"And when you look at the internet business, what’s dangerous about it is that people who are clearly unqualified get to disseminate their piece to the masses. I respect the journalism industry, and the fact of the matter is . . . someone with no training should not be allowed to have any kind of format whatsoever to disseminate to the masses to the level which they can. They are not trained. Not experts. More important are the level of ethics and integrity that comes along with the quote-unqoute profession hasn’t been firmly established and entrenched in the minds of those who’ve been given that license.
"Therefore, there’s a total disregard, a level of wrecklessness that ends up being a domino effect. And the people who suffer are the common viewers out there and, more importantly, those in the industry who haven’t been fortunate to get a radio or television deal and only rely on the written word. And now they’ve been sabotaged. Not because of me. Or like me. But because of the industry or the world has allowed the average joe to resemble a professional without any credentials whatsoever."
Obviously, you can see why bloggers are so outraged by this; as a blogger myself, I feel their pain. But as someone who has also undergone the "training" and earned the "credentials" of which Smith speaks, I also feel qualified to offer my response -- bloggers, holster your guns, sheath your swords, for Mr. Smith is exactly right.
First of all, enough with the silly "First Amendment" argument I've seen many of you making. Since many of you don't even seem to have read the First Amendment, allow me to state it here in full:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. As far as the federal government is concerned, you may say whatever you like. But do you see "ESPN" mentioned anywhere in that amendment? Nope. Which means that ESPN can abridge your speech however they please. If you're sitting there banging away at a blog post about coaching searches or Barry Bonds's legal troubles or the incompetence of Michigan's athletic director, and Stephen A. Smith storms into your apartment or cubicle or whatever and tells you that you don't know what you're doing and must stop immediately, then guess what? According to the Constitution, you have to do just that. I'm still not exactly sure how our Founding Fathers ended up granting more political power to a cable network that wouldn't be founded for another 192 years than in the national government they themselves were founding, but it's all right there; the facts don't lie.
But even if the Constitution did invest in us a truly universal freedom of speech beyond even the power of ESPN to curtail it, that wouldn't necessarily mean that we bloggers were qualified to take full advantage of it. Let me give you a recent example.
Earlier this year, ESPN undertook one of the biggest, most talked-about projects in the history of sports journalism to figure out which current athlete is the most "Now." They consulted not only with their own commentators and analysts but also with a huge slate of athletes, coaches, politicians, B-list celebrities, and (I'm assuming) scientists and statisticians to come up with their answer. It was a truly ambitious effort, and I think we can all agree that the competition for the title of "Most Now" was more intense than that of the World Series, the Super Bowl, or even the Olympic Games.
Now, I want each of you bloggers out there to take a deep, honest look inside yourselves and answer truthfully: Could any of you have done that? I know I couldn't. None of us could. Not one of us alone has the resources, the contacts, or the sheer critical mass of pop-culture knowledge to do what ESPN did. Even if I were to join forces with Sunday Morning Quarterback, Orson Swindle, Brian Cook, and Kyle King, the five of us working together would not be able to do that project a fraction of the justice it deserves. I'm not sure any of us even knows what "Now" means; I know I don't. Thus, in our uncredentialed ignorance, we would probably flail around blindly before finally settling on some unworthy joke of a winner who would only bring shame and ridicule to the proud mantle of "Now." Certainly someone who would pale by comparison with . . . whoever ESPN chose, I don't actually have any idea who it was. But I'm sure he/she was an awesome and deserving individual.
For all the invective directed at him, Stephen A. Smith was right: We bloggers simply don't have the know-how or the professionalism to do what he and his colleagues do. And that "wrecklessness" he describes has an amazing capacity to cause hurt and division. We owe it to the general public to leave breaking-news reporting to the ethical, credentialed establishment.
No doubt Smith's words had to sting my fellow bloggers, but he wasn't being self-serving or elitist; he was merely holding up a mirror to the sports blogosphere, and it should come as no surprise to our unqualified, muddy rabble that we didn't like the glaring honesty of what we saw. Some of my fellow bloggers will rise up in unfocused anger to call Stephen A. Smith a hack, an irrelevance, a poseur who's only terrified at seeing his own influence dwindle, most likely as a result of his apparent belief that the volume of one's voice is an adequate substitute for actual insight; I, however, will repeat none of those accusations. Other bloggers may turn up their noses at me, may even call me an Uncle Tom, but I refuse to shoot the messenger. Stephen A. Smith has taught us a valuable lesson about this business of blogging, my friends, and as uncomfortable as it is, it is one we would do well never to forget.
And now, as per Mr. Smith's instructions, I shall be silent.