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Giving Hack Writers Hope

October 25, 2008

Are Cowboy fans whiny?  OK, wait, are Cowboy fans disproportionately whiny compared to those of other teams?  Tim MacMahon seems to think so.  The DMN blog guru made it a point to hammer the point home in his weekly post with the guys from football outsiders.  Not only did he put it in the first question, but put it in the headline.

Sure there’s some whiny fans.  Hell, I can be whiny.  I’m not one of those who gets upset whenever a writer or talking head is negative, or when they don’t view the world with the same askew view as I do.  However, there’s a few things that are intolerable.

First, when someone gets paid for providing insight and analysis allows general perception (skewed or not) to override reality.  Like when you read about all the character issues on the Cowboys.  TO, Tank, Pacman.  “Look – Jerry brings in jerks!”  What have TO or Tank done while wearing the blue star to bring up anything about their character?  When was the last time the police put a Cowboy in bracelets and took him for a car ride?  Where is the proof?  TO saying he’s not happy about getting the football?  Show me a wideout who’s happy just running routes and I’ll show you one who’s not worth paying.  Really, this is just being lazy.  Rather than dissecting or analyzing, they’ll just ride the tide of whimsy.  The offenders are not hard to find or identify, so I won’t spend the time to run through the list.

Second, and lets call this “Baylessing,” is when a figure makes agitating the goal.  A misguided goal that puts the person who should be reporting the story into the story.  Again, the list of people who interject rather than report is far too long to go into here.  Everything is written with a purpose – one that the writer should know implicitly.  If he or she doesn’t – then don’t write.  Or don’t call yourself a professional.

I understood the purpose of the weekly Q&A with “the Outsiders” to be adding some sort of statistical perspective to the team.  Albert Breer did a good job of this with the DMN, and obviously the folks calling the shots thought filling part of that void would be a good idea.  I agree, however Breer never operated with the stats in a vacuum – the same can’t be said about Bill Barnwell (at least as far as his DMN “questions”).  But when the story leads with “Whiny Cowboys fans got all hot and bothered last week by the Football Outsider formula that stated the odds were against Dallas making the playoffs,” it is obvious that the story is no longer about statistical analysis, but rather to prod fans into a response.  The comments are very reflective of that, because, well, they respond.

Here’s the entire first question:  Whiny Cowboys fans got all hot and bothered last week by the Football Outsider formula that stated the odds were against Dallas making the playoffs. (Then the Cowboys reduced those odds by losing to the Rams, dude.) Let’s try to get you back in those folks’ good graces. Is there a stat you can point to that provides hope the Cowboys can snap out of their month-long funk?

Now, a Bayless-free version, written by me:  Last week, you pointed out some historical data that showed it’s an uphill climb for the Cowboys to make the playoffs.  Is there anything in your numerical chicanery that could give fans hope?

Oops, wait, I was poking Barnwell there.  The actual question didn’t need rephrasing.

Timmy Mac, you have failed.  Not because you upset me, not because you didn’t play the homer.  You have failed because you let your personal feelings taint your reporting.  Good luck unringing the bell.

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