Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dear Boz: All is forgiven


A little while after I started this gig, Washington Post baseball columnist Thomas Boswell achieved a certain level of infamy by misrepresenting the Nats' roster. Since then, he's written some excellent columns, some not-so-good ones, a couple of insipid ones, and enough feel-good ones to put together a Chicken Soup anthology . He's a homer, but he's our homer.

At any rate, I have felt compelled to reference "Juan Rivera" every time I've commented on a Boswell column. I haven't always done so, of course, because it's a rather old reference and enough is enough. Nevertheless, every time I've opened up a Boswell column, I've viewed it with a certain suspicion.

Well, that's gone now.

Yesterday, Boz participated in a WaPo chat. (Or, as Wm. Yurasko is quick to clarify, a "Live Discussion.") Boz just absolutely slump-busted the thing. He was all over it.

The good chats are the ones with strong opinions, edginess---a certain jerkiness, even. Boswell gets a "check-check-check" on all relevant criteria. I might not agree with everything he said, but I was certainly entertained.

For instance, take his very first response, on Frank Robinson's decision to send out Esteban Loiaza for the ninth inning of an eventual 3-0 loss:

I was at Wednesday's game as a fan with my wife and another couple who are big baseball fans. When Loaiza ended the eighth inning by getting out Offerman, I said to my friend, "Let's see if they congratulate him when he comes in the dugout. That means he's out of the game." But, no.When he came out to start the ninth, I said, "The game is over. Sometimes, I don't even like to watch." [. . . ] Robinson is an excellent manager. This will be as close as he comes all season to losing a game single-handedly. And he did.
I suppose what I was trying to communicate above is that the most successful chats, in my mind, contain thoughts and opinions that are inherently interesting. Take Ryan's criticism of St. Barry's chat the other day. Barry got himself "in trouble" with a response that was, in essence, incredibly tepid. Ryan said Svrluga was advocating, and I guess the latter was; nevertheless, the position being advocated was so incredibly devoid of novelty or fresh insight that I just naturally passed over it.

I suspect that a chat is a tough challenge for a writer who covers a team. Invariably, the question-submitters will, uh, submit questions that call upon the writer to acknowledge that the manager messed up or that the general manager doesn't have the first damn clue how to put together a team. Assuming the criticism is reasonable, the writer is left with a couple of choices:

1) agree with the writer; or,
2) weave around the criticism.

Option 1) has to be difficult to excecute because the writer's job, in a sense, depends on a good relationship with the person being criticized. Let's suppose St. Barry says, "You know what? You're right. Jim Bowden doesn't know what the crunk he's doing." Well, Bowden---if he indeed reads the chat, of course---would have truck to waltz right up to Svrluga in Bowden's trademark Eminem jump suit, and ask, "Yo dog, why you playin' me like that?"

Then again, Option 2) is essentially what Svrluga did above, I suppose. I think he knows better and just foisted up a tepid answer.

Boswell, on the other hand, employed Option 1) adeptly, but he added a new wrinkle: he offered a startling criticism of Robinson, but reframed the criticism in a manner that made Robinson's (perceived) error out of character---and, thus, even more disconcerting. Consequently, Boz sounded inflamed, ticked off, . . . interesting.

Alright, I don't want to go overboard here; chats are essentially interactive filler material, anyway. But let's just say that Boswell impressed me. Go Boz!

Here are some more excerpts from a very quotable chat:

On RFK attendance, MLB support, etc.---

Ridiculous is the right word. Attendance is excellent considering that this is the first team in baseball history for a franchise to enter a major market and be completely strangled by an atrocious, inexcusable TV-radio set up. Just a travesty. I suspect that, next week, you'll see me write about little but that. Let things have a few more days. But it's time to raise hell.

On Seligula---

MLB OWNS the Nationals and wants to sell them for an obscene amount of money, then split it among the owners. The worst the TV situation is screwed up the more it slows down the sale and possibly lolwers the price. So, I'd say that MLB is VERY motivated to clean up the mess. Still, this is MLB we're talking about. You've heard of Murphy's Law. Well, there's a Bud's Law, too. "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, plus some other stuff you never imagined."

On his preferred design for the new park---

No retro. In the Washington style "monumental"...lots of white, glass. The District is one of the most distinctive cities in the world architecturally. It is NOT some red brick rust belt town and it shouldn't have a Camden Clone that suits Baltimore and its 1,100-foot long red brick warehouse. Washington's stadium should mirror Washington's style __because, unlike many cities, Washington has a powerful worldwide image. The ballpark should be consistent
with the look of the town __and have the Capital framed in centerfield.

On "Screech," the new mascot---

Screech desperately needs a makeover. I think it's time to call "Queer Eye for the Straight Mascot."

On a call-to-action regarding the TV situation---

Head bangin' time is coming. 99% of the time it's best to be analytical, shed light, explain, educate. All that good stuff. But 1% of the time it's better just to hand out the pitchforks and torches to the villagers.

On the Nats getting new unis in a few years, retro memorabilia, etc.---

Enraged!? You mean with the classic, rare, vintage, no-longer-available Nationals MEMORABILIA in your possession! Come on, join the culture. BUY INTO THE CON.

On Hondo's chances with the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee---

Not unless he gets the voters in the back room individually.

Then, Boz ended the chat by announcing he was going to poison Screech. Excellent!

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