in attendance that night.

Should’ve guessed.

Long story short, that link leads to a post on the Top of the Ninth blog. It’s quite a lengthy piece and ends with the identification of the “mystery man” — Murray Chass.

Chass, the former New York Times baseball columnist and winner of the the J.G. Taylor Spink Award (given for contributions to baseball writing), has, for the past several years, been the poster boy for all that is wrong with the old-school. He’s cantankerous, opinionated, and refuses to accept much of the current analytic tools that have become en vogue. He also can’t stand bloggers, primarily for what he perceives as their lack of journalism skills and unaccountability, a stance that is guaranteed to keep him off a lot of guest lists.

I had a couple of problems with the Baseball Nation/TOTN pieces, which I expressed in an e-mail to Rob Neyer, who heads up the Baseball Nation site and is author of one of my favorite books.

Since the blogosphere is basically a “what’s happening now” kind of thing, I was a bit surprised to learn that the Top of the Ninth entry referred to in Brannon’s s post was almost 10 years old. So what was the point, the trigger, in bringing it up after all this time?

In addition, nowhere in video does Birbiglia identify Chass by name. He also mentions a couple of things that don’t appear in the TOTN entry, such as the fact that he had to go the bathroom so urgently that he left just as Chass, who was the one being honored by the BBWAA, was about to offer remarks. There’s also something in Birbiglia’s shtick about Chass being blind as the reason he didn’t shake the comic’s hand, probabably because he was so “quick to take offense.”

Neyer passed along my e-mail to Brannon. As to my question about the age of the incident, Brannon responded, “Yes, this happened 10 years ago. So what?”

Nice. That’s certainly one way to make a good first impression. (That’s like telling a person who’s upset to calm down. And you know how well that works.)

As to the fact that Birbiglia never mentions Chass by name and that Chass was not, in fact, blind? “The bit about Birbiglia leaving before or during Chass’ speech and Chass being blind are a comedian’s embellishments.”

Uh-huh. Some might call “embellishment” lying, but I guess this falls into the category of artistic license.

The fellow who wrote the piece on TOTN made no bones that he was/is a friend of Birbiglia’s, so I’m guessing there’s not a lot of that journalistic objectivity/integrity Chass is always carping about.

Full disclosure: Yeah, I did a couple of interviews with Chass. I can’t say that I know him, and I could see how he might rub people the wrong way. Such is the cost of getting antiquated.

I leave you with the rallying cry of aging boomers:


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