Sunday, January 2, 2011

Matt Carkner's bar fight, and musings of a former journalism hopeful on sports blogs

Over at Pension Plan Puppets Saturday night, Julian [Redacted] promoted a FanPost, which is user comment in Sports Blog Nation speak, that told the funny story of Ottawa defenseman Matt Carkner. The story goes that part-time goon and part-time competent defenseman Carkner went to Moxie's after his Senators lost to the Leafs 5-1 and got in a bar fight.

There are no pictures of the incident, no video, no statement from the owner of the bar confirming that a fight broke out that involved a local celebrity, so the story is, in all possibility, total bullshit. That doesn't make it a bad thing. This is the epitome of the Internet and its possibilities. Friend of the Factor Ryan Classic pointed out with the first comment on the PPP story that the user tweeted "Matt Carkner likes to look at boys dicks..." just prior to announcing to the world that Carkner also picks petty battles with petty fans in bars.

I understand the connection between communication and emotion. Certainly having Asperger's Syndrome means that I'm no stranger to doing stupid things because my emotions told me to. I once broadcasted to Twitter that some hack sports journalist on the college sports beat with the Kamloops Daily News was doing the in-house announcing for a Thompson Rivers WolfPack basketball game and it was totally a conflict of interest. I was rightfully served and put in place because the two people just happened to look alike, and that's not too far off from what [Redacted] or Twitter user danvrtsng did here. Reeling with positive emotion from a blowout win over a rival means that you, well, are going to kick your opponent when they're down and pummel them repeatedly like Matt Carkner apparently does to bar patrons.

This is the essence of blogging--stupid shit. The Internet, as given lip service to earlier, is a powerful, powerful tool. Sure, the website Digg declared Heath Ledger had died before coroners did, but for sports, which is the most important trivial thing in most people's lives, blogging is essentially about stupid rumours that stir up conversation about players, teams and coaches. I find it hilarious when major news companies try to find angles to cover the Rex Ryan foot fetish story, when it's completely out of their realm. It's a joke. Matt Carkner beating up a fan in a bar is amusing, wildly untrue, but would be good to make jokes about. It's the speculation over who 'The Machine' is for the San Francisco Giants. It's Pass It To Bulis challenging a 4th line player to a game of Scrabble. It's pointless, it's fun.

The real shame is that bloggers tend to do a better job at breaking stories and reporting and analyzing games than the people in mainstream positions who are paid to do this. The classic example is Tyler Dellow's story about the Colin Campbell e-mails, and how Robert Cribb, an investigative journalist for a newspaper with a reputation for investigative reporting who initially reported the story a year ago, skimmed over the crucial bits. Saturday, the news of Dwayne Roloson's trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning was broken by Chris Botta, a writer for NHL FanHouse who was unceremoniously dumped from the Nassau Coliseum press box by New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow about a month ago. While this is all going on, bloggers like Kent Wilson, Gabriel Desjardins and dozens of others are using micro statistics that change how we watch the game and view players.

It is 2:21 Pacific Time as I write this, and Matt Carkner is trending in Canada. The story, while probably untrue, has legs, so its fodder for jokes at the very least. If the story is true, it should be reserved for the blogs. Carkner getting into a bar fight isn't as heinous of a crime as what most NHL executives get away with on a daily basis. The problem is that a lot of local sports columnists, who are so cozy with their relationships with teams and organizations, would post stories decrying the state of athletes today and how they are so privileged compared to the days when everybody who played the game was a white Canadian who fought on the ice, or something just as equally pointless. Also likely is that Damien Cox, the sports media landscape's resident media dummy, would conjure up some column on how bad fighting is for the game.

This is why, although I've graduating from university with a journalism degree in April, have chosen the fun-loving world of sports blogs over the serious world of printed type. I had to hang around with those guys for a year when I worked for our school paper and they drove me to total boredom. I got in trouble with coaches because I reported player injuries and with executives for attempting to get them to financially justify why our school pays over a million dollars for an athletics program that draws about 100 fans a game. In the end I sort of looked at all the information I'd gathered and thought: "Well, I can't make people care about this. Governments and public institutions frivolously spend money all the time. It would be a waste of effort."

I like blogging because I can draw an emotional reaction out of a few people, instead of no reaction out of many people who read my column in a newspaper. I like knowing that people I've been reading for a couple of years are browsing my website and (presumably) laughing at my jokes. I like being part of the discussion, I like that I don't have to decry the sorry state of journalism because AJ Daulerio posted pictures of Brett Favre's penis. I like that Sidney Crosby wears crocs. I like that I can statistically analyze Matt Carkner's game, but can also make jokes about the possibility that he fights people in bars. If Pension Plan Puppets gave credence to an untrue rumour, that should only be news because websites like Pension Plan Puppets otherwise do a far better job at covering sports than the old boys sports media club is. The failure to define the line between Internet and newsprint is the fault of the old school guys who have allowed the line to be blurred.

*Edited for late-night grammar errors. Late at night, so there are probably more*


  1. Cam -

    Good take on the relative (un) - importance of sports. As you know, I've been in the middle of that nonsense most of my life, and probably having the "who really cares?" attitude stopped me as much as lack of ability from being fodder for blogs circa 1981. Keep it up, I'm enjoying this.


  2. If you're so concerned with the veracity of content on our blog you should probably have taken thirty seconds to note that both claims about Carkner were linked to the tweets making the claims and in the comments nobody is really disagreeing with Ryanclassic's point that we have no way of knowing if they're true or not and that the tweeter obviously has a bias against Carkner.

  3. With all due respect, I think your thought process is a little muddled in this post (and no, that's never happened to me, ever, especially not at 2:20 a.m. or whatever :) ).

    Your own post easily refutes your initial point that blogs are "pointless" and worthless, just a bit of mindless fun, so there's a huge contradiction there; not really sure what you're getting at ultimately.

    The last portion of the post troubles me somewhat in that you seem to suggest that if Carkner were in a bar fight, that this information ought to be confined to the web, as a matter of rumour, hearsay and innuendo. I think that's dead wrong. Nobody should be posting made up shit about anybody anywhere. If it were true, it would obviously be fair game for jokes, but nobody should be posting defamatory stuff about anyone. Lastly, I think this point ignores the sad truth that print and TV journos have failed the sports audience quite a bit over the past few years by failing to really get to the bottom of some of the off field stuff that has impacted upon the players' on ice/field performance. To take but one example, why haven't we heard a HELL of a lot more about the helicopter ride into NYC the night before a game that supposedly led to Burke trading Stajan, Hagman, White and Mayers? What about Ray Emery's troubles? I get the distinct feeling that the boys in the press box have been trading softball story lines for access for a very long time, and that the consumer of sports-related news and information has been poorly served.

    Anyway, there's my two cents.

  4. Hey now, PITB challenging Tanner Glass to a game of Scrabble is very important.


  5. I honestly found the whole thing to be a little biased. The shots at Alfredsson, Neil and Fisher were uncalled for too. Of course my view may be a little biased because I'm a Senators fan.

    Originally the post didn't make mention that they were allegations and even after one commenter pointed out that it wasn't from a valid source and there was no video/photographic proof, the author still seemed fairly certain it was true.

    It would be one thing to post it if there was proof, but considering there wasn't, he just used it as an excuse to take an unnecessary shot at the Senators.

  6. @ Junior: "Nobody should be posting made up shit about anybody anywhere."

    No, probably not, but the Internet is such a big place where shit will happen, and it's best that trivial stories are confined here. As to the helicopter ride, that should be the job of the mainstream guys to report, but as you noted, they are so chummy with the team they cover and don't want to lose access.

    I've lost access to teams I cover, and it sucks, but as Chris Botta proved by breaking the Roloson trade, it doesn't mean you can't continue to be a good reporter.

    @ Chemmy: I'm not concerned for a second about the veracity of content on your blog and I don't think for a second that you or Julian disagreed with Classic. Neither did any of the commentariat. I do though, think that Julian was reeling in positive emotion which led to the promoted FanPost.

    The point of this post is less about Matt Carkner than it is the whole blogger/mainstream media debate that I've been looking to get into for some time. Carkner/PPP FanPost is just a way of telling the story.

    Forgive me for taking advantage of the medium.

  7. Thanks for the shout-out.

    This area is an interest of mine as well. I noted a couple things at my old place on this subject:

    I also wrote about the Botta thing at the score: