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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Fratricide: Yard Work On FJM

For the record, I have long ago recanted on my early opinion of the boys at Yard Work; in the interceding time, I've learned to take (and recognize) a joke a little bit better. For technical reasons, I don't go there as often as I do to some other sites (my browser seems to have some trouble with their new site; scrolling, for whatever reason, is both slow and jerky). Still, they're sharp writers, and sometimes reach to transcendant.

All of which is a setup for their latest piece, one of a series in which they don the dour garb of the Gray Lady's Daniel Okrent, the former public editor of the New York Times. Once in a while, you'll catch the Yard Work boys writing in someone else's persona and seeming to be writing from their own perspective in camoflage, and this looks to be one of those times. Fire Joe Morgan, it seems, has gotten altogether too much press, and too many are making it out to be actually funny:

I shudder to use scare quotes, but using the word “writers” to describe the purveyors of the unhinged vitriol permeating FJM without qualifying it with some lyrical asterisk would do folks with actual writerly talent a grave disservice. The fish FJM posters aim at are in a barrel already chockfull of buckshot. In addition to attacking Joe Morgan, they gang-tackle bloviating gum-flappers and key-bangers such as John Kruk, Tim McCarver, Bill Simmons, and Skip Bayless, as well as lesser lights plying their trade for Fox Sports and MSNBC. Unable or unwilling to develop a distinct writerly voice from which to compose their ruminations on the national pastime, the pseudonymous FJM cabal settles for viciously attacking those whose opinions are deemed to be inferior to their own. The typical post on FJM contains text from the article / online chat in question, and comments from the author of the post, disparaging what the offending target has said. Take this snippet from a Joe Morgan chat:

JOE MORGAN: Replay would not have helped. I saw the replay over and over and you could say it was inconclusive although I believe he caught the ball.

FIRE JOE MORGAN: You could say it was inconclusive, but you would be wrong.


Oh, the laughter to be had! Clearly the comic timing offered in this brief morsel of prose is the stuff that fuels the best brain-addled drivel television sitcoms have to offer. Ever since the sports hoi polloi took to using Q-Tips, attacking Joe Morgan has become a tradition.

I have to agree with "Okrent" here; even the likes of Mike Carminati had to give up the artless sport of hunting chained elephants once ESPN put a tollbooth at the edge of the reservation. But perhaps I'm complaining too much. The last time I vented my spleen in the direction of someone else's attempt at comedy, I found myself as the one lacking a sense of humor. I'm not sure it will work out the same way with FJM, but you never know.

I thought that they were (successfully) trying to have it both ways -- pointing out that FJM is getting kind of petty and humorless while at the same time making fun of Okrent for being petty and humorless (e.g. "Okrent" links to a Daily Howler indictment of himself).
FJM is great. But I do wonder what qualifies as good sports column writing nowadays.

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