Bissinger's Blog Bashing: Over the Top, But On Target

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By Leonard Shapiro
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, May 7, 2008; 5:26 PM

Bully for Buzz Bissinger.

The veteran journalist, Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of the best-selling nonfiction masterpiece "Friday Night Lights," has been taking a worldwide web beating over the last week, ever since his combative appearance on a 90-minute HBO special hosted by Bob Costas and devoted to a wide variety of sports media issues.

In a 16-minute segment focusing on the internet and the impact of bloggers on sports, Bissinger, 53, went straight for the jugular of fellow panelist Will Leitch, the 32-year-old founding editor of Deadspin, the popular yet often irresponsible and mean-spirited sports web site.

Bissinger pounced immediately, telling Leitch he was "full of [expletive]" and it actually got worse from there, as this grumpy older man blustered about blogs contributing to the dumbing down of America, among other perceived transgressions.

Leitch never saw it coming, and to his credit, he tried to take the high road, even after Costas, another blog-basher, began piling on. The host cited several sophomoric, often profane and insulting, and very much non-monitored or unedited comments made by Deadspin readers on the site.

"I think blogs are dedicated to cruelty, they're dedicated to journalistic dishonesty, they're dedicated to speed," Bissinger said. Later, he told Leitch, "you're sort of like Jimmy Olsen on Percocet."

Leitch, a published author himself (including a novel), has since said that he purposely decided not to get into a mud-slinging contest. When Bissinger also brought up a recent Deadspin post that featured less-than-flattering pictures of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart in full party mode, Leitch defended those photos, and others of the same ilk. He insisted the Leinart photos were used to "make him look human."

Bissinger: "So you put it on because it makes him look human?"

Leitch: "It's also funny."

Bissinger: "I may be 50, but I'm not that stupid."

Quite the contrary, in fact. But Bissinger's ham-handed approach also made you wonder why a guy with an Ivy League education, a Pulitzer in his pocket and such a wonderful way with words didn't take a kinder, gentler approach during a segment that became an instant YouTube classic. Sadly, but so predictably, it also generated countless profane and tasteless comments denigrating Bissinger on a wide variety of web sites.

A sampling of some of the milder Deadspin comments includes:


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