COUCH SLOUCH

Kornheiser vs. Armstrong can't compare to classic literary feuds

By NORMAN CHAD
Monday, March 29, 2010

In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were old-fashioned literary feuds: Herman Melville-Nathaniel Hawthorne, F. Scott Fitzgerald-Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac-Allen Ginsberg. In the 21st century, there are newfangled media feuds, multiplatform spats played out loudly and loutishly on radio, TV and the Internet.

It makes you pine for the simpler, saner days when Leo Tolstoy challenged Ivan Turgenev to a duel.

Here is a brief catalog of recent media squabbles:

Keith Olbermann vs. Bill Simmons: What happens when the 800-pound anchor monster bumps into the 800-gigabyte Web monster? Ka-BOOM! There was massive ego fallout over three continents and the Canary Islands. The new-age spit fight was provoked by Simmons's ill-conceived live-chat notion that Tiger Woods's comeback would be more difficult than Muhammad Ali's comeback.

The MSNBC host blogged, "I am again left to marvel how somebody can rise to a fairly prominent media position with no discernible insight or talent." The ESPN.icon responded by tweeting that Olbermann is "a pious, unlikable blowhard." Then it got ugly, and, well, I felt so uncomfortable, I left the cyber room.

Charles P. Pierce vs. Bill Simmons: Actually, this one was the undercard to Olbermann-Simmons, also caused by The Sports Guy's Woods-Ali comparison. Pierce, who blogs for the Boston Globe, wrote "that young Bill perhaps is unread on the subject of The Sixties, possibly because 'The Karate Kid' was not set in that era." Let me say this: Pierce is one tough customer and I would not want to provoke him. Plus, he's maybe the smartest sports journalist around -- I couldn't out-write him if I had a 2,000-adjective head start and I was rooming with Don DeLillo. So if I were Simmons, I'd alphabetize my 1975-78 Red Sox baseball card collection and pray Pierce doesn't show up on at my front door with a gaggle of angry soccer moms.

Tony Kornheiser vs. Lance Armstrong: On his radio show, the balding, aging, mildly contemptuous ex-newspaperman made fun of cyclists for the 739th time, suggesting they should be run off the road by motorists. The seven-time Tour de France champion responded on Twitter, "What a f----- idiot."

Lance, buddy -- you need to get off your bike and smell the shtick. Kornheiser belittles everything. He's basically at odds with the world around him; heck, he talks about his rabbi behind his back.

I'd understand if Lance were critical of Tony's "Monday Night Football" work, but in this instance, it's just a harmless circus act. Anyway, Kornheiser apologized -- lately, he says he's sorry more often than Jesse James on E! -- and Armstrong went on his radio show, where they enjoyed a disingenuous truce.

Michael Wilbon vs. John Feinstein: This was a minor dustup between the affable "PTI" yapper and the boorish serial typist. They disagreed about something -- believe it or not, partly in regard to Tiger Woods -- and got into a war of words; because of Feinstein's involvement, it was a rather poorly written war of words (what, you think we're talking Norman Mailer-Gore Vidal here?). I'm not even sure what they were arguing about, I'll just side with Wilbon (or, as I always say, when in doubt, root against Duke). The kerfuffle was eventually settled by -- of all people -- Kornheiser, which is like having a prison tiff officiated by Charles Manson.

Deadspin vs. Sean Salisbury: This is an ongoing smackdown between the tragically hip Web site and the comically unzipped ex-NFL analyst. Deadspin delights in reporting embarrassing things about Salisbury; for instance, Deadspin alleged Salisbury engaged in "sexting," which prompted his firing from a Dallas radio station. Salisbury finally imploded and exchanged many misspelled e-mail diatribes with Deadspin's editors before following through on a threat to sue the site for defamation. Then it got uglier, and again, I had to vacate the cyber room for safety.

Couch Slouch vs. local liquor store: My problem is this -- I'm such a media lightweight, nobody feuds with me. So I have to pick my fights elsewhere. Anyhow, my easy-to-walk-to liquor mart has stopped selling PBR in a can. A liquor outlet not selling Pabst? That's like Sears not selling Maytags. It's un-American. My first instinct was to challenge the proprietor to a duel, but I still had to pick up some Diet Mountain Dew Code Red from the place.


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