Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the Reason for the Imminent Failure of TMZ Sports

Every time I escape from the yawning vortex of the Internet for a few days, I'm reminded of how idiotically self-absorbed it can be. Outside the vortex exists an entire generation of aging humans--say, for instance, our in-laws--who still watch the local news, who still read the newspaper in its printed form, who still believe in the conventional wisdom and embrace the mundanity of daily existence. These are people who enjoy discussing the weather. These are people who would not even understand the language of Deadspin, let alone the ethos. These are people who watch Brett Favre on Monday night football because they enjoy football; these are people who see the games themselves as the ongoing narrative, rather than the meta-filter of the Internet, rather than the photos of (REDACTED) wearing only chaps, sacrificing a rhinoceros in a sweat lodge with (REDACTED) and a well-known male escort.

I mention this because TMZ--inspired by the questionable taste of one Eldrick Woods--has announced that it may, in fact, start a gossip site dedicated entirely to sports, which has led to numerous mainstream media freak-outs (and a few high-profile sell-outs). Now, of course, it is true that every so often, due to fortuitous timing, celebrity status, or sheer weirdness, a seedy sports story will break through into the mainstream; Tiger Woods just happened to be a perfect storm of timing, status and an unprecedented quorum of women who either worked as strippers or resembled strippers. But the majority of people will never care about sports gossip in the way they care about celebrity gossip. This is obvious, and it is obvious because, as Neal Gabler writes, celebrities essentially exist to provide us with a public narrative. Celebrity gossip purposefully imparts a storyline on an often-banal group of people in order to render their lives relevant; sports gossip mostly just disrupts from the reasons athletes became relevant as public figures in the first place. Their primary narrative is already fixed; no one is ever going to care enough about Tom Brady's relationship with a supermodel to allow it to overlay their vision of Brady as a quarterback. These things are adornments, additions; they are not a full-time obsession, even for a site like Deadspin. There is no room in sports for a full-time meta-narrative, despite the Internet's best efforts to mold the world in its own image.

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